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The only constancy is inconstancy. Yet, we can be sure of one thing. Out
of the six and a half billion people on this planet, everyone is searching for the
same things—peace and happiness. This state of fulfillment, for most people,
appears very short-lived compared to suffering, which can be defined as
anything from hunger and drowsiness to great financial debts and the loss of
loved ones.

Have you ever heard of the expression Time flies when you’re having
fun? This feeling stems from the fact that many people are mistakenly finding
comfort in the wrong places. That is why it does not last. Lofty pay raises, brand
new cars, amusement parks, good music, and delicious meals may delight us,
but the feeling is only momentary, as are material possessions.

So how can one make peace and happiness stay put? One way is to
understand the nature of the world through the eyes of true Buddhism, the only
religion that guides people to be free from physical and psychological pains…
or “Tom and Jerry.” It’s within everyone’s reach!

Supawan Pipatpanawong Green nobly expounds this enigma of life with
simplicity, transparency, and remarkable wisdom. As a broadcast journalist, I
have inevitably accumulated a mountain of questions over time, especially since
I have been brought up in two different cultures—Thai and American. Born and
raised in California’s San Francisco Bay Area for more than twenty years, my
curiosity, perplexity, and doubt intensified due to the melting pot of different
religions. However, until recently the answers had been indiscernible. Having
been given the opportunity to proofread through The User Guide to Life: The
Law of Karma, I received answers to seemingly unanswerable questions like:
“How is a person who is so virtuous at the same time so physically and socially
unfortunate?” “Why are some exceedingly wealthy people, all together so
selfish and corrupted?” “Why are certain people born with inherent talents? And
where does it come from?”
In The User Guide to Life: The Law of Karma, Supawan compellingly
discusses, in simple terms, everything within range from the technicalities of
karmic laws in relation to universal patterns and the endless ring road of rebirth
to the breakdown of human perception, and the different forms of merit-making.
She illuminates concepts that rational science cannot.

I hope this book fulfills its mission as a guiding light to you as it did for
me. After all, as Supawan says, we’re extremely lucky to be born as humans
and bump into Buddhism! Now, it’s time to make the most of our lives by
quickly learning from the Buddha.

Santi and Metta,

Roselyn Debhavalya

Bangkok, Thailand

May 31, 2007

Broadcast Journalism Master of Science

Syracuse University, New York

Communication Management Master of Arts

University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Following my life-changing ‘Eureka’ experience in October 1997, when I
realised there is definitely a final entity in nature called the ‘ultimate truth’, I
was given a clear perspective on the whole structure of life which I depict in the
following illustration.

Moral ladder

Meditation ladder

Knowing the ultimate truth, our true self, eternal peace
With the above image, I would like to confirm the ultimate goal and duty
we have in our lives. The sole reason we are thrown into this world is for us to
be a step closer to finding the truth about our real self. We have an important
mission to accomplish. It is impossible to find long lasting peace and happiness
if we haven’t yet found our true self embedded in the ultimate truth.

Having had the above perspective, I was inspired to write a ‘User Guide’
or a ‘life map’ which is aimed at giving you a step-by-step guideline so that you
have clear ideas as how to walk this spiritual path, finally reuniting you with
your real self.

To begin with, you have to climb up the moral ladder, a stage which will
prepare your mind to be right and ready for the subsequent phase: climbing the
meditation ladder.

Should you want to take part in this life journey in search of your true self
and the ultimate truth, there are five requirements in the moral ladder.

1. Observing the basic moral precepts

2. Giving

3. Observing simplicity

4. Having no fear of death

5. Believing in the law of karma

Due to the lengthy contents of the 5th requirements, I decided to separate
The User Guide to Life into two volumes instead of having one thick book like
the previous publication. Hence, this book is the sequel to The User Guide to
Life…The Moral Diet.

This book needs to be tackled with a very open-minded attitude
especially if you are a non-Buddhist and not familiar with the karma and rebirth
concepts. Please bear in mind that spiritual enlightenment and the nature of the
ultimate truth (the innocent perception) are not subject to debate because you
cannot talk about something that you have never experienced before. This also
applies to the karma and rebirth concepts which are the knowledge results from
having seen the ultimate truth. Furthermore, there are all kinds of possibilities
out there in the cosmos which have yet been found, due to the absence of the
right tool for the right job, but those phenomena are certainly out there all right.

In the same way that the law of gravity will not disappear into thin air just
because you don’t believe it exists, neither will the law of karma and the cycle
of rebirth. They won’t just go away or stop working only because you think
they are total nonsense.

We must admit that there are many unanswerable questions in the reality
of life. Quite often, we don’t know why things go wrong as much as we don’t
know why things go right. We can hide behind the curtain of science and do our
best to rationally explain both natural phenomena and social events that may
cause human catastrophe. But we also know that those logical words are simply
not enough and they don’t make any sense for broken-hearted people.

The truth is that we do need to ‘understand’ why certain event only
happens to us and not to other people. Should we have the answers, they will, at
least, allow us to let go and move on with our lives and above all for the sake of
our own sanity. The trouble is we are all potential victims to the casualties of
life as we have no way of knowing what is waiting for us beyond the calm and
extraordinary placid corridor. One minute everything is absolutely fine but the
next minute life is everything but normal. Without the comprehension of the
root cause of our own tragedies, we may have to take the anger, hate and
bitterness with us to the after life and I certainly do not wish this on anyone –
spiritually unhealthy and unfriendly…that’s why?!

For those reasons, I strongly believe that humanity urgently needs to
know the karma and rebirth concepts with the new approach I offer to you in
this book. It will help you to understand the root cause of all the unexplainable
events that you may come across. There is more harm in not to believe than to
believe – at least for the benefit of your inner peace.

One of the main reasons that causes mayhem in global society right now
is that people do not believe their good and bad actions will bear consequences.
They don’t believe that their actions can lead them to either heaven or hell. If
people have some faint idea what hell can do to them, maybe they would think
twice before they want to do anything bad and hopefully we might be a bit
closer to having a crime-free society.

We are unfortunately living in the era where guilt, shame and conscience
have become very thin in people’s hearts, the karma concept will make people
take serious responsibility for their own actions. This seedling must be planted
in children’s hearts so that they can grow up into responsible adults who will
think twice before they want to step over the moral threshold. This is the only
way we can retrieve moral conscience back to humanity – or am I just

Well, I can confirm to you that heaven and hell will not disappear into
thin air just because you or vocal famous people think they are total nonsense.
You must be courageous to take a lead as far as climbing the moral ladder is

I hope this book and its prequel will offer you clear enough guidelines so
that you can find your true self and the truth.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jess Koffman, Roselyn
Debhavalya and Pamela O’Brian who have helped me with the editing of this
book. I alone will take the full responsibility for any errors or over-sights that
may be contain in these pages.

My gratitude also goes to all my Thai staffs who have belief in me and
helped me in organising my work in Thailand. All their hard works are very
much appreciated and have enabled you to get hold of this book. I could not
possibly do it without those kind people.

Supawan Pipatpanawong Green

30 May 2007

Birmingham, UK
Chapter one

The three phases
As far as the rebirth subject is concerned, there are always three groups of people:
the believers, the non-believers and the non-bothered. So, let’s see by the time you finish
with this book, in which category you will be.

This is the first time that I have seriously sat down and talked about the law of
karma and the cycle of rebirth at great length. The reason is that I too was not convinced
in the past. As a matter of fact, I ought to divide my belief into three phases.

Childhood belief

Firstly, when I was a child, I wholeheartedly believed in the law of karma, heaven
and hell. That was because my parents, teachers, monks and elders told me so. If I did
good, I would go to heaven and if I did bad, I would go to hell. There wasn’t a shred of
doubt in my young heart as far as the karma is concerned. I, therefore, did my very best
in being a good girl.

Breaking point

My well-rooted childhood belief about the karma became weaker as I grew up.
The second phase began when I was an undergraduate. Just like most students, I had to
learn to think rationally. My scientific way of thinking, in return, gradually eclipsed my
deeply-rooted belief in heaven and hell. The breaking point was when I knew Suan
Mokkh and the teacher whose works have changed my life for the better. I didn’t quite
understand what Buddhism was all about until I read the books written by Ven.
Buddhadasa of Suan Mokkh: a forest monastery in the south of Thailand.

Heaven is in the chest, hell is in the mind

That was the saying I first heard from Suan Mokkh. What I learnt from the Ven.
Teacher was that both heaven and hell were right in the centre of the mind. Peace and
happiness are heaven: the result of good deeds whereas greed, anger, pain and turmoil
depict hell: the result of bad deeds. Everyone should, therefore, pay more attention to the
present by keeping up with the good deeds so that they can maintain a well-balanced and
happy mind.

I could be wrong!

As far as I remember, the teacher didn’t talk about life after death, about heaven
and hell as such; on the other hand, he neither confirmed nor denied them. For those
reasons, I presumed that there was no such thing called heaven or hell. As the Ven.

Teacher of Suan Mokkh is no longer around to clarify his notion about the after life, I
would rather leave this matter rest here and come clean with you that my presumption
could be totally wrong.

Seeing loose puzzles

Nevertheless, I stayed with that belief for quite a number of years and admittedly
I had my doubts from time to time. In denying the existence of heaven and hell, I had to
deny many incidents and teachings existing all throughout the Pali canon1. It was like
seeing a pile of loose puzzles that couldn’t be put together.
Such instances involve when the heavenly beings came to listen to the Buddha’s
teaching at dawn, the stories about the Buddha’s previous lives when he had to
accumulate all his perfections (parami) before finally becoming a Buddha and the worthy
one went to heaven to teach his mother. Above all, the Buddha addressed human as
‘sentient beings’ which also include beings in other realms: animals (tirachana),
heavenly beings (deva), higher sphere celestial beings (brahma), hungry ghosts (peta)
and hellish beings (niraya). These six groups of sentient beings have been referred to and
repeated countless times all throughout the Buddhist texts. But where would they come
from if there are no such things called heaven and hell? I could see that something didn’t
quite add up and my belief in the non-existence of heaven and hell was badly challenged
during this second phase – quite frustrating at times!

Ready-made answer

If I remember correctly, this belief was still with me in the early nineties when I
was writing my first book 'Dear Colin, what is the meaning of life?' I also recall the
day when my nephew asked me a blunt question:
“Aunty, do you believe in heaven and hell? Do you think they really exist?”
My answer to him was still based on the ready-made one in my head: if you could
meditate until you overcome all doubts, you will not ask such questions and there will be
no need to answer them. I used to feel really good and confident in repeating such
formulaic statements shared by Suan Mokh followers but I certainly didn’t feel so great
on that particular day. I could suddenly see that such answers didn’t help my nephew of
his doubts at all. He did not pester me into a heated debate which he could have done
because he had too much respect for me. That incident with my nephew, however, was
the beginning of the ending of my second stage, my belief in the non-existence of heaven
and hell was shaken right to the core. Yet, I couldn’t share my painful doubts with
anyone as I was living in the heart of England!

Thank you…Mr. Robin!

Then came my Eureka experience in 1997, once the ultimate goal of life was
clear, the loose puzzles manage to find their places and everything began to make a lot
more sense to me. The wisdom regarding the cycle of rebirth didn’t come straight away

The Pali Canon or The Tripitaka are the names called the collections of the Buddha’s teachings.
They were originally written in Pali language which was used during the Buddha’s time.

though, it was more of a gradual process. Nevertheless, I can recall the day when all
doubt concerning the rebirth was suddenly lifted. I was, at the time, in my garden doing
my morning Tai Chi exercises when I saw a little robin land on the grass just a few feet
away from me. I stopped to look at this little bird hopping around on the lush green lawn
looking for food. All of a sudden, out came a revelation!
For the first time in my life I could say I knew rebirth was for real, and I could
clearly see that all things were brought together by the law of karma, including that little
fragile robin in front of me. I even scolded myself for overlooking this bit of knowledge
the size of a mountain! That instantaneous wisdom caused my heart to fill with
overwhelming joy and happiness. My doubts on these two main subjects – the ultimate
truth and the rebirth – had finally vanished for good. I just could not believe myself why I
couldn’t see the closed connection of these two most important subjects of life. Once the
wisdom arrived and ignorance vanished, I can easily summarise with just a few plain
words that the cycle of rebirth is the prison of life where we are trapped whereas knowing
the ultimate truth is the jail breaking!
This self-realisation is the third and the final phase of my belief in the law of
karma which has given me enormous strength and allowed me, for the first time, to
proudly talk about them in the open as I am doing now in this book.

Having said that, I still have to talk about these issues methodically because the
law of karma and the rebirth are two of the most complicated subjects that only the
Buddha’s immense wisdom could penetrate. What I am about to say is merely scratching
the surface, trying to make it easy for you to understand your present predicament and
know how to move from this point onward so that you can at least secure yourself a good
rebirth, better still is to end rebirth altogether.

The right tool for the right job

Let’s assume that you have made room in your heart to listen, which is the most
important factor for a good start. Then I would like you to think of all kinds of mysteries
that are still hidden in this gigantic universe. You must already realise that there are all
kinds of possibilities out there that we haven’t yet discovered. Apart from the laws of
physics which work anywhere in the world and probably the whole universe, there are
also many other natural laws that are waiting to be discovered once the right tool comes
along. One of these hidden natural phenomena is the law of karma. This subject remains
a big mystery to scientists which, to be fair, could be the result of not having ‘the right
tool for the right job’.

On the night of his enlightenment, the Buddha had actually unlocked the secret of
this universal law of nature. He found out how this law of deed has power over people
very much like how gravity, weather and climate influences our way of life. In the same
way that we acknowledge the mechanism of gravity and weather as fact, so did the
Buddha to the law of karma. That’s why the whole of the Tripitaka is full of teachings
relating to this universal law.

According to the Buddha, the right tools needed for people to understand the law
of karma are the four foundations of mindfulness (vipassana). This is the same approach
that had led me to my Eureka experience and the subsequent revelation in my garden. It
means that if you want to understand and tackle the factual law of karma (and the
ultimate truth), you have no choice but to deploy your skill in vipassana – using the right
tool for the right job!

Chapter two

Karma…the making of Samsara

How the law of karma works

To start, you must know that the natural law of karma brings about the cycle of
rebirth. So, we have to deal with these two subjects together. The Buddha calls the cycle of
rebirth ‘samsara’ which I will use for short.

Karma means action, deed. The law of karma is the law of action which works
scientifically just like other natural laws in the sense of having a cause and an effect. If you
do good deeds, you receive good results, if you do bad deeds, you receive bad results. It is as
simple as that.

Basically, the law of karma states that beings get what they deserve or “what goes
around, comes around.” You can reap the results of your own action either in this lifetime or
future lifetimes depending on which type of karma will take its toll first. These are some
knotty details that you can bypass. However, the good and bad results of your present
actions are the causes that generate your rebirth. It was indeed your previous life’s karma
which led you to your present human status. As for what and where you are going to be born
in your future existence depends entirely on what you have put in and will put in during this

So, if you can understand how karma works, you are very fortunate in the sense that
you can choose where to go in your future life. Comparatively speaking, you have the
choice to design, build and decorate your future house exactly the style you wish to live in.
This is the general idea of how the law of karma and samsara work.

Intention is karma

Not every action is called karma. The main factor which makes up karma is volition;
you must have the intention and desire to do something which is either good or bad. This
intention is normally embedded within your thoughts. Your intentional thoughts are,
therefore, classed as mental actions which subsequently materialise into verbal actions
(speech) and physical actions accordingly. Without the intentional thoughts, there wouldn’t
be any intentional speech and action that can be either good or bad.

For example, Mandy sees her neighbour’s cat walking through her garden. She
doesn’t mind due to her kind nature, so she watches the cat walk without having much
thought. In this case Mandy does not create any karma that will give result. However,
Mandy’s husband, Tim, hates the fact that the neighbour’s cats use his garden as a toilet. So,
Tim has no patience with any cats. The minute he sees a cat passing through his garden, he
will rush out, pick up a stone and throw it at the cat. Now, Tim’s reaction to the cat is an
obvious karma. It happens from the moment he sees the cat, straight away, he links the cat
with the mess he – or Mandy rather – has to clean up. His deliberate thoughts (mental

karma) were to chase away the cat by throwing a stone at it (physical karma). In between
watching the cat and the rushing into the garden, Tim might swear (verbal karma) at the cat
too. Tim has created bad karma which will give result because there are two completed
factors – intention and action.

This whole process goes for good karma too. You may watch the news and see the
overwhelming suffering among people in disaster areas. Many people watch the news and
do not think any further. The timely fact about a natural catastrophe in another country is
merely news. They would carry on with their lives as normal. However, you watch the news
and you are moved by the large scale of suffering of those people, then you think seriously
how you could help them (mental karma). You then discuss about how you want to help the
victims with your family (verbal karma). Finally, decision is made. You pick up the phone
and give your credit card details so that your money will be donated to the set-up fund
(physical karma). You have done good karma and it will award you with a good result.

Deed without intention

You may have a kind nature and do not like to hurt any one or anything. One
morning, you walk along your garden path and before your realise it, you have stepped on a
slug or a worm quite unintentionally. In such a case, your action is not a complete karma
because you had no intention. You may still bear the result of that action but it is not as
severe as having the intention of hurting.
A teacher compares this event to when you go into a shop and accidentally knock a
glass off the shelf and break it. Under such circumstance, you may or may not have to pay
depending on the owner of the shop. If the owner is kind, he may say it is an accident and let
you off without having to pay for it. However, some owners may ask you to cover the cost
of the damage.
In such cases where you accidentally kill an animal, you may or may not suffer the
result because, without the intention, the karma is not completed. In Buddhist cultures, you
are taught to ask for forgiveness (ahosikarma) right away. If the animal killed forgives you
because you did not have the intention to kill, your karma will be defunct or void. I will
elaborate this issue in later chapter.

The harshness of karma

The severity of action and consequence is connected to the doer’s intention. There is
a great difference between deliberately killing an ant, a pig, a cow and a person. It is not
about taking away a small life such as an ant or a big life such as a person, because they
equally have a life all the same. The difference lies in the length of time that your mind has
to hold onto that intention until you finish the action. During that length of time, your mind
will constantly keep record of the event and will cast shadows of either good or bad.1
The harshness of karma can be compared to holding a pencil and drawing a line. If
you hold it lightly, the line you produce is weak. If you hold it firmly, the line is clearer. If
you press the pencil harder, you leave a much deeper mark and may dent the paper.

This is the part of the law of karma that is very complicated. I don’t think you need to know the
details. Instead, I will try to make it easy for you. By doing so, my explanation may not agree with the
strict Buddhist scholars, especially those who study the Abhidhamma which is known as the
metaphysics of Buddhism. But if this can make you believe in the law of karma and aim for Nirvana, I
think it is a good enough reason for giving me a pardon.

For example: You see an ant, you want to kill it, and then you kill it. The moment
you want to kill until the end of the killing may last about 30 seconds or less. So, the law of
karma works according to that length of time you invest. Killing bigger animals such as a
pig or a cow takes much longer to complete from the moment of intention to the end. You
have to put more effort into it. Killing a pig or a cow by hand, involves fighting, stabbing,
drowning and so on before the animals reach unconsciousness. I don’t know how long it
lasts. Let’s say one whole hour. All those actions are done with full intention which is full
blown karma. That one hour is the length of time that the law of karma works and will
certainly cast a deep shadow and bring a more severe result in the future.

Now, killing a person is even more difficult in the sense that the killing intention
lasts much longer in your mind. A pre-meditated murder needs a great deal of hateful
thinking and planning which is mental karma. Your mind has to be wrapped by anger, hate,
vengeance or greed – whatever reasons that make you want to kill someone! This can last
for days, months or even years. Although the actual killing may last a couple of minutes by
means of shooting, several minutes by means of stabbing, days by means of poisoning and
torturing. The previous length of time which brought you to that final evil episode will all be
accounted for according to the law of karma. Therefore, all these various degrees of
harshness when you commit karma will affect the result that you will redeem in the future.

The consequence of karma will take effect from the moment you complete the killing
onwards. Judging from the comparison of holding a pencil and drawing a line, as far as the
mental after-effect is concerned, you suffer less by intentionally killing an ant, you suffer
much more when you kill a pig or a cow, and you suffer even more when you kill a person.
Your mental suffering is the immediate result of karma that you have committed. That’s
why some soldiers, following their return from fierce battle in the front line, suffer terrible
mental wrecks because a lot of them (could be nearly all) are not born killers – they are
trained to kill! Training a good man to kill another good man over political conflicts
involves breaking human’s basic instinct of shame and guilt, a gifted moral conscience
bestowed to us by Mother Nature (God). Breaking excellent moral human instinct is an
extremely serious crime (very bad karma) against the almighty Mother Nature and bad
consequences is imminent! This makes you see how ignorant and misguided the world
politic is. This massive global misdirection of life has plunged the world into deeper
complexity and invite endless turmoil and suffering to humankind – the consequence of
collective bad karma. The trouble is that the result of karma will not stop there at your state
of mental suffering after a sin committing; it will also bear results in the after life, based on
the severity of your karma.

You may wonder in the case of some criminal who went on a killing rampage over
innocent people without feeling any guilty conscience or showing an ounce of remorse, how
can we justify their actions? Well, although these people don’t appear to suffer any mental-
wreck, as a matter of fact, they do, very much so too. When a person’s mind is twisted far
beyond the normal level, it has gone passed the pain threshold and become numb instead.
Such broken down mind is extremely destructive and beyond repaired. In the Buddhist
sense, such twisted mind is considered being wrapped by the worst type of sin, spiritual

ignorance (darkness) – the root cause for other major sins which will bear hefty karmic

Meat eaters

Someone once said that eating a fish is sinner than eating meat because eating meat
is about sharing a life of one cow with many others, while consuming a fish is eating a
whole life by yourself. This case, you must judge from the above example of the time that
you take to kill. Killing a fish especially by means of netting does not require as much effort
as killing a cow. Therefore, the harshness of karma is less than killing a pig or a cow.
My mom had been a vegetarian for over 40 years before she passed away. She knew
that her children could not turn vegetarian overnight so she told us to leave the big animals
out first by stopping eating beef, then pork and then poultry. She said that she did not mind
if we ate just fish. I only understand now why she said that. This is definitely not an apology
for killing a big life or a small life because they are lives all the same. It has everything to do
with how the law of karma works.

So, although you are a meat eater, as long as you don’t kill the cow yourself, you do
not commit the karma as such. In this case, it might be the traces of karma that you will
share along with the meat killing business, or something similar. That is because if no one
ate meat, there wouldn’t be any slaughter-house and meat-related business at all. So, I
suppose all meat eaters have to take some share of the blame (sin). Still, we cannot be totally
white under such circumstances.
Buddhist monks who eat meat also have rules. Buddhist monks in Thailand are
supposed to be easy and take what they are given. The Buddha set down the rule that a monk
must not eat meat if they know who killed the animal. They must not drop a hint to anyone
to buy meat and cook it for them either. When they eat food whether it is meat or vegetables,
they must contemplate and view the food in front of them as the four elements of earth, fire,
water and wind. Without such contemplation whether eating meat, fish or vegetables, monks
are considered to have violated their monastic rules.

The result of karma for different types of people

The qualities of different people to whom you do karma are also accounted for as far
as karmic consequences are concerned. The Buddha said that there are five types of beings
to whom you can do both good and bad karma, and the result will be as follows:
• Good or bad karma to animals gives results one hundred-fold.
• Good or bad karma to immoral people gives results one thousand-fold.
• Good or bad karma to moral people gives results one hundred thousand-fold.
• Good or bad karma to people who do not indulge in material values gives results one
hundred million-fold.
• Good or bad karma to people who practise vipassana and wish to attain the fruit of
holiness gives incalculable results.

This twisted mind subject will be explained clearly in the practice of bringing mental self back home
(vipassana) and will also be elaborated in my future book: Buddha answers, Einstein Questions
because it connects directly with Einstein’s notion of relativism.

• Not to mention good or bad karma done to the four levels of holy persons –
Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami and Arahant – including the individual Buddhas
and the Buddha. The result of such karma is so immense that there is no word for it.

The five monstrous karma

Therefore, you can see that the bad karma done to parents and genuine monks who
may or may not have reached some level of holiness, are considered hideous karma that will
bear weighty and immediate results. There are five monstrous karma about which the
Buddha warned people not to cross the line. They are:
• killing one's mother
• killing one's father
• killing a fully enlightened person (Arahant)
• causing a Buddha to suffer a contusion or to bleed
• causing schism in a community of monks.

Play it safe

During the Buddha’s time, lay persons who attained the Arahantship would go into
monkhood right away because it is the only way of life that can accommodate the state of
mind of such a holy person. The other reason was to avoid having people doing anything
wrong to holy people for fear of hefty karmic result. The trouble is holy persons do not walk
around with a halo above their heads like artists depict in painting so that people can single
them out and not sin against them. Not to mention the lower level of holiness, even a fully
enlightened person looks absolutely normal like everyone else. The only difference is that
their minds partially to wholly detach from all worldly values, depending on their level of
Today there is no Buddha around to confirm that such a person has attained some
level of holiness so that people would know not to wrong them. It just also happens that
genuine holy people do not boast of their spiritual achievement because they normally have
very small sized egos or none at all. There is no doubt that even today there are still holy
people around, especially in the Buddhist countries, and a great number of them could be lay
people some of whom could be our closed relatives, friends, neighbours or even someone
we sit next to on a bus, a train or a plane! So, to avoid committing the worst karma, we
should play it safe by always treating people with kindness and respect, especially among
the vipassana practitioners whether they be monks or lay people. That is because vipassana
practitioners have a much better chance to be holy persons than non-practitioners.

The reverse should also be noted: the good karma done to parents, moral people, or
holy persons will give immeasurable results. Thai and Burmese devout Buddhists who aim
to reach Nirvana in one of their future lives will show an amazing generosity to monks
whom they suspect may be holy, because they know that such good karma will be accounted
for their reaching enlightenment in future lives. This is the root cause of the well known
giving spirit among the Buddhists in Thailand and Burma.

No one gives judgement

Once you have the general idea of how the law of karma works, the next thing that
you ought to understand is that karma is not moral justice. It is not a case of having an

omnipotent person or a divine God sitting in judgement over beings. There is no one who
makes judgement over the deeds of beings. I suppose even God may get very confused since
everyone has different combination of both good and bad deed in them; moral and immoral
mixture is not a black and white matter. So, it makes better sense to leave the karma
settlement to an unbiased law of nature, just like the law of gravity, it can, at least, be
guaranteed that there is no confusion, miscarriage of justice or prejudice involved.

With that said, Buddhism still does have words such as gods and deities in the
teachings. The terms gods, deities, devas, heavenly or celestial beings and brahmas in
Buddhism refer to the beings in the upper realms or heavens who are still in the same
predicament as us humans. Inevitably, celestial beings are still subject to rebirth once their
good karma has finished bearing fruit and the bad karma catches up with them. They too can
fall from graceful heaven and be reborn as a human or in one of the three lower states: the
animal kingdom, hungry ghost and demon world, and hell. I will go into details later about
the beings of different realms.

Therefore, you must understand that the law of karma is ‘a moral law’ which
nonetheless operates naturally like many other laws in the universe such as the law of
gravity for instance. Gravitational forces cannot pick and choose where to work, gravity
works according to the dictating of the natural law, so does karma. If you do good, you
receive good results; if you do bad, you receive bad consequences, which seems to me the
fairest system. Neither the good and bad consequences are given as reward or punishment by
someone with invincible power. This moral law of justice operates naturally on its own
accord, and it governs the whole universe wherever there are sentient-beings. The Buddha
does not make up the law of karma; he has nothing to do with the making of it. His role was
merely to find out for us how the law of karma works following his ultimate enlightenment
in the same way that Issac Newton found out the law of gravity. Once the Buddha had found
out, he then told us about it so that we can do right according to the law.

Ignorance causes a troubled world

If we don’t know how the law of karma works, we will definitely keep on violating
this moral law of nature without realising it. This disastrous ignorance is the main reason
that causes a series of problems in the world’s society ranging from domestic violence, war,
global terrorism to climate change, which causes immense suffering to mankind. All these
troubles can be prevented should people believe in this moral law of action!

In the same way that you cannot defy gravity, neither can you defy the law of action.
You cannot wipe away the karmic result. Good results always come from your good karma
and vice versa just like apple seeds yield apple fruits. What’s done is done. You can’t go
back to alter the clock. You will have to face the music once the karmic result catches up to

It is like you have dropped a glass on the floor and broken it. You can pick the pieces
up and superglue them together, but no matter how well you try, you cannot conceal the
damage. You might think that you have mistreated your parents when you were a teenager.
Now that you are more mature and feel guilty of your wrongdoing. So you treat your parents
exceptionally well now in hope that your good deeds might wipe away your previous bad
deeds. Most people think so. But according to the law of karma, your bad deeds towards
your parents during your teenage years have been recorded and will definitely give bad

results. But don’t worry too much; good results will also follow. At this point, I want you to
see the definite nature of this moral law governing the whole of the universe.

Stone sinks, oil floats

As a matter of fact, the Buddha does explain and give an analogy regarding the law
of karma in the most scientific way. This is his answer to the question posted by the head of
the village in Nalanda province.

“I will answer your question by asking you a question instead. Suppose a man likes
to kill, lie, steal, commit adultery, use malicious, spiteful and rude language, backbite, talk
nonsense and have ill will, hatred and negative views. Then you go to gather all the people
from your village and surround this nasty man. Then you all dance and pray for this
unworthy man. You all walk around this bad man with your hands folded at your chests and
say ‘please let this man go to heaven.’ Now, do you think that this man who has sinned can
go to heaven just by your praying or not?”
The man answered, “No, of course not.”
The Buddha then said: “It is the same as when a man throws a huge stone into water
where there is some depth, after that he gathers all the people around the pond to pray for the
stone to float and come to the surface. Do you think the big stone can be surfaced by doing
“Of course not, my worthy one. It is impossible,” the head of the village replied.
“In the same way that praying cannot surface the huge stone, neither can it help a
man who has sinned to go to heaven,” the Buddha explained.
The Buddha also said that in the same way that praying could not sink oil into water,
neither could it make a good man go to hell.

Don’t panic just yet!

Having said all of the above, I might not have given you much hope if you happen to
have a long list of bad deeds in your personal database. And no matter how good we are, we
all make mistakes one way or another at some time in our lives. I do not believe that there is
anyone who can be totally good or totally bad. We all have a different combination of
goodness and badness in us. So, if you really want to undo your previous wrongdoings, there
is a way that you can get around to it. Also, if you are a Christian and believe in the
repenting of sin, how can you reconcile this universal law with sin repentance? I will talk
about it later under the topic of adding more water to salt.

Beings are the owners of their deeds

The Buddha said that beings are the owners of their deeds, heirs of their deeds, have
deeds like their parents, their kin, their refuge; karma alone is our property, our heritage;
deeds divide beings into lowliness and supremacy. The Buddha said that life is thrown
around by the law of karma. It is our karmic properties that lead us to our next rebirth and
keep the samsara going.

Karma is a very complicated subject. In reality, there are people who do both good
and bad deeds in different combinations and degrees. At this stage I would like to emphasise
the habitual acts first. Your usual actions will always correspond to your mental nature –
kind, greedy or bad-tempered. If we talk about the present state as human beings, the good

and bad habitual deeds can send doers to seven different rebirths based on the type of karma
one does most. I will begin from the lowest state to the highest one. They are as follows:

1. The way to hell (niraya) is by having anger which leads to all kinds of related
unwholesome acts including violence and killing.
2. The way to the hungry ghost world, the demon world (peta)3 is by having greed,
craving and desire which leads to all kinds of related unwholesome acts.
3. The way to the animal world (tiracchana) is by having ignorance or wrong views
about life and its ultimate purpose. Ignorance is the root of all bad deeds.
4. The way to the human world (manusa) is by following the five moral precepts or
basically trying to be a good person at heart.
5. The way to heaven (the world of the devas) is by way of the greater meritorious
actions: moral, giving, loving – kindness, compassion, having shame and guilt both
in front of and behind people, meditation.
6. The way to the higher sphere of heaven (brahma world) is by practising
meditation until achieving the different levels of higher consciousness (jhana). This
is the type of meditation that existed all over India before the enlightenment of the
Buddha. It can send you to the higher spheres of heaven. Celestial beings living in
this sphere have a very long life span, so long that they can miss the birth of a
Buddha along with all his work. Hence, this is still not the ideal world to live in
because brahmas are still subject to rebirth. Once the good karma finishes giving
results and the life span is up, they can still be reborn in undesirable realms.
7. The way to Nirvana is by practising the four foundations of mindfulness which is
the best deed of all. This practice will produce karma that won’t cast shadows of
either good or bad and therefore beyond the state of duality. Hence, they are the type
of actions that will lead one out of the cycle of rebirth – attaining Nirvana.

Take his word for it

If this is the first time that you have heard something like the above, you must find it
very difficult to take it all in. When I come to look at all the seven different realms in
samsara, it does make a lot of sense to me. While Christianity merely refers to heaven and
hell as two opposite states, and most people, even the Buddhists tend to think so too, the
Buddha talks about the different realms in samsara in much more specific detail, including
the courses of action that lead you to them. I have told you only the main grouping of seven
places but in fact there are much more details within the different levels. There are different
places in hell which accommodate inhabitants with various bad deeds. There are also many
different levels of heaven which accommodate inhabitants who have done different kinds of
good karma. I am not surprised at all that even the human world does not consist of just
men and women who are the inhabitants of this planet earth, there must be other worlds
further away from our solar system in this sphere of the universe which accommodate
sentient beings similar to humans. Yet all the same, so long as they are sentient beings, they
live under the law of karma and rebirth too.

In some groupings, the ghost world and the demon world are separated into two worlds instead of
one. It is however the greed which sends beings to these worlds. The ghost and demon worlds are
quite close to the human world and sometimes people can have experiences of them. So is the
immediate celestial world, or the lower planes of heaven.

If you have never seen the Grand Palace in Thailand, it would be impossible for you
to describe it in great detail. Likewise, the Buddha talked about the different rebirths as a
matter of facts. It is we who have not enough wisdom to understand him. At this stage, I’m
afraid you’ll have to take the Buddha’s word for it.

Being dismissed

In the same way that you cannot prove the existence of heaven or hell, you cannot
prove their non-existence either, can you? You cannot say that there is no heaven or hell
only because you cannot see it and prove it. The point is that there is no way for you to
know, not until you die and find out for yourself, which might be too late if you happen to
go to hell. So, it isn’t wise to say, “prove it to me first that heaven and hell exists, then I’ll
believe you.”
In fact, there are a great number of people who have actually had such paranormal
experiences but they were quickly dismissed by non-believers. Scientists do not know how
to handle experiences that they cannot rationally explain and to round it up as
misinterpretation or hallucination tends to be an easy way out in dealing with paranormal
experiences. This shows how intellectuals dictate and patronise the ‘non-intellectuals’ and
have very little respect for individual experiences. Such arrogant attitudes must change
among the non-believer intellectuals because it undeniably shows severe lack of true

Make better sense

You can see that in Buddhism, no one can send us to hell or heaven. We, alone, are
in charge of our own destiny and take full responsibility of our own actions. If we don’t take
charge of our action, we might end up in hell. By living our present lives and carrying on
with our day to day activities, we slowly build our future homes for the after life exactly in
the style that we want to live in. Should we want a house in hell, we keep on holding onto
rage and anger. If we want a house in heaven, we must practise meditation. If we want to
come back again as human, we must observe the five moral precepts. If you think you have
enough of living and want to end all rebirths, you must practice vipassana (bringing your
mental self back home).
We must consider ourselves extremely lucky in having the Buddha come along and
tell us this good news. I don’t know about you but this way of thinking does makes a lot of
sense to me.

Chapter three

Time, Buddhas and Samsara
Thai ancestors often tell the young generation a story about a turtle swimming in the
vast ocean. This turtle will emerge to the surface of the water once in every 500 years, then,
he will dive back into the sea and return again 500 years later. Meanwhile, the Buddha and
his teachings are compared to a small flower garland floating in the vast ocean. This wreath
drifts with the tide wherever it goes. The chance of this turtle surfacing into the flower
garland is equal to us chancing to stumble into Buddhism. Our wise ancestors would then
tell us to make sure we don’t waste our precious opportunity of being born as a human and
bumping into Buddhism, quickly follow in the footsteps of the Buddha and pursue his path
to Nirvana.

Before I talk any further about how the law of karma works, I would like you to
grasp the concept of time frames in Buddhism. It will give you an idea of how long you have
been travelling in this tedious cycle of rebirth and how exciting it is for humanity to
welcome the birth of a Buddha and for you to stumble into Buddhism.

The ring road of samsara

Do you know what the longest road in the world is? The answer is any ring road
because such a road has no beginning and no end; you can go round and round for as long as
you want. There was once a man got lost on the M25, the ring road circling greater London.
Unable to find the right exit, the poor driver evidently went round the M25 for two days!

It will be much easier for you to understand the length of time in Buddhism if you
can imagine samsara to be a ring road of life. And please visualise further that there are six
different exits dotted around this epic ring road of samsara. They are:
1. the human world
2. the animal world
3. the hungry ghost world
4. hell
5. heaven
6. the brahma world

All these enormous kingdoms are, however, considered false exits. Because after
sentient beings have completed their life-span, they have to rejoin the ring road and travel to
the next exit, wherever their karma will take them. Such hideous process has been repeating
itself from whenever and till whenever – always have been and always will be. Of course,
no one asked to be trapped in this vicious circle of life. It just so happens that we are born
into it. The Buddha already told us not to bother asking the questions: who created this
samsara or where its beginning was. He said there is no answer, if there was, it won’t make
you feel any happier, richer or poorer. Instead, the Worthy One told us to admit our
imprisoned predicament and quickly get out of it. And this is exactly what this book is
aimed for – guiding you out of samsara!

The inhabitants of each kingdom have its own life-span, some have short lives, and
some have incredibly long existences. But no matter how short or long of a life they have,
once the time is up, the original soul (true self) would have to return to this ring road of life
again and their karmic force would send them to the next rebirth. This is how the law of
karma generates the cycle of rebirth.

The Buddha said that all sentient beings have been travelling around this samsara for
eons unable to find the right exit which is the 7th exit – the one leading to Nirvana where
spiritual travellers can leave samsara for good.

Why we need to know the Buddhist time frame

Hence, it’s important we explore the time scale in Buddhism first. The Buddhists are
very familiar with the time scales called kappa – equivalent to the word eon – meaning a
period of time that is so long that it cannot be measured or an unthinkable length of time.
Whenever we read the story of the Buddha and the effort he put forth in his previous lives
until he reached ultimate enlightenment, the time scales of kappa was always referred to. If a
man could spend two days on the M25, there is no reason why sentient beings cannot spend
eons on the ring road of samsara.

Not to mention the non-Buddhist, even the Buddhists can be quite sceptical about
this mind-boggling length of time. Without the awareness of this time frame, you will not
understand why it is so important to listen to the Buddha and his enlightened followers and
why you must do your best to find the right exit by performing the right karma.

The mind-boggling kappa

Let’s see how long one kappa begins. The Buddha gave us some idea of this time
frame. Think of a mountain 16 kilometres in height and 16 kilometres in width and a deity
who is in charge of looking after this mountain. Every 100 years, this deity has to come
down from heaven and use his thin silky handkerchief to wipe the side of the mountain just
once. Then, he goes back to heaven. Another 100 years later, he comes down again and
gives the mountain another wipe and goes back until another 100 years later, he comes down
to do the same thing. This deity keeps on wiping the mountain with his silky handkerchief
every 100 years until the mountain is reduced to ground level. That is the length of time of
one kappa!

There is another analogy. Think of a pond the size 16 square kilometres and a deity
with little job to do. Every 100 years, the deity comes down to this pond and he puts one
mustard seed in it and then he flies back to heaven. Then another 100 years after, he comes
down again and drops another mustard seed in the pond. He keeps on doing this every 100
years until the pond is filled with mustard seeds. That is the length of time of one kappa!

The Buddha said that sentient-beings have been travelling around this ring road of
samsara for uncountable kappas and only a handful of them manage to make it to the 7th exit
– becoming fully enlightened ones.

Another mind-boggling length of time – Asankheyya!

If you think that a kappa is all there is, you think wrong. There is another mind-
boggling time frame I need to tell you about because it associates with the effort an ordinary
man has to put in to make himself become an extraordinary person called ‘a Buddha’.
Asankheyya is the only time scale that is suitable to describe the exact length of time that a
Buddha-to-be has to spend before his perfections become mature. My apologies in having to
use this jargon as I cannot substitute these words with anything else.

Now, let’s take a look at how long one Asankheyya year is first. The Buddha tells us
to imagine a deity again who has magical powers in counting raindrops. Suppose further that
it has been raining for three years non-stop, and water has now flooded the highest mountain
on earth. From the moment it starts to rain, this most extraordinary deity also begins his job
in counting raindrops. He not only counts the big raindrops, but he also counts all the tiny
drops including all the rain mists too. Every single drop of water that contributes to the flood
on earth is counted. Because it has rained for three years continuously, this incredible deity
keeps on counting raindrops for three whole years non-stop as well. The total number of
raindrops that have been counted for the period of three years is the length of time of one
Asankheyya year – eons sounds too short for it!

Parami (perfections)

I have told you the above time frame, so now I can show you how long each Buddha
has to spend time travelling around samsara before his ultimate enlightenment. Each Buddha
–to-be has to accumulate good karma in great abundance which is a very long preparation
for ultimate enlightenment. That is because ordinary people cannot be self-enlightened.
Sentient beings trapped in this epic ring road have no way of knowing the right exit on their
own. We have no idea of the 7th exit leading to Nirvana and therefore have to be guided and
taught by a Buddha, follow his teaching, cultivate the practice until we can reach ultimate
enlightenment ourselves. If there was no Buddha to show us the way to the right exit, we
would have to continue circling this gigantic roundabout for eons. One may ask: if this is so,
then who taught the Buddha? The answer is no one.

Whoever wants to be a Buddha, he has to be self-enlightened – knowing the right
exit from samsara all by himself. But before the self-enlightenment can take place, that
person has to work like a Trojan. The work is so difficult, intense and enduring that we
normal people can only imagine how extraordinary a person must be. A Buddha-to-be1 has
to cultivate the arduous tasks until they reach perfection. This exceedingly tough activity is
phrased as ‘accumulating the parami’. Parami means perfections which are basically the
wholesome deeds (very good karma) – the main factors releasing a person from samsara.
The perfection accumulation is the long preparation of all Buddhas-to-be, the runner-up to
ultimate enlightenment.

The ten perfections

There are ten different kinds of perfections that a Buddha-to-be has to do. They are
called the ten parami and are as follows:
1. Accumulating the spirit of giving and generosity
2. Accumulating moral conduct

Wherever I use the term Buddha-to-be, please understand that it has the same meaning as Bodhisattva. The
words are interchangeable.

3. Accumulating renunciation by leading a simplistic life or renouncing material ideals
4. Accumulating insight, wisdom by finding knowledge
5. Accumulating effort by carrying the task all the way through without quitting
6. Accumulating tolerance and endurance
7. Accumulating truthfulness, honesty and integrity
8. Accumulating resolution, self-determination, and a clear goal and going for it
without fail
9. Accumulating loving-kindness and universal love
10. Accumulating equanimity by practising indifference to praise and blame in the
performance of duty, not to be overjoyed or saddened by any event.

Any one of us can practice the ten perfections but a Buddha-to-be has to practise many
million-fold more than normal people. The Jakata is one of the Buddhist texts which have
the collections of the ten previous lives of the Buddha while he was tirelessly accumulating
his ten perfections – the runner up to his final rebirth as a prince in India. The Jakata has
been repeatedly told, written, and acted out in all Buddhist countries. People, especially
children, learn about them through story books or screen plays.

Dana parami – giving perfection

Among the last ten lives of the Buddha, the one most recounted must be when the
Buddha-to-be was born as Vedsandorn, a prince who loved giving and charity. This was the
life when he had to practise the extraordinary giving perfection. Vedsandorn gave away
whatever people requested. While he was a prince, he gave away a pair of white elephants to
his father’s enemies. White elephants are supposed to be symbols of good luck and great
fortune and should stay in the country. This offended the people in the kingdom and he was
banished from town along with his wife, Matsi, and two children, Ganha (a girl) and Charlie
(a boy). They ended up living in a forest. Choochoke, the old, ugly and hunchbacked beggar
with a young beautiful wife wanted Ganha and Charlie to serve as his servants so that he
could please his wife. Vedsandorn obliged Choochoke and waited until Matsi went to collect
fruits in the forest, then he gave Ganha and Charlie away to Choochoke. There was a great
deal of suffering and tragedy that resulted, especially when the two children were ill-treated
by Choochke and his young wife. Matsi as well had to go through tremendous grief in losing
her children to the clutches of wicked people. The story did have a happy ending, however,
as the whole family was finally reunited.

Whenever I have a chance to tell people this story in the West, including to my own
children, they feel offended by the drastic amount of giving which is unnatural to normal
people. No one can do that, which makes the story seem totally unrealistic. The point is we
must not use our own standards to judge a person who wanted to be a Buddha. Such
overwhelming sacrifices are what a Buddha-to-be has to do for the sake of his
enlightenment. This is not selfish either because the end result is to help many others in the
future. The ultimate self-enlightenment is the most precious moment, but is most difficult to
come by.

Whoever wants to achieve this goal has to invest everything he or she has into it. If
we compare the ultimate enlightenment of a Buddha to a priceless jewel, to own that object
means that you have to give away every penny and bit of wealth that you have. It is the same
for all Buddhas-to-be. The ultimate enlightenment cannot come without self-sacrifice time
after time. There was one previous life when our Buddha-to-be threw himself off a cliff so

that he could give his flesh to a hungry nursing tiger who had just given birth to her cubs. He
could see that the hungry and frustrated mother was about to eat her own babies as she had
not any food for herself. By sacrificing his life, the Buddha-to-be saved both the mother and
the cubs. Such dramatic sacrifices are something a Buddha-to-be has to do so that he can
achieve ultimate enlightenment in the end.

And this is what accumulating the perfection is about. A Buddha-to-be does not have
the same qualities as ordinary people like you and me; he has to be far more superior.

Ultimate truth and a Buddha

Next, you must understand the connection between ultimate truth and a Buddha. The
ultimate reality of nature has always been there from day one – whenever that day one was –
it always has been and it always will be. To know the absolute state in nature is the same as
finding the right exit which allows us to leave this ring road of samsara and end all

Although the ultimate truth (the right exit) is always there, it is difficult to see
because this epic ring road of life is not made of concrete or tarmac like the M25. That’s
why ordinary people like us stand no chance in finding the right exit all by ourselves which
leaves us no choice but to orbit around this huge roundabout for eons. That’s why we need
the immense wisdom of a Buddha to pinpoint us in the right direction. Such enormous
wisdom of a person can be accomplished only by means of accumulating the perfections.
Once the perfections are fully matured, the Buddha-to-be will be enlightened and become a
Buddha – meaning the knower, the awakened and the joyous.

The positive side of samsara

All throughout the history of time and samsara, there have been a number of
Buddhas who have come along and revealed ultimate truth to sentient beings. Every time a
Buddha comes along, Buddhism is established and the path to the true exit is passed on. The
teaching lasts for a while during which time there are a substantial number of people able to
leave this ring road of life – bless them! But due to the law of impermanence, everything
changes, the ultimate knowledge gradually disappears – mainly due to the deterioration and
the collapse of religious establishment. Consequently, the mental journey to the 7th exit
finally disappears. Without the real wisdom to Nirvana, sentient-beings would resume living
in the darkness of ignorance and orbit around samsara.

Time passes again for as long as it takes and then another Buddha comes along.
Ultimate truth is re-uncovered, Buddhism is established again and this process repeats itself
in full cycle over and over. It is because samsara has no beginning or end, the eon length of
time goes on endlessly as well. This, in turn, becomes the positive side of samsara in the
sense of allowing another Buddha to emerge from time to time and unravel the truth.

Many Buddhas

In chapter 2 of The User Guide to Life…The Moral Diet, I have given 24 terminologies to represent
the ultimate entity (experience) in nature.

So, apart from this most recent Buddha whose name is Gotama (born in India 2630
years ago), there were, in fact, many other Buddhas before him and there will be many more
Buddhas to come in the future too depending on how many ordinary men have made vows
to become Buddhas in their future lives. This is what Tibetian Buddhism is all about. Due to
the overwhelming compassion towards all sentient beings, Tibetian Buddhists are
encouraged to make a wish to become a Buddha in their future lives. This Buddha-to-be
idealism is to guarantee that there will always be a Buddha coming out to help free sentient
beings from samsara in the remote future. Should you become inspired by this idealism, you
too can make a wish to become a Buddha in your distant future. All Buddhas were once
ordinary persons like you and me. If you are courageous enough to make such an
extraordinary wish, you will have to go through the long preparation of accumulating the

Nevertheless, compared to the immeasurable length of time, the number of Buddhas
who have actually arrived is very few. The proportion is very much like one grain of sand to
the rest of the sand in the whole world. You might think that this is over-exaggerating. It is,
in fact, an understatement. That is because the process of accumulating the perfections is
unspeakably difficult. Some people have made it to become a Buddha but most of them did
not. They had to withdraw their idealistic wish somewhere in between. That’s why the
proportion of Buddhas appearing in samsara and the time frame is shockingly wide.

Some periods of time in the samsara is regarded as a ‘waste kappa’ because there
was no Buddha born at all; whereas some periods are classed as ‘fertile kappa’ as they
welcome as many as five Buddhas. You will realise how difficult it is for the world to
welcome the birth of a Buddha and how fortunate we are just to have the chance to stumble
into a Buddha’s teaching. Not to mention those who have the chance to engage in a mental
journey of leaving samsara – extremely lucky is another extremely understatement!

20 and 80 years to maturity

Now, it is time to connect the mind-boggling time frames I told you about earlier.
Our present Buddha (Gotama) had spent 20 Asankheyya years plus another 100,000 kappas
to accumulate his perfections to the stage of maturity. Once the reign of this present Buddha
is completed as a result of the law of change, the next Buddha will arrive when the time is
right. His name is Maitreya. His image is already portrayed as a kind man with a broad
smiling face and big tummy. He is now a Buddha-to-be and still accumulating his
perfections. Buddha Meitreya will have to spend an even longer time – 80 Asankheyya years
and the extra 100,000 kappa – to bring his perfections to maturity – shockingly long!

This is the exact reason why there are very few emerging Buddhas. Because there
are not many brave people around who are willing to make such an extraordinary
commitment! Nevertheless, on the rare occasion such as the enlightenment of a Buddha, it is
believed that extraordinary phenomena occur. It was recorded that on the night of the
enlightenment of the Buddha Gotama, the three worlds, heaven, human and hell trembled
with great joy and excitement that a Buddha had finally arrived. It is believed that the hell
called Lokanta, the darkest place of all, where no light had ever penetrated, had lit up briefly
on the night of the prince’s enlightenment. That was when hellish beings were able to see
one another after having been together for so long. All hellish beings had a fleeting moment
to be free from suffering on that night too.

The five Buddhas

The period in which we are now living is called a Patara kappa, the most fertile
period of all because it has given birth to five Buddhas. They are as follows:

1. the Buddha Gagusantha
2. the Buddha Gonakamana
3. the Buddha Kassapa
4. the Buddha Gotama (our Buddha)
5. the Buddha Maitreya

We have been travelling through the different realms of samsara for an unimaginable
period of time. Each birth causes us to carry out karma that gives results and feeds us back
into this most tiresome ring road of rebirth. At last, we are blessed to be born as human in
the period of time that Buddhism is well established, even though its time is already half
over. The Buddha said that his teaching would last 5000 years and would deteriorate once it
has exceeded the halfway point, which is exactly the period we are in now. The Buddha
passed away 2550 years ago, and indeed the signs of deterioration are showing. Chiefly, it is
due to the shrinking numbers of Buddhist practitioners and especially monks behave badly.
If religious officers do not practise vipassana themselves, wisdom won’t surface and there
won’t be any crucial knowledge to be passed on.
Nevertheless, there are people who can still benefit from the Buddha’s teachings and
are seriously walking the path in the hopes of getting themselves out of this epic ring road of
life. Those who have already brought with them some perfections from their past lives will
understand the significance of this great event in getting to know the Buddha and his


I hope you can now draw a connection between time, Buddha and samsara and
realise your fortunate status. I hope you can also see that samsara is much more fearful than
physical death. If you don’t get out of this ring road of life as quickly as you can, you will
have to bear the fear of your physical death over and over eternally, not to mention the
suffering experienced while living. If you think your life is troublesome now, can you
imagine the repeated worrying, upsets, stress and sorrow that life will bring you time after
time just by travelling around this ring road of rebirth? The Buddha once pointed to
Ananda, his private attendant and said:

“Ananda, can you see that mountain over there? That mountain is still very small
compared to the pile of bones of a single human being who has died time after time in
samsara. Likewise, the water in the ocean was still far less than the tears that one being has
shed during the endless births in samsara.”

Walking in front of me, walking behind me

This following story depicts the idealism of a young novice who was juggling
between the wish to become a Buddha or a mere Arahant, the fully enlightened one which
can be achieved by all Buddha’s followers:

Once there was a teacher and a young novice. Heading back to the monastery at the
edge of the woods, the master walked in front and the novice walked behind him in single
file. The novice drifted away into thought and tried to work out what he should aim for in his
“I think I’ll be an Arahant. so I can free myself from the bondage of rebirth…on second
thought…it is a bit selfish though…being an Arahant, how many people could I help? Maybe
none at all. If I could be a Buddha, I could help many more people. Yes, I think I will aspire
to be a Buddha.”
The master suddenly came to a stop; he stepped aside and said to the novice: “Go, walk
in front of me.”
The young monk did what his master instructed without questioning. He walked in front
of his master as he was told. Then, he drifted again into thought.
“Now, if I set my goal to be a Buddha, I must be mad because it is extremely difficult
as master has said. I have to go through samsara for a very long time. I don’t think I am
capable of going through such suffering and sacrifice to be a Buddha. Maybe it is better just
to stick with being an Arahant. Yes, I think I will do that.”
The master came to a sharp stop again, stepped over to the side and said sternly to the
novice: “Go, walk behind me.”
Once again, the young monk obediently did exactly what his master had told him to
do. He carried on walking behind his master but his mind was still preoccupied with his
“Then again, as soon as I imagine myself as an Arahant, I can’t help thinking that I
am selfish because there are so many people who need help in this world. And how about
those in other realms of samsara, who is going to help them? Only a Buddha could help
those beings to be free. And there are so very few Buddhas. If I vow to be a Buddha now, I
might be of some use to beings in the distant future. No, I think it is better to be a Buddha
than just an Arahant, I can help more beings. Yes, I will be a Buddha,” the young monk
thought loudly in his mind.
The master stopped sharply again, stepped to the side and said: “Go, walk in front of
The young monk began to feel puzzled by his master’s sudden change of action but
didn’t ask anything. This went on a few more times. The master either said “Go, walk in
front of me” or “Go, walk behind me.” It reached a point when the novice felt a bit annoyed
at his teacher’s indecisiveness. After the teacher told him to walk in front of him, the young
monk refused to do as before. He stopped and asked his master:
“Your venerable sir, could you please tell me why you keep on stopping and telling me
to either walk in front or behind you?”
The master then explained calmly to his novice:
“Well, if you wish to be an Arahant, your wish and mine are the same. And because I
am your teacher, you have to walk behind me. However, you also wish to be a Buddha.
Whenever you have that wish, you are at that moment more superior than I am because I
have no wish to be a Buddha. So, it was only right that you walk in front of me. And it was
because you kept on changing your mind; one minute you wanted to be an Arahant and the
next minute you wanted to be a Buddha. Your thoughts went up and down like a yo-yo.
That’s why I kept on stopping for you to be in the right place.”
Only then did the young monk realise that his master could read his mind!

Chapter four

What goes around comes around
In the same way that scientists need to use mathematics as a tool to tackle the
mystery of nature, the Buddha must also use his extraordinary wisdom to pierce through the
complexity of the law of karma, enabling him to tell us about it. The wisdom of his
followers, like myself, is insufficient to understanding the intricacy of karma, and therefore,
we just have to take the Buddha’s word for it by trusting that what goes around comes
around. My role here is making it easier for you in the part that I have understood following
the event of seeing the fragile robin in my garden.

The karmic chasing game

Let’s simplify this difficult karmic concept by suggesting an analogy like the
infamous British ‘fox hunting game’. Hence the poor fox is the debtor whereas the hungry
hound is the creditor. The pair of karmic debt will be chasing each other like fox hunting
depending on who is the chaser and who is the chased.
We must first agree on one thing: do not ask when this chasing game begins. The
beginning and the end of samsara are two forbidden questions that the Buddha instructed not
to ask. Apart from the fact that there is no answer, it won’t help us solve the karmic
problems. It is adequate enough just to know that this karmic chasing game keeps the cycle
of rebirth alive because sentient beings are chasing one another around samsara for eons.
Everyone has been a chaser just as often as being a chased.
We have been through samsara for an incalculable length of time and we have done
both good and bad deeds. There is no way for us to know what we have done in our previous
lives. What’s done is done, there is no going back to rectify them; those karma, good and
bad alike will definitely give results. The hound will always chase after the fox regardless.
Therefore, it is a matter of speed as to how fast or how slow a fox can run.

Adding more water to salt

It is true that we cannot defy the law of karma, but you can get around it by adding
more water to salt – doing more good deeds.
If you keep on building up your karma database with plenty of daily good activities,
despite some unfortunate circumstances, it means you have strengthened this fox that can
now run a bit faster than the hound. The hound cannot easily snare the fox and eat it; a
healthy fox might get a few scratches but manage to break free and escape. This will weaken
the harshness of bad karmic consequences. This is the main reason why we must always
stick to our moral principles.
Buddhists are brought up and encouraged to do more and more meritorious deeds
(tam boon). “It will never go to waste,” so we are told since childhood. Now, I can
understand that this concept is more or less about building a safety net for oneself for
protection against the results of bad karma – a kind of spiritual investment.
We may have a lot of bad karma stashed away, which we will never know and they
will definitely take their toll. Keeping up with our good deeds (by adding more water to
salt), is the only way that one can diminish the harshness of bad karmic consequences. To be
on the very safe side, one must engage in the vipassana practice. This is the only way that
you can effectively escape your karmic creditor.

So this is the general idea of how the karma works.

Many types of karma

There are many types of karmas. Some give results in this lifetime, some in the next,
some in the life after that and so on. Some karma may have given results, but some may not
yet have given results. However, both good and bad karma are waiting for the right
opportunity to bear fruit. Bad and good karma give results when they have favourable
opportunities. That is if you do more bad karma in your present life, then bad karma from
the past is more likely to catch up to you easily. Similarly, if you do more good karma in
your present life, then the fruit of your previous good karma is likely to develop too.

The karmic contradiction

I am sure you have seen good-hearted people who have seldom taken a step in the
wrong direction, yet seem to face terrible misfortune or even tragedy. Also in the reverse,
bad people often have luck on their side. Why is this so?
As I said, some karma won’t give results right away; the fruit won’t ripen till the
next life or the life after. This is a very complex matter that we don’t have to delve in too
deeply. Admittedly I can’t understand either and have no choice but to go by the book.
Good hearted people facing unfortunate circumstances can only mean that they are
reaping the results of their bad karma from previous lives of which they have no way of
knowing. Should you be one of them, you must not be discouraged by your misfortune and
give up doing good deeds. When your bad karma is used up, your good deeds from your
previous lives and this life will take their turn and give results.
As for bad people often wining the lottery and having luck on their side can also
mean that their previous good deeds are yielding the fruit now. However, if bad people are
complacent and think that they can always get away with murder, they think wrong. It is just
a matter of time before the fruit of their bad karma catches up with them and all hell will
break lose.

Casting doubt

Such contradictory events, however, cast doubt even among the Buddhists. They are
not at all convinced by the wise saying: ‘doing good receives good, doing bad receives bad.’
The sceptics obviously do not understand how the law of karma works. This lack of
knowledge leads many people to resent their unfortunate circumstances in their lives despite
having done good deeds. It takes away their inspiration to act wholesomely. Some people
go so far as to cut their noses just to spite their face, and go off the rail ignorantly thinking
there will be no consequences. That is definitely the wrong way of thinking. Consequently,
people are inclined to not to believe ‘what goes around comes around.’
Sadly, this lack of knowledge about how karma works has become one of the main
reasons that causes moral decline in society. This moral vacuum is sucking in every shred of
goodness we have in society and it will spiral downward out of control much sooner than
later. Shamefully, we cannot see that human alone are the architects of our own pending
apocalyptic society. We must not put the blame on God, Satan or Mother Nature but rather

The non-believers

Let’s put the fruit of the good karma aside first as that is not the main concern; not as
much as what the consequences of bad karmas would do to us. If you have no belief in this
natural law of karma and have no fear in the karmic consequences, it is almost like you have
the green light for doing bad deeds. If you happen to be a fox in this life time, your
additional bad deeds done now would slow the fox down and allow the hound to catch you
easily and tear you into pieces as you have no idea what you had done to the hounds in your
previous life. I suppose you can take up the challenge and try to prove me wrong. But are
you willing to risk facing the bad karmic consequences if I was right?
Do you know what precisely is waiting for you beyond the calm of the corridor?

The strong believers

On the contrary, should you be a strong karma believer, that way you would take no
chances and keep on doing plenty of good deeds. This equates to adding plenty of water into
salt which helps dilute the harshness of your bad karmic consequences.
In general, good-hearted people are well protected by their own goodness although
there are exceptions as I have explained before. I am inclined to believe that this notion
corresponds to “God would help those who help themselves”. Should we rephrase it, we
would have something like this: “the goodness would protect those who have done
goodness,” which comes back to the same meaning as ‘what goes around comes around.’

Meeting up again as family

The Buddha said that everyone of us used to be related one way or another since we
all have travelled around this ring road of samsara for so long; we are bound to bump into
one another somehow, somewhere and sometime during which time we might have done
something good or bad to one another. This is the main reason why we meet up again now.
It is especially the case with the people surrounding you such as your immediate family.
The trouble is you could have been related to one another either positively or
negatively and you have no way of knowing. Whatever or whoever they were, the result of
those karmas you have done to one another are about to emerge. If you have done
something good to one another, there is no need for you to worry. But if it was the reverse,
you should be concerned and do something about it quickly by adding more water to the

Karma works mysteriously

In Christianity, the word ‘God’ is used for many different functions such as subject,
object, adjective and adverb but in Buddhism, we use different words and phrases for
different functions which boost clarity. Hence the Christians saying: God works in the most
mysterious way, the Buddhist can say the same with the law of karma. I like to believe that
God and the law of karma are actually the same thing in this sense.
As far as loving relationships are concerned, the intricate law of karma will draw two
people together somehow in the most mysterious way. We often wonder why among all the
people in the world, how two people managed to find each other, click and spend the rest of
their lives together. Every couple, if they have time to reflect on their first meeting, the first
question normally raised is: Why you and me?

Loving couples

If the couple related positively in their past lives, the relationship will remain loving,
compatible and stable. They can stick together without having too many problems, apart
from all the typical ups and downs that all family have to face. The Buddhists believe that
such couples must have done some meritorious deeds together in the past; they might have
made a joint wish to meet again which led them to be together in their present life.
Nevertheless, they should not be too complacent and think that their relationship will always
go smoothly, because the immediate present karma is being implemented all the time which
will give result in due course. They still have to be kind, caring and considerate toward each
other and not take one another for granted.

Unloving couples

On the contrary, some couples might have done some very bad karma against each
other in their previous lives. Perhaps they weren’t necessarily related as husband and wife
before, but their mutual bad karma had led them to become a married couple in this lifetime
so that they can settle their karmic differences depending on who is the fox and who is the
hound. The outcome is the rocky relationship that brings endless pain and heartache starting
from day one. You must have come across such examples because the hard evidence is
almost too overwhelming in our modern society. Some couples even realize that they
shouldn’t have married each other but for some reason they went ahead with the marriage
anyway just to find out later that their gut feelings were right all along. By then, it had
become too late because they have already started a family. Responsible people might do
their best to keep the family together, which means couples may have to put up with loveless
marriages and settle with some really bitter compromises.
Sometimes it is the husband who ill-treats the wife and sometimes it is the reverse.
The outsiders often cannot understand why they have to tolerate each other to such extent.
Why don’t they just walk away from each other? Some end up having to care for their sick
partners for a long period of time and have no lives of their own.
I had a Chinese distant relative whose wife had lost her marbles and he was left to
care for her for years until he died first. He often said to his children that it must be his bad
karma stored from his previous life that caused him to be in this agonizing predicament.
The same goes for those people who have to care for their spouses who become disable due
to accidents or war or have chronic diseases such as Alzheimer, stroke, etc. This is how God
works in a mysterious way. Once the karmic claw has its grip on someone, there is no
escape; you just have to bear the consequences until they are all over.
The worst scenario is when one partner is physically or even mentally abused in all
shape and form by their spouses, unable to escape and resulting in killing. This bad karma
against each other, in return, will carry fruit to their future lives in the same way that the
result of their previous bad karma is taking its toll on them now. I hope you can see how
scary this is in not knowing when it might be our turn! I’ll tell you later how to prevent this
from happening.

Parents and children

Karmic settlement between couples is considered mild in the sense that once the
debt is paid, loveless couples can end their relationship unless one get killed before having a
chance to walk away! The karmic settlement that is more terrifying is the case of those who
come to be born as your children, which would shut down all escape routes.
The Buddhists believe that there are two types of children: those who come to pay
back the good debt and those to pay the bad debt to their parents. Children who come with

the good debt are good children who bring more happiness and joy to their parents than
heartache. They will do everything to make their parents happy and feel proud of them.
Parents of such good children will always be well looked after by their family, especially
when they descend into their old age.
Children who come with the bad debt are the type of kids who all parents dread.
They will bring nothing but trouble, pain and heartache to their parents even from a very
young age, and they will certainly abandon their elderly parents too. Some couples’ whole
lives are robbed of happiness because of their children. Some young mothers even confessed
that they felt so guilty to say that they did not love their little boys or girls because of their
unusual naughtiness.

The worst of such karmic settlement is the case of children killing their own parents.
Other cases of karmic results come up in the nature of children born with health problems or
disabilities, and parents have to spend their whole lives looking after them. This is the kind
of karmic settlement that no one can escape easily. You can run away from your husband or
wife but you cannot run away from your own children. Therefore, some people’s entire
existences are a matter of repaying debt to one another.

Dysfunctional family

The karmic factor can cleverly bring a few people together and live as a family unit.
Then the almighty law of karma begins its artistic work by constantly concocting a series of
problems among those few people and turning them into dysfunctional families. If you are a
fan of the Hallmark channel or the true movies channel, I am sure you have seen enough
heart-rending real-life stories whose tragedies were brought together in different
combinations. If they are not the parents who are the bad guys, then they are the children—
and with all the bits and pieces that fuel the problems in between such as alcohol, drugs,
accidents, ill health, crime or injustice. The list goes on. There is no escape route for the
people concerned because they are family and, therefore, have to put up with the pain. This
is the reason why anti-depressant drug businesses are doing extremely well these days.
In the past, I was very reluctant to believe all the havoc resulting from karma alone
but as my wisdom matured, I began to see that it does actually make a lot of sense.
I know of a man who was quite happy with his bachelorhood until the age of 40,
when he met a much younger girl and they decided to get married. Within 18 months of
marriage, they had a baby daughter and within 24 months, the man was left alone with the
baby after the wife walked out on him and her 6 month-old baby. He didn’t have a clue of
what to do next. You can come up with whatever explanations you’d like, but I view this
whole event as karmic artwork!

Karmic debt

This following short story is meant to depict the karmic concept above:
A rich man had a conversation with five men who all owed him karmic debt.
“How are you going to repay me for your debts?” asked the rich man.
The first man answered: “I’ll be born as your cow and plough the land for you”
The second man answered: “I’ll be born as your horse and let you ride me.”
The third man answered: “I’ll be born as your chicken and lay eggs for you.”
The fourth man answered: “I’ll be born as your dog and guard your house for you.”
The fifth man answered: “I will definitely be born as your father and look after you
all my life.”

Arahant & defunct karma

No one can escape from their karmic debt unless one reaches Arahantship—meaning
the one who has successfully taken the 7th exit to Nirvana. An Arahant, or a fully
enlightened one, has to do certain types of karma which allow the result of his/her bad
karma to become void or defunct. Vipassana1 is that special kind of activity that will disable
the consequence of one’s previous bad deeds.
Let’s return to the racing game and you will understand better. A hound always
chases after a fox but if this fox is equipped with a rocket on his hind legs, the hound would
stand no chance in running near the fox. Vipassana practice is very much like a jet engine, if
not a rocket that you can strap onto your body to allow you to run faster so that your creditor
cannot get to you. This is the reason for the defunct karma. The karmic consequence does
not just disappear into thin air. The void consequences is merely the result of the fox’s
ability to run so fast that the hound can no longer spot its victim, and has no choice but to
give up the chase altogether.
Anyone can strap this jet engine or a rocket onto himself by engaging in vipassana
practice – the very method used to be freed from samsara. You must initially implement
your ‘moral diet’ as well by adhering to the belief in the law of karma, only then will you be
qualified to pursue the vipassana practice. Otherwise, it won’t work. Once you start
practising vipassana, you will become a sprinter fox who can run faster. As the practice
progresses, the gap between the fox and the hound will widen. Once you become a fully
enlightened one, or an Arahant, this fox can run so fast that the hound is left wondering
where the fox has gone. This is how the karma of an Arahant has become defunct. It’s more
like the hound can’t find the fox!

The abbot and the angel of death

I don’t know if this tale is based on a true story or not, but I first heard it from my
teacher, Tang Mor Sieng. It illustrates the defunct karma rather well.
It is about an abbot who had to run a temple. He became so busy to the point that he
didn’t have time for the vipassana practice. One day the angel of death paid him a visit and
told him that he had just 7 days left. The abbot then decided to retire from his administrative
work right away and told his assistant not to bother him for 7 days as he wanted to enter into
a retreat. He then locked himself in his quarters and worked on his vipassana practice
continuously. On the 7th day, two angels of death came with the intention to guide the abbot
into the next realm. As they entered the quarters, they couldn’t find the abbot anywhere and
had to leave.
Meanwhile, the abbot knew his time was up, he then set out to go to Nirvana by
letting his mind centre on the 4th foundation of mindfulness of which the mental self has
vanished – having the innocent perception (my coinage). He dwelled on that void moment
for sometime until the early hours of the 8th day approached. He came out from meditation
and carried on living till his old age.

Not so defunct karma

These 3 phrases have exactly the same meaning, they are Vipassana, the four foundations of
mindfulness and bringing mental self back home.

Having talked about the defunct karma of enlightened people, there is, however, an
example that defied the above theory which, in return, emphasises how definite and
uncompromising the law of karma really is. Any Arahant who has done some gruesome
karma in the past, that karma would still give traces of result in some cases. The venerable
Moggalana was an Arahant and the Buddha’s left hand disciple, who was reputed for his
magical skills. In one of his previous lives, however, he used to physically abuse his mother
by beating her up. That sinister karma had sent him to be reborn in the four woeful states of
samsara for a long time. In every life as a human being, he would be beaten up by someone.
Even in his last life when he had become an Arahant, that dreadful karma towards his
mother was not completely defunct and was still inclined to give results. In the end, he was
still beaten up by a group of bandits; his bones were shattered into pieces. He didn’t die right
away though, it was recorded that he used his magical power to piece his bones together and
flew to be present in front of the Buddha and ask his permission to enter parinibbana—the
total extinction of the body, mind and spirit where there is no more rebirth. The Buddha
granted permission to his left hand disciple to enter parinibbana.
When the Buddha was still alive, it was customary for the fully enlightened disciples
to ask permission from the Buddha to enter parinibbana.
The above story shows how definite the law of karma is. Even an Arahant who is
supposed to be released from his previous karma cannot escape too lightly. What chance do
most people who know nothing about the law of karma have? The non-believer will stand no
chance whatsoever in escaping the result of their karma. Wise people will treat this
knowledge very carefully and probably take it as a piece of extremely good news.

Friday the 13th…?!

Trying to prevent all kinds of misfortune and the ultimate death, even if you have the
most renown psychic adviser by your side and tells you of every move you are about to take,
you cannot defy the unyielding law of karma. Your telepathic mate might tell you to avoid
crossing the road and driving a car on that particular day till the sunset. So you check
yourself into a 5 star hotel a day before, sunbath by the pool and wait for the next day to end
with the hope that your misfortune will vanish with the sunset. I will now join this tale with
a true story. Meanwhile, a depressed man had a dead wish and thrown himself off a hotel
building but he miraculously survived by landed on an oblivious guest, sunbathing happily
by the hotel swimming pool, who got killed instead! I always remember this piece of news
in the papers few years back. You may view this as ‘freak accident’ but this is how karma
works in the most mysterious way. The term ‘accident’ is used only when we run out of
rational explanation which doesn’t really explain anything at all. You still cannot get rid of
the big ‘WHY’, can you?
So, as far as the karma goes, if your number is up, it means your number is up no
matter how hard you try to avoid disastrous events. Weird accident is the artistic work of the
law of karma. There is no such thing called ‘cheating death’ in the karma book. What may
look like a ‘death cheating’ for you simply means your number has yet been up. But if your
name is written down on the daily list hold by the angle of death, whether it is Friday the
13th or not, it really doesn’t matter, I am afraid there is no safe place for you on earth. You
can even laugh to dead! This karmic notion has, in fact, been depicted in gruesome details in
a series of two films called Final Destination 1-2. You should watch them. Of course, they
didn’t talk about karma but you and I know it is, that’ enough.
You shouldn’t be too afraid of death anyway if you thoroughly comprehend all these
karma concepts I put across for you in this book.

Returning hatred with loving-kindness

‘An eye for an eye’ can never be accepted by the Buddhists. Revenge doesn’t stop
the pain, it creates more pain. The Buddha taught us quite the opposite. The worthy one told
us to return hatred and hostility with forgiveness, better still, with loving-kindness and
compassion. Forgiveness is the only way to stop the karmic chasing game and break away
the vicious cycle. That’s why the Buddha blames those who return anger with more anger.
Returning hatred with vengeance and more hostility is to fuel the law of karma and extend
samsara for even longer. The only way to break this tedious cycle is by implementing
forgiveness and loving-kindness.
Returning hatred with loving kindness is obviously easier said than done. This high
moral concept, in my opinion, is very much the same as turning the other cheek or give them
the trousers too although they just want a shirt as taught in the Bible. Despite its difficulties,
the truth is peace and happiness is just one step away from forgiveness. Only forgiving
people can find true peace and heaven on earth. Nothing is worse than holding a grudge and
dwelling on hate, especially if it was something really serious. One’s passionate hatred of
someone can easily eat one’s whole life up. Such a life is a living hell. No one can help you
to get out of this hell but yourself. That is, you must forgive and let go of your anger and
I know it doesn’t seem right to forgive some, like the wicked people who might have
taken the lives of your loved ones – if that is the case! You must understand that no one can
get away lightly from the law of karma even though you may think the worldly punishments
are not enough to pacify your anger.
If you are a karma believer, you must know that those wicked people will definitely
be punished somehow, somewhere. This is what hell is for – to punish bad people. The
justifiable law of karma will take care of everyone and make sure that everyone gets what
they deserve. You must believe in that notion. And right now, you must look after yourself.
When you can understand this, you must take care of your own karma too. You must not let
hate and anger eat your inside up and ruin your whole life; you must learn to let go and
forgive. It is very difficult but very effective in bailing you out of the living hell in which
you may be.
When you know how to bring your mental self back home, you will find it much
easier to forgive and to love. Better still, you may be able to show genuine loving-kindness
and compassion to the ones you used to hate most. This is a good mental drill and a great
achievement for anyone who can do it. After all, it is the vicious cycle that everyone must
try to break free.

Chapter five

Boon…The Death Factors
Understanding Boon

Good and evil in Thai is called ‘boon-barb’. It is important that you learn these two
words before we move on to talk more about karma.
‘Boon’ pronounced in Thai, has been translated by many Buddhist scholars as ‘merit’
– meaning the quality of being good and deserving praise – a definition which I personally
don’t find very insightful. Boon strictly relates to action that bears good karmic result,
whereas barb is everything in the opposite. Thai people repeats the word ‘tam-boon’
countless times daily, meaning doing wholesome deeds that will bear good karmic results
and send them to better rebirth. Hence, tam-boon is the biggest part of life for the committed
After a boon activity has been completed, boon doers will naturally feel joyful and at
peace. These positive inner feelings are the boon energy, which can materialise into a ball of
energy emerging from the body. It stays for a short while, then disappears. This boon energy
will be connected with our rebirth status. I shall talk about this in a later chapter. Apparently,
the heavenly beings (devas) are nothing more than the glow of positive/boon energy.

Rejoicing the Boon

Another quality of boon is that it can be passed on and received either to humans or
sentient beings in other realms. It is a Buddhist tradition that the owner must share their
boon to others after every tam-boon is carried out. This is done so by mentally saying or
wishing something like: ‘May this boon that I’ve just done be sent to all sentient beings, our
friends who share birth, aging, illness and death together; may this boon help you all to be
happy and at peace. This ritual is known as spreading loving kindness or pae metta in
A Buddhist funeral rite is basically the sending of boon to deceased relatives. We
cannot take material wealth with us to the after-life. The only thing we can bring with us is
our very own field of glowing energy or boon. While the boon will send your soul to a good
rebirth, the barb (sin) will send you to a bad rebirth. Fortunately, the boon can be passed on
even to those living in other realms.

Boon grows

In comparison, giving away tangible objects means having fewer possessions,
whereas giving away the intangible boon causes the owner’s boon to multiply instead. Every
time you share your boon with others, your own field of boon will glow bigger, stronger and
brighter. These positive karmic consequences will definitely guarantee you a very good
rebirth. If the Thais bump into someone – relatives, friends or neighbours – on their way
home from the tam-boon, they will tell those people something along the lines of:
“I have just done the tam-boon and here are some boon for you.”

The relatives or friends would rejoice the boon activity by saying: “anumodhana
boon” and follow with “sadhu sadhu sadhu” means rejoicing, I am glad for you that you
have done the boon…something like that.
By rejoicing the boon of others, they also gain the boon for themselves. Modern
technology like emailing has helped keeping this Buddhist ritual alive although one may live
among the Christians like myself. I often receive emails from friends telling me of their tam-
boon activities in Thailand so that I could rejoice the boon with them. In this sense, boon is
like a lit-candle that once passed on it generates more and more light. This, in my opinion, is
an extremely rich enlightening culture that is not easy to come by and therefore deserved to
be well looked for the benefit of our offspring. It is the easiest way of gaining or investment
– if you like to put it – without having to spend anything apart from having the genuine
happiness for do-gooders. The profound meaning behind is about getting rid of the sense of
self or slimming the size of our ego which is the main practice sending one out of samsara. I
have already elaborated this notion in the prequel of this book: The Moral Diet.

Boon and parami

Boon, apart from conditioning your rebirth, is also the main factor sending you to
Nirvana. Perfection or parami, which I discussed previously in chapter three, is the different
grouping of boon that you can do to boost yourself towards Nirvana. That’s why I am not
too keen to translate boon as ‘merit’. Boon has much more profound meaning than merit. It
emphasises more on reducing your greed, anger, selfishness and especially your sense of ego
all of which are the prime qualities that will break away the chain of karma and send a
person to Nirvana.
The above is the unique nature of boon that has never been hugely elaborated by
other great teachers apart from the Buddha himself. Hence, it is difficult to find an English
equivalent to support this Buddhist concept of boon, which is totally new to the western
mind, and therefore deserves to be treated with an open-mind. You can benefit so much
from the right understanding as you are able to harness the goodness from it by acting
accordingly as if you have your own ‘goodness generator.’ This would make you have an
absolute grip over your own destiny. You don’t have to rely on anything or anyone else,
especially if you are not a serious believer of God.
Despite its abstract meaning, ‘boon’ is one of the most popular words in the Thai
vocabulary repeated countless of times daily in Thailand. I therefore prefer to use the word
‘boon’ with hopes that you will remember the meaning.

The end of boon means death

According to Buddhism and its belief, a life ends because of two factors:

1) Having reached the end of one's life span
2) Having reached the end of one’s boon.

The end of boon meaning death, is a very interesting concept, which once again is
brand new to the western mentality. This can explain a great deal why some people have a
long or short life span and why some parents live longer than their children. The good news
is that you can also plan your own destiny in a particular way if you know how boon works.

Different life span

All sentient beings have their own life spans, some short and some long, depending
on what realm they are born into. The life span of celestial beings is much longer than that
of humans. The brahmas living in the brahma worlds – the highest levels of heaven – have
extremely long life spans compared to human life. They could live as long as a few kappas
and miss the ultimate enlightenment and the whole establishment of a Buddha. That’s why
the Buddha felt pity towards his two teachers who taught him meditation. Both teachers
passed away just days before the Buddha’s enlightenment, and they had already been reborn
as brahmas in the brahma world. They would be in heaven for a very long time indeed and
miss the chance to listen to the teachings of the Buddha which would have helped them to
end their rebirths. Once their life spans come to an end, they too will have to die from their
celestial status and be reborn again, the destination depending on their previous karma. A
brahma can still have a very good chance to go down to hell if the result of bad karma in the
far past catches up to them. There are many stories relating to this fact in Buddhist texts.

Human life span

I would like to focus on just talking about the life span of human beings and
animals, which are the two realms to which we can truly relate. Some animals’ life spans are
only a few hours, some last a few days, some last a few months and some may last up to
nearly one hundred years, take elephants and turtles as examples. A human being’s life span
is between 70-90 years average depending on where one lives. If you are born in Africa,
your life span might be half of the above. (Since this book is not aimed at the very poor
people to read, I will thus use the average age of people living in developed countries who
will have more time for reading.) But no matter where you live, your life span can stretch up
to 100 years at the very most – of course, there are a tiny number of exceptions!
Nevertheless, it means that when your number is up, you have to give up this body and
move on to your next one.
However, to be able to live through those 70-90 years of life, you must have the
power of goodness (boon) to carry you through it. Without the boon as the supporting factor,
despite a life span capacity of 70-90 years, you might not live through to that age. On the
contrary, those equipped with huge sums of boon won’t die easily even though there are
plenty of reasons for them to die sooner rather than later.

We don’t know what goes wrong as much as we don’t know what goes right

My husband’s family often makes joke about our auntie Win. Her diet was a good
recipe for sending her to an early grave, salt, sugar, fat you name it! She loved plenty of
them! I have always had a piece of gammon for our Christmas Eve dinner, and I cannot
stand fat. I would slice all the fat from my gammon joint and pass it over to aunty Win who
loved putting gammon fat on her sandwiches, probably with extra salt! Aunty Win never had
any ill health apart from her breast cancer at the age of 40 and her severe deafness. She
sailed through life without any serious ill health conditions since her cancer operation.
Aunty Win was born in 1907, lived to see the firework display of the second millennium and
passed away quite readily on the Boxing Day of the year 2000 – probably after eating my
gammon fat on Christmas Eve?!
My dad was a heavy smoker and we thought that he would die sooner from a
smoking related disease, but he too lived till 87 without any serious illnesses apart from his
short temper when he couldn’t light up at certain places.
On the other hand, we have had a case reported in today’s papers about a 12 year-old
girl who went abroad on a family holiday of a lifetime. She was struck by food poisoning

during the getaway and her kidneys had been affected by it. Currently, she needs regular
dialysis and is awaiting a kidney transplant. Without the transplant, she may not survive, the
doctor said.
We must admit that we don’t know what goes wrong as much as we don’t know
what goes right. We can hide behind the blind of science and try to explain the event as best
as we can but no matter how accurate the reason is, both you and I know that it isn’t enough,
is it?

Blatant evidence

I really don’t know how you can explain these contrasting events rationally without
bringing the law of karma into it. Without the karma, you will never get rid of the ‘why me,
why you and why not others’ business. The karmic hound does not necessary have to be a
person. It can be anything ranging from accidents, illnesses, itches, to getting caught up in
some unfortunate dangling situation that can’t be escaped. Some people were robbed of their
identities and went through havoc for years just to clear up the mess. If you look around, you
will see the blatant evidence of people’s live that have been swung around as a result of their
own karma (try switching on the Hallmark or the true movies channels). You just need a bit
of guidance and wisdom to reflect and to convince yourself.
According to the Buddhist concept, when one dies especially at a young age, we
would say that this person has used up all of his/her boon (mod boon). That’s why his/her
life had to end before reaching the potential life span.

Boat race & boon race

If we bring the law of karma into the equation of life, it can certainly take away the
‘why’ issue. During birth, every baby will bring with him/her a plus or a minus sign of
boon. It is the same as when we do basic arithmetic. If a plus sign is carried over, the
number will grow very quickly, but if a minus is carried over, the number decreases very
quickly – this is pay back. Being born with a plus sign, you have carried along with you a
huge sum of boon which conditions you to be born in fortunate and favourable
circumstances. This explains why some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths
and some born with a plastic spoon, some are born clever but some are quite dim; there are
some born pretty and some ugly, some have good parents and some have bad parents, some
have good health and some have poor health.
Then you still have all these favourable and unfavourable circumstances blending
together in different combinations. Some rich are not clever and have ill health, and some
are poor and ugly, but extremely clever, for instance. The details of the karmic mix and
match are ingenuously articulated by the law of karma itself.
Those with all the favourable status with them are obviously carrying with them the
huge plus signs of boon. They don’t have to do much but things seem to come very easily
for them. If they endeavour some kinds of ventures, luck appears to be on their side. There is
a Thai saying: “You can compete in a boat race, but not a boon race.”
However, you must not be complacent and think that things will always go smoothly
because boon can be used up too. This is another profound meaning of boon. One must
extend the boon by topping it up with more good deeds, always.

Being born with a minus sign

When babies and young children die either because of sicknesses, accidents or crime,
we often cannot understand why. It seems to most people that those children didn’t have a
chance to live long enough to do anything wrong, so why are they punished so soon?
According to the law of karma, they were born with a minus sign! They didn’t bring with
them enough boon.
Please be reminded that the law of karma doesn’t require a supernatural being to pass
out judgement. This moral law works like the law of physics. All circumstances follow the
natural flow of karma. I have to remind you again because what I am about to say is a very
sensitive matter to the Western way of thinking. If you cannot understand fully, you will feel
terribly offended and might be angry, especially if you are vulnerable. You might have lost
your loved ones, perhaps your children, in the most horrendous situation. Nevertheless, if
you can understand what I say precisely, you might be able to let go of the pain that you
have been carrying for a long time. To help you release your pain is my main concern.

Why didn’t God help my baby?

It depends how you interpret God. Tragic incidents such as babies dying cannot be
explained logically if we bring God as an omnipotent being into it.
Everyday, we hear news of innocent people such as young children, old people and
women being attacked, robbed, raped and murdered. There are also diseases that put so
many people, rich and poor alike, through constant misery and suffering. Not to mention
wars and more suffering that people have inflicted upon one another so unnecessarily. How
can we fit God into all of this pain?
As I wrote this part of the chapter, there had been news of an eight year-old girl who
had gone missing while out playing with her siblings in the countryside. An agonising
search had taken place for the past 20 days, much to the agony of the family. The whole
nation also clung to the slightest hope that the helpless little girl might be found alive.
Everyone gasped when the news reported that the girl’s body was found dumped in a bush
12 miles away from where she was last seen.
I am no Christian, but if I was to believe in God as an omnipotent being and if I was
the mother of that girl, I would scream at and curse that God day in and day out. He claims
he loves us so much but why didn’t he help my little girl from the hands of the most evil
Most God believers often make excuses for their beloved God that such evil acts are
not God’s will but Satan’s. I see it as poor excuse. It doesn’t make any sense at all. You can
let yourself believe that God built the world in 7 days and gave us all this beautiful nature
for us to cherish. To me, such a task is much more challenging and demanding than
defending and protecting helpless and innocent lives from the hands of evil. This should be
God’s priority to keep the world he built in good moral order. I am sorry but I just cannot
buy the concept of God as being omnipotent, kind, loving and having invincible power. It
doesn’t add up and makes no sense whatsoever when it comes down to good innocent
people, especially young children being brutally attacked and killed.1
Please do understand that I have no intention to destroy your faith. It would be so wrong
of me to do so. However, if your faith is well rooted, I don’t think I can harm you in any
way. You will be so well protected by God you believe in. As for those who are shaken by
what I have just said, please do not panic. Please go back to read the chapter about the
Universal Truth I talked about both in A Handful of Leaves. If you can follow the clear
guidelines of how to bring your mental self back home, you will still find the God who can
truly protect you from pain, but has no power to alter things or interfere with your free will.

On the other hand, if we bring the law of karma into it, it begins to make some sense.
It does explain why babies and young children have to suffer and die. That is because they
carried with them the karmic minus sign. Although they are entitled to live the full capacity
of the life span like everyone else, the power of goodness (boon) they brought with them
was not sufficient for them to carry through. The unfortunate karmic minus sign causes their
lives to dwindle quickly.
Comparatively speaking, these foxes have so many angry hounds running after them.
These hounds might have been chasing these foxes for sometime, managing to catch up with
them during this life time. This is the reason why unfortunate events happen to young people
even before they have chance to do anything wrong or commit barb. This is not our first life
and certainly not the last either and we have no way of knowing what bad deeds we have
done in our previous lives. Whatever they were, these are the consequences all foxes must
face – there is no escape!

One word for all

I want to believe that Buddhists and Christians actually talked about the same thing
but the confusion lies upon the ambiguity of the words used. My understanding is that the
word ‘God’ has been used for different functions and causes a great deal of vagueness in the
teaching. In English, we use different words for different functions – subject, object, verb,
noun, adjective, adverb, preposition and so on – so that a perfect comprehensible sentence
can be constructed and results in good communication. ‘I’ is used as a subject whereas ‘me’
is an object; ‘good’ is an adjective but if you want an adverb, you use ‘well’ instead.
In Christianity, the word ‘God’ is being used for all functions which can be
compared to the word ‘I’ is used for subject, object, adjective, adverb and preposition.
Confusion is the least to be expected. I am sure this is the real problem that causes
puzzlement and misunderstanding among the God believers when unfortunate incidents
happen in their lives. God cannot love one so much that he punishes one so harshly.
One word for all functions doesn’t apply to Buddhism. The Buddha was an academic
intellectual, not to mention being extremely wise too, hence he had the ability to use a wide
range of vocabularies to describe certain nature according to their functions. Nirvana is to
represent the ultimate truth and the main goal of life. Nirodha refers to the freedom and
detachment of the mind or the end of mental suffering. Vimutti refers to the deep calm or the
emancipation of the mind. He also has another whole range of words and phrases for actions
and its consequences such as samsara, the law of karma, the cycle of rebirth. These words
may explain how things work in the universe and how they affect our lives.
All the different words used in Buddhism might have been represented by just one
word ‘God’ which also strongly implies a divine omnipotent being. I am sure these are the
reasons for the confusion and loose puzzles because people naturally have high expectation
as far as God is concerned. Nirvana, the end of suffering or freeing samsara is for everyone
which makes God loves everyone all the same. The law of karma dictates beings get what
they deserve would liken the saying: God would help those who help themselves.
By using the right terminologies for the right functions such as karma, I believe,
there would be fewer confused people blaming God for all the bad things that happen in the

Disbelief makes no difference

The law of karma doesn’t let you off only because you are a defenceless child. The
karmic law treats all sentient being equally just like the law of physics works the same for
the entire universe. No one can opt in or opt out of this claw of karma. Whether you want to
believe in the law of gravity or not, you will always be affected by it – falling down to earth!
And the same goes for the law of karma to you. Your disbelief will not make an iota of
difference to the operation of the karmic law. In fact, this minus sign business would give
you a clear perspective, allowing you to see that no one can get away with murder. They all
add up to the belief that what goes around comes around. Samsara is like a ring road, that’s
why karmic consequences will always come back to the owner. It is only a matter of time.
Without this understanding, it will seem like we are a part of this cosmic joke in which
nothing makes sense at all and can drive you nuts.
This makes it all the more important that you know how the law of karma works. If
you don’t, it means you are quite happy to just stand back and take whatever you deserve.
What makes it worse is that you will keep on doing the wrong things that will cause you
more karmic grief. In contrast, should you have belief in the law of action, you should at
least know what to expect and quickly equip yourself with a jet engine so that you can run
faster than those angry hounds. This is the very least you can do in protecting yourself from
the unfortunate events in your lives.

Collective karma

You may wonder how to explain tragedies such as wars and natural calamity that
result in death for a mass number of people. Also political mayhems which cause massive
death like the holocaust and genocide can be explained as the collective karma.
Even the Buddha had to face the most unfortunate event himself and he couldn’t do
anything about it. There was a war between the two blood lines of his family. The Buddha
made three attempts to stop the war but to no avail. Ultimately, genocide took place; 500
members of the Buddha’s family were killed; an occurrence of which the Buddha said was
due to their bad karma they did previously together.
This is also quite interesting. Regarding tragedies like the 9/11 or the Asian tsunami
for instance, we often wonder once again why me, why my loved ones. The collective
karma might be the answer to this. The law of karma was working its way to round up
people who have previously done collective deeds so that they would bear the karmic
consequences together. The method is by placing people at the right place at the right time
and at the wrong place at the wrong time. This resulted in some people packing their bags
and travelling half way around the world so that they could be at the wrong place at the
wrong time. On the other hand, for some people who were supposed to be at the disastrous
scene, things happened that took them away from the fatal catastrophe.

Such intriguing incidents are some of the most difficult matters to understand, and I
am afraid the God concept doesn’t wash down very well either. So does the cosmic co-
incidence. The Asian tsunami had claimed some 260,000 people and a third of that number
were children. I am quite sure that during that critical moment, the screaming for the
almighty God to help pluck them out from the giant wave must have been deafening in
God’s kingdom. But where was he? And how can he allow all these evil things happen in
the world?

Some people say that God was already dead at Auschwitz! They must be referring to
God as the omnipotent super-being and not God as the ultimate nature2. Could it be that the
almighty God might be part of the law of karma itself! If this is so, it begins to make sense.

Making the right choice

Although the law of karma says beings get what they deserve, it doesn’t mean that
we are going to sit back and allow ourselves to be thrown around by karmic fate, nor does it
mean we do not need to help people at all. You must help people as best as you can, but
when things become inevitable, you must understand that it is the law of karma.

Suppose you have brought with you a karmic plus sign and are born into an affluent
family with perfect health and good brain too. Now, you have grown into a teenager and
know what is right from wrong. You are invited to a party where people smoke, drink and
take drugs. It is your first night out in such a wild environment. There are lots of new things
and events you have never experienced before i.e. smoking, drinking, taking drugs, and sex.
At this moment, you are about to create some new karma, which will give a result in the
future. The karmic result doesn’t necessarily have to happen in the next life, as it can be as
quick as the day after your wild party. So, your friend comes along and offers you a drink
and probably drugs too. This gesture has nothing to do with your previous life karma.
Whatever you did during that night at the party, those actions are your brand new
karma and you have choices. Therefore, you can either say yes or no when you are offered
cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. If you said yes to everything people offered you and went
overboard, you have created some brand new karma, which would be followed by the result
as early as a hangover the morning after. If you took drugs and things went wrong, you
could be seriously ill, develop into an addict and die young. If you had slept with someone,
you would have even more consequences to face both physically and emotionally, you risk
pregnancy or disease. So, all the events ranging from your hangover, your addiction, to
your pregnancy are the result of your present actions, a straight forward cause and effect,
which has nothing to do with your previous life at all. You must understand this correctly
and completely, otherwise you will blame everything on the karma.

As an alternate example, you may have been brought up in a rich family both in
material wealth and spiritual wealth. Your parents have taught you the moral ground rules
and you know yourself what is right from wrong. You also have a very strong character and
you don’t let anyone mess you around. It might be your first time at a party but you know
that it isn’t your style of fun. You might have a drink or two but you refuse to have more.
You are not tempted to try drugs because you read the papers and you can understand the
havoc drugs can cause both to you and to your family. So, you stay well clear from it. Your
friend tries to convince you again and tells you how marvellous you will feel, and you
should try it just for the experience. Your strong character and your good upbringing give
you enough strength to refuse. You might be a very handsome young man or a gorgeous
young lady and you have attracted quite a few of the opposite sex. They all want to go to
bed with you. Again, you resist.
Now, look at the result of your decision on that night. By the end of the night you
return home safe and sound. You don’t sick all over your mom’s toilet, you will not become
an addict, and you don’t get pregnant.

Please read chapter 2 The User Guide to Life…The Moral Diet, I have given 24 terminologies
referring to the ultimate nature, one of which is God.

Your free will

I know this all sounds absolutely unrealistic and utterly boring to young people’s
standards these days. What I want you to see is the difference between the positive and
negative karma you create on that night at the party. The consequences are the direct result
of the new actions you chose with your own free will that night. Whatever choice you make,
you will deserve the consequences. The new consequences may prompt you to act further
by creating more new karma, leading to more pending result. If it was the first time you have
tried smoking on that night, you might like it and keep on smoking or you can choose to
stop. You have the choice to create better karma all the time.
If you are in your mid-teens now, and you smoke for another 20-40 years, you must
anticipate ill health due to your smoking habits. You might get lung cancer and you might
die at the tender age. Your fatal illness and the subsequent death then will be the result of
your karma of this lifetime beginning on the night of your wild party. You can close your
eyes and imagine the long term consequences had you decided to take drugs, catch the HIV
virus, get pregnant or make a girl pregnant. These are all part of the new actions on the night
of that wild party from which you can choose with your own free will. Whatever choice you
make, good or bad, you will have to bear the consequences accordingly.

I will use some names so that you can visualize more accurately. John and James
may be born as siblings into the same family. Their karma from previous lives has led them
to be reborn in fortunate circumstances. John is easily led and James is the master of his own
mind. They are brought up with the same values but after that night at the party, their lives
go separate ways. Thirty years later, John ends up in jail on the charge of being a drug dealer
and his health is on the brink of death. James is a successful lawyer but he cannot help his
brother get out of jail. James has seen enough of his family’s suffering. He then decides to
study Buddhism and practise the insightful vipassana. Ten years has gone by, John dies in
jail and James becomes a Buddhist monk.

The significant point here is that you are creating your new karma all the time. The
future karmic consequences don’t always mean the next life; it can be as quick as the next
hour or the next day. This is the simple scientific cause and effect principle but the Buddha
can see its function all the way through, before and beyond this present time frame. That’s
why he knows it is the law of karma.
What’s important is that you must find a way to break free from your unwholesome
deeds that will give bad karmic results. If you don’t, your own actions will keep on sending
you back into the fox and hound racing game. And your very own cycle of rebirth will go on
and on indefinitely.

The choice is entirely yours

Whatever action you want to take after this is entirely your choice. I am just a
messenger for the Buddha. If you laugh it off, take no notice of what I tell you and you go
off to gratify your greed, anger and delusion, you will definitely get what you deserve. If
you, however, are convinced by what I have said, and follow the guidelines I have told you

about climbing up the moral and meditation ladders, your future will definitely change for
the better.3 You will find more inner peace. The choice is totally yours.

Making the right choice

If parents know about the law of karma, they could teach their children to take
responsibility for their own actions and children would have a better chance to embellish
their own futures. The sad truth is that our society consists of confused and dysfunctional
parents who don’t have much of a clue about life themselves. And how can we expect their
children to make right decisions? Even for those children with good parenting and
upbringing, there is still no guarantee that things will turn out as planned. It is because
children don’t just belong to their parents, they also belong to society and culture. Social
values are crucial factors that can easily blind our judgement when it comes to making the
right choices.
Although everyone including the government knows alcohol is not good and is the
root cause for many social problems, the law still allows pubs to be open round the clock in
Britain. What chance do our children have by living in a society like this? Someone said
living in Britain is just like living in a big pub which is very true. How can we expect
children to make the right choice if our culture tempts them to make the wrong choice?
This is where I feel, at times, that I am fighting a losing battle and this is why I must
restrict myself to helping just one person at a time. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have
enough strength to carry on with my work.

Repeated scene of immoral act

You have to be extremely strong to break away from the chain of karma nowadays
because society won’t let you do it so easily. Without the real wisdom and the right
guidance, it is easier to return hatred with more hate and vengeance than to defy it with
forgiveness and compassion. Consequently, we keep on doing the wrong things that will
subject us to bear more negative karmic consequences. Finally, we are all trapped in this
huge ring road of ‘what goes round comes around,’ unable to break free.
Although you cannot remember your activities from past lives and what bad karma
you have done to others, you don’t need to look far because all bad karma begins with
immoral acts all the same – greed, anger, hatred and selfishness. Part of samsara is the
repeated scene of people’s immoral acts that keeps on generating the fox and hound racing
game. What happened in the past is being repeated now and will be repeated again in the
future. You don’t have to be a psychic to know all this.

Who wants to be an emperor?

I want to emphasise one last time about your present karma. People who can truly
understand the law of karma will not be too overjoyed with those who are born into a
mountain of fortune. Lots of material wealth can also mean more chances to create bad
karma. You might be lucky to be powerful enough to be leaders of states; consequently, you
will have to make more difficult decisions which may involve the lives and deaths of
millions of people. If you were besotted with power and made wrong judgements and wrong
decisions and caused suffering to a great number of people, it is a guarantee that your future

The User Guide to Life…The Moral Diet is the first part of this book which contains all the
guidelines you can follow to break free from the repercussions of your karma.

life will not be too lucky. You’ll certainly be doomed unless you break away from your bad
karma now.

Bodhisattva Temiya4

One of our Buddha’s previous lives includes the time when he was born as a king’s
son called Temiya. When he was a baby, his mother placed him on his father’s lap in the
court room while the king passed sentences on three prisoners. Bodhisattva Temiya
witnessed his father punish one prisoner with beatings, while another’s eyes were pulled out
and the third was beheaded. Although he was only a baby, he was also a Buddha-to-be
whose perfections had developed far enough for him to know his past and future. Despite
being just a baby, he could understand what was happening. He was so frightened that when
it was time for him to ascend to the throne, he would have to do the same as what his father
is doing now. He would have no choice but to create more bad karma that would feed and
extend the cycle of rebirth. He thought then that he could not risk all the perfections he had
accumulated just to be sent back to samsara.
From that moment on, Bodhisattava Temiya refused to talk, move or eat. The court
did everything to him just to make him respond. This went on until he was in his early
twenties. When he was a baby, they starved him just to make him cry when he was hungry,
but he refused to cry. It went on for days until his mother had to give in. When he was a
child, they tickled him to make him laugh, but he sat still. They let him play with a group of
children and deliberately started a fire nearby. All the children ran away with fear, but
Bodhisattva Temiya did not move; he was willing to die. When he reached the late teenage
years, they placed him among beautiful girls with hopes that his hormones would run wild
but he did not respond either. He told himself that the hunger, the heat, the desire and lust
that he had to bear in that lifetime would be far less than the suffering he would have to bear
in hell. Therefore, he had no fear, not even of death.
In the end, the king had to give him up. With the pressure from the courtiers telling
him that the prince was a sign of bad luck to the kingdom and deserved to be sentenced to
death, the king had to agree to pass on the death sentence. As the executioner was taking the
prince to be buried alive, a deity came to his help.
To cut the story short, Bodhisattva Temiya survived and he chose to be a hermit in
the forest and pursue his meditation practices. The story of Temiya was the first of our
Buddha’s ten previous lives before his ultimate enlightenment. That was the life when he
accumulated his renunciation perfection. He had to suffer a great deal so that he could
renounce all the wealth and glory he was entitled to.

Bodhisattva means Buddha-to-be

Chapter six

The constitution of human life
It is important that you know how the five aggregates work so that you will have
some idea as how individual karmic data base are carried over to the after life. Once you
understand this, we can move on to the crucial moment of death and followed by human
birth as the completion of the full cycle.

The five aggregates

According to the Buddha, the human life form consists of 5 different groupings –
one part is mass and the other four parts are of formless nature which I would like to use
the word ‘energy’ for now. I also give you my coinage for easy understanding. They
include the following:

1. Body = physical self = mass = rupa
2. Memories = Jerry = energy = nama
3. Thoughts = Jerry = energy = nama
4. Feelings = Jerry = energy = nama
5. Consciousness = mental self = true self = Tom = energy = nama

Different groupings

Some of you may find the 5th entity – consciousness – a bit confusing. The
intellectual world may group consciousness within the body where the brain is. Because
mind experts tend to believe that consciousness has a direct connection with the brain
which subsequently produces the whole of our nervous system and the functioning of the
body. As a matter of fact, after two centuries of debating, mind experts haven’t really
come up with any satisfying conclusions to the question of ‘what consciousness really is.’
While scientists are still in limbo, they have to settle with a conclusion within reach,
which links consciousness with the brain. In contrast, the Buddha places the brain with
the body grouping while consciousness is another independent entity.
This diverse grouping does make a great deal of difference when it comes to
finding the cure for mental pain and suffering. If consciousness is placed within the brain,
we would have to take medications such as anti-depressants, whereas the Buddha simply
suggests meditation to cure mental turmoil.
Having said that, I don’t entirely mean that the brain has nothing to do with the
human consciousness. There are certainly some connections between the brain and
consciousness. When something is wrong with the brain – a blood clot for instance – we
become unconscious. Once the blood clot is removed, consciousness returns. The use of
anaesthetics that can block the whole of our nervous system, allowing surgeons to
perform operations also strongly support the fact that the brain has something to do with
consciousness. Nevertheless, we must admit there are a great deal of mysteries hidden in

these intriguing minds, brains and consciousness that we cannot understand completely.
My mission here is to merely present the Buddha’s argument regarding this important
topic of human life form so that we can curb mental turmoil without having to rely too
much on medication. My English is not very good, so I apologise if I offend you in any
Now, let’s explore further the Buddha’s approach on the constitution of human
life form, which consists of one part made up of mass and four others made up of energy.

The core of life
It is important that you follow this approach so that all the scattering jigsaw pieces
can easily click into place.
A complete life form must have both the physical self as well as the mental self.
Imagine the physical self as a glove and the mental self as a hand; you will see right away
who the real captain on this ship is. This concept is the main reason why I will employ
more coinages to the term ‘consciousness,’ also known as mental self, true self, real
self… and Tom.
To support this, you have to see the difference between a birth with a predictably
crying baby and a still birth. A crying baby has both physical self and mental self,
whereas the still birth has only an empty ship without a skipper. The glove cannot
function without the hand like an empty vessel without a captain.
These following 4 incidents further support the notion that the mental self is the
real self. They are:

1. When you fall into a deep sleep
2. When you are unconscious either with or without anaesthetics
3. When you are in a coma
4. When you die

When any of these 4 events happens, the mental self is not with the physical self –
just like the hand is not with the glove. You may ask where the mental self goes during
those events, I am afraid your guess is as good as mine. I must store this question into the
mystery file for the time being and focus on piecing the jigsaw to form a perfect picture
of life first. We can do it without having to answer that question.
The important point you must know is that physical self cannot function without
the presence of a mental self. Although all the sense organs are there, they cannot
perform their usual tasks of perceiving or sensing. It would be like the eyes that can’t see,
ears that can’t hear, a nose that can’t smell, a tongue that can’t taste and a body that can’t
feel texture. But as soon as one awakens, regains consciousness or comes out from a
coma, the real self returns to the body and all senses function normally again.
From this episode, we can then draw a conclusion that the mental self is the true
self or the core of life. Thus, let’s now substitute the word ‘consciousness’ with true self
here on.

Body and the external universe

Now, let’s explore the 1st aggregate – the body or the mass. The Buddha used the
Pali term: rupa. Most Buddhists like to think that rupa means only the physical body but,
in fact, rupa means much more than that. According to the Buddha, rupa not only refers
to the physical body but also includes everything in the universe as one entity! Please try
to digest this piece of knowledge very carefully and you will realise how insightful and
ingenious the Buddha is.
It is because this physical body has sense organs – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and
skin, which act like bridges and allow access to the corresponding sense objects of sight,
sound, smell, taste and touch, respectively. The Buddha called these sense spheres,
ayatana. The true meaning of ayatana covers both sense organs (eyes, ears…) and sense
objects (sights, sounds…).
We use senses to perceive the universe we live in. No matter how colossal the
universe is and how diverse the sense objects are, those assorted wide range of
perceptions are reduced to mere sights, sounds, smells, tastes and the feel of textures, and
no more.
Sometimes the Buddha replaced the word rupa with the words: ocean or universe.
He says that the ocean does not just mean water and the universe does not mean just stars
in the sky. Water in the ocean is just one sight and stars in the sky are yet another sight.
The genuine ocean here is profoundly abstract. It is the ocean of sights, ocean of sounds,
smell and so forth. The real universe is the universe of sights, sounds, smell and so on.
Therefore, every piece of collective knowledge about our solar system is actually
narrowed down to mere sights in the Buddha’s term. No matter how much we know
about this cosmos, our solar system and earth including everything that is happening on
the surface of this green planet from domestic to global affairs – yes plus our precious
education! – this entirety is referred to as a singular noun and is swept under the first
grouping of rupa!

Basically, the Buddha had tried to tell us that the sense organs and the sense
objects are, in fact, the same thing. Without eyes, there would be no sight; without ears,
there would be no sound and so on. Therefore, the term ‘rupa’ covers not only bodily
sense organs, but it also covers every sight, every sound, every smell, every taste and
every tangible sensation. They are everything from our physical body to absolutely
everything else in the cosmos. This extremely huge variety is represented by just one
word – rupa!
Please make sure you take your time to understand the precise meaning of rupa
so that you can easily connect to the next piece of knowledge.

Hence, it isn’t wrong to see yourself as the centre of the universe because without
your senses, the cosmos does not exist to you. When you are in any of those events,
sleeping, unconscious, in a coma, your senses cease to function due to the absence of
your mental self. At that moment, your very own private universe disappears too
although it very much exists for other people who are fully conscious.

The co-existence of the two selves

The two selves have to rely on each other to make a perfect life-form. One cannot
function without the other. Mental self (real self) can access the outside (material) world
only through the five bodily senses. If you are blind or deaf, which means the bridges of
perception have broken off, as a result, your mental self will not have access to the ocean
of sights and sounds. Your real self will have no experience of sight, shapes, colour and
sounds. For those reasons, mental self can experience the external universe only when the
five bridges of perception (eyes, ears…) are in good working order.

Rupa becomes Jerry

Once these vast diversities of sense objects walk over the bridges of perception
and enter your inner world (mental world), the 5 sense objects have no choice but to
abandon their material forms and turn into non-material entity (energy): memories,
thoughts and feelings… or Jerry! In other words, sights, sounds, smells, tastes and
tangible sensations carry exactly the same information and details as Jerry but in different
forms, that’s all.
Say you are watching a football match. Those exciting events on the football field
begin their journey into your inner world as sights, sounds, smell, tastes and touch. For
clearer image, let’s turn these five sense objects into 5 young men. These 5 strong men
would then sprint through the five bridges (eyes, ears), and instantaneously transform into
the formless energetic Jerry (memories, thoughts and feelings) who is greeted by your
mental self. Only then, will the whole experience of the football match be completed.
Likewise, the various problems that you have with your partners, your children,
your colleagues and your pet or even with the environment, no matter how diverse they
are, are reduced to the five metaphoric men who always have to run through the five
bridges and turn into Jerry first for the acknowledgement of your true self.
For example, you see a loving text message in your husband mobile (sight). You
call the number and hear a woman’s voice (sound). You smell perfume on your
husband’s jacket that you know doesn’t belong to you (smell). Your assessment of these
objects as clues of your husband’s affair absorbs into your inner world and turns into
Jerry, with whom your mental self will deal.

If you are blind and deaf, you will have fewer matters to worry about than those
with good eyes and good ears because you can’t read the newspaper or hear news ranging
from terrorism, diseases, stock market crash, wars to the alarming climate change. As
long as the information about the outside world cannot reach your true (mental) self, you
have no problem whatsoever despite living in the middle of them. In chapter 15, I will tell
you a story of Yee Gow who was deaf. She was left alone in a temple in Shanghai while
there was a fierce war going on. The shooting and bomb-shelling went on right under her
nose but she wasn’t aware of the fearful political upheaval outside her temple wall. It is
solely because she was utterly deaf! Consequently, the turmoil of the outside world –
mainly sound in Yee Gow’s case – could not travel through her broken bridge (deafness)
and reach her true self, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise!
So pensioners, please feel blessed in having poor eye-sight and weak hearing.
That is God’s divine technology to make sure you old people have less grief and can live
in peace! Clever…eh?!


I have used the term ‘energy’ earlier. I am no physicist and have not a clue about
Einstein’s complex theory. What I am about to do is merely wishing to borrow the
genius’ two small letters: e and m and one little symbol: = for my own use, that’s all there
is to it. So, may I have your permission please sir, Mr. Albert Einstein – wherever you
are! It just so happen that your simple equation fit in very nicely with the five aggregates
concept upon which I embark in this chapter.
2005 was called The World Year of Physics when the world celebrated the 100th
anniversary of Einstein’s historic work: the Annus Mirabilis Papers, the fourth of which
was the notion of the mass and energy equivalence which was summarised into one of the
most well known expression in all of science: e=mc2. That was also the year I repeatedly
watched a series of documentaries about Einstein’s life and his historical works.
My dead-simple mind is not well equipped to digest complexity and therefore
thanks to this one presenter who summarised for me that Einstein was the one who
pointed out that energy and mass are in fact the same thing but in different forms. Mass is
the energy clinging densely together whereas energy is the scattered loose mass
…something like that! Since we are not going to convert a tiny amount of mass into huge
sum of energy and make a nuclear bomb here, we then take away the speed of light
squared (c2) out of this renowned equation. The rest of the equation is all I wish to
borrow from the genius for my own use and to fulfil my own purpose.
We’ll then be left with something like this: e=m or energy equal mass. This
simple equation will make your life and my life much easier – trust me!

If you understand the term rupa correctly, you will know that Einstein’s energy
and mass equivalence is still under the rupa grouping because it involves light,
movements, electrical waves and so on – the scientific accounts that I know nothing of –
which are all part of the material (external) world.
It just so happen that e=m is absolutely perfect to explain the Buddha’s profound
concept of the two worlds I have been talking about. Once again, if I may ask the
permission from Mr. Albert Einstein to allow me to make a little alteration by
representing the energy (e) with the three formless entities of our life form: thoughts,
memories and feelings instead, you will consequently have a crystal clear picture
regarding the two significant worlds – the material world (universe) in which we live and
our private inner world of thoughts and emotions which, in a way, like a lump of energy.
You will have the following perspective.

Energy = mass
Nama = rupa
Thoughts, memories and feelings (Jerry) = sight, sound, smell, taste, touch
Non-material forms = material forms
Internal universe = external universe

With the helping hand of the world class physicist regarding the matter and energy
equivalence, I hope you can clearly see that all the diverse problems, human are facing
daily from domestic to global affairs, (mass or rupa) share exactly the same significance
and account as Jerry in the energy form.

Knowing the 6th sense

By using the five grouping approach, the Buddha has placed consciousness as an
additional sense, the 6th sense which I coin as Tom – the opposing mate to Jerry! The
Buddha always classes human as a life form with six senses, whereas intellectuals view it
with five senses only. The 6th sense is indeed the mental eyes belonging to your mental
self. If so, what then are the sense objects to our 6th sense? The answer is Jerry.
Every sense must correspond to its own sense object or every metaphoric man crosses
his own bridge. They cannot cross perceive. You cannot use eyes to perceive smells;
neither can you use ears to perceive thoughts, memories and feelings. Jerry must be
perceived by Tom only. They must work together in pairs:
• Eyes perceive sights
• Ears perceive sounds
• Nose perceives smells
• Tongue perceives tastes
• Skin perceives physical sensations
• Mental eye (5th grouping) perceives thoughts, memories and feelings (2nd, 3rd, 4th
grouping) or
• Tom perceives Jerry

Unlike the five pairs of sense organs, both the 6th sense (Tom) and its sense
objects (Jerry) are in the non-material forms or energy – the borrowed term from the
great man with my own representation. The Buddha calls these non-material forms nama
which the term ‘energy’, in my opinion, is a good substitute for it because it sounds
modern, is definitely more familiar to the ears and to say the least, is a non-religious
term. This symbolic Tom and Jerry is the pair that mind-experts have great difficulties
learning due to the lack of wisdom. To understand mental activities – the interactions
between memories, thoughts and feelings (let’s call them 3 big mice) – you must first
have a basic tool – sense! Without the eyes, you cannot possibly learn anything about the
material world in front of us. Likewise, without your mental eye (Tom), you cannot
possibly know how your inner world (mental activities or Jerry) works – as simple as
This is the reason why scientists have no choice but to merge both symbolic Tom
and Jerry into just one word: mind which, to the Buddha, consists of both sense and sense
objects. This is the beginning of the twist of intellectual knowledge.
By calling both Tom and Jerry ‘mind’, scientists subsequently categorise the mind
under the bodily grouping (rupa) by associating it with the brain so that the mind can be
learnt scientifically by human senses – the fundamental tools we cannot go without. By
doing so, scientists have to leave ‘consciousness’ dangling in limbo, not knowing where
to place this curious but important piece of the jigsaw puzzle, so that they can form a
clear picture of life in relation to the universe.

However, associating the mind with the brain would be taking the wrong turn, as
far as intellectual knowledge is concerned. That’s why after two centuries of research and
debate, mind experts are still in limbo, unable to come up with a definite conclusion on
what the mind and the consciousness really are.
The ambiguity regarding the human mind and consciousness is so muddy that it
has become extremely destructive. By squeezing both the metaphoric Tom and Jerry into
the skull, mind experts have no choice but to use medication to cure mental imbalances
stretching from stress, depression to breakdowns and suicide. Quite the reverse, the
Buddha simply uses meditation and vipassana to keep the naughty, wandering Jerry at
bay. Without the right tool for the right job – the 6th sense – mind experts cannot possibly
find out how Jerry works in human minds. You have no way of knowing that Jerry is the
real culprit who carries all the problems in the material world into your inner world and
subsequently use your mental self as a punch bag all these time. Comparatively speaking,
Jerry bullies Tom ever since the beginning of mankind, yet we have not a clue – not even

Nothing left dangling!

I hope you now have a clearer picture about your life form in relation to the
universe we live in. You can easily distinguish into two equal worlds this way:
• Physical self relates to the external world of sight, sounds, smells, tastes and
touch (the world of mass, rupa)
• Mental self (Tom) relates to the inner world of thoughts, memories and
feelings (Jerry or the world of energy, nama)

These two worlds are actually equal. They are just in different forms (e=m).


By using the five aggregates approach, the Buddha covers absolutely every aspect
of life. There is absolutely nothing about life that is left dangling without any
classification or grouping. This will subsequently give us a much better understanding
about life in relation to the cosmos as well as help us find long lasting solution for
international harmony.
One can easily imagine a huge loss when a person is blind. In not recognising the
existence of the 6th sense in global education, it means the entire human race is sharing
the profound mental blindness. Trust me, you have no idea how catastrophic this is.
Hence, the ignorance towards the 6th sense is the exact root cause of every problem on
Without the perspective of this real wisdom, I cannot see how humanity can
change for the better. It’s high time we listened to the wise – the Buddha.

The details about mental activities or the artistic work of Jerry will be explained under the topic
of vipassana or “bringing mental self back home”. Please follow the update of my new book title in
my website.

Chapter seven

Who carry the karmic database
Once you understand the five aggregates that make up your life form, you can
now move on to find out where the karmic information is recorded.

The interaction of the three Jerrys
Technically speaking, whatever we do and experience in the external world, those
experiences will be kept in our memory box: turning into Jerry number one, which is like
a database. Once information of events come into the mind, Jerry number two will then
step in and process the memories by generate fresh thoughts in connection with the
incident or experience. Both Jerrys manifest themselves in the form of thoughts. The
main difference is that the first Jerry links with all past events (lingering thoughts about
the past) whereas the second Jerry represents fresh new and analytical thoughts. The
more memories one has, the better one can generate new thoughts. These two Jerrys work
very closely together. The fresh new thoughts can be anything or can go down any path
depending on one’s types of beliefs. After the interaction between Jerry one and two, the
third Jerry will subsequently follow. Whatever you think, your feeling and emotion will
pop into your heart in a flash. You won’t see a gap in between your thoughts and feelings
unless you are a vipassana veteran. This, however, is the technicality of the interactions
between the three Jerrys.

Jerry keeps the karmic record
You can see that good and evil actions in the material world turn into white and
black Jerrys in the psychological world. Memories, thoughts and feelings are the entities
that retain every detail of both good and bad deeds (boon and barb). In other words, Jerry
keeps all your karmic records.
Furthermore, Jerry alone can generate more mental karma and transform them
into verbal and bodily actions, which in return trigger even more mental activities. Before
you know it you are trapped in a vicious cycle. A good example can give you a better
Lucy asked Jane to cut her hair off by one inch. But instead Jane cut Lucy’s hair
off by two inches. Lucy didn’t realise until she finished. The moment she looked at her
short hair in the mirror (sightJerry 1,2), she felt very unhappy about her look (Jerry 3).
Above all, she was very much annoyed at Jane (Jerry 3) in ignoring her wish. Lucy left
the salon without telling Jane about disliking her hairdo (Jerry 1,2,3 in Lucy’s mind).
Although the haircut was all done and dusted, the mental activities went on a bit longer
from the moment Lucy left the salon due to her bad hair day. While she was driving
herself home, Lucy did nothing but thinking how awful she would look (Jerry 1,2,3).
Once she arrived home, she looked at herself in the mirror again (sightJerry1,2,3),
every time Lucy saw herself in the mirror, she became more and more angry at Jane
(sightJerry1,2,3) and couldn’t help swearing at her.
The swearing at Jane is the new verbal karma, the direct result of the interactions
among the three Jerrys which activate more mental performance. If Lucy cannot let go of

her bad hair day and forgive Jane, the three Jerrys will keep on generating dark thoughts
or black Jerrys. These new bad Jerrys will in turn create more verbal abuse and probably
escalate into bad action too – Lucy might sue Jane for compensation which would
generate more hate and revenge, more bad karma! In the reverse, if Lucy could bring
herself to forgive Jane for her minor mistake – which can easily happen – and also
realised that her hair could easily grow back another inch in a few weeks, there was no
need to be upset about it. Her positive thoughts will initially get rid of her negative
thoughts which will definitely shorten or even stop the new mental activities. Letting go
and forgiveness are the main factor that can bail you out of the vicious cycle and samsara
In war-stricken countries, people are badly trapped in this vicious cycle of
brutality and pain. War is an ideal recipe for generating more hatred and vengeance
(more bad Jerrys) which in turn generate more bad actions that produce bad Jerrys over
and over again. This small vicious cycle of hate is simply one tiny fraction of the
mammoth ring road of samsara. Can you see that your actions alone are the reason for
your orbiting around samsara? It is hardly a surprise, is it?
As time moves on, your memory boxes grow bigger and bigger, so do the
interactions between the three Jerrys. Therefore, all good and bad karmic records have
been constantly kept within these three entities which are parts of your life form.

Tom and Jerry
We are about to become what we make of ourselves. In the previous chapter, I
have talked about the five aggregates and showed you the co-existence of physical self
(rupa) and mental self, or consciousness (nama), which I also coined true self and
sometime represented by Tom, the challenger to Jerry.
Now, let’s look at the interaction between Tom and Jerry. There is a vast
difference in how Tom and Jerry work in two groups of People: the vipassana
practitioners and the non vipassana-practitioners.
Once the external rupa have turned into thoughts, memories and feelings (Jerry)
and have been presented to the mental self (Tom), an interaction between Tom and Jerry
will begin.
Technically speaking, Jerry, who holds record of all events from the outside
world, will approach Tom and give Tom all the information. Whether Tom would react
positively or negatively depends on the information Jerry hands to Tom. If the events are
sad, Tom will be sad, if the events are joyful, Tom will be happy, it goes on like this.
Tom will go up and down the scale of emotions according to the information of events
Jerry brings to him.

Non-vipassana practitioner

Realistically speaking, if you are a non-practitioner and if Jerry brings bad news,
it is very much like the three Jerrys bring with them a hammer, a knife and a baton, and
the three mice brutally attack Tom: your true self. It isn’t too far from the truth if you
imagine your true self being a weak puny cat, curling up in the corner of a room and
being attacked by three huge mice equipped with real weapons. Consequently, Tom or
your mental self is bruised by mental pain. The degree of mental pain depends on the

severity of the 3 messengers and the delivery of the messages to your mental self. If the
messages are really bad, you would feel as though you are being slaughtered by the 3
mice. Parents whose children being abducted, raped and murdered – daily news in
modern society – would feel exactly like someone is constantly hammering and stabbing
on their hearts and heads. Their lives from then on are everything but peace.
In the reverse, if Jerry brings positive news, Tom will be on cloud nine. The
positive feelings are not much of a problem because they are bearable.

Magnetic field between Tom and Jerry

It just so happens that nature has also bestowed some powerful magnetic force
between Tom and Jerry. Another analogy to help give you a more in-depth visual
understanding is by seeing a strong mental magnetic field between Tom and Jerry. The
moment Jerry comes into your mental world, Tom and Jerry will instantaneously be
sucked into each other. If Jerry brings bad news, Tom get hurts; if Jerry brings good
news, Tom is happy. In this sense, you can also see the scientific mechanism as how the
mind works. This magnetic field approach highly indicates that your mental self (Tom)
doesn’t have much of a choice as far as happiness and grief are concerned. So long as the
magnetic force is active, your true self will always be thrown up and down the spectrum
of emotions.

No matter what analogy I give you, I want you to see that Jerry has direct impact
or influence over Tom in the case where one is a non-vipassana practitioner. I also want
you to see that we have been misled by the word ‘mind’.
The nature known as ‘the mind’ is in fact made up of 4 separate formless entities:
memories, thoughts, feelings and consciousness or Tom and Jerry which consist of both
sense and sense objects. But because of the powerful mental magnetic field, Tom and
Jerry are sucked into each other and merged into what seems like one entity. You can
treat Tom: the sense and Jerry: the sense objects as anything but one single entity. Neither
should you round Tom and Jerry up and represent them by just one singular word: mind.
Such misleading term is very damaging when it comes to find the solution to cure mental
imbalance and often result in relying on prescription drugs – if not any drugs at all.

Vipassana practitioner
Committed Buddhists especially who practise vipassana on a daily basis will
experience things entirely different from the non-practitioners. Guided by the Buddha’s
wisdom, practitioners are able to strengthen their mental self up by engaging in vipassana
practice, which I coined ‘bringing your mental self back home’.
Metaphorically speaking, vipassana practice is about feeding Tom with good food
and vitamin supplements so that Tom will have enough strength to fight with his
opposing rival, Jerry. You must view that Tom and Jerry are enemies in this case; they
don’t mix. Mice are supposed to be scared of cats and run away, especially when the cat
is strong and fierce. This is what vipassana can offer to you. It would help protect your
mental self from the hurt and pain brought to you by Jerry whereas the situation will be in

the reverse if your mental self is weak and puny due to the lack of vipassana – the crucial
mental vitamin supplements.
Should we talk in terms of the magnetic force, vipassana will weaken the
powerful mental magnetic field which condition Tom and Jerry to separate. The more
you progress with the practice, the more Tom stays away from Jerry resulting in more
freedom and less hurt for Tom. Provided that you keep up with the practice on a daily
basis by bringing your mental self back home at all time, it will reach a point when Tom
can cut Jerry lose. Tom and Jerry are totally broken off from each other.

Jerry dresses Tom
Fundamentally, our mental self is a free and independent nature but we are not
allowed to live independently because of the mental magnetic field which comes with our
birth. This strong pulling force between Tom and Jerry is the main reason that takes away
all our mental freedom. Although Tom is a free agent, every time Jerry comes into the
picture, Tom and Jerry hugs each other instantaneously.
Let’s compare the independent Tom as a naked cat and Jerry is a coat; then you
get the picture right away, although you don’t see cat wearing coats like dogs do.
Alternatively, we can compare our true self as a naked person whereas memories,
thoughts and feelings are the different clothes and outfits we put on for different

Jerry creates individuality
With the above analogy, you will see clearly that Jerry is the spare part that
distinguishes and individualise humans: creating a huge diverse individualities in human
race. No two people are the same, not even identical twins because no two persons can
experience sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch exactly the same way. Once the
perceptions are different, so are memories, thoughts and feelings. Even conjoint twins
are different because you always have one who turns to the right and the other who turns
to the left or turns up and down; their sights will certainly be different. Once the
perceptions are different, their Jerrys will be different too.
Husband and wife, who share the lives together for some 50 years, can easily live
in an entirely different mental world. Say a husband is a non-vipassana practitioner and
hates his job which causes him to be discontent and often in bad mood whereas his wife
is a veteran in vipassana and she can bring her mental self back home whenever or
wherever she is. This factor will absolutely differentiate their perceptions of the external
world. A mind with fewer or void from Jerry can easily experience the simple pleasure
which most people take for granted, such as: looking at raindrops, smelling scented rose,
mopping the floor, peeling potatoes, hanging washing on the line, sitting on the old
garden bench, feeling the texture of soft young leaves and looking at the old faces of the
loved ones. Such simple joys are a galaxy away for non-vipassana practitioners. A Jerry-
infested mind is not only oblivious of one’s beautiful natural surrounding and overlook
the magical simplicity – which is obvious to the practitioner – but such a mind can also
be a trouble-seeker at times. Nothing can pacify a discontent mind – there is always
something to moan about. People in affluent society often forget that children in poor
countries are searching for their foods and clothes from rubbish tips! Don’t worry, it isn’t

your (Tom’s) fault to be miserable and discontent; the real culprit for your gloomy and
dismal life is Jerry. Kill Jerry off and you’ll be happier in an instant!
Vipassana practitioners can always turn rubbish into gold. No…not recycling but
altering the unfortunate and challenging events into a positive one. Although you might
not be too keen with your job like the majority of people in the world, vipassana will
enable you to turn rubbish into gold or turn negativity into positiveness. This
consequential action will steady your life, allow you to feel in control and prevent you
from sailing up and down the emotional spectrum. Although two people look at the same
sky, share the same house, sleep in the same bed, sit on the same toilet seat, tend the same
garden, eat the same food, go on the same holiday and bring up the same family, their
individual inner worlds are everything but the same. Indeed, the vast differences rest
upon the interaction between Tom and Jerry which you should have no problem to
imagine by now.

I think therefore I am
For these reasons, you will never find two people on earth who are exactly the
same in every way. This unique individuality is the very reason why no two persons have
the same gene or DNA pattern, to which I will draw connections for you later. As for
now, I want you to see that Jerry is the one who dresses Tom and embellishes Tom with
whatever outfit that Jerry offers. Whether Tom is a good guy or a bad guy all comes
down to Jerry. This is the very section that led the French philosopher, René Descartes to
compose the famous saying: I think therefore I am. But what positive impact can this
maxim do to you? This seemingly wise saying hasn’t really offered any positive or
practical solution to minimise an individual’s stress, let alone secure us world peace, has

I am sure we all know that everything happening in society has influence on
people, especially people’s minds. But our knowledge is not adequate enough for us to
fully understand up to the point of finding the right cure. The knowledge concerning our
mental state is too scattering and fragmented due to the lack of guided wisdom.
If you, nevertheless, understand that Jerry represents everything in the outside
world (rupa), you will then be able to visualize how the material world of rupa
conditions our mental world. Our actions alone are the blueprint of what we become.
Once you understand this correctly, you will know the right solution.

Tom has no choice
The only way to set Tom free from Jerry is to take the coat off or disconnect Jerry
from Tom. Can you see why I coined the 5th aggregate as ‘true self’? Because you will
never be your real self as long as you have Jerry on your back all the time. How can you
be your true self if you have the three Jerrys surround you: left, right and centre? No
Jerry is merely the different clothes and accessories that dress your mental self up,
that’s all there is to it. When you are in front of your husband and children, you think and
feel like a wife and a mother; when you are in front of your boss, you feel like an
employee; when you are in front of your subjects, you feel like a queen and so on. All
these diverse feelings of being a husband, wife, children, student, teacher, doctor, judge,

priest, prime minister, a king and so on are nothing more than different headdresses that
we are forced to wear because of the mental magnetic field between Tom and Jerry.
Consequently, Tom doesn’t have much of a choice to live independently, neither does our
mental self.
This is the reason why so many people have to rely on some form of prescribed
drugs or alcohol to help them take their headdresses off for a moment – chill! Everyone
wants to escape from their own thoughts and feelings from time to time, especially from
painful thoughts. But they don’t know how, not until they find vipassana. Before then,
they have no choice but to cling onto temporary relief which can subsequently lead to all
kinds of addictions. Addicts of all sorts cherish these momentary breaks from Jerry by
either taking drugs and alcohol or engaging in activities: i.e gambling or over-indulging
in sex – the main reason for moral decline and the booming of sex-industry. Once the
effects of the addicting activities subside, mental pain returns and being trapped in a
vicious cycle is a guarantee.
It is not difficult to spot that a big part of social problems stem from people
wanting to escape from their tortured minds.

Freeing Tom with vipassana
That’s why the Buddha says that humanity will find it very difficult to survive
without his help. Without his enlightenment and vipassana, humankind would have lived
in complete darkness of ignorance. Now that you are fortunate enough to have the
Buddha’s guided wisdom, you must know that vipassana is the direct method that will
weaken the mental magnetic field.
The more you practise bringing your mental self back home, the weaker this
magnetic field will become. Finally, it will reach a point when this magnetic field is
completely broken. This entirety of detachment will certainly allow your mental self to
have the real freedom at long last – alleluia! Ultimate freedom from Jerry is the
concluding accomplishment you can anticipate from engaging in vipassana practice. This
is very much possible even in this day and age and would happen to anyone who is
willing to commit, dedicate and work like a Trojan. All fully enlightened people have
earned their freedom in this way!
Freeing from the bondage of Jerry is the only real freedom on earth. Please don’t
be fooled by the democratic idealism from which people have unlimited freedom of
speech and action. Those are all Jerry’s talks; that is not real freedom and that’s why the
world is in this mess!

Tom and Jerry have the Karmic records

‘I think therefore I am’ confirms the existence of mental self resulted from our
thoughts, memories and feelings. This maxim leads to other truths such as: I think bad, I
am bad. I think good, I am good. I think kindly, I am a kind person. I think angrily, I am
an angry person and so on. We become what our thoughts make of us. In other words, we
are the making/outcome of Jerry.
It is because Jerry carries all the records of your daily events of the outside world.
Whether you are doing good or bad karma, Jerry has kept them all. If thoughts, memories
and feelings are glued to your mental self, so is your karmic information. You can also

see it as your mental self is infected by karmic diseases brought on by Jerry. Or you can
say that your mental self is being labelled by Jerry.
Whatever analogy you want to see, it doesn’t change the fact that this whole
setting of Tom and Jerry will carry the imprint of your karmic information to your future
rebirth. You cannot break away from this karmic data base, not until Tom can completely
break free from Jerry which can be achieved only through vipassana.

Chapter eight

Death and the karmic record

Now that you know about the five aggregates that constitute our life form, we can
move on towards the crucial moment of death and the beyond.

Marana and cuti
There are two words that mean death in Buddhism:
marana and cuti. You may wonder why the Buddha uses two different words referring to
death. The answer lies in the concept of the five aggregates. When the physical self (the
1st aggregate) dies, the Buddha uses the word marana. That is when the four basic
elements of earth, water, wind and fire, which make up the physical body go their
separate ways.

Although the physical self (rupa) dies, the other four entities (Tom and Jerry)
don’t just disappear into thin air. The law of karma states that these four entities, which
have the imprint of individuals’ karmic information, have to move on to wherever their
karmic record dictates. The allegorical Tom and Jerry are the parts of life that survive the
physical death and move on to the next existence. The Buddha uses the word cuti
(pronounced Jou-te) to explain the moment that the four entities shift from one existence
to another. Cuti has been used countless of times in the Pali canon when the Buddha talks
about different chapters of lives of certain people. By using the word cuti, the Buddha
was referring to the mental self along with the other three elements that shift from one
life to the next.
You can clearly see that these two words – marana and cuti – fit in nicely with
the five aggregates concept and tell us exactly who dies and wastes away and who
survives and moves on.

Beyond science
This is one of the cloudiest grey areas for scientists to explain due to the absence
of one crucial sense: the 6th sense. The difficulty also lies upon the fact that mind experts
have rounded the four formless entities (Tom and Jerry), which consist of both sense and
sense objects into just one word, ‘mind,’ and have categorized it as part of the brain. In
other words, scientists regard the brain as the organ of the mind; certain brain areas have
specific functions, the network which takes care of the operation of the entire body. So
once the physical self dies – judging from brain dead – (some) scientists have no choice
but to believe that the entirety of life comes to an end.
As far as the Buddha’s knowledge is concerned, this assumption is everything but
right; it is a very damaging misconception too. This causes people to view life and death
no more than a lump of mass and has no room for profound spiritual knowledge for
which some scientists don’t have much time and keen to discredit those who have
genuine spiritual experiences. Furthermore, this wrong idea causes materialism to

flourish so unnecessarily. The over materialistic development have become a double-
edged sword whose negative side is responsible for the massive moral decline in global
society. It boosts the notion of ‘one life and one death’ which causes people to make the
most out of their lives by overindulgence and become greedy – more social problems.
This wrong idea urge people to think that their good and bad actions bear no
consequences beyond the point of brain death and that everything is reduced into a huge
void or a big zero. This concept would treat Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler as equal.
Should you have a long list of bad deeds in your karmic database, you obviously want to
agree with such false knowledge – for fear of hell?! As for me, I don’t think for a
moment that Hitler could get away from his evil ghastly actions that lightly. It is beyond
any doubt that he is rotting in hell now like the rest of all the deceased bad people in the
history of mankind.
Anyway, by placing the mind in the brain, scientists cannot deal with paranormal
phenomena and anomalous artefacts such as ghosts or spirit sightings, UFO, crop circles
and artefacts that can be traced back hundreds of thousands, even over millions of years
old. How can these anomalous events fit into the frame of science? Even pseudo-science
– literally means false knowledge – the filed of knowledge that scientists try to
compensate and bridge the gap of the unexplained subjects fail to throw light to many
paranormal phenomena.1 Can you see that there are loose puzzles everywhere?

Epic losses

At this stage, you must, at least, admit that having an additional sense is obviously
more beneficial – giving you an access to another world of perception. While physical
blindness deprives you of experiencing the whole universe of sights, mental blindness
will rob you of the entire range of experience that can only be perceived and understood
by the full function of the 6th sense. Even as physical blindness is already considered a
huge tragedy for an individual, in not officially recognising the existence of human’s 6th
sense, it means that we are now talking about the mental blindness of the whole of our
human race. There are certainly no adequate words to describe such epic losses but a
sheer human catastrophe. This ignorance of the 6th sense is the root cause of all human
suffering and mayhems ranging from domestic violence to wars. There is no use in trying
to tie up all these scattering loose ends in political and social conflicts. Just simply
recognise the existence of human’s 6th sense, which the Buddha told us 25 centuries ago,
all problems will collapse like a house of card.

Another ball game

With the acknowledgement of human’s additional sense, the Buddha’s jigsaw
table, on the other hand, is another ball game. There are no loose pieces of the puzzle

As it is taught in certain introductory science classes, pseudoscience is any subject that
appears superficially to be scientific or whose proponents state is scientific but nevertheless
contravenes the testability requirement of the scientific method. From Wikipedia, the free
encyclopedia on line.

dangling here and there; every piece falls into place. Please take another look at the five
aggregates, they are:

1. Body = physical self = mass = rupa
2. Memories = jerry = energy = nama
3. Thoughts = jerry = energy = nama
4. Feelings = jerry = energy =nama
5. Consciousness = mental self = true self = Tom = 6th sense = energy = nama

By using this approach and the law of karma, you can clearly see that, upon death,
the physical mass is left behind on earth but the four elements of energy move on. Should
the 5th entity remain with the mass, we would call it ‘consciousness’ – a definite
intangible entity. But once it is without the bodily shell – like a hand without glove – we
would call it soul, spirit, ghost, phantom or poltergeist. Whatever you want to call it –
doesn’t matter – it is still a definite intangible entity that won’t just disappear into thin air
only because you are brain dead.
At the point of death, even without the body, your mental self would still think,
memorise and feel everything exactly the same as being wrapped around with bodily
mass because the Tom and Jerry setting haven’t changed an iota. If you are confused, this
following story will give you a better picture as to what Tom and Jerry feel like.

The woman in ER

I didn’t watch ER, not until its 10th anniversary, but by chance I bumped into a
really interesting episode of this medical drama.
It was about a woman in her thirties who had 3 children. She collapsed and was
rushed to the county hospital in Chicago. At the ER, doctors and nurses were all over this
newly-arrived patient and trying to diagnose her symptoms. By then, she could only open
her eyes; she could neither move nor speak.
On the other hand, viewers can hear the woman’s voice talking loudly in her
mind. Her voice was trembling with fear and she kept on saying:
“Oh…my god, what’s wrong with me, what’s happening to me, why did they
bring me here? Why can’t I move? Why can no one hear me? Look, I am shouting to
everyone but why does no one take any notice of me.”
Although the patient’s face had no movement apart from her eyes which showed
her frightful emotion, her voice clearly revealed her deep shock.
Moments later, while looking at the x-ray scans, a handsome doctor told the nurse
that the patient had a blood clot in her brain which caused her to have a stroke. As soon
as the word ‘stroke’ was spoken, viewers could hear the woman shouting on top of her
“Oh no…it’s impossible, I am only thirty something, I cannot have a stroke,
strokes are for older people…look…I am fine, can’t you see? I can think, I can talk and I
remember everything just like normal….oh…my god….my children…I was supposed to
pick my children up….can someone please phone the school and let my children know I
am here…please…why can no one hear me…please help me!”

She was desperate for someone to hear her but no one could hear her shouting
apart from the audiences in front of the television like myself. The stroke had restricted
her sense organs (bridges of perceptions) to function normally. Consequently, her true
self was stranded in her mental world; she was utterly deserted as if standing alone in a
vast desert. Her mental self was unable to send her messengers (Jerry) across the bridges
(senses) to the outside world and let them know how frighten she was. Although her
family who later on came and stood by her side, they too could not access her inner
world. The drama portrayed this woman shouting in desperation, struggling to
communicate with the outside world, but to no avail.
Finally, the doctor was able to remove the blood clot allowing the body and her
senses to work normally. To her great relief, the woman could communicate with the
outside world again.
I think this episode of ER was absolutely excellent in terms of depicting the
mechanisms of metaphoric Tom and Jerry – very well done! This is an illustration that is
not far from the truth and can help you to understand your inner world better. The nature
of talking in our heads is the interactions between our mental Tom and Jerry.

Sudden death
Despite physical death, our mental self (consciousness) remains exactly the same
in term of functioning as a sense that is still capable to perceive its sense objects: Jerrys. I
hope you still remember that Jerrys carry all the karmic information about your whole
life. I want to believe that once our mental selves leave the physical bodies behind
(dead), we – meaning Tom and Jerry – still feel exactly the same as that woman did in the
ER – talking to ourselves. I have my reason to believe so; I’ll tell you later.
This could be the main reason why the tsunami ghosts, didn’t realise they have
died. The mental selves of those facing sudden death didn’t have a chance to prepare
themselves like the deaths from natural causes or following long term illnesses. Many of
them cannot adjust to their immediate new spiritual statuses without the bodies and they
have absolutely no idea what to do with themselves. This limbo predicament is very
much like being trapped in a permanent dream, unable to wake up.
The film called ‘The Others’ acted by Nicole Kidman is also another good film
that accurately portrayed this concept about the mental selves not knowing they had left
the physical world behind (died).
For those reasons, religious beliefs such as the law of karma and the concept
about the angel of death could be very helpful in terms of guiding the deceased through to
the next existence. It means that you must find out all these spiritual knowledge before
you die which is exactly what I am doing through this book.


Let’s take a quick detour and talk briefly about dreams. A dream is very much
about the interaction between our mental self (true self) and Jerry without the
involvement of the bodily self. Dreams are so real because they are still based on the
format of having a sense (Tom) dealing with its sense objects (Jerry) and result in having

I have talked about the tsunami ghosts in The User Guide…The Moral Diet, chapter nine:
Dealing with Death.

experiences - and experience is very real! That’s why dreams are often random, vague
and messy, yet so real because our thoughts and memories are disarranged and muddled
In other situation, it could also be that our mental self has left the body and
travelled to another realm which explains why we only get to see our deceased relatives
in dreams.
You have to be open-minded and admit that there are all kinds of possibilities out
there. Sometimes simple explanation makes better sense.

Returning from a coma

As it just a dream, the mental self can still return to its body when wake up the
next morning. This is not the case when one slips into a coma. Coma is one of the most
secretive and intriguing medical conditions that hasn’t really been tackled by medical
science. How could some people go into a deep sleep for 10 to 20 years and suddenly just
wake up by themselves? Where have their mental selves gone or been all those time?
Some, after returning from a long coma, could not recognise their own family while some
could speak a new language fluently.
Anyone’s guess is equally good here. You can wrack your brain trying to find
complicate rational answer that not many people can understand or just try the simplest
answer. If all things are equal, the simplest explanation is the right one – Okham Razor
Provided that you do believe in the existence of other kingdoms apart from earth,
simple logic would suggest that those mental self might go to a pub, a holiday or meet
someone in another realm and forget to come home! Or they might be trapped in another
dimension or a kind of time warp – who knows? Thai people have heard of a legend
called ‘Lab Lae town’ which sounds like a society that is trapped in a time warp in
another dimension. They (true self or mental self) might even think that the other realm
was real and this world on earth was just a dream. So, their bodies were waiting on earth
for the captains to return. It could be that once the bosses finally return, they could
possibly step into the wrong ship. The returned mental self doesn’t belong to the body in
the case of not recognising one’s own family. In the case of knowing another language
fluently, the mental self might have gone to learn that language while travelling into other
realm. Your guess is as good as mine and everything is possible!

Genuine experience can help

From the moment of death onward, anyone’s guess is as good as everyone else’s.
That’s why I think we must make room for some genuine encounters like the out of body
experiences, which may explain a great deal about our existence and the journey after
physical death. This is the area that will always be left unanswered because no one can
know the real truth until one sees it (with mental eyes) for oneself. The best we can do is
put some trust in those who are honest and truthful enough to tell us about their genuine

There is one story that I find most interesting and I have my reasons to believe
that he was speaking the truth. A man in his fifties said he was lying side by side with his
wife in bed, and suddenly he had a heart attack. Despite the struggling, he was incapable
of letting his wife know as his body was ceased up. Then, he described the moment of
death. He said when death was arriving, all the physical sense organs were shut down
completely; there was no sight, sound and so forth. The only sense remaining was the
mind (meaning his 6th sense or mental eye belonged to mental self) and its sense objects
of thoughts and mental feelings. When the physical agony ended after a few minutes, he
could see himself sitting up by the side of his bed and stood up. He described his sitting
and standing up with the words ‘very upright’ and ‘as light as feather’. Once he stood up,
he could see his physical body lying still in bed by his wife. He then realised he was
dead. He said he saw two men waiting for him by the door and he knew that they had
come for him and he had to follow them. His walking was a matter of floating very
lightly a few inches above the ground. He was taken to a certain place where he was told
that his presence was a mistake. The head man there told his subjects to take this man to
have a peep at both heaven and hell.
“You might as well have this chance now that you are already here so that you
won’t be too complacent when you come back to life, and you can tell others about it
too.” said the chief of that place.
To cut the story short, his soul did come back to his body and he was alive again.
He felt obliged to tell people his story because of what he knew.

Very upright and as light as feather!

I have reason to believe the above story to be truthful because I too had a similar
experience. It happened around my eldest son’s eighth birthday. I was very angry at my
husband and didn’t speak with him for a week. I even tried to think of a way to hurt him.
One night, I slept in the spare room watching my heart burn with anger and
disappointment. Although I desperately wanted my inner peace back, I was unable to
forgive and let go – Tom was too weak and Jerry was having a good time in butchering
me! The pain from the burning of anger was so awful that I thought I was in a living hell
and I wanted so badly for it to end. But the three Jerrys had such strong grips over Tom
and made Tom totally defenceless. Being overwhelmed by such mental turmoil, I
couldn’t sleep a wink. I merely closed my eyes and dosed on and off.
Then at one point, I could see a Buddha image, the one I had on a shrine in my
house, floating at the end of my bed, just about four to five feet above the ground. I told
myself that the Buddha was here now, and I was going to follow him to wherever he
would take me even if it meant to the end of the world. My mind was suddenly elated and
I felt a sense of great joy. I repeatedly said to myself:
“Go on, follow the Buddha, follow the Buddha…quick”
I was fully prepared to go with him wherever he would take me. Then, I sat and
stood up. Only then did I see my physical body still lying in bed. The way I sat and stood
up was exactly in the same manner as what the man had described in the story above,
‘very upright’ and ‘as light as feather’. I briefly looked at my physical body on the bed
and did not hesitate to leave it behind. I made up my mind to follow the Buddha to
wherever he would take me. Then, I found myself floating, following the Buddha image

which was moving as well. I did not move very far before the Buddha image took a turn
into our bedroom where my husband was sleeping. I followed the Buddha statue and
next, I found myself hovering in the most awkward position by the headboard of our bed
and looking over my sleeping husband. At that moment, the Buddha figurine had left and
I began to feel scared. I wondered how on earth I could get back into my body. No
sooner had the thought subsided than I found myself awake in bed.
I knew right away that the Buddha had come to help me make up with my
husband. It was 3 am. I sat up in bed and my consciousness indicated no signs of any
sleep at all. I was fully awake both physically and mentally.
I then went into the bathroom, turned on the cold tap, wet a face towel, squeezed
it dry, walked back to our bedroom, turned the light on and slapped that cold wet towel
onto my husband’s face! We had a talk that night and all my trouble was lifted from my
heart. Our marriage still survives to this day, thanks to the Buddha!
I didn’t tell this story to anyone for a long time for fear that people might think I
was mad. Nevertheless, I knew that it was definitely not a dream nor a hallucination.

Lonely moment

I want to back up the man’s story above. I believe he was truthful and there was
credibility in his detailed account of the moment of death. It means that when the body
breaks down (marana), the sense organs are all shut down too, except Tom and Jerry
which are energies. They remain exactly the same as when we are living—talking to
ourselves like the woman in ER. I was also talking to myself in the most normal manner
as I was following the Buddha in my out of body experience.
In normal circumstances when people know they are dying, what happens at that
brief moment is that your mental self (Tom) will be reviewing the major events (Jerry)
that you have carried out in your life as though you are watching your own home video.
In fact, sick and dying persons have been watching their own thoughts, memories and
feelings in relation to their previous actions long before their physical death, especially
those had strokes. The bridges of perceptions (senses) in very sick people are more or less
broken ones, the predicament that cut them off from the outside world. As a result, they
have no choice but to live in their lonely inner world, in which there are only Tom and
Jerry. You can imagine how isolated one must feel. Unfortunately such profound lonely
moments will reach each and every one of us sooner or later. This is the part of life that
we cannot just sweep under the carpet or burry our heads in the sand as it won’t just go
away – it will come for certain!
This is the reason why you need to understand this book before you get to that
crucial moment yourself so that you know what to do and expect.

The death consciousness

Approaching the crucial moment, your mental self will naturally cling to the
thoughts and feelings that matter most to you. This is the very brief critical moment of
your life that will condition where you will be shifting to; this highly depends on what
kinds of thoughts are taking the front seat at the time. The whole setting of Tom and Jerry

will then leave your body. The Buddha calls the dying consciousness cuti-vinnana means
death consciousness.
Now, it’s time we leave our bodies behind because, after marana, this physical
body will decompose and turn into dust. I do not believe in the resurrection of a physical
body. However, our mental self attached with mental accessories (Tom and Jerry) will
move on. I will connect the brief crucial moment before the shifting of your death
consciousness with the different types of karma so that you can understand why it is so
important to always stick to the moral diet and do good karma. The four types of karma,
weighty, habitual, proximate and reserve karma, are the classifications according to the
order of ripening of karma.

Weighty karma

If you have done some serious bad karma, these karmic Jerrys will take the front
seat and give results first. Weighty negative karmas include killing Mother, Father,
hurting a Buddha or any holy persons especially an Arahant.3 If your death
consciousness (Tom) is glued down by serious weighty mental records (Jerry), this
powerful negative karmic force will become so heavy that you will go straight to the
lowest of the hells – simple science really!
Think of E=M again. Mass has weight, has it not? Should mass and energy be
equal, then energy, in this sense, should have weight too – karmic weight!

The Buddhist Judas

Devadatta, the Buddhist Judas, had made several attempts to kill the Buddha. At
the point of death he finally regretted his wrongdoing and asked the Buddha for
forgiveness. Nevertheless, his near death consciousness was overwhelmed by guilt and
his malicious karma to the Worthy One. His Tom and Jerry were glued very tightly
together and that burden of bad karma pulled his mental self straight down to hell.
Although the Buddha refused to see Devadatta when he asked for his forgiveness,
the Buddha predicted that once Devadatta had finished serving his karmic sentence,
which would be a very long time, he would be reborn as a human in the remote future. He
would then be self-enlightened and become an individual Buddha due to his positive
karma done while being a Buddhist monk. This confirms how definite and fair the law of
karma is.

Treat good people well

Nowadays, there is no living Buddha for anyone to harm but there are still
different levels of holy people walking the streets like the rest of us, especially in
Buddhist countries. The trouble is holy persons of the four levels do not walk around with
halos above their heads so that we can single them out and treat them properly. They look

There are four levels of holy people in Buddhism. They are 1) Sotapanna – the stream
enterer 2) Sakadagami – the once returner 3) Anagami – non returner 4) Arahant – the
worthy one or the fully enlightened one.

normal like the rest of us—the difference lies upon their state of mind. Lay holy people,
by nature, are very placid and prefer to lead an inconspicuous life unless one is a teacher.
Even so, devout Buddhists can only speculate about the holy attainment of their teachers.
For these reasons, Buddhists are taught to be very careful in the way they treat
people, especially those whom they suspect might have attained holiness. If you happen
to somehow ill-treat an Arahant even unintentionally, it is considered very sinful. To be
on the safe side, always treat good people well especially those who are engaging in
vipassana practice – they have more chances to become holy than non-practitioners.

Positive weighty karma

The weighty karma can be both positive and negative. The positive weighty
karma is the attainment of the higher levels of meditative absorption (jhana). If you die
within the state of jhana, you will be reborn in the higher levels of heaven (the brahma
world) whose life is indeed very long.

Habitual karma or regular karma

If there is no weighty karma, the habitual karma is inclined to take the front seat
at the time of transitioning to the next existence (cuti). Habitual karma is the type of
action that you do regularly in your normal everyday life until it becomes a habit, both
good and bad. You may have the habit of abandoning your five moral precepts and doing
unwholesome acts. You may steal or lie or commit adultery and so on until the
unwholesome acts become your way of life. On the contrary, you may have a habit of
giving, loving, caring and meditating regularly. Whatever habits they may be, these
regular karmic records (Jerry) will be attached to your mental self (Tom) and will
condition your rebirth later, that is, as long as you don’t have any weighty karma.

Proximate karma

If you are somewhere in between doing both good and bad karma, which most
people are, your near death moment can be taken over by either types of thought,
depending on what is on your mind at the time of death. This type of karma is called
proximate karma which is that done on the brink of death. It is very important because it
determines the immediate rebirth. It can even overtake the habitual karma. Maybe the
following story can help you to better understand this concept.

During the Buddha’s time, there was a noble lady who loved giving, especially to
the Buddha and the Sangha. Everyone knew her as a great giver (maha-dana). But for
some reason, she once lied to her husband. At the time of her death, even though her
habitual karma was very good and she undoubtedly deserved to be born in heaven,
somehow her death consciousness recalled the thoughts she had when she lied to her
husband. Her mind was subsequently taken over by that bit of guilt. This is called the
proximate karma and it determines the immediate rebirth. Accordingly, this noble lady
had to endure a short, seven day stint in hell for her minor sin – another example of the
absolute law of karma!

During those seven days after the wife’s death, the husband invited the Buddha
and his monks to have meals at his household. He wanted to know the whereabouts of his
charity loving wife: whether or not she had gone to heaven. The Buddha knew that his
wife had to serve her minor karmic offence in hell for 7 days and would afterward shift
from hell to be reborn in heaven (cuti). The Buddha also knew that if he told the husband
the truth about his wife’s whereabouts, the man would lose faith in doing good deeds. He
would not understand why his wife deserved hell despite having built plenty of good
karma. The Buddha could not lie to the husband either, should he ask about his wife. To
solve the problem, the Buddha performed magic by making the husband forget to ask the
question for the whole of the seven days. When the eighth day arrived, the wife had
already been reborn in heaven. The Buddha then undid the spell causing the man to ask
the question about his deceased wife right away. The Buddha then told the man that his
wife had been born in heaven.

You too may be put off by the thought that one minor mistake in your lifetime can
send you to hell. It’s true but it is also like a minor offence: the sentence is short. That’s
why the noble lady in the above story only spent seven days in hell, unlike a criminal
offence, for which you have to serve a much longer sentence. Similarly, a major violation
of the moral precepts will result in more substantial consequences. Please don’t forget the
principle that no one gives karmic judgement but the natural law of karma. To be on the
safe side, always stick to the good deeds.

There is also a contrasting story of an evil man who was a poacher all his life.
Having killed so many animals, he was going to be reborn in a woeful state. However, his
son who had attained the highest level of holiness (Arahantship), had helped him to attain
a better rebirth in the last moments before death. According to the law of karma, the
situation would be in the reverse from the lady above, I suppose.

Reserve karma

This is the type of karma that you do with very light intention or a mere casual
and effortless action. You do it without much meaning to you. For instance, you may
walk past a beggar with your friend. You do not particularly have any sympathy or
compassion towards the poor beggar, but because you see your friend put some coins into
the beggar’s bowl and your hand happens to be in your pockets touching a coin or two,
you take that coin out and drop it into the beggar’s bowl. It is more like a casual act. In
England, a great number of English husbands have to visit the temples, not because they
want to out of faith but because they have to go along with their Thai wives – keeping
them happy! While the wives make offering to the monks in the traditional way, they also
like to persuade their husbands to hold their hands while they offer the requisites for the
monks or put rice into the alms bowls. This is the kind of behaviour that Thai wives like
to do at the temples with their husbands and children who are born in the Western
culture. To the husbands and the children, they may not particularly want to do this good
deed. So they end up doing it with very little intention—almost like being cajoled into
doing so. Such casual act is filled with little sincere intention.

However, this type of karma will be put in reserve. When there is no weighty,
habitual or proximate karma both inclined to give results first, the reserve karma will
come to the forefront and give results.
Therefore, animals which have no chance of doing any good karma may be born
as humans again because of this reserve karma in the past.

Preparing the dying

Thai people have different ways to prepare dying people so that they can have a
good rebirth. In devout families, critically ill patients will certainly be exposed to
dhamma tapes.4 The strategy behind is to evoke plenty of good thoughts (white Jerry)
into the patient’s mental world so that they can experience peace. Some very ill patients,
who are committed Buddhists, will ask their favourite monks to visit and talk to them
about certain dhamma topics they want to hear. This is all about trying to secure the
minds with thoughts of dhamma at the point of death. This might be the equivalent of the
last rite in the Christian tradition.
In a lesser degree, close relatives would whisper words like: Buddha or Arahant
into the ears of the dying. This is to remind the dying to think of the Buddha or holiness
so that their minds can be at peace and secure them a good rebirth. This is a very rich
culture indeed. It revolves around the proximate karma that is done at the moment before
death, which determines the immediate rebirth.

Not everyone can take advantage of proximate karma. There is a story about a
dying woman who heard the word “Buddho, Buddho..” (a version of Buddha calling)
whispered repeatedly into her ear, but she could not work out what that meant because
she was not a temple goer and was not into the habit of doing good deeds while she was
alive. She then took it all wrong that people were cursing her at the moment of death by
saying 'pooto, pooto,' because pooto is a curse word in Thai!!!
Hence, it is important that you do not take for granted that you are able to carry
out proximate karma at the point of death. It is far better to secure yourself with the good
habitual karma or the positive weighty karma, however.

Mental habit
Telling the dying to let go and not to worry about their family and wealth left
behind is almost a natural thing for people of all religious cultures. If the mental self is
wrapped up by worries and greed (black Jerry), it is certain that the rebirth will not be a
good one. If you have never before learnt to let go while you are living, it is highly
unlikely that you will be able to detach yourself from everything at the moment of death
because letting go is a mental habit. Old habits tend to die hard even for physical habits
like nails biting or leg shaking. Changing the bad mental habit is a hundred times more
difficult than changing physical habit, if not more. So, you cannot expect to let go of
everything at the moment of death if you have never done it while you were living. It’s

There is a variety of meanings to the word Dhamma but generally means the Buddha’s
teaching. It can also mean everything.

That’s why it is best to learn to let go now before it becomes your mental habit.
It’s about separating Tom from Jerry. Vipassana or bringing your mental self back home
is the precise practice you must learn should you want to replace your bad mental habit
with a good one.
You can also begin to understand why I teach my Tai Chi students the death drill.
It is very important that people should have some idea of how to handle their minds at the
crucial moment of death so that they can let go and guarantee a good rebirth.5

If you have any fear of being trapped in limbo after physical death, you
must quickly learn from the knower and recognising the law of karma—which is
everything I am trying to present to you in my work. I hope you can now get the clear
picture that once your body is dead, your metaphoric Tom and Jerry will move on to the
next rebirth and they will carry all the karmic information along with them.

I talked about ‘the death drill’ in chapter nine: Dealing with death in The User Guide to Life…The
Moral Diet

Chapter nine

Birth and genetic engineering

We have followed life’s journey up to the point of physical death and now it
reaches the stage of birth or I should say rebirth rather. I will also connect this important
issue with genetic engineering and the Human Genome Project – the greatest scientific
achievement of this century.

Round up the 5th aggregate
Since I have to use some Buddhist jargon in this chapter, I will round up the
terminologies I have been using in referring to the 5th aggregate both in Pali and my
coinages so that you won’t be too confused.
According to the dictionary of Buddhism written by P.A. Payutto, vinnana means
consciousness—act of consciousness, soul, spirit. The following list of words should
include the original meaning as well as my coinages:

The 5th aggregate = vinnana = consciousness = soul = spirit = mental self = true self =
real self = mental eyes = the 6th sense = Tom.

I have explained in chapter six that rupa means our physical body along with the
rest of the universe we live in. Now that physical self (rupa) is dead (marana), it means
that all five bridges are broken. Hence the whole of the earth environment which manifest
in the forms of sight, sounds, smells, tastes and touch also vanish alongside our physical
death. We shall now leave that first aggregate behind and deal only with the four formless
entities which are glued together and are about to shift over to the next realm (cuti). So,
please always bear in mind that I will therefore treat these 4 entities (Tom and Jerry) as
one nature and I will either call it ‘death consciousness (cuti-vinnana)’ or ‘rebirth
consciousness (patisandhi vinnana)’ depending on its status at the time – coming or
Now that the physical self is dead, I will no longer use the term ‘mental self’, I
will drop this coinage behind since it is more appropriate to use it together with ‘physical
self’ while you are alive and kicking on this planet. Besides, the 5th aggregate is more in
the nature of a consciousness. Despite its intangibility, it remains its very definite
existence once it has left the body.

The six homes around samsara

I am going to put Nirvana – the 7th and the only real exit – aside for now and just
focus on the six false exits around the ring road of rebirth (samsara). These six realms are
basically the different types of homes that can host a rebirth consciousness. As soon as
the shifting moment (cuti) happens, our mental self will have to move to the next home.
To which home it goes depends upon our karmic records. While we are living our life on
earth with all sorts of good and bad activities, we have been sending our karmic building
materials – karmic bricks, sands, cements, etc. – to construct our future homes and they

are ready to host our soul when the moment of shifting (cuti) arrives. A death
consciousness (cuti-vinnana) will simultaneously become a rebirth consciousness
(patisandhi vinnana) and it will go to the home we have built with our karmic materials.
There are many small details in between a death consciousness and a rebirth
consciousness which we can bypass. I have no recollection of such knowledge and
therefore have to go by the book. Generally speaking, as soon as the death consciousness
has left the physical body, there is no hanging around; it instantaneously has to find a
place for rebirth – a proper home to live in. According to the Tibetian Buddhist traditions,
the spirit is believed to have up to 49 days to find a new home. If the death consciousness
could not find a proper home to go to, it will be trapped in limbo – like the tsunami
ghosts – this is like a permanent dream, where they are unable to wake up – not a nice
way to live a life!

The six proper homes around the ring road of samsara are:
1. The brahma world, highest level of heaven
2. The devas world, heaven
3. The human world
4. The animal world
5. The peta/demon world
6. The hell

Four ways of birth

It is because there are six different types of homes in samsara. The way to enter
each home will be different too. In other words, the nature of birth is different depending
on what type of home you will go to. You can see how ingenious the Buddha is in
knowing all these meticulous details of life. According to the Buddha, there are four ways
of birth:
1. Jalabuja: a womb-born creature, such as humans, cows, dogs, cats, etc.;
2. Andaja: an egg-born creature or the oviparous, such as birds, hens, ducks, etc.;
3. Samsedaja: a moisture-born creature or putrescible-born creatures such as worms,
maggots, bacteria, etc.;1
4. Opapatika: a spontaneously born creature, the apparitional. This is the type of
being that requires no gradual growth like the above types of birth. It is
instantaneously born into a full-fledged being, such as heavenly beings, deities,
hellish beings, peta, etc.

I have trouble to explain this type of birth. So, I shall leave you with the extract from the Wikipedia
encyclopedia. It comes from the word putrefaction which is the decomposition of animal proteins, especially
by anaerobic microorganisms, described as putrefying bacteria. Decomposition is a more general process.
Putrefaction usually results in amines such as putrescine and cadaverine, which have a putrid odor. Material
that is subject to putrefaction is called putrescible. In alchemy, putrefaction is the same as fermentation,
basically meaning to allow the substance to rot or decompose, sometimes with a small sample of the
desired original pure material to act as a "seed".

Since I don’t have any psychic ability, I therefore cannot go into the details of
rebirth in other realms apart from religiously having faith in the Buddha’s words. Hence,
I am restricted to talk only about the human’s birth which is quite enough already.

Human birth

The Buddha has clearly stated that there are three factors involved in the
procreation of a human being:
1. A woman has her monthly cycle
2. The meeting between an egg and a sperm (conception)
3. The stepping in of a rebirth consciousness (patisandhi-vinnana).
When these three factors are united, there will be a birth.

Still birth

In the eyes of science, human life begins at the point of conception. When a
male’s single sperm penetrates the female egg, fertilisation takes place and a human
embryo will then gradually emerge in the mother’s womb. Nine months after, a baby with
its unique genetic identity will be born and live for an average of 60 to 80 years or maybe
even 100 years in some cases – highly depending on where you are born. We assume that
every embryo will automatically grow into a human-being. If every embryo is to be born
into a healthy living baby, no mother has to go through the agony in giving birth to a
dead infant, has she?

There is no doubt that medical science can rationally and technically explain a
still-birth but being a mother myself, I am sure those words, no matter how accurate they
are in theory, cannot be fully comprehended by grieving parents. The ‘why me’ question
will always pop into their minds and nothing makes sense.
Although a foetus is formed in a womb, if there isn’t a compatible rebirth-
consciousness stepping into the womb, a life won’t be completed and will result in a still-
birth. Therefore, The Buddha’s concept of human birth can clearly explain why some
babies are born dead. If the third factor of procreation hasn’t happened, a human life has
yet to be completed. I suppose this goes with animal birth too. Without the rebirth
consciousness, the foetus is simply a vessel without a captain. The rebirth consciousness
is indeed the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle that can help us to understand still-birth.

IVF technology

Medical advancement has allowed infertile couples to have children by using the
IVF treatment. IVF is short for in vitro fertilisation; vitro means glass tube. It is a
technique in which egg cells are fertilised by sperm outside the woman's womb. IVF is a
major treatment for infertility when other methods of achieving conception have failed.
The process involves removing eggs from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise
them in a fluid medium. The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient's

uterus with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy. This process has been known
as creating a ‘test tube baby.’
I always wonder how IVF would fit into the Buddhist concept of birth. I now
understand that the IVF treatment is merely a technicality assisting the conception
between the egg and the sperm, which basically is all about the making of the physical
body – the first aggregate (rupa). This process hasn’t yet had anything to do with the
creation of the mind which makes up of the four formless entities (Tom and Jerry).
Therefore, as long as the fertilised egg is planted back into the woman’s womb – which
takes about 48 hours when the egg reaches the 6-8 cells stage – the third factor of birth
can then take place. You may be curious to know when in between those nine months of
pregnancy will the rebirth consciousness step into the womb. I am afraid your guess is as
good as mine. Admittedly I don’t know these intricate details at the moment. As for now,
I feel that this is quite enough to help you understand human births, still-births and test
tube births.

Different types of properties

I had this doubt before during the height of IVF treatment. For your information,
a rebirth consciousness will not step into a test tube despite the presence of the
conception; it will only step into a mother’s womb. I suppose a glass tube is classed as
the earthy material whereas a human’s womb is samsara’s property. It means that a
rebirth consciousness cannot recognise a glass-tube or it might not show up in other
dimension. Don’t forget that a glass tube is the sense object of your physical eyes
whereas a rebirth consciousness is an existence of non-material sense which only tunes in
with karmic information to which a woman’s womb belongs. Not until that rebirth
consciousness becomes a full member of this earth will it be capable of learning and
recognising earthy properties like a test-tube and the rest.
That’s why our overwhelming material wealth doesn’t have one iota of
significance in the after life whereas boon and barb (the results of good and bad deeds)
means everything. Since you cannot take your mega wealth with you to the after life –
should you be one – why tuck them away, it’s far better to share them out with the needy.
This way, you not only have enormous joy in making people happier but this good deed
will also make your karmic résumé looks far better – plenty of boon – and it will
certainly secure you a promising rebirth – gaining two birds with just one stone…eh?!

Karmic compatibility

I have just talked about a rebirth consciousness can only tune in with karmic
information to which a woman’s womb belongs. This is the story.
Every birth involves karmic compatibility between the karma of the rebirth
consciousness and the karma of the parents, and most likely of the rest of the family too.
The three persons, the parents and unborn infant, along with the rest of the family must
have some karmic connections one way or another in their previous lives. Those karmic
connections among the people concerned will be put together, formulated and justified by
the law of karma. The outcome is the compatibility between a mother’s womb and a
rebirth-consciousness. Basically, this is how a rebirth-consciousness knows which womb

to occupy. The karmic waves will draw these two subjects to meet somehow. This karmic
association can be either positive or negative due to the previous karmas those people
have with one another. If there is no compatible rebirth consciousness stepping into a
womb, the process of procreation would only be partially completed. Under these
circumstances, the foetus is simply a puppet without a puppeteer and results in a still-

The return of the karmic database

I hope you still remember that this so called ‘rebirth consciousness’ is previously
‘a death consciousness’ when it left its physical shell behind. It is also glued together
with the other three formless entities – thoughts, memories and feelings (Jerry) – which
carry all the karmic information from the previous life. This karmic database has now
returned to earth again in another human body and it will affect all aspects of that
person’s life, whether they are: able/disable-body, rich/poor, clever/stupid, pretty/ugly,
healthy/sickly, fortunate/unfortunate and so on.

Why do I have this gene?

Let’s take a look at the making of human bodies first. Science tells us that the
creation of physical body, its development and its behaviours are controlled by the
pattern of our genes and DNA. We only know that the healthy or defective genes in our
bodies are passed on to us by our parents and ancestors. But can you see that it still
doesn’t give us any clear answer why our ancestors had those genes in the first place?
Such a question can go on forever and might end up with Adam and Eve, which would
make this whole issue all the more complex! So it’s better if we leave Adam and Eve out.
In the case where you might unfortunately inherit a defective gene that causes you to
have some serious ailments, I am sure you must have thought, ‘Among all these people in
the world, why me? Why does it have to be me or my loved ones who are affected by this
single defective gene which might have the odds of one in a million?! Can you see that in
coming up with the genetic scheme and concept, science hasn’t really given us any
satisfactory answers as to why I am what I am and you are what you are?
Can genetic engineering and designer babies truly solve the problem of our
defective genes and to what expense? We are now stepping into the era of creating a
controversial hybrid embryo – a fertilisation between human sperm and animal egg – so
that we can have enough stem-cells for transplantation – a solution to cure certain
diseases like Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases. Are we sure that genetic engineering is
the only solution?
In June 2000, scientists have succeeded in unlocking the secret of genetic codes
known as the human genome which they believed is a map of humankind. This scientific
achievement is classed as a discovery greater than anti-biotics and the landing on the
moon. It caused stagger excitement all round. I don’t know about you, I still think that
cracking the secret codes of the human genome by reading the billions letters of the
genetic coding still doesn’t explain why I am what I am and you are what you are. We
need to know the events happening one step before all these extremely complicated
physical makings.

What causes all those billions of human genome letters to weave together in
certain ways for particular people until causing no two persons to be the same? If we
knew the answer to this significant step, it would save scientists a lot of time finding
solutions for magical cure. Trying to alter the genetic coding might have some very
serious repercussions similar to sitting on a time bomb.

Mind over matters

We should look at the karmic aspect first. The karmic database might be the
answer telling us why our genes turn out in the way they do. If you believe in the power
of the mind over matter, this is exactly how it works. ‘The mind’ here is the rebirth-
consciousness glued together with thoughts, memories and feelings (Tom and Jerry)
which make up the karmic database. This whole format of the rebirth-consciousness,
once it steps into a womb, it will condition the making of the physical body of the baby.
The karmic force will take control of the generation of bodily cells and initially create a
human body according to the attached karmic résumé which comes with the rebirth
consciousness. Such human creation is just the beginning of the subsequent karmic fox
and hound chasing game.
For those reasons, I am wholeheartedly convinced that karma is the real
mastermind of human life, not the gene! The human genome is merely the prime result of
one’s own karma. Should you admit that the karma is the blueprint of human life, the
solution would be a totally different ball game! By changing people’s way of life and
their actions, you will, in turn, change the genetic coding of your life. This, in my
opinion, is obviously a much easier solution. Consequently, everyone can take care of
their own future genetic code. Should you wish to have a perfect birth in every way –
handsome, rich, clever, healthy, etc. – you must design your own future physical
blueprint by sticking to your moral diet now.

Dependent origination

To understand why everyone has his/her own genetic code that forms an
individual person, we must look at the Buddhist concept called ‘dependent origination.’
The Buddha had told us about the cause of suffering through the fact of dependent
origination. The Buddha pointed out that suffering can only come about because of births
which have ignorance as the root cause.
This concept is one of the most profound and difficult teachings produced by the
Buddha. Whether or not one can get to the bottom of this concept exactly the way the
Buddha intended is very much a burning question. As far as dependent origination is
concerned, there has been a great deal of debate taking place among Buddhist scholars all
through the history of Buddhism.
Therefore, I am not going to delve into much detail because I cannot say that I can
get to the bottom of this concept either. I just want to point out the segment on how our
karmic record has direct influence on the state of our birth.
Whatever course of action scientists are about to take in terms of genetic
engineering, I really think that they should know this fact first so that they can take it into

First of all, I will write down the twelve dependent factors beginning with
ignorance and ending with death and rebirth. Then, I can point out the part where I think
these factors may link to our human birth and the rebirth consciousness. Dependent
origination is a cycle of conditions chronologically outlined below:

• Dependent on ignorance (1), (sankhara) – karmic formation (2) arises.
• Dependent on karmic formation, consciousness (vinnana) (3) arises.
• Dependent on consciousness (vinnana), body and mind (4) arise.
• Dependent on body and mind, the six sense bases (5) arise.
• Dependent on the six sense bases, contact (6) arises.
• Dependent on contact, feelings (7) arise.
• Dependent on feeling, craving (8) arises.
• Dependent on craving, clinging or attachment (9) arise.
• Dependent on clinging or attachment, becoming (10) arises.
• Dependent on becoming, birth arises (11).
• Dependent on birth, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, decay, and death
(12) arise.

Can you see that the body, to which the human genome belongs, is placed on the
4th chain and not the first? The first 3 chains: ignorance, karmic formation and the
consciousness, are nothing but the whole setting of the rebirth consciousness and the
karmic record (Tom and Jerry) that we have brought along with us previously. This is the
reason why the Buddha places body and mind on the 4th chain of dependent origination.
The body where the genes belong to is, therefore, the result of the rebirth consciousness
together with our own unique karmic record.

Karma is the blueprint

Should a rebirth consciousness find a compatible womb to occupy, its karmic
identity has to come herewith as a whole package. You can’t choose and pick or mix and
match – the karmic game doesn’t work that way. You must take in both Tom and Jerry or
take nothing at all. This karmic information will subsequently shape the pattern of our
genetic coding – the blueprint of human life form. The embryo will then develop
according to the genetic information received from the karmic database brought on by the
rebirth consciousness. Whether the baby will be perfect or deformed, wealthy or poor,
pretty or ugly, healthy or sickly and so forth, it depends entirely on his or her karmic
characteristics that come with the rebirth consciousness. No two persons are exactly the
same, even identical twins, because everyone thinks, feels and does things differently.
For this very reason, everyone has his/her own unique karmic identity. This subsequently
causes the uniqueness of the genetic codes and the subsequent double helix DNA
Consequently, every person has his/her own genetic make up because no two
people can think, feel and do things exactly the same. This is the reason why we cannot
choose where and with whom we are born. If we have the choice, we would certainly
want to be born into a moral and wealthy family in an affluent country instead of the

outskirts of Africa or Asia where life expectancy is much shorter. We definitely don’t
have the luxury of choice as far as birth place is concerned. Human birth is strictly
governed by our own unique karmic résumé. Everyone is actually designing their own
blueprint of life now because what goes around comes around.
By using this karmic approach, we have gone a step beyond the human genome
which enables us to understand why no two persons have the same genetic coding.

Diana’s life – defy science!

This so called Human Genome Project will enable us to manipulate human life
just like Newton’s laws of gravity enable us to manipulate the movements of physical
objects. If this human genome technology is advanced and user-friendly, it means that we
will be able to know future health conditions, both our own and our children’s while they
are still in the womb. We will be able to prevent all kinds of diseases – so they say –
including cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, arthritis and tuberculosis. We may be able to
prolong our ageing process which, scientists believe, is genetically based. It means that
we will be able to live as long as 150 years or even up to 1,200 years, depending to which
geneticists you listen. Of course, these are the achievements that scientists anticipate.
Whether or not they will reach that goal is totally another matter.
It is apparent that this scientific achievement merely emphasises the physical
perfection. We assume that as long as we have eternal youth, beauty, intelligence and
long lasting health, we can all live happily ever after. You must be blind if you think so!
Are you sure you want to live up to 1000 years old anyway?
We seem to forget that the cause of pain and suffering among people do not
always relate to youth, beauty, intelligence and health care. We can be as physically
perfect as we could be; the bottom line is that normal human beings can still become
easily hurt when they are rejected. People will still have their foul moods, resentment,
disappointment, envy and anger when they cannot get what they want. The perfect
genetic coding does not provide a cure for dented ego, sorrow or for a sense of
inadequacy, nor will it make personal loss any less grievous. We will still cry when we
lose our loved ones.
Princess Diana’s life is, in my opinion, a very good example that defies
everything in the scientific sense.

Other causes for human suffering

We think that we have our future all planned out in a very rosy way but at the
same time we seem to forget that the main causes of human suffering come from freak
accidents, terrorism, wars and natural catastrophes which are responsible for killing
massive numbers of people at a time – the event of 9/11 and the Boxing day tsunami for
instance. No matter how advanced science has become, we are still unable to eliminate
destructive global events, especially natural calamity, can we? People are still facing
immense loss, pain and sorrow through accidents, wars, terrorism and natural disasters.
No matter how cleverly the human brain can perform, it means nothing; it is only a small
lump of grey matter curl up in the skull which, in the face of natural disasters like

earthquakes, volcano eruptions, huge storms or tsunamis, can be crushed to a pulp in no
time at all. Please excuse my graphic narrative should I scare you in any way.
Neither can you blame genetic coding for mental turmoil like stress, worries,
depression, nervous breakdowns and suicide. All these mental imbalances can happen to
any good-looking, witty and physically healthy people. This is because the true cause of
human pain and suffering comes from greed, envy, anger, hatred and mental delusion,
which have nothing to do with genetic imprints. All these negative characteristics
associate closely with our own actions which may give results in present life or next life.
Neither can we blame the gene for the endless violence and crimes in society.
Some young victims are killed because they had shown ‘disrespect’ to their killers who
are nothing but street-corner thugs. There are also increasing number of some good-
hearted people rushed to defend the helpless victims and got themselves killed instead.
Do you seriously believe that all these social problems have anything to do with human
gene and DNA? I don’t think so.
Our genetic knowledge may help the police department to catch criminals through
forensic evidence and DNA matching – which also makes a good CSI drama – but in no
way would it bring back morals in people’s minds.

Easier said than done

As I am writing this chapter, the present British opposition party leader, David
Cameron, is calling for a ‘social revival’ to rescue Britain. He said that despite our
wealth, Britain has turned into the sickest family in Europe in terms of social breakdown,
with which I totally agree. I even think that Cameron might lead the Tory party into
Number 10 Downing Street in the next general election because he is pushing the right
button. Bringing back the social order is what the British public wants to hear.
But…I can’t help wonder how exactly David Cameron will be able to achieve
such idealistic social harmony that we all desperately long for. Would he be throwing
more people into jail if they don’t respect law and order? Just for your information, the
present labour government has filled up the prison space till there is no room left – not
even for just one more prisoner! – I am sure many other countries also have the same
problem. Yet, such tight measure still doesn’t make the public feeling any more secured
or at peace. Violent crimes remain exactly the same – if not worse – young children are
still being snatched from their loving and heart-broken parents.2 This type of crime might
connect with the human trafficking industry which is an international organised crime.
Perhaps David Cameron or rather The Untied Nation should focus more on
educating people/humankind to become good citizens. But…then again where exactly
can this drastic change begin? Do you think that you can lay down all the good social
values on the table and expect our children to listen and follow those rules religiously?
It’s like this global warming frenzy at the moment; it turns out that the British
government official buildings release more green house gases than the public sector does
– so the papers said. I also read a disturbing article about Al Gore – the leading star in the
film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – and how his huge private mansion has consumed

As I am writing this sentence, Madeleine McCann, a four-year-old British girl was kidnapped and has gone missing for
18 days today while she was on holiday with her parents in the Portuguese resort. I pray for her safe return. 22/5/07

enormous amounts of energy which releases the subsequent green house gases into the
environment! This is another fact or fiction that hasn’t yet been settled. I want to believe
it was just mere fiction as I hate to think Al Gore is not what he appears to be – having
passion in making the world a better place!
Children need a good strong role model or a good firm family establishment. As
long as children have good parenting, society will change for the better. So, it now turns
out that it’s not children who need to be educated, but actually, adults!
And these days, how can adults be educated? What kind of knowledge and
wisdom can you give them? Everything is easier said than done, isn’t it? Not until you
delve into it, will you see the complexity of this whole thing – life in relation to the
universe…I suppose. Can you also see the huge roundabout of catch 22 in the horizon?

Social harmony begins with wisdom

I want you to see that our pending social meltdown has nothing to do with human
genes or DNA – bad mental habit is more like it. Greed, hatred, jealousy and anger are
the cause as well as the symptom of bad mental habits. These destructive mental
symptoms therefore cannot be altered by genetic manipulation. In other words, we cannot
take away certain genes or change our DNA pattern so that we can eliminate greed,
anger, hatred and jealousy.
By following the moral diet as I had advised in the prequel of this book, you will
gradually develop good mental habits which allow you to have more inbuilt positive
qualities such as: love, giving, caring, kindness and compassion. Such wisdom can only
come from the knower – the one who knows the ultimate truth and the real purpose of
By clarifying your ultimate goal of life and pursing the moral and meditation
ladders, you are altering you own actions and the subsequent karmic record which will
secure you a better rebirth. Do just those and good society will follow accordingly. This
is precisely how you can make your life into a happy ending one. By then, you will know
that physical perfection is the very least of your worries. The ignorance that causes you to
have repeated rebirth is the real culprit that you need to catch and sort out.
The Buddha says that ignorance towards the ultimate goal of life is indeed the
most evil disease a human can face. Never is there an infectious disease worse than
spiritual ignorance!
Indeed, politicians need ultimate wisdom which can guide them to understand the
art of living and dying so that, in return, they are able to guide the public to social
harmony. Without such wisdom, I really cannot see how any governments can fulfil their
idealistic goal in securing peace to their people and humankind.

Science in the hands of mad leaders

We tend to look a lot at the scientific opportunities but very little at scientific
responsibilities. The knowledge of how to design genetic codes cannot be confined to
democracies under the rule of law.
The harsh fact is that the world society is still full of mad people of different
levels, some of whom are leaders of states and nations and take charge of the mighty

armed forces which often include nuclear weapons. If this scientific knowledge falls into
the hands of crazy dictators with no moral conscience, which is very likely to happen, we
will witness not only designer babies as we have anticipated but also the designing of
human weaponry such as designer warriors, designer killers and even designer slaves.
Then, what seems to be a golden age will turn out to be a monstrous age instead.
We also need to ask what this new world without disease and ageing will actually
be like. Are we going to assume that only those who are ‘fit’ in some scientific sense
should live and those who have defective genes should be terminated?
Evidently, Hitler did something like that. ‘Eugenic’ is a type of Nazi abuse which
includes enforced racial hygiene, human experimentation and extermination of undesired
population groups all of which are based on the knowledge of genetic engineering.
Eugenic paved the way to the genocide of the 7 millions people most of whom were
Jews. In Hitler’s eyes, the Jews were classed as ‘sub-human’ and needed to be wiped out
from the surface of the earth. Sadly, Hitler wasn’t the only one mad political leader the
world ever had – there were more both before and after and it is beyond doubt that there
will be more mad leaders to come in the future.

Unpolished minds are untrustworthy

A human whose mind is void of moral conscience and the clear ultimate goal of
life, cannot be trusted. It’s as simple as that. Without the right wisdom, the mental self is
deluded by our own thoughts and feelings or Tom is bullied by Jerrys – always have been
and always will be. Human history over the past few decades – with two world wars –
has shown us the evil side of humanity and what people’s minds are capable of doing. It
takes only one crazy leader who is well equipped with power and all hell can break lose
again. We must not put too much trust into human hands, especially this genetic path, not
without the balance of real wisdom.
I have no doubt that scientists have the best interests of humanity at heart, but it is
the politicians, the wealthy and the powerful who run the world. No matter how pure and
innocent the knowledge is, when they reach the hands of people who are well equipped
with money and power, it is certain that the manipulation will not be confined to just the
genetic coding. No matter how good the original intention is, somewhere along the line,
human greed, anger and delusion will get involved and slip into the equation of life,
conflicts and sufferings. When that happens, The Human Genome Project might turn out
to be the Blair Witch Project instead!3

Replacing boredom with cheap thrill

Scientists seem to believe that everybody wants to have a long life. I don’t think
this is the case at all. We can make people live as long as a thousand years but are you
sure you really want that? What kind of activities and entertainment would we need to rid
people of their daily boredom? Some people these days are already bored to death until
they have to go off and get some cheap thrills – including killing people!

In 1994, three students in Maryland, USA shot a documentary called The Blair Witch Project
which turned out to be a box office thriller blockbuster.

Do you know why people need to read newspapers which are full of bad news
everyday? Apart from catching up with the world, it is because people’s minds need to be
fed with something new all the time especially celebrity gossip. It doesn’t matter if they
are facts, fictions or just pure thrash; people need newness so that their minds can be
taken away from the mundane matters of daily lives which unfortunately fail to excite
them. Consequently we have created a media frenzied society which gives the press
immense power to do all sorts of things these days including manipulation (when needed)
– more head-ache subject…eh?!
Without the right wisdom in global education, I have no doubt that social
problems in the remote future will still be exactly the same as they are now – if not worse
– though we may be able to live longer and healthier lives.

Karma works in a mysterious way!

So long as people don’t change their actions and keep on doing bad karma,
society will always be faced with new challenges, which genetic engineering cannot do
anything to help it. For instance, there could be some bizarre diseases, AIDS virus or new
strand of bacteria that cannot be killed off by the god-sent anti-biotic, or anything that is
most unexpected. Always bear in mind that karma works in the most mysterious way.
We are undoubtedly being fooled by what looks like eternity and immortality. No
matter how long we can engineer ourselves to live, it doesn’t mean that we are not going
to die in the end. Death is the only thing that never lets us down. When that final moment
comes, we still have to face that ultimate fear of death all the same. In fact it is worse
because the longer we live, the more fear we have to bear. If we die quickly, we suffer
less, and fear less.

Cracking delusion

It is obvious to me that the fear of death and the wish to prolong life are the direct
result of delusion and ignorance about the ultimate goal of life. What difference will it
make to be able to extend life for another 50, 100 or even 1,000 years? Such numbers
might seem a great deal to those who know nothing about the cycle of rebirth. If people
can understand what I have said so far about the length of samsara, living as long as a
century or even longer doesn’t have an ounce of meaning whatsoever, and makes this
scientific achievement become a trivial matter indeed.
What humans need to crack is not the genetic code, but delusion. Only when the
thin layer of dullness and lack of understanding is ripped apart, will we then realise that
we have indeed lived for so long that we should be bored to death of living.
The real death can only refer to one thing: leaving samsara or jail breaking!

Chapter ten

So lucky to be born human!

Devout elders liked to repeat the saying of how lucky we are to be born as humans
and bump into Buddhism. I didn’t quite get it when I was young but now I’ve become one of
those people echoing the same tune.
First of all, I would like you to read the sermon the Buddha gave to a young man
named Subha. This sermon will shed some light on when you will come back to be born as
human. From these answers, you will also learn why people are born as they are, with short
or long lives, rich or poor lifestyles, pretty or ugly countenances, stupid or intelligent and so

Long and short lives

Some beings like to kill other beings and get into the habit of it. After death, these
people are reborn in the four lower, woeful states (the animal world, ghost world, demon
world and hell)1. However, if they are reborn as human beings, their lives will be short.
Those who do not kill beings, who have compassion for them, may be reborn in the devas
world or as celestial beings. If they are reborn as human beings, they will have long lives.

Sickness and health

Some people cause injury to other beings; they like to inflict pain on others. On
account of that, they are reborn in the four woeful states. However, if they are reborn as
human beings, they may be sickly and prone to diseases. Those who do not cause injury to
others are reborn as devas, or, if they are reborn as human beings, they will be endowed with
good health.

Ugly and beautiful

Some people become angry very easily. Owing to this anger, they will be reborn in
the four woeful states. However, if they are reborn as human beings, they will be ugly and
have a dull complexion (we can even see it now that anger makes one look ugly when that
person may otherwise be attractive). On the other hand, some people have no anger, do not
become angry easily and have thoughts of loving-kindness (metta) towards others. These
people are reborn as devas, or if they are reborn as human beings, they will be beautiful and
have a fair complexion. (So if you want to be beautiful, at least in your next life, check your
anger level – don’t be angry!)

No friends, good friends

The ghost world and the demon world are separated in this case, which makes four woeful
states instead of three. However, it is greed which leads beings to be born in these two
worlds, and therefore, they are grouped together sometimes in the so-called peta world
(hungry ghost).

Why do some people have no friends while other people have many friends? Some
people are jealous, and on account of that jealousy, they are reborn in the four woeful states.
However, if they are reborn as human beings, they have few or no friends. Those who are
not jealous, are reborn as devas, or if they are reborn as human beings, they will have many
good friends. We can say that those who don’t have friends were jealous in a past life
according to the law of kamma.

Rich and poor

Some people are stingy; they do not want to give away anything. By being stingy
and not being generous, they may be reborn in the four woeful states. However, if they are
reborn as human beings, they will be poor. Those who are giving and generous become rich
people. So, if you want to become rich, give!

Good and unfortunate circumstances

Some people are very proud. They look down on other people, and have little respect
for others. On account of this false sense of pride, such people are reborn in the four woeful
states. But if they are reborn as human beings, they are born into unfortunate circumstances.
Those who have no false pride, who have humility, are reborn as devas; unless they are
reborn as human beings, in which case they will be born under favourable circumstances.

Dull-witted and intelligent

Some people have no desire for knowledge, no desire to ask questions, no desire to
know about the nature of things. With no knowledge of the right conduct, these unknowing
(ignorant) people commit wrong actions and thus may be reborn in the four woeful states. If
they are reborn as human beings, they are dull-witted. Those who want knowledge, who ask
questions about the nature of things, are reborn in the deva worlds. However, if they are
reborn as human beings, they are intelligent. So, if you want to be intelligent in your next
life, don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Planet earth…land of opportunity

I can’t help repeating how complex and mysteriously karma works; I only
understand part of the surface myself. From what I can gather from the Buddha’s teachings
above, whatever action you do in this lifetime, good or bad, you will inherit the
consequences both good and bad. If you do good, you’ll be sent up to enjoy life in heaven; if
you do bad, you will have to serve your sentence in the lower realms.
Let’s use an allegory of a prison environment and you will get clearer picture. I have
always allegorised samsara as a huge prison of life with the east wing representing the upper
realm and the west wing representing the lower realms. This time I want you to picture an
additional lounge in the centre of this prison which embodies humans on earth.
Through this allegory, I want you to know that the human realm is the land of
opportunity where sentient beings have a chance to learn of the good news about leaving
samsara. Basically, from whatever good or bad deeds you do during your life on earth, you
will afterwards be sent to claim your bonus or punishment in either the east or the west
wing. Once you have finished your sentence, you will return to the centre lounge of the
prison again so that you will have the opportunity to make a choice as to where you want to
go again: east wing, west wing or freeing yourself from this prison of life altogether.

Too comfy or too tormented

The significant point is that during your stay in the east or the west wing, you cannot
further your practice in leaving samsara because the lives in both wings are either too
comfortable or too tormented. The way of life in both heaven and hell will not permit you to
be freed; they are purely there for the purpose of acquiring bonuses or serving punishment.
There are actually more details but I don’t want to confuse you at this stage as this book is
aimed at real Buddhist beginners.

Quick exit at the centre

For a clearer picture, you can easily imagine that the main exit of any construction is
usually at the centre of the building, not the east wing nor the west wing. So is the main exit
out of samsara. The route to freedom from samsara has to come from the centre lounge or
from human realm only. Human beings are the only life forms that have all the favourable
factors to learn the good news of leaving samsara as well as engage in the mind journey to
the ultimate purpose of life. Figuratively speaking, provided that the main exit is right at the
centre, it is easier to walk out of a building from the centre lounge than from the east or the
west wing, isn’t it? Whichever wing you might have dwelled in before, should you want to
leave the building, you will always have to come back to the centre lounge for quick exit,
won’t you?

Buddhism exists only on earth

Through this symbolic explanation, I hope you can better understand the Buddha’s
teaching above to young Subha. It means that every sentient being will have a chance to
return to earth sooner or later once the life span in the east or the west wing is over. It may
take a long time especially if you have been to certain districts in the brahma world, or even
hell where life spans are very long indeed. If you are born into the animal world, the life
span there is shorter. But once your deserved sentence is all over, you will return to earth for
another golden opportunity and another beginning.
This is the reason why Buddhism is always established on earth and not in heaven,
nor hell – it always has been and it always will be. After accumulating enough perfections
(parami), all Buddhas-to-be (Bodhisattava) always come back to earth to be enlightened and
to establish their teachings: propagating the good news about leaving samsara.

No collective memories

The Buddha says that all sentient beings have been travelling around samsara for
eons. It is a shame that we don’t have such collective memories about our journey through
the east, west and centre wings in this prison of life. This makes it even more important that
you must take the Buddha’s word for it. If you don’t, you may waste another human life,
another golden opportunity.
Nevertheless, there are some people whose memories of the past lives weren’t wiped
out completely. This makes that person’s life become more complicated. Having the
previous life memories wiped clean is only right because the rebirth gives you a new
physical self and a new family to belong to. Present life, with all the twists and turns, is
complicated enough without being interfered by the memories of previous lives. Dealing
with memories of this present life can be quite challenging at times already especially as you

get older. Not to mention bad and painful memories, even good and happy memories, once
reflected upon, often leave traces of sadness and nostalgia in the heart. A Hollywood film
called ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’ effectively depicted this exact concept about
painful memories, even with a winding theme.

Making the most of this rare chance

Despite having no collective memories of our past lives, we must believe that we
have been living in this prison cell – left, right and centre, for eons. The point is that once
you have a chance to return to earth, you must quickly make the most of your human status
by learning and finding out about exiting this epic ring road of samsara. This is indeed your
golden opportunity because the chance of being born human and bumping into Buddhism is
as much as the chance of that mentioned turtle, surfacing the ocean once in every 500 years,
would emerge in a floating flower garland. The meeting of these two elements is extremely
rare as I have elaborated in chapter two. There have been very few ordinary people who are
courageous enough to accomplish their perfections (parami) and become a Buddha. There is
no adequate word to describe the gap between the need (demand) for a Buddha and the
supply of one.

Comparing the population

To convince you further of how lucky you are to be born as a human and stumble
upon Buddhism, I would like you to grasp the population sizes in different realms. You
might think that our global population of 6.6 billion (a 2007 estimate) is colossal. As a
matter of fact, it is nothing comparing to the population of the celestial and hellish beings.
In the Pali canon, the Buddha describes to Saribhutta, his right hand disciple that
there are sometimes 10, sometimes 20, sometimes 30, 40, 50 and sometime even up to 60
celestial beings occupying a space as small as the point of a pin, yet there isn’t any
congestion in that small space; the deities could stand comfortably without touching one
another’s shoulders.
The main reason is because celestial beings have only 4 aggregates: consciousness,
thoughts, memories and feelings (Tom and Jerry). They don’t have the mass or physical self
like humans, which means deities are masses of energy. So, their way of life is completely
different from that of people on earth.
Dr. Warapat Poochareoun, a renowned Thai Buddhist author, wrote a book called
Palang Boon (meaning the ‘power of goodness’). Apart from researching from the
Tripitaka, the author also interviewed many Buddhist monks and teachers some of whom
have psychic abilities in the Buddhist sense.2 I learned a great deal about deities from this
book, which has a collection of pictures depicting illuminating orbs according to the West.
But in this book these orbs are regarded as deities. I will talk about deities later on.
Dr. Warapat says that if the earth population equates to the size of a pin head, the
celestial population will cover the surface of the earth. And if the celestial population
equates the size of the round pin head, the hellish population will cover the surface of the
earth as well.
Dr. Warapat’s account on the population of deities corresponds to what the Buddha
said about the number of celestial beings standing in the space as big as the point of a pin.
You can see that there is already an enormous difference between the size of the human and
deity population, not to mention the difference between hell’s population as well. This

Psychic abilities, in the Buddhist sense, can be developed through the practice of meditation.

supports the fact that there is a much bigger chance of going to hell than going to heaven.
Considering people’s karma acquired on earth, it is hardly a surprise. It also supports the fact
that mental Jerry has a very strong grip on people’s minds. The three mental mice can easily
bully people into doing bad karma. The life span in hell is very long depending on which
district of hell one goes to, the same with heaven. That’s why the human population is much
smaller because it takes a long time before one is due to return to earth for another golden
opportunity to make the right choice – so quickly get out of this epic ring road of samsara.
Apparently, a human status is envied by celestial beings. When a deity is due to be
reborn on earth, celestial friends will cheer with overwhelming joy because it means a
golden opportunity for yet another sentient being to further one’s life journey out of samsara
– well done!
I hope you can appreciate your fortunate circumstance in being born as a human.
This is the concept that even Buddhists cannot understand correctly. This results in a great
number of Buddhists still wanting to be born in heaven. The Buddha’s teaching is not about
helping us go to heaven to become celestial beings. The Buddha is here to particularly help
free us from the prison cell of samsara, which is far greater than just going to heaven.

Just right!

The human realm is considered a neutral state in between the upper and lower realms
because we can see both sides of the same coin. We can experience both joy and suffering.
Everyone has both experiences in all different combinations in one lifetime. It is indeed this
mixed combination of joy and sorrow, ups and downs that make some people think a bit
deeper and begin to question the true meaning of life – trying to make some sense out of this
crazy world! This is exactly what happened to the young Prince Siddhartha before he left the
palace to search for the end of suffering. He could see both the overwhelming pleasure he
gained in the palace as well as the suffering that people had to bear outside the palace walls.
Such contrasting ways of life motivated the young prince to question life in the most
profound manner leading to his ultimate enlightenment and become our present Buddha –
the greatest saviour, know we must!

No guarantee

Even though you might be born in unfavourable circumstances, you must know that
you are still extremely lucky to be a human and find Buddhism (this book). Although you
might not be wealthy or good looking, and perhaps even under-privileged in other people’s
eyes, should you be inspired by this book and willing to engage in a life journey to Nirvana,
you must know that you have already become the most fortunate person on earth. Humans
who lived through life and die without knowing that there’s a way to leave samsara are
considered extremely unlucky. And there are plenty of these people surrounding each and
everyone of us. Although they might have all the material wealth, high status, fame and even
power, these mean nothing because their mental selves are still being locked up in this life
prison to which they are totally oblivious. They don’t know when they will come back to
earth again. While they will eventually be reborn as humans, there is no guarantee they will
bump into Buddhism again.
You must not take it for granted that this opportunity can easily happen to anyone.
It is not the case at all. I should know better. I have people who live close to me but are
totally oblivious of what I do. My youngest brother, aged 50, passed away without having a
chance to learn from me. While he was taken ill in the hospital, he would rather read
newspapers instead of my book, which my sister offered to him.

The very least you can do for yourself is try to be open-minded and slowly digest
what I have been telling you in this book and its prequel — The Moral Diet. These two
books must be read and tackled together. Whatever your decision is, it is the new karma that
you are about to invest for your own future. You can dismiss everything I say as a total
nonsense, or, to be on the safe side, you may give it a go and prove it for yourself. After all,
you have nothing to lose, have you? The decision is entirely yours.

What happens if you are not born perfect?

Should you be born with any kind of impediment since birth or owing to tragic
accidents, which cause you to be bed-bound or wheelchair-bound, as long as your mind is
sane, you are still very lucky to get a hold of this book. It is especially the case if you are
convinced of what I’ve said and are willing to undertake the practice. Your physical barrier,
on the other hand, can help you to understand the concept of suffering in a very profound
manner which put you in a more fortunate position than some physically-abled people. This
is one way to turn the negative event in life into positiveness. To understand human
suffering is a very good start to freeing yourself from samsara.
It is very much like when you finally realize that you are actually in jail. Only then
will you want to find your way out of jail. Samsara is not a jail surrounded by walls made
out of bricks, sands and cements; the prison wall of samsara is frighteningly and profoundly
thick and extremely dark, you cannot possibly spot this spiritual prison all by yourself
without any guided wisdom. That’s why Buddhists are channelled to view life as a period of
suffering which is very correct. To the western mind, such a view is treated as downright
pessimistic. But you can hardly say it’s so wonderful to live in prison, can you?
Should you truly understand how the law of karma works, I hope you are able to let
go of your hung up feelings resulting from your physical hurdles like grief, anger and
bitterness. This book is a good start to help you build a better future.

Mentally unstable

To understand the Buddha’s teaching initially requires an acceptable level of mental
stability and sanity. I use the term ‘an acceptable level’ because no one is mentally stable or
absolutely sane, not until the metaphoric Tom and Jerry are totally separated due to the
fading of the mental magnetic field. This liberated state of mind can come about only
through vipassana practice and be accomplished by fully enlightened people which could be
anyone who is willing to work hard.
Apart from that, everyone’s mind has certain level of insanity. Some have more or
less than others. The acceptable standard of mental stability refers to the majority of people
in society who are capable of learning, abiding by the law, going to work, functioning in
daily tasks, and developing themselves in a typical manner.
For those who are physically perfect and fit but are totally insane, they stand no
chance of progressing along this spiritual path. According to the Buddha, blind people are
more fortunate than deaf-mute people because blind people can hear and listen to his
teachings and they can practise vipassana in order to free their minds. This is not the case for
deaf-mute people. If the important message cannot get past the bridge of perception to be
acknowledged by the mental self, then the true self cannot be developed.
That’s why men are not allowed to be ordained as monks if they are deaf and mute.
Neither are those whose mental status is unsound. This is the rule that has been passed on
since the Buddha’s time.

Science cannot help

I hope this chapter makes you realise how difficult it is for an individual to come so
far as to understand the Buddha’s teaching and hence appreciate the human status. If you
have a scientific mind, you might find it extremely difficult to take it all in. Many questions
must pop into your mind.
But I would like you to see that science is the knowledge gathered in the jail of life
and is restricted only to the earthly environment, which is only one small section of this
enormous samsara. No matter how awesome or catastrophic the events were, are and will be
such as: the Roman empire, the Renaissance, Symphony no.9, Mona Lisa, the Great Wall of
China, anti-biotics, world wars, the holocaust, e=mc2, the collapse of communism, the
landing on the Moon, space station, Hollywood, Kennedy, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana,
AIDS, poverty, Microsoft, genetic engineering, 9/11, Boxing day tsunami, global warming
and anything at all that are considered having great significance to mankind and will come
in the remote future up to the point of the entire annihilation of humanity, they are only
small minute details that happen on this earthly environment, which is only a speck of
samsara, that’s all there is to it. Those details have nothing to do with the knowledge of the
whole structure of life: about being trapped in jail and getting out of jail, or suffering and
how to end suffering in the Buddha’s version.
Further more, there is no way you can use scientific methods to unravel the truth
about the law of karma, samsara and Nirvana – especially when you are using just the five
senses upon which global education is based. The wisdom about the structure of life of all
sentient beings can only be reached by the use of the 6th sense. The trouble is wonders never
cease and they generate more Jerries in your head, which in turn will generate more rebirths.
You can’t get out of this classic catch 22 that easily. This ageless vicious circle is also one
spec of dust within samsara. You can’t win!
Your best bet, at the moment, is to take the Buddha’s word for it and have faith in
your immediate guide and strictly follow their advices. The Buddha says that there are 2
mains factors that will help you get to Nirvana:

• Hearing this piece of good news from someone.
• Having a good friend (kanlaya-namittata) telling you about this piece of good
news. The Buddha is the human’s first best friend.


I can only hope you are now inspired to engage in a mind journey to free yourself
from samsara. It may sound difficult but it isn’t impossible at all. My entire work is aimed at
helping you to be a part of this most ambitious human endeavour.
Knowing how important this epic journey is, any spiritual guide is willing to devote
all of his/her effort of the life time, even if it means helping just one person to be free from
samsara. I hope you are that one person.

Chapter eleven

Vipassana, the best karma of all

I hope that you now have a much better idea of how the law of karma and samsara
works. This whole karma concept is basically about taking charge of your own destiny–
putting fate into your own hands. You certainly shouldn’t leave it to other elements like
supernatural beings, stars, or even genes to condition your destiny for you; instead you must
take charge by earning more good karma. I hope you can view this as a piece of very good
news that heralds tremendous hope, inspiration and courage to build a good future.

Embellishing your own future

It is true that you cannot undo any previous wrong-doing, but the good news is that
from now on you can still decorate your own future however you want. Whichever type of
rebirth you wish, you just have to act accordingly: if you do good, you go to heaven, but if
you do bad, you go to hell – direct and simple. Alternatively should you want to leave
samsara altogether, you can do that as well. The choice is entirely yours. My duty as a guide
is to put all these facts on the table for you so that you can make your own decision.

Every new action you make from this moment onwards, whether it is wholesome or
unwholesome, is your brand new karma that will give result in the future. This is the
positive side of samsara in being a ring road—you can start all over again! It never is too
Technically speaking, every new karma can be compared to each piece of building
material such as wood, brick, sand and cement that you gradually send forward to build your
future house in the after life, from the foundation right to the roof. The more karma you do,
both good and evil, the more material you will pass on and the quicker you can complete the
building of your future home. Basically, your new accommodation in the after life is built by
the power of the non-material elements of good and evil (boon and barb). These intangible
moral and sinful entities are the only two substantial properties that human can take with
them from this earthy environment to the next realm and absolutely nothing else. The rest,
such as: material wealth, fame, status and power will be either rotten away with the body or
forgotten unless you have done something really special to humankind and might be
remembered in the history page which has nothing to do with your new status anyway.
By the time your death consciousness leaves this physical shell, your future house –
made up of your good and bad karma – will be finished and waiting for you in the after life.
Habitual or regular karma gives long term results – meaning having the ability to create a
strong and long lasting house. If you have done all the good deeds, you have no worry
whatsoever as you must have built yourself a lovely villa or mansion somewhere in heaven
of which you deserve. I am not too sure about the opposite though. If you have a long list of
bad deeds and a short list of good activities and especially if your life span is nearly up, you
have every reason to worry about the look of your new house! You can bury your head in
the sand as much as you like and stubbornly keep up with your denial until you die or you
quickly do something about it.
Don’t worry; I won’t leave you high and dry, your best bet is quickly grab vipassana
or bringing your mental self back to your permanent home. Do it seriously and you will be
able to demolish your dog house!


Whether the house you are building and decorating for your future life is a
good/stylish or a bad/ugly one, the point is you are still very much building an
accommodation. In other words, you are creating factors that keep you circling around this
ring road of samsara. If travelling around this epic roundabout is what you really want to do,
I have no objection whatsoever. It is entirely your decision. I do believe that entering
Nirvana – although is for every sentient-being – is certainly not everybody’s cup of tea. In
fact, the Buddha said this himself – there are very few lucky ones who have reached
Nirvana; the rest are willing to run around samsara.
Having said that, one of the main reasons why people don’t want to leave samsara
is not because they don’t want to but because, I believe, they don’t have the right guidance –
the result of wrong teaching that has been passed on for many generations. This false
impression causes people to be misled and mistakenly think that Nirvana has nothing to do
with them and it is only for monks, not for lay people who have to earn a living. I was
misled by this misconception too. I daren’t think Nirvana has anything to do with me, not
until I had my Eureka experience. From then on, I began to see the significant damage
caused by this misguidance. That’s why I now have enough courage to stand up all alone –
without any back-up from the establishment or any famous people – and tell you about these
challenging concepts which, I believe, the religious institution might not totally agree with
me. As far as the Nirvana subject is concerned, I hope you can appreciate the fact that a lay
woman and an ordinary housewife has to work many times harder than her male
counterparts just to get her voice heard. Nevertheless, a knower must do what a knower must
do. I cannot possibly get to this point if I don’t know what I am doing.
My work now is trying to undo the misconception about going to Nirvana. I want
you to know that leaving samsara for Nirvana is a possible feat to achieve, and anyone can
do it provided that you have the know-how. This book is part of the know-how process.

Beyond duality

To fulfil the ultimate purpose of entering Nirvana, you have to put a stop on your
housing project – you build neither a magnificent mansion in heaven nor a shabby bed-sit in
hell. To leave samsara, you must know about the type of karma above the state of duality:
good and bad (boon and barb), positive and negative. This special type of karma is called
vipassana or the four foundations of mindfulness which I have coined ‘bringing your mental
self back home’. The meaning of ‘home’ in my coinage strictly refers to Nirvana which is
an eternal accommodation for everyone who earns it.
I will delve into the details on how to bring your mental self back home in another
book, but attending my retreat-teaching might be a much better option.1 In this chapter, I
just want to focus on the theoretical side of how vipassana can take you out of samsara. This
theory might not make literal sense but it will add up when you put it into practice. So, after
learning of this, it is essential that you engaged in this renowned practice – that is if you
wholeheartedly agree with and believe in this whole concept of karma.

Should you be interested in the practice of bringing your mental self back home, please follow the
update of my book titles in my website. The title of such book will be very straightforward. I also
return to Thailand once a year for a retreat-teaching which I focus only on the practice of bringing
your mental self back home. Details are on my website.

Dependent Cessation

I hope you are familiar with the topic of dependent origination which I talked about
in chapter nine. Dependent origination is the Buddhist theory of cause and effect which
focuses specifically on the root cause of suffering: they are ignorance towards the
knowledge about how the human mind works including the concepts about the law of
karma, samsara and Nirvana. This is what the Buddha found out on the night of his ultimate
enlightenment. For that reason, he was able to replace ignorance with right knowledge. True
wisdom subsequently destroys the karmic formations, (sankhara) – the house constructing
team. The rest of the links then collapse accordingly like dominoes—this is called dependent

Therefore, opposite from dependent origination, the Buddha describes the dependent
cessation in a stream of karmic logic:

1. Through the total fading away and cessation of ignorance ,
2. sankhara ceases, through the cessation of sankhara
3. consciousness ceases, through the cessation of consciousness
4. body and mind cease

This continues as expected, tying up to the final condition:
Through the cessation of birth (11), sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair,
disease, decay and death, also cease (12).

Through dependent cessation, we learn that where there is no ignorance, there is no
building team (sankhara), and thus there is no ‘house’ or no birth, and finally, there is no
suffering. On the night of his ultimate enlightenment, the Buddha joyfully exclaimed to

Seeking but not finding the House Builder,
I travelled through the round of countless births (samsara):
O painful is birth ever & again.
House Builder, you have now been seen;
You shall not build the house again.
Your rafters have been broken down;
Your ridge pole is demolished too.
My mind has now attained the unformed Nirvana,
And reached the end of every kind of craving.

Once the Buddha saw dependent cessation or the collapsing of the twelve links that
cause suffering to all sentient beings, he knew exactly what to do to stop the building team
(sankhara) from building houses for beings (or rebirth). Please let me remind you that this
sankhara is the metaphoric Jerry that has been giving us/Tom so mush headache by sending
us back into samsara. Thank goodness that the Buddha has finally caught the real culprit that
causes havoc for all sentient-beings.
When the Buddha started teaching, he initially told people about the Four Noble
Truths. They are:
1. suffering
2. the cause of suffering
3. the end of suffering

4. the noble eightfold path which is the way to end suffering.

After that first sermon at the Deer Park in Benares, the Buddha still kept on working
out for more precise method so that people can easily follow. If the Buddha was writing a
‘life map’ for us, he was definitely trying his very best to draw out the most detailed map so
that we would not get lost. In practice, dependent cessation has to happen on the mental
domain while we are very much alive and kicking. Therefore, the purpose of this life map is
for us to apply into our daily lives in term of regular practice. In other words, you must
cultivate a skill to bringing your mental self back home while you are doing your daily
activities from the moment you wake up until you fall to sleep. I will elaborate the details of
this crucial practice in my future literature or better still, try to join my retreat at least once.
It is because some aspects are better explained face to face in just a few words than written
down in a few pages.


That detailed life map the Buddha was working is indeed vipassana practice. This is
the practice that can make dependent cessation happen on the mental level right here and
right now. This unique practice has been known as the priceless jewel that crowns Buddhism
to its glory until this day. This matchless gem is undoubtedly developed by the most
ingenious ability of our inspiring Buddha. Because of this most detailed life map, people of
today are able to follow the well-defined signposts that the Buddha carefully worked out for
us over two thousand five hundred years ago. Consequently, there are always a group of
people who manage to follow this life map until they reach the final destination and their
epic mission is accomplished at last.
The Buddha said that as long as there are people who practise vipassana, this world
will never be void from Arahants, or the worthy ones. Indeed, vipassana practice has been
kept alive to this very moment due to the passing down of the hard work of all the
enlightened ones in the past since the Buddha’s time. I am just one small person along the
line of over two thousands years of history who is trying her very best to keep this practice
alive for as long as it takes so that humanity can always have this ultimate refuge.
Therefore, your understanding of this practice is of immense importance. You may
be yet another person who can pass on this crown-jewel to your children and their children
to come. I challenge you to think of the best thing in the world that makes you really happy
both physically and mentally. Whatever best thing you may come up with, I can assure you
that it is still not as good as vipassana. You have to initially trust me on this one because you
are not able to make comparisons, not until you do the practice first. Only then will you
know what I am on about.


Hopefully, you can now see the connection between vipassana and dependent
cessation, which finally ends rebirth. Some of you may have heard of the term ‘non-action’
before, especially those who are familiar with Krishnamurti’s work. Although I was deeply
inspired by his work during my student years, Krishnamurti did not explain clearly enough
what exactly non-action is. What precisely does one have to do or not do to be qualified for
a non-action? Zen Buddhism also often uses the term non-action. Does it mean you sleep or
sit still all day and do nothing at all, or what? Without clear guidelines, non-action can be
misinterpreted and abused – mainly by political leaders who want to find good reasons to
kill people! So, I would like to clarify for you what non-action really means.

Non-action doesn’t mean that you sit still or sleep all day without doing anything at
all. Even sitting still and sleeping all day and night like living in a coma, not engaging in any
activities whatsoever, are still not non-actions. Such non-activity still indicates actions, and
therefore, you are still performing a type of deed or karma. You may sit still all day and do
nothing but it doesn’t mean that your mental Jerry stops working altogether. As long as you
are still drifting away with thoughts that may involve anger, bitterness, vengeance and
greed, you are still very much performing karma which will definitely give result and
generate more rebirths. Intentional thought (mental karma) is a serious type of karma that
gives results.
Most leaders of all professions both good and bad are very likely to sit behind tables
and do the thinking as opposed to performing the physical actions themselves. Those
thoughts will be carried out and then turned into actions which can be both very positive and
negative. Whilst the positive results bring joy and happiness, negative impacts can produce
havoc and endless suffering for a great number of people.
I watched a very chilling documentary revealing how the Nazis managed to kill 7
million people, mainly Jews, in a short period of time. The truth was that Hitler had a
professional team of people such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists and the high
ranking intellectual Nazis, sitting around a long table where they literally calculated the best
method to killing people effectively– meaning using less money, less time and behind closed
doors. That was how Hitler invented his killing industry resulting in the Holocaust – purely
from the thinking and planning (mental karma) of those few professionals.
The Buddha said that fierce fighting among all the wild animals in the world is still
not as destructive as the result of evil thoughts produced by a single illusive mind which
materialise into actions. This wise saying precisely explains all satanic events that have had
happened all through the history of humankind. We have witnessed enough horrific
happenings which were the outcome of those who appeared to sit still in big offices and do
nothing physically but think and talk. So, sitting still and doing nothing physically is
definitely not ‘non-action’.
Shockingly, the world is infested with people with deluded minds some of whom are
political leaders. If we don’t quickly learn this wisdom and try to put a stop to evil acts,
disaster is imminent.

White sin

To understand how non-action works, it is important to know about white sins first.
A bad action is straightforward, it is sinful; it casts a black shadow; but a good action can be
complicated at times. It doesn’t always cast a white shadow or good results. Sometimes
people can do good deeds while clinging to the result of those deeds. Consequently, they
feel proud of themselves and are inclined to think that they are better than others. This kind
of feeling is not healthy for those who want to go to Nirvana– it is called white sin. If they
cannot work it out on their own and no one else tells them, people will continue inflating
their own egos until they blow up.
Doing good deeds is good (or merit) in itself. Don’t get me wrong, but letting that
good action come back to strengthen your ego is not good. Good action can cast a white sin
or a white shadow, which is very difficult to detect and demolish. You need to have
someone who has more wisdom than yourself to tell you this. If not, you can cling to your
white sin indefinitely which will unnecessarily send you back to orbit around samsara.
Thai people have a saying, “rubbing gold leaf on the back of the Buddha statue”
which means doing good deeds without boasting to anyone about it. Doing good deeds

without feeling proud and claiming any credit for it is even better. This kind of action is not
easy to carry out, but you must do it if you want to get out of samsara. The very practice that
can help you to let go of your white sin is non-action.

Vipassana is non-action

According to the law of karma, non-action actually means the action that leaves no
after-effects. If the result of karma equates to a shadow that has both black and white
colours, non-action is the type of karma that leaves neither a black nor white shadow, that is,
no shadow whatsoever. This type of karma can be carried out by just one means only –
through vipassana practice or the four foundations of mindfulness.
Perhaps by using the coinage ‘bringing your mental self back home’ instead of the
four foundations of mindfulness, you will have clearer perspective. As you engage in the
practice of bringing your mental self back to the first and the second home (1st and 2nd
foundation), you are already training yourself to perform a non-action which leaves no
karmic shadows. By the time your mental self reaches the fourth home – having the innocent
perception– your mental self, at that moment, will completely disappear. That is the brief
moment when you encounter the truth, Nirvana or God. If you refer to the dependent
cessation discussed earlier, you will see that once ignorance is replaced by wisdom, (the 4th
chain), body and mind disappear too. Why is this so?
What happens is when you are cultivating this practice, your mental Tom and Jerry
loosens up from each other and the mental magnetic field is destroyed bit by bit. The longer
your mental self can be in your 4th home (the 4th foundation of mindfulness), having the
innocent perception, the longer Tom and Jerry will be separated. The moment that you have
the innocent perception, that is when your whole life form, body and mind, melt in with
nature. Both your physical self and mental self have become one minute detail in the whole
picture of life. In other words, the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle has found its place. Hence,
the complete picture of life is formed– there is no you, nor me but the one nature, and one
truth! That is the moment when you and the ultimate truth become one. That’s why your
body-mind (the 4th chain) ceases to exist as well.
If you haven’t yet practise vipassana, you will have trouble to understand the above
paragraph. It doesn’t make literal sense but it will do so when you put vipassana into
practice. Whenever you can enter the 4th home by having the innocent perceptions, you will
see for yourself that ‘the sense of self’ can and will disappear.
Provided that you keep up with your practice, it will reach a point when Tom and
Jerry are completely disconnected, making you become a fully enlightened one. And that is
when you leave samsara behind. This is a rough idea of how you can execute your non-
action (bringing your mental self back home) so that you can end your rebirth.

Am I being arrogant?

There is a great deal of difference between going to heaven and getting out of
samsara as you must know by now. It may sound very arrogant of me to say this but the
truth is that there is no other religion in the world but Buddhism that can offer people
vipassana. The best refuge other religions can offer to humankind is helping people to go to
heaven, but not to get out of the prison of life or samsara. Without vipassana, non-action
cannot be executed, hence rebirth continues. The point is vipassana is not just for the
Buddhists, it is for the entire human race.
That’s why I have to place God and Nirvana among those 24 terminologies referring
to the ultimate truth so that everyone can share the same perspective on the structure of life

and thus talk the same samsara language. Consequently, believers and non-believers alike
can benefit from this one and only crucial practice.
This way, no one has to abandon one’s religion. On the contrary, your faith is
probably the best thing that has happened to you. All religious traditions and their
philosophies are equally good and special. Only religion can make hundreds of millions of
people say “Merry Christmas”, or worship God simultaneously five times a day, or turn a
whole nation into vegetarians. At the same time only religion, not politics, has the natural
right to tell people to do good and not to do bad. What I am trying to say is you don’t have
to alter your faith or your religion. You don’t have to change anything, apart from being
yourself and then apply the concept of ‘bringing your mental self back home’ into your way
of life. This way, everyone can practice vipassana in the comfort of his and her own
religious culture. This is the only way that people of all races and beliefs can be truly united
and live together in peace. Once this practice is adopted, the common ground that we can all
share will be nothing more than our inner peace: the complete stillness of the mind which is
indeed a universal sanctuary.
For this reason, I think it is necessary to tone the religious degree of vipassana down
and steer it away from a faith-based platform so that it can better accommodate other
religious believers. That’s why I merged vipassana into Tai chi which, I believe, can be a
very good non-religious approach. I also invented the new phrase as ‘bringing mental self
back home’ so that it doesn’t sound too Buddhist compared to the term ‘vipassana.’ The
actual practice is no more than being aware of one’s own breathing, movements and
sensations which people have already done and have been doing since birth. You must
engage in the practice before you realise that this whole non-action performance is truly
basic, simple and utterly universal.

Refining a rough diamond

Before you can succeed in vipassana, you must first of all pay attention to your
moral diet of which I had elaborated in the first volume of The User Guide to Life. Your
mind is initially compared to a rough diamond. To refine this diamond, you must begin with
taking all the rough edges off first before you can bring out its superb quality. Similarly,
observing moral precepts is the stage of smoothing out all the rough edges off your mind,
whereas vipassana is the stage of refining the mind to its supreme quality so that it can
venture through the tiny door of Nirvana.
So, I would like to end this chapter by leaving with you the details that the Buddha
told his disciples regarding the different types of karma leading you to different kinds of

Different types of karma and rebirth

Please note that anger is the main cause for going to hell, greed is the main cause for
going to the hungry ghost/demon world and ignorance is the main reason for going to the
animal world.

The way to the three lower realms:2
• Killing, hurting and taking away lives
• Taking what is not given or stealing
• Sexual misconduct
Taken from The Dictionary of Buddhism written by Pra Dhammapidok (Payutho)

• Using false speech or lies
• Using malicious speech, tale-bearing, slandering, back-biting
• Using harsh speech, swearing
• Talking nonsense, gossiping
• Greediness, covetousness, wanting other people’s property
• Ill will, revenge
• Having false views, believing mere opinion to be the truth

The way to the human world (manusa) is by taking the five precepts or following the ten
wholesome courses of action which can be separated into three groups. They are as follows:

Bodily actions
• To avoid the destruction of life and be anxious for the welfare of all lives;
• To avoid stealing, not violating the right to private property of others;
• To avoid sexual misconduct, not transgressing sex morals

Verbal actions
• To avoid lying, not knowingly speaking a lie for the sake of any advantage;
• To avoid malicious speech, slandering, and backbiting, unite the discordant,
encourage the united and utter speech that makes for harmony;
• To avoid harsh language, swearing, words of abuse, and speak gentle, loving,
courteous, dear and agreeable words;
• To avoid frivolous or fruitless talk that has no meaning, to speak at the right time in
accordance with facts, what is useful, moderate and full of sense

Mental actions
• To be without covetousness or envy, not wanting to possess another person’s
belongings or property;
• To be free from ill will, malice and animosity, not wanting to cause injury to others
and to have good wishes such as, ‘May these beings be free from hatred and ill will
and lead a happy life, free from trouble’;
• To have right views, such as: believing in the law of karma and rebirth, that there are
heaven and hell; there is Nirvana, and the path that leads to it.

5) The way to heaven (the world of the devas) is by way of the greater meritorious actions
• By practising generosity and giving;
• By observing the moral behaviours;
• By practising mental development or doing meditation;
• By practising humility, respect or reverence;
• By providing service, helping out the needy, doing good for people, providing for the
Buddha, dhamma and Sangha by cleaning or supporting a monastery, printing
dhamma books, etc.;

• By sharing of boon/merit.3 Sharing of boon is merit in itself and makes you gain
more boon. It is like sharing your lit candle with another person; you gain more light
and not less;
• By rejoicing in another’s boon, or being glad that other people have done good
deeds. The Buddhists say “sadhu, sadhu, sadhu” which means well done when
others do meritorious deeds. By rejoicing in their boon, you get merit yourself;
• By listening to the right teaching like the dhamma of the Buddha. When you come to
know the dhamma, you can avoid unwholesome acts and do wholesome deeds
• By teaching the right doctrine or showing people the right path to ultimate truth.
That is, to speak or give talks on the dhamma;
• By straightening out or forming the right view about the ultimate purpose of life and
the path that leads to it, by believing in the law of karma and the cycle of rebirth.

If you want to leave samsara a bit faster, never put off until tomorrow what you can
do today. Do it right now and right here!

According to the Theravadin tradition, merit or meritorious acts can be shared with other
beings. By thinking and setting the mind on the right cause, the good deeds you have done
can be shared and spread to other beings especially those in the lower realms. This sharing
of merits can literally help those in the hungry ghost world to simultaneously be reborn in a
better realm.

Chapter twelve

Climate change, anomalies and premature puberty
Climate change

At first glance, you might think that global warming has nothing to do with the
law of karma and the cycle of rebirth. As a matter of fact, it does, very much so too. At
the moment, there is a split view among scientists towards the issue of global warming
and climate change. On the one hand, a group of world scientists strongly believe that
man is responsible for global warming and humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If
the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major
catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving
extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we
have ever experienced.

On the other hand, we also hear of the great global warming swindle. Some
experts say the Earth’s climate is always changing. Some scientists don’t believe that the
human CO2 is the cause of global warming, and they are miniscule in comparison.
Volcanic emissions and carbon dioxide from animals, bacteria, decaying vegetation and
the ocean outweigh our own production several times over. In fact, what is known of
solar activity over the last several hundred years correlates very well with temperature.
This is what some scientists are beginning to believe causes climate change.

Whether global warming is true or merely propaganda, I honestly don’t know. I
am as confused as you are. I, however, have the inclination to believe that climate
change is the normality of Earth. This is the subject that has been elaborated by the
Buddha but in an enormous magnitude – far beyond our range of comprehension.

Universe in the eyes of the Buddha

Through the law of impermanence which governs the whole of the universe, the
universe constantly changes. The Buddha therefore separated the changes into four
different periods of time.1 Don’t worry too much about the difficult jargon but see how
the Buddha described each period of time. They are as follows:
1. Sangwat-asankheyya kappa; this is the period of time when the universe is
destroying itself. Everything is in a turbulent state. This event lasts a quarter of
one maha-kappa.
2. Sangwat-tathayee-asankheyya kappa; this is the period of time when the universe
has finished destroying itself. It comes to a complete standstill. Nothing happens
but a complete stillness. This event lasts another quarter of one maha-kappa.

Please refer to chapter two in this book. One maha-kappa is the length of time when the deity comes down
from heaven once every 100 years and wiped away a mountain the size of 16x16 kilometers.

3. Vivat-asankheyya kappa; this is the period of time when the universe begins to
move and develop itself. Something is moving in terms of developing. It lasts yet
another quarter of one maha-kappa.
4. Vivat-tathayee asankheyya kappa; this is the period of time when the universe has
finished its development. The environment becomes more suitable for life forms.
This is the only period of time that plants, animals and humans are able to appear
in the world. This event lasts yet another quarter of one maha-kappa.

So, from the moment that the universe destroys itself and then develops until the
Earth becomes a habitable place for plants, animals and humans, it takes altogether one
maha-kappa. This is considered very short compared to the length of time we have been
traveling around samsara. So, what happens is that these four transitions of the universe
keep on repeating itself over and over in full cycle and each cycle takes one maha kappa.
You may wonder where humans would go while the Earth is not habitable.

Ten thousand universes

According to the Buddha, there are other universes where sentient beings can go
while this universe is in its first three stages. The Pali term that is translated into
‘universe’ could mean ‘planet’ which has a similar environment to Earth and is possible
for human habitation.
It was recorded that the Buddha went to the heaven called Tavatimsa, the realm of
the Thirty-three Gods with King Sakka as the leader, so that he could repay filial duty to
his mother who died 7 days after she gave birth to her Buddha-to-be baby. The mother
had then been reborn in heaven where the Buddha gave sermons for the whole 3 months.
This event happened on the 7th rain-retreat after the Buddha’s enlightenment. It was
elaborated that during the sermon, the celestial beings and the Brahmas from ten
thousands universes (or planets) came to listen to the Buddha. Celestial beings also live
on this planet too but in different dimensions. They don’t have the physical shell like us,
that’s why we cannot see them. This piece of information about ten thousand other
universes (planets) has often been mentioned in the Pali canon. There is no way for us to
verify this mind-boggling detail, so we’ll have to take the Buddha’s word for it.

What about before the Big Bang?!

The age of the universe, according to the Big Bang theory, is the time elapsed
between the Big Bang and the present day. The current scientific consensus holds this to
be about 13.7 billion years. This calculation does not speculate about what may have
existed "before" the Big Bang which doesn’t make any sense. It is obvious that this
theory is based on plucking a chunk of time frame out of no where whereas the Buddha
managed to describe the beginning, the middle and the end of the universe in full cycle.
But it doesn’t matter how scientists look at the age of the universe. They have to have a
time frame to be used as a base and a standard of learning so that everyone can talk the
same language – we can’t move on otherwise. So we go along with this time frame for
the moment.

Where is human civilization along this time-frame?

Now, let’s see what perspectives scientists give us regarding the age of the
universe and where human civilization came about along this supposed time frame. For
your easy understanding, let’s make the scale much smaller by supposing the 13.7 billion
years – from Big Bang till today – equate the length from our shoulder to the end of our
middle finger nail. Now, grab a nail file and file your middle finger nail just once. Well,
the dust resulting from your nail filing is where our Human civilisation began to take
shape, develop and exist up till this moment – measuring from the point of the Big Bang
which is the beginning of our shoulder. Even if our present human civilisation lasts about
one million years which is an over-statement anyway, it is still nothing in comparison to
the age of the universe in the scientific sense, is it?
The point I want to emphasise is that during this short time of human civilization,
we pass through this Earth with the life span of 80 - 100 years at the most. We think that
we can understand Mother Nature, the makings of the universe, the history of the Earth,
and try to do something about them to prevent climate change so that we can all live a
few more years longer. I don’t think so. Compared to the ‘plucking out’ time frame of
the age of the universe, the existence of human life equates to the stay of a single
dewdrop on a leaf in the early morning, which disappears into thin air by sunrise – maybe
shorter than that.

No comparison

In fact, the study of the universe and the Earth story which reveal the geological
movements and climate change dating back hundreds and thousands of millions of years
ago merely represent one little tiny scratch along the Buddhist time scale of kappa. The
Earth story, including the exciting theory of evolution, are merely minute details, which
can be right or can be wrong, whereas the Buddha’s awesome knowledge covers the
overall structure of the universe in its full cycle (the 4 stages mentioned above). I hope
you can see that there is no comparison at all between our intellectually scientific
knowledge and the Buddha’s epic magnitude of wisdom – that is if you take the
Buddha’s word for it.


Therefore, this climate change is far from a crisis at all; in fact, it’s very normal
and is not a time bomb as such. According to geological records, it looks like the Earth’s
climate remained reasonably steady for one thousand years at a time, and then some
drastic change happened. If that was the case, it is very likely that we are right in the
middle of this natural changing process due to happen anyway. We can consider
ourselves as being extremely fortunate or unfortunate depending on how you want to
look at it.
Even if we humans are truly responsible for global warming and feel that we must
do something about it, I still don’t think that by living an eco-friendly life can really stop
the glaciers from melting. We must admit that human effort has become very puny in the
face of the awesome power of Mother Nature. Our brain – Jerry rather – might convince

us that we are very clever and can defeat the almighty Mother Nature but the truth is
something entirely different. Our bodies are put together with fragile flesh and blood; we
are not at all invincible. Why do you think dinosaurs became extinct!

Fat chance

Besides, the affluent western society has been terribly spoiled by leading an eco-
unfriendly life style for so long, taking that away is like taking sweets from spoiled
children – fat chance! In the past 50 years, we have constantly developed in all areas of
knowledge so that travelling round the globe can be easier. This has subsequently created
a totally new way of life – mainly for rich countries. Consequently, people emigrate and
families live apart in all corners of the world because they know they can easily visit one
another. And now you want to turn round and tell people to stop travelling so that we
don’t leave trail of greenhouse gases in the sky…yeah right!

Ask the right question

As far as the contrasting view is concerned, it means that there is still no
conclusive fact to prove that global warming is humans’ fault. Therefore, the question
that you should ask now is not about how people can stop climate change. As a matter of
fact, the more materially sophisticated we are, the more vulnerable we become both
physically and emotionally. The indispensable microwave and mobile phones could well
be health hazards which make us sitting on a time-bomb. We depend so much on gadgets
especially computers which are only material components. Once the computer system is
down, this 3rd rock from the sun almost stops spinning. Should there be a solar storm –
which scientists insist will happen at some point– there will be power surges everywhere.
A global blackout will cripple the entire world economy and the typical way of life will
vanish overnight. All the simple things that we have taken for granted won’t be there
anymore. Such apocalyptic eventual incident is not too difficult to imagine at all. If you
cannot get clear pictures of ultimate mayhem and anarchy in your head, consult
Hollywood – she can certainly help you.
Hence, what you must ask instead is how you can make it through this climate
change with greater understanding but at the same time not be affected by it. How can
you live through natural catastrophes without the fear of ultimate death? These are the
questions that you must ask very seriously. Can you now begin to understand why the
Buddha’s enlightenment is so important to humanity? That is because the Buddha gives
us exactly the answer we need – that is to learn how to live and to die in peace. This is
indeed what Buddhism is all about. Trying to resolve climate change by thinking up all
kinds of solutions as we are doing now is, in my view, fighting in the wrong battlefield
and could be totally pointless if global warming was truly a propaganda as several experts
had claimed.
Please let me remind you of the list – especially about prescribe drugs and diets –
that scientists had got them wrong before they got them right – which could be wrong
again?! This climate change could be an addition to that ‘get it wrong’ list – who knows?

Enlightened culture…the first domino!2

However, if we can create an enlightened culture, at least individuals would be
able to lead a peaceful way of life. This is the most and the best we can do for ourselves
as we are passing very briefly through this green planet. We all have to die somehow and
sometime. Why don’t we choose to die in peace? As a matter of fact, an enlightened
culture is the first domino that can dismantle all the problems that follow. That is because
every problem caused by humanity results from our own greed, selfishness, anger,
arrogance, envy and ignorance. Because of these bad mental habits, we have created
materialism and consumerism in global society. We are using up the limited natural
resources far too quickly and wrongly without thinking of the latter generations to come.
The enlightened culture can help to get rid of all these bad qualities in people’s minds.
Once society is made up of more moral responsible people, they will naturally take care
of the environment and will not rib this planet apart too quickly. When physical death
inevitably arrives, we can also die in peace.
So, don’t be afraid of the climate change. You will die anyway with or without
global warming and greenhouse gases. Wise people will aim at leaving samsara, if not,
you will have to come back and face the same fearful predicament again sooner or later–
how exhausting just thinking about it!
Nevertheless, I still wholeheartedly agree with the fact that we must look after this
green planet for the sake of our future generations and animals too. So, stop cutting trees
to make all these nonsense junk mail, please – we’re fed up with it!


There is a wide range of out of place events called anomalous phenomena which
do not fit into the mainstream science but can certainly support the karma and the rebirth
concept in this book. They can be historical and archaeological artifacts (OOPArt) that
can be dated back hundred of thousands and even many millions of years ago before
humans evolved into this planet.3 For instance, the Kingoodie hammer, referring to a nail
buried in sandstone in Scotland, dated from 360 to 460 million years ago. The Klerksdorp
Spheres in South Africa dated back 2.8 billion years ago; a mortar and pestle discovered
in Table Mountain (California), allegedly dated to about 50 million years ago;
microscopic objects near Narada river in Russia on the ridge of Ural, dated as far back as
300,000 years ago.
The enlightened culture is the topic in the book titled A Handful of Leaves written by Supawan Green

OOPArt, acronym for out-of-place artifact, is a term coined by American zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson for
a historical, archaeological or palaeontological object found in a very unusual, or even impossible,
location. The term covers a wide variety of objects, ranging from material studied by mainstream science,
such as the Iron pillar in Delhi, to so-called "forbidden archaeology" that is far outside the mainstream.
From Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia.

Critics regard these anomalous artifacts as wishful thinking only because they
don’t know how to deal with them in the methodical frame work of science. But if you
believe in the law of karma and the cycle of rebirth, there are no loose puzzles, these
artifacts are the hard evidence of past human civilization. The Buddha said that if we stab
a pin into the Earth, there is not a single space on the crust of the Earth that has no human
corpses. In other words, every space on Earth used to be a human burial ground. Once the
worthy one pointed to a small mountain and said to Anandha, his personal assistant:

“If you want to know how long you have been born human, you just have to look
at that mountain and visualize that it is made up of the bones of just one person who has
been born human over and over. So is the water in the ocean; the water equates to the
amount of tears shed by one person each time he or she was born human and went
through suffering.”

Ground Hog Day4

This Earth is like a ‘Ground Hog Day’ for all people whose lives have been
recycled over and over for eons. Samsara is exactly like that; our true self keeps on
coming back to Earth in yet another physical shell just like that weather man who woke
up and relived the exact same Ground Hog Day over and over again. For as much as he
may have wanted to die, he was incapable of doing so and kept on finding himself
repeating the same day – quite scary, really!

Anyway, if you can put together the fact about the Buddhist time frame of kappa,
the cycle of rebirth and the anomalous artifacts, you will be able to piece together the
scattering loose puzzles. The law of change is the sole reason for the rise and the collapse
of all human civilizations which happened right here on this very green planet called
Earth. We cannot possibly think that we are the one and only civilization that has ever
existed on this planet. Our present human civilization, which began to take shape – let’s
say - 5,000 years ago, is merely one among many others that has come and gone. We will
also definitely become the anomalous artifacts for the remote future civilizations to study
too. I wonder what precisely will be left for them to see – maybe pestle and mortar?!

Recycled knowledge

With every civilization that comes along, lives develop the same as we do now –
the details might be different, of course – until it reaches the peak and vanishes in the end
due to the law of change. The knowledge that they learnt in the past could not be that

Ground Hog Day is a festival celebrated on February 2 each year, when, according to rural American tradition, the
groundhog leaves the burrow where it has been hibernating to discover whether cold winter weather will continue. If
the groundhog cannot see its shadow, it remains above ground ending its hibernation, but if its shadow is visible, six
more weeks of cold weather will ensue, and it returns to its burrow. The groundhog or badger was then used as a
weather prophet – a winter-spring barometer. Ground Hog Day has become a Hollywood film (1993) featuring a
weather man finds himself living the same day over and over again – quite entertaining. I am sure you will watch this
film from another perspective after this book – that if you agree with me, of course.

much different from what we are learning now because it is still the same Earth, the same
ocean, the same sun, the same moon and the same sky. I have no doubt that scientific
knowledge about Earth and the universe have been recycled too. I don’t believe that
people in past civilization didn’t know about astrology and the law of gravity. I want to
think that all the different fields of knowledge we have accumulated in our present
civilization such as music, art, the use of paints, forestry, astrology, geology, physics,
medicine, weaponry, mirror-making, concocting medicine from plants, alchemy and so
on, have already been expounded by our human friends from the remote past
civilizations. To be more precise, those people could be us in different physical shells.

Don’t forget that our mental Tom and Jerry (thoughts, memories and feelings)
remain exactly the same. Mental Jerry, apart from carrying the karmic database, it also
carries the data of intellectual knowledge with them. Some memories might have been
wiped clean but some others might not. (Alternatively, you can apply the sub-conscious
mind into it; traces of past knowledge could still be saved in the sub-consciousness mind
and therefore could be retrieved.) Please don’t ask me why. If you must, go and ask the
almighty ONE. Anyway, this could be the reason why some people’s remarkable talents
shine through at very young age as if they have learnt the skill before from somewhere.
Indeed it’s because they have learnt it from their previous lives – that’s why! You must
not be afraid to think along these lines especially if you are a non-Buddhist and have no
belief in rebirth before. Apply Razor’s principle into your thinking: if all things are equal,
the simplest explanation is the right one.

There is no other logical way to explain how some are born genius, is there? If
Leonado da Vinci, Issac Newton and Mozart haven’t yet left samsara, they are bound to
come back to Earth at some point. I know it may sound absurd to you, but not to me at
all. I used to find rebirth concept very bizarre too but not now – thanks to my Eureka


Mozart’s life is a very good example. His musical talent came about when he was
three years old. He learnt several pieces of music at the age of four and composed music
at the age of five. Calling Mozart a child prodigy or Leonado da Vinci a genius doesn’t
really explain where their exceptional talents came from, does it? Remember I talked
about how the rebirth-consciousness would shop around to find a compatible family to be
born into. Could this be the reason why this musically talented rebirth-consciousness
chose to be born into a family with the father, Leopold Mozart, who was Europe’s
leading musical teacher. Don’t you think the karmic factor makes better sense than just
admitting that he was a child genius? The outstanding knowledge must come from
somewhere. Just like the laws of energy, it never disappears. It just simply changes form.

What goes around comes around

In chapter 2, I talked about how an ordinary young man, who could be someone
like yourself, wishing to be a future Buddha had to travel through samsara to accumulate

his perfections (parami) for eons in order to accomplish his spiritual goal. This strongly
suggests that the quality of mental Tom and Jerry can be developed through repeated
rebirth. The same goes with the quality of the knowledge that stays with mental Jerry.

That’s why I have reasons to believe that all the fields of knowledge we have
right now have already been explored by our remote ancestors, some of whom could be
us now and will be some of us in the future. It isn’t a surprise why pestle and mortar aged
50 millions years old and nails 360 million years old were found. It is because the
knowledge of making simple tools for daily use has always been with us, and that’s why
we are still using them today. All this knowledge could simply be buried in what we call
the ‘subconscious mind’ and would always come out in every human civilization. You
can also look at this recycled knowledge as a matter of ‘what goes around comes around’.

The Jakata

The Jakata is one section in the Pali canon that recorded the ten previous lives of
the Buddha before he was born as a prince in India some 2,630 years ago. In the Jakata,
the Buddha talked about his life and the society he lived in which was no different than
how we live now. They might not have had microwaves or mobile phones, but they lived
in houses, ate foods, fruits and vegetables, wore clothing, and used medication and so on
just like we do. They lived together as a family unit in communities; there were towns,
cities, forests, mountains, animals and they went to markets, traveled to places, did
business; they also had good and bad people. I used to think that they were just stories
meant to inspire the Buddhist followers, but now I have no doubt that those stories in the
Jakata were not fictional at all, they actually happened right here on this very planet
Earth. What else could they be? So were the remote past human civilizations some of
which might be more advanced than we are. Those civilizations must have existed, lived
and vanished right here on this earth, I am sure.

Past civilization

In fact, you don’t have to look as far as millions of years ago, look a bit closer
and the amazement is already overwhelming. What kind of prehistoric tools did they use
to master such a magnificent monument like The Stonehenge, which was erected around
3200 BC? Then look at the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Romans, how advanced they
were compared to us now. With our hydraulic technology, we can’t even build pyramids
like the Egyptians did in Giza. The advanced architect of amphitheatres known as ‘Greek
Theatre’ built around the 3rd century BC. The clever Romans might not have computer
software to help them with their architectural designs and construction but by comparison
with us, they are much more advanced than we are now. The Romans could build roads,
Coliseums, Pantheon, Circus building, Forum, bridges, lighthouse, temples, Triumphal
arch, Bath house, Trajan Column, irrigation system…you name it, the Romans had
conquered them. For some reasons – the law of change, I suppose – the Roman’s huge
pot of knowledge came to a sudden halt. The period after the great Roman Empire, which
was European Early Middle Ages, was also called ‘Dark Ages’: roughly between 476 –
1000 AD. Although this term is now treated with a neutral meaning referring to the

Middle or Medieval Ages, it was intended to depict the Middle Ages as a time of
backwardness due to the lack of Latin literature, the lack of contemporary written history
and material cultural achievements in general. The standard of living in the Middle Ages
by comparison was poorer than their Roman ancestors. It wasn’t until the 14th century
when this huge pot of knowledge was reborn, known as the Renaissance which is well
known for its artistic aspect and the science advancement. Many of the world geniuses
were also born during this renaissance period such as Leonardo De Vinci, Michelangelo
and so on. It is interesting to see that the Renaissance cultural movement began in
Florence, Italy and gradually spread to the rest of Europe by the 17th century. It is very
possible that the clever Romans spirits, which made up of the mental Tom and Jerry,
made a come back and so did their knowledge. Why not?

Hence, the space travel, brain surgery, organ transplantations, genetic
engineering, computer technology and other awaiting clever breakthroughs might have
already been explored and executed before in past civilizations.

In fact, there must be other sentient-being civilizations out there that are far more
advanced than ours and they might be responsible for some of the out of place
phenomena like crop circles and unidentified flying objects. I don’t believe for a moment
that the magnificent and most complex crop circles were hand-crafted by humans on this
planet. They could be sentient beings from the ten thousand other universes that the
Buddha often referred to, and they might be living parallel beside us – who knows?

Even in India during the Buddha’s time, there were big cities, hustling and
bustling with people and activities exactly like our society now. But no matter how
advanced the civilization was, it would last till its peak and vanish in the end due to the
law of change, as it always has and always will.

No mistake

Let’s suppose each human civilization lasts about 5,000 - 8,000 years at a time.
From the point that the universe is habitable, which lasted a quarter of one maha-kappa, I
am convinced that there must be no fewer than one billion, if not more, human
civilizations that had settled on this very Earth alone during that time period. Our present
civilization is only one of those along the time line. I don’t think for a moment that all
these anomalous artifacts and events are the result of some mistaken interpretation or
wishful thinking that mainstream science wants people to think. According to Buddhism,
there is no such thing as the end of the world, everything: the universe, Earth and human
civilization moves on to complete its own cycle and starts all over again and again
endlessly. If you understand this, the last thing we should be afraid of is death – don’t
worry, you will definitely come back.

This is a mind-boggling subject that requires the sharp wisdom of the Buddha to
decode. Without the use of the 6th sense along with the concept of the law of karma and
the cycle of rebirth, I cannot see how scientists can fully understand this huge gray-area
of profound knowledge. There are actually all kinds of possibilities out there. Without the

6th sense, human perceptions are extremely narrow. The true self is being trapped in a
small tube of intellect and deprived from the entire range of knowledge acquired only by
the mental eyes. It is, therefore, easier for scientists to dismiss all these mind-boggling
subjects, brush them aside and cruelly discredit them as some wishful thinking – an
arrogantly easy way out, I suppose.5

A day of irregularity

Having mentioned anomalous phenomena like crop circles, I have my own
anomalous experience to share with you. One day in October 2006, my students and I
went to a temple on the mountains of a province in Thailand. It was truly a day of
irregularity. In the morning, I was publicly humiliated in front of a congregation of some
80 monks, nuns and intellectuals. It was a very good challenge to my mental toughness. I
am very relieved to say I escaped the public execution without a scratch on my heart. The
main reason is because I knew that my minor offence didn’t fit the criminal sentence they
gave me. A young monk from the congregation asked the abbot a repeated question, to
which the answer he received couldn’t pacify his doubts. I thought then that with my
Tom and Jerry metaphor, I might be able to take his doubt away. With great intention to
help the young novice, I then respectfully asked permission to answer this question and
naturally proceeded, confidently speaking what I know. After no more than five minutes
right in the middle of clarifying my metaphoric Tom and Jerry, I was abruptly interrupted
by the abbot who proceeded to condemn me for taking the floor. I humbly took the
condemnation with great courage, admitted my wrong timing and apologized to the abbot
and the congregation.

After that surprisingly awful event in the congregation, my students and I walked
to the kitchen building, and with my head held high, I smiled to people as I have always
done. But the response was different, the rest of that day and the next day (our last day
there), people made a point to not look at me. They were either busy talking to someone
else or they happened to look the other way, which was fine by me. It was obvious that
they were embarrassed for me or by me and they didn’t quite know how to respond to
someone who has just been publicly humiliated in a big way. Hence, they probably
thought that pretending not to notice me was a way of doing me a favor, I suppose.

I bumped into a local lady, whom I met earlier on in the morning, weeding near
the house where I resided. I had a brief chat with her. When I found out that she was
going to take her only daughter out of school due to financial shortage, I told her to come
and see me with her teenage daughter because I wanted to sponsor the girl’s education.

The mother and daughter came that evening right on time and we sat chatting on
the U-shape balcony facing the majestic valley. There were five of us sitting around that
U-shaped bench. It was about 7pm so the whole valley was completely dark, apart from
the sky covered with a carpet of twinkling stars. As I was talking to the teenage girl about
her school performance, her mother suddenly grabbed me with both hands from behind

I shall talk about intellectuals being trapped in their tube of intellect in my book called: Buddha Answers,
Einstein Questions. Please check out the updates on my website.

and pulled me up, screaming hysterically and pointing to the sky. Just above the rooftop
of the kitchen building 200 yards away, opposite the balcony where we were sitting, I
saw a glowing, floating round object, the size of a car’s headlight, about 13 – 15 cm in
diameter. The color was deep yellow, almost orange, like molten steel or lava. There was
a bigger glow surrounding that bright round orange object, it must have been about 30 –
40 cm in diameter. It was like an aura with different beautiful gentle colors like the
moon’s aura which we can see on some nights. Upon the spotting, the whole object was
already in motion about 2-3 yards from the rooftop to the right hand side. It moved
steadily towards the roof and then disappeared– only because the roof was in the way and
blocked our view. My sighting lasted about 5-7 seconds, which was long enough for me
to know that such an event in the sky was definitely out of the ordinary. Up to that point,
I had never seen anything like that before in my entire life. Only three of us spotted the
bizarre event in the sky: the mother, her daughter and myself. My husband and my
student, although sitting next to the two girls on each end, didn’t see it. By the time they
could work out what all the commotion was about, the floating object had already
vanished behind the rooftop.

Apparently such glowing ball-like sightings have been experienced by others in
the temple and, in fact, the valley even has nick-named itself after this kind of sighting—
it’s called ‘the valley of the hidden crystal.’ The people there wholeheartedly believe that
they are in the presence of celestial beings that normally appear to certain people
whenever there was a ‘tam-boon’ activity going on. They believe that the deities came to
rejoice in the good karma done by people.

The next morning, I talked to a monk who lived in that temple for a few years and
told him the exciting news from the sky. He too had experienced the same sighting before
and his description was exactly the same as mine. The monk’s theory was that the
celestial beings came to rejoice the good karma (boon) with me as I had the intention to
give the girl a scholarship so that she could further her higher education– she wants to be
a nurse!

Anyway, since the high encounter was also experienced by two locals, the news
of the sighting went round the temple like wildfire. There was another theory supporting
this sighting which had something to do with my humiliation I received the morning
before. Some said that the celestial beings wanted to support me and give me strength
after the horrible event I was subjected to in the congregation. When I heard that theory,
no one apart from myself would know exactly how I felt at the time. It could be that the
deities came to rejoice in my ability to escape the public execution untouched by the
psychological horror. During the 10 - 15 minutes of being beaten by unkind words in
front of 80 people – not to mention another two hours of private moral lecture the abbot
gave me and my three students that late afternoon – my mental self (Tom) was totally
free from Jerry – yippy! If I hadn’t passed that difficult test that appeared out of nowhere,
I wouldn’t have known if I could or could not handle such a challenging situation which
required enormous inner strength. Had I failed the test, I then wouldn’t be qualified to
carry on with my work as a spiritual guide and you wouldn’t have this book in your hand
right now– as, out of embarrassment, I would have buried myself alive right after that

horrendous event! A female activist once said: “a woman has to work twice harder to be
equal to men and they hate you for it.” Hm…?!

I would like to think that the spontaneous test in the morning could be the
intentions of celestial beings, and the anomalous sighting at night could be the
endorsement– a kind of spiritual credential that cannot be certified on a piece of paper
like worldly knowledge. It was very strange that, after the incident, my students and I
were able to think of several other more productive ways for the abbot to handle the
situation without having to humiliate me in front of other’s, including my own students.
The monk’s actions, in return, also embarrassed himself; I couldn’t understand why he
didn’t just privately talk to me and warn me like any civilized person would have done. I
sympathized with him too in being caught up with me like that. That’s why I have my
reasons to believe that this whole unpredicted event might be a test from celestial beings.
It is my assumption anyway. I don’t know why the day went wrong as much as I don’t
know why it went right. Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

I brought this up because I want to share with you the anomalous phenomena. I
can confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating or misinterpreting anything. You are entitled to
dismiss the celestial being concept– that is no problem– but not the actual sighting. I truly
had an experience of seeing a ball-like object moving in the sky and I told you exactly
what had happened. That’s all there is to it.

Orb photo

Another anomaly that is worth mentioning is the orb photo. Orb is the name given
to typically circular anomalies appearing in photographs. Due to the advanced technology
of the digital camera, orb pictures have been captured by so many people round the globe
including myself and they gradually become a common event, which I must say it is a
good thing. That is because if you believe in the rebirth and the different realms of
sentient beings. Orb photos can be hard evidence supporting the fact that celestial beings
and the death-consciousness (spirits or ghosts) actually co-exist with humans and animals
on this same planet. Orbs appear to be in a shape of a ball with sizes ranging from a golf
ball to a basketball. When they are magnified, they appear to have patterns and colors

As far as the anomaly is concerned, there are always two schools of thinking, the
believers and the non-believers. The latter see an orb photo as a fairly clear-cut case of
natural flickering reflections of dust particles or moisture droplets in the air in front of the
camera, whereas the believers view it as paranormal in nature.

I have come across a Thai book titled Palang Boon (the power of goodness), with
a wide collection of orb-photos, written by Dr. Warapat Poocharoeun who had
interviewed many famous Buddhist monks who had years of meditation experience and
Buddhist wisdom. According to the book, those wise people firmly believed that the ball-
like objects in the photos were celestial beings who gathered in huge numbers.
Remember I talked about how there are between 10 to 60 deities that take up space as

wide as the size of a pointed object, yet they don’t even touch one another’s shoulders.
Hence, celestial beings move around as a group, which means each golf-ball object could
be made up of a few million deities. This corresponds to what the Buddha often said
about a huge number of deities who were present at his sermon. Please remember also
that the celestial population is far greater than the human population as I had elaborated
in an earlier chapter.

It is believed that celestial beings came to rejoice in the tam-boon activities done
by humans. By rejoicing in the good karma, deities would also gain the goodness (boon)
and this, to some degree, can improve their celestial livelihood. Hence, photos taken at
some Buddhist auspicious events, and especially by the Buddha statues and images,
literally show clouds of orbs appearing in the background. The same goes for pictures of
holy people like monks, who are renowned for their spiritual achievement; orbs of
different colors and patterns often appear.

In the mentioned book, there were also images of a garuda and a sea serpent
(naga) both of which are believed to be mythical animals. I thought all these were man-
made metaphoric concepts until I saw the pictures. According to Buddhism, these are
celestial animals that have often been talked about by the Buddha. My student took a
snap shot of me standing on the stage teaching at Chulalongkorn University. At first
glance, it was just a blurred photo but on closer inspection, one can see waves of water
with two heads that look like snake in green color. This whole thing was all around me in
the photo.

Once again, I’m telling you exactly what I know. Whether you want to believe
that orbs are celestial beings or not, it is entirely your choice, I don’t intend to argue with
you. I don’t really mind what you think. I just want to say that if it was 10 -15 years ago,
I would’ve also been a non-believer who would argue until my face turned blue that the
orb photos and celestial animals were a bunch of nonsense. After my Eureka experience
and my new understanding in rebirth, I gradually viewed the world and the universe in a
totally different perspective and realize that there are so many amazing facts out there.

So, I just want to remind you of these few axioms: ‘There are few absolute
certainties in life and death is one of them;’ ‘Everything is possible;’ ‘There are all kinds
of possibilities out there. So don’t shut your mind only because it may sound silly to

Long and short life span

If you read the Bible and the Pali Canon, they mention that people in those days
lived very long lives, the average being over a hundred years. There were a number of
monks mentioned during the Buddha’s time who lived to be around 120 to 140 years old
too. The life spans of some people mentioned in the Bible also sound very fictional and
incomprehensible. But I’ve begun to see that it is quite possible to live a long life.

The Buddha talked about the life span of humans which varies quite a lot
depending on what period of time we are born into. Those who were born during the
times of some previous Buddhas lived as long as tens of thousands of years old. The
worthy one said that when the future Buddha Metriya reigns the Earth, human’s life span
will be as long as 40,000 years old. The karmic rule is that a long life span goes hand in
hand with moral society when people live in great harmony and peace. A short life span
would fit in with an immoral society where people are destroying one another.
The human life span would fluctuate from extremely long (that is 1 follow by 140
zeros) till the age of 10 at the minimum when society reaches complete destruction.
When that time finally arrives, people would kill one another without having any guilty
conscience because they would mistake their human friends for animals or vegetables.
When we kill animals for food or pull carrots and remove vegetables from the ground, we
don’t feel guilty, do we? When that apocalyptic time comes, a small number of good
people will survive just by hiding in the forest and the mountains. After the global killing
has finished, and this lasts about 7 days, the survivors will come out from their hiding
places and will resume their lives. By then, they would realize the catastrophic
consequence of an immoral society and would restore morality back to the culture. The
life span will then gradually stretch a bit longer as people observe their moral principles
until it gradually reaches its peak when people become complacent and destroy one
another again. The life span will then reduce yet again because of people’s immoral
activities and yet another human annihilation will happen all over yet again. The global
social cycle goes on like this endlessly. Each rotation may last within a kappa, which is
already far too long for us to think rationally about it.

Reaching puberty at eight years old

Just recently, I watched a documentary about girls reaching puberty as early as
eight years old. According to research, one girl in six reaches puberty before the age of
eight. Forty years ago the figure was just one in a hundred. Boys too are experiencing the
onset of puberty much earlier than their fathers, with one in fourteen showing signs by
the same age. Back in 1962, the ratio was one in 150. This raises fundamental questions
about the nature of childhood and the frightening prospect of girls being mothers at
primary school age. It means that sex education might have to be taught to children as
young as 7 years old. It is also a fact that the number of early teenage pregnancies is on
the increase.
There was also another more shocking report in the Daily Mail on Monday,
November 20, 2000. It told a story of a little girl name Rosie who was facing all the
agonies of puberty at the age of four. Rosie, who had just started her first term at primary
school, has a rare condition called precocious puberty– the onset of adolescence at a
much earlier age than normal. Once a month, she suffered all the hormonal symptoms
associated with puberty. Doctors predict that by the age of six or seven, she will be
having proper periods, and would, in theory, be able to conceive. Dr. Mehul Dattani,
senior lecturer and honorary consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital in Central
London said,

“Precocious puberty can be caused by brain damage or a brain tumor, but in most
cases the cause is unknown. It remains rare. We get only about two cases a month at
Great Ormond Street Hospital.”

I’ll be back for certain

I brought up the above piece of information because it has connections with
Buddhism. The Buddha said that his teachings would last 5000 years. Towards the end of
his teaching, the human life span will become very short. That is when people will be
killing one another without any guilty conscience as they will mistake their human
friends for animals and vegetable. Girls as young as 5 years old would have babies. I
could not understand how a 5 years old girl could possibly have babies. I was
dumbfounded when I read the above articles in the papers. Buddhism is now on its
2,550th milestone– counting from the year the Buddha passed away.
Judging from the high level of immoral activities in global society right now,
(violent crimes, suicide bomb attacks, global terrorism, wars, and premature puberty),
they seem to fit into the fact that we are now in the period of time where human life span
is on a decline, and we are moving towards the end of human civilization. It certainly will
not happen in our lifetime but there is no guarantee that you will not come back to Earth
again in another 100, 500, 1000 year’s time or after that– maybe even towards the end of
this human civilization in Buddhist year 5000 or 4457AD. This is all very much possible
because samsara is a ring road of life. So long as you haven’t made your way to Nirvana,
you will certainly orbiting around samsara for as long as it takes.

Already split

If you think our time right now is bad enough, you have no idea what it would be
like towards the end of the Buddhist era. I certainly don’t want to be here around that
time. The Buddha says that towards the last 1000 years of his Buddhist establishment, the
Buddhist institution would have already crumbled and the teachings of the Four Noble
Truths would not be heard. It would be pointless to even mention vipassana, a much more
profound and refined teaching. It would have been long forgotten.
As a matter of fact, the Buddhist establishment is already showing signs of
trouble, actually for quite some time now. The Buddha’s teachings have been split into
many sects. The important messages about leaving samsara (jail breaking) are not always
in the hands of monks because monks don’t always practice vipassana as they should
have done. Monkhood institution has become an escape route from poverty. As a result,
many corrupted monks abuse the kindness and generosity offered to them through culture
by lay people. This makes the establishment become less and less popular as time
progresses since people are not sure whom they can trust.
Without the practice, monks cannot pass on the crucial teachings about going to
Nirvana to lay people. Teaching morality alone – although it is crucial too – is not
enough to help people leaving samsara. Consequently, the core teachings about leaving
the life prison have been misinterpreted. Nirvana has now become some remote idealism
that has nothing to do with lay people. This damaging misconception is passed on to the
public instead of the truth. The conflicts within the Buddhist institutions will undoubtedly

become greater. Just like everything else, all good things will come to an end. The law of
change never let us down.

Buddhism at the end of the era

By the ending time of the Buddhist era– I would say year 3000 plus– the best way
that a handful of good people could connect to Buddhism is by placing a small piece of
yellow material behind their ears, turning to a tree and saying to themselves that they
would observe the moral precepts. That is all will be left of Buddhism by then. Most
people may not even know who the Buddha is. Meditation and vipassana practice would
have been long gone.
After the killing spree finishes in 7 days and a handful of good people come out
from their hiding place to rebuild a moral society, vipassana will no longer exist at that
point. Without vipassana, there won’t be any sentient beings leaving samsara. I don’t
know how long it will take but it is beyond any doubt that humans will have to live in the
darkness of ignorance without the wisdom of a Buddha for sometimes. The wisdom about
leaving samsara will not be heard again, not until the next Buddha called Meitreya comes
to Earth, becomes enlightened and restore the Buddhist establishment. It will take a long
time though because by then the life spans of people will be so long– as long as 40,000
years old.

Future Buddhas

You may wonder if Buddha Meitreya would be the last Buddha of samsara or
there will be more Buddhas after him. Buddha Meitreya may be the last Buddha of this
Patara-kappa, which is the richest kappa with the arrivals of five Buddhas, but he
certainly won’t be the only remaining Buddha of samsara. The coming of remote future
Buddhas depend on how many brave men of today would make wishes to be the future
Buddhas. If they succeed to accumulate all the necessary perfections (parami), samsara
will not be void from Buddhas although the demand for a Buddha is far greater than the
supply of one.
As a matter of fact, our Buddha Gotama already told Saribhutta, his right hand
disciple, about the lives of the ten future Buddhas beginning with Buddha Meitreya and
ending with Buddha Su-mangkala. Apparently, the 10th Buddha was born as an elephant
during our Buddha’s time in India and who looked after the Buddha in the forest
following an incident when the monk order had conflict and couldn’t settle their
differences. This 10th Buddha-to-be (Bodhisattvas) could be born as a human now – have
to be male though – and could be anyone of us or someone to whom we might sit next on
a public transport. You never know, do you?

Tibetan Buddhism

The Mahayana branch of Buddhism, on which Tibetian Buddhism is based,
popularized the concept of Bodhisattvas and the worship of the Bodhisattvas such as:
Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Meitriya. This branch of Buddhism basically aim at
inspiring people to have great kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings with

the hope that there will be brave people to make vows to be the remote future Buddhas.
This tradition also nurtures and facilitates the perfections (parami) accumulation of the
present Buddha-to-be (Bodhisattvas) such as the Dalai Lama. All these are purely to
make sure that samsara will not be void from the arrivals of Buddhas.

Making a wish

Our Buddha Gotama taught us to make a wish. If we haven’t succeeded in
entering Nirvana during his reign, make a wish to be born in the time of the Buddha
Meitreya and learn from him. So, this is the positive side of samsara in being a ring road.
By walking round in circle like this, you will have a chance to bump into another Buddha
somehow and somewhere.
Therefore, it is wise for us to keep on making a wish to be born in the reign of the
future Buddha, just in case we haven’t yet managed the jail breaking by the end of this
Buddhist era. Better still, do your very best to learn vipassana and leave samsara while
Buddhism is still alive now. Although our present society is already full of crime and
wars, world society is still considered rich in the sense that the Buddhist teaching,
especially vipassana, is still around. You must count yourself as an extremely fortunate
person and a blessing if you have a chance to learn all this.
I don’t expect you to understand these mind-boggling subjects. They didn’t make
any sense to me in the past but it does make lots of sense to me now. That’s why I am
able to weave all these facts up and make into one complete picture for you. I therefore
see the need for you to come across this important information even though you might
not be able to grasp them now especially if you are a non-Buddhist. It’s still good enough
just to treat them as some passing knowledge.
Should you want to understand this profound wisdom a bit quicker, you must
have the right tool for the right job – recognizing the 6th sense and engaging in the
practice of bringing your mental self back home. One day, everything will click and make
better sense.

Chapter thirteen

Learning from animals

What I say in this chapter may offend you very much, especially if you are from
the West and are not familiar in the concept of rebirth. If you, however, believe in rebirth,
I hope you can see this is how reasoning goes. In not talking about it, I feel that I am not
being totally honest with you. Should you understand this message I am about to convey,
it could spark a life-changing moment that can boost your inspiration to leave samsara.

The fact that sentient beings have been traveling around samsara for eons and
have visited every single realm means that all of us have been born in the animal realm
before. This concept is not alien to the Buddhists and the rebirth believers as the Buddha
said that even he himself was born as an animal and the same goes for many people he
talked about in the Pali canon. So, if you don’t try to understand the law of karma and
rebirth, there is no guarantee that you will not be born as animal again. I put it as simple
as that. This is the reason why I need to tell you about it because you can learn much
from animals, so much so that you can prevent yourself from being reborn into one.

Emotions in animals1

Let’s see what the experts’ view on animals’ emotions. I plucked this following
paragraph from the Wikipedia.

Although research has become available which suggests strongly animals have
emotions as people do, there hasn’t yet been a conclusive answer. Different answers have
been suggested throughout human history, by animal lovers, scientists, philosophers, and
others who interact with animals, but the core question has proven hard to answer since
we can neither obtain spoken answers, nor assume anthropomorphism. As a result, on the
one hand society recognizes animals can feel pain, by criminalizing animal cruelty, and
yet on the other hand it is far from clear whether we truly believe animals "feel" in a
meaningful sense. Often expressions of apparent pleasure are ambiguous as to whether
this is emotion, or simply innate response, perhaps to approval or other hard-wired cues.
The ambiguity is a source of much controversy in that there is no certainty which views,
if any, are "right". That said, extreme behaviorists would also say that human "feeling" is
a meaningless, hard-wired response to external stimuli.


Quote from Emotion in animals, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

My view in this matter can only be downright direct as I have no ability to beat
around the bush. Such ambiguity that the experts were talking above can easily be
replaced with clarity if we bring the rebirth concept into it.

Despite living in different realms, humans and animals share the same Earth
habitat and have five entities: the physical self, mental self, thoughts, memories and
feelings. In other words, behind this physical shell, animals have the same mental Tom
and Jerry just like humans. The human is classed as the favorable realm, the reason being
that our physical self is far more sophisticated and more able than animals due to their
woeful state. Our exceedingly superior bodies make humans the supreme communicators
enabling us to express our emotions better than animals whose body and brain size are
much restricted.

It is emotions that prompt both humans and animals to act either positively or
negatively. Some animals such as dogs, apes, elephants, horses, pigs and dolphins, appear
to have better brain aptitude than others which allow them to learn, express emotions and
be domesticated. In their woeful states and physically restrictive shells, animals’
livelihoods are, hence, conditioned by their animal instincts, which include activities such
as: eating, sleeping, passing waste and procreating.

Limitation in animal body

Let’s come back to the human’s deathbed again and let’s suppose that your
karmic record will dictate you to be born in the animal realm– although I very much hope
not should you follow my advice! Once the death-consciousness leaves your physical self
behind, it is your true self together with your karmic database (mental Tom and Jerry)
that will step into the womb of an animal. It means that your consciousness, thoughts and
feelings remain the same as you are feeling now in the body of a human. But because the
physical self of animals have limitations, mental Tom and Jerry have to function through
the restrictions of the brain and body. Your animal body will have to dictate how you
(mental/true self) will live your life. You will be able to think, remember and feel in
accordance with how much your brain will allow you to perform and express yourself.

The sense of self is beyond boundaries

Nevertheless, the strong sense of self is still there and is very much the same as
ever. The consciousness might be less intense depending on how well mental Jerry can
function in the brain. Less developed animals cannot sustain memories for very long,
whereas higher developed creatures, such as dogs and elephants, can store memories for
much longer.

The sense of self (being) is beyond any material boundary and, therefore,
everyone would feel the same universally no matter what type of physical body one has,
human or animal. (I don’t talk much about other realms because I cannot see them and
have no experience with them.) Once the physical self is paired with mental Jerry, the
true self (consciousness) would feel in line with what Jerry makes of us. I personally

think that two of the most distinctive feelings we come into contact with most are
happiness and suffering or illumination and darkness with all the bits and pieces in
between including hopes, fears, disappointments, hate, envy, excitement and so on. Older
people can tell you that inwardly they feel exactly the same as when they were young;
there isn’t any difference in telling you this coming from the feelings of a 50, 60, 70 or 80
year-old person.

When I was in my teens and twenty somethings, I often looked at my mom who
was in her 50s and 60s. I often wondered how she, as an old woman in my eyes, felt at
the time. I am now 53 years of age and I now know exactly how my mom felt at that
time. I know that she, just like me, didn’t feel any different from when she was 10 or 21
years of age, apart from the fact that there is much less excitement in life during the older
years. Maybe that’s why people say you are as old as you think– or Jerry makes you
think, rather. Indeed, the sense of age is all Jerry’s talk. The difference in my feelings is
that I know I am much happier and wiser now than I was at 19 when my inner world was
taken over by confusion, turmoil and darkness. Should you notice, you will see that no
matter how old you are, peace and turmoil always seem to outshine other emotions.

Understanding animals

The same goes for animals. Behind animals’ physical shell, mental Tom and Jerry
are still the original entities– the intimate mental self (the real you and me) that has been
traveling around samsara for eons. For this reason, we should be able to share and
understand this universal sense of self in the animal kingdom. It is the same way that I, at
19, tried to understand how my mom felt at 50.

If animals are able to speak a language that we could understand, we would know
exactly how they think and feel in black and white. Unfortunately, that will never be the
case. Nevertheless, through the hard work of some devoted animals lovers, they have
studied certain animals and closely interacted with them until they were able to
understand their needs and emotions. One of those dedicated people is Daphne Sheldrick
who has been studying elephants in Kenya in the past 50 years and has set up an elephant
orphanage in Nairobi. Daphne’s findings about the baby elephants she nurtured were
most remarkable and exciting to me. Because they can support the fact that all animals
have inner natures just like us. It is, therefore, not surprising at all to find that elephants’
emotions are very much human-like—we are basically the same, just trapped in different
physical shells.

The followings are parts of the extracts of Daphne’s accounts on elephants’
human-like emotions, which I found on the internet. You can read more amazing stories
about each elephant development in her website.

Elephant emotions2

Animals are indeed more ancient, more complex, and in many ways more
sophisticated than man. In terms of Nature they are truly more perfect because they
remain within the ordered scheme of Nature and live as Nature intended. They are
different to us, honed by natural selection over millennia so they should not be
patronized, but rather respected and revered. And of all the animals, perhaps the most
respected and revered should be the Elephant, for not only is it the largest land mammal
on earth, but also the most emotionally human.

Why is it that most people feel such empathy for Elephants, even if they have
never had close contact with them? Is it because of their size, their quaint characteristics,
or the fact that they are so incredibly endearing as babies, tripping over little wobbly
trunks that seem to serve no useful purpose other than get in the way? Or is it, perhaps,
because Elephants are "human" animals, encompassed by an invisible aura that reaches
deep into the human soul in a mysterious and mystifying way?

Elephants also display many of the attributes of humans as well as some of the
failings. They share with us a strong sense of family and death and they feel many of the
same emotions. Each one is, of course, like us, a unique individual with its own unique
personality. They can be happy or sad, volatile or placid. They display envy, jealousy,
throw tantrums and are fiercely competitive, and they can develop hang-ups which are
reflected in behavior. They also have many additional attributes we humans lack;
incredible long range infrasound, communicating in voices we never hear, such
sophisticated hearing that even a footfall is heard far away, and, of course they have a
memory that far surpasses ours and spans a lifetime. They grieve deeply for lost loved
ones, even shedding tears and suffering depression. They have a sense of compassion that
projects beyond their own kind and sometimes extends to others in distress. They help
one another in adversity, miss an absent loved one, and when you know them really well,
you can see that they even smile when having fun and are happy.

It was not until 1974, and after years of trial and error, that Daphne Sheldrick
managed to keep “Aisha,” a newborn female elephant alive for the first 6 months of life,
but grief and stress related diarrhoea took her life as Daphne took a week’s absence to
tend to the arrangements of her daughter, Jill’s wedding, although a competent substitute
present. However, little Aisha (whose story is on Daphne Sheldrick’s website) mourned
the loss of yet another mother figure so deeply that she died in Daphne’s arms the day
she returned.

By Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E.: 1992 UNEP Global 500 Laureate.

It was not until 1987, and after the death of her beloved husband, David, that
Daphne finally achieved success in rearing the infant elephants, the first being a 2 week
old victim of poaching named “Olmeg”, who today is a bull of 18 years. Poaching and
other human related disasters followed and other orphans were rescued. By June 2005,
sixty-seven baby African elephants had been successfully hand-reared by the David
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust established in memory of David, all under the very close
supervision of Daphne Sheldrick. Since the death of “Aisha” orphaned elephants are
discouraged from becoming too attached to just one person. Consequently they are
handled by a team of dedicated “Keepers” who can represent a “family” and who
replace an orphan’s lost family. The “family,” along with the milk formula, is an
essential component to success in rearing the elephants that mirror humans’ emotions.
This lesson, which Daphne Sheldrick learnt the hard way in 1974, combined with
techniques involving a combination of homeopathy and conventional medicine to treat
the sick and wounded, plus 50 years of experience are responsible for the Trust’s

Olmeg, was a true survivor. Not only did he make a miraculous full recovery, but
he also weathered many human errors related to his care to which we unwittingly
subjected himself. He taught us a great deal of things that we did not previously know,
one being that even newborn elephants need space and become very claustrophobic when
too closely confined. We know now that the next batch of stables would have to be made a
good deal larger. The next lesson we discovered was that elephants choose their Keepers,
and if an orphan does not bond with a Keeper, the man or woman cannot become a part
of the elephant’s “family” because of a lack of genuine emotional attachment. Elephants
have an uncanny ability to read into one’s heart and mind, so the ingredient of “love”
(essential to success), has to come straight from the heart. Many other tips were also
learnt from Olmeg.

The "Cattle Prod" is a small electric prodder powered by two torch cells and it is
with this that good behavior amongst the orphans is enforced. Discipline must be meted
out carefully, however, this is preceded by a sharp NO, and usually begins when the
calves are 6 months old, have settled in, and have begun to understand the meaning of
English words, which they learn very quickly. Only one language, English, is spoken
around them, both by their Keepers and us, so as not to confuse them with two. The extent
of their understanding in this respect was demonstrated by Olmeg when, as a small calf,
he was given a "Weetabix" snack every night as a special treat. Just a mention of the
word "Weetabix" soon sent him flying to the relevant bin. So then we spelt it out while
enquiring of the Keepers whether or not he had received his evening treat. Very soon, he
became wise to that too. He became so demanding and "hooked" on the Weetabix that if
for some reason it was not given on time, he would throw a tantrum. We decided then
that it was not such a good idea to "spoil" any of the elephants with handouts, a rule that
is now very strictly enforced for their own good, because it is a sure recipe for bad
behavior and ultimately, "trouble."

Tantrums from Olmeg initially became a daily occurrence when it was time to
begin his weaning period. Consequently, his milk ration was cut to 3 bottles per sitting,
whereas Taru and the others still needed 4. The Keepers were puzzled when Olmeg
behaved like a spoilt brat at every feed, and eventually as the trouble-shooter, I was
called in. The reason was, of course, that he could count, and that he felt the others were
being given preferential treatment at his expense. A fourth bottle containing just water
was added to the three so that the line-up was the same for all, and thereafter the matter
was resolved to everyone's satisfaction. It is very important always to treat each elephant
exactly the same, never to give one something another cannot have, because it will be
noticed and remembered.

Elephants harbour grudges. Following a shot of the Cattle Prod, they usually take
themselves off, and sulk, viewing the wielder of the Cattle Prod (which is always me) with
obvious animosity. After an appropriate length of time, it is essential therefore to make
amends—to approach the calf talking softly and gently, to wrap your arms around his or
her neck, to look into the eyes and to speak from the heart so that the elephant
understands that all is forgiven and forgotten. Unless this calming ritual takes place, the
elephant might seek to settle the score at a later date, in the same way that Taru
disciplined Olmeg.

Heart-broken Dika

Dika was an orphan that demonstrated despair and heartbreak so graphically.
Some of his family was gunned down en masse, while others fled, wounded amidst a hail
of gunfire. Dika had obviously raced through a dense thorn thicket because when he
arrived, he had hundreds of long acacia thorns protruding from almost every square inch
of his body. For four long months we could get no sparkle from his eyes, and there were
times when we wondered if he was, in fact, mentally stable. Even other elephants could
get no response from him as he stood by himself dejectedly mourning the loss of those he
loved with tears staining his cheeks, reluctant to feed, refusing to play and unable to
sleep—so obviously and tragically distraught.

Endearing Ajok

Ajok, the desert elephant from Turkana who came to us when only a day or two
old and who has always been the "naughtiest" is a most endearing but very mischievous
character. The word "Ajok" means "Hello!" in the Turkana dialect because Ajok simply
popped up out of a riverbed with not another elephant in sight. It is a miracle that the
tribesmen who found him spared his life. The Turkana people, who eke out an existence
in that desert environment, are opportunistic survivors prone to eating anything on four
legs, whether it be an elephant or a rat. But, this totally trusting tiny elephant obviously
touched even their toughened hearts, thus he was spared and sent to us.

Ajok is a prankster with a sense of humour, a show-off and the most adventurous.
He will play in the gallery and indulge in all sorts of tricks in order to steal the spotlight
and make people laugh. He has a special trick called "shivering" which involves his trunk

beginning at the top and progressing downwards to the very tip. No one can resist this
sight. He has been known to lie down and kick his legs in the air, twist his trunk round
peoples´ necks in a stranglehold, pluck a hat off someone's head, and creep up onto
Simon Trevor's veranda at night in order to heave an old camp chair, which he obviously
regards as his special "toy" over the wall with a deafening clatter that scares fellow
friends. He waltzes in amongst the wild herds like a veteran, is confident enough to spend
time out and about by himself, especially when planning mischief, and is a law unto

Shirley and Jenny

When Shirley and Jenny, two female elephants, were introduced to each other at
the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, both got very emotional, roaring
loudly, touching one another and remaining in close contact, as if they were old friends-
and they were, but no one else realized it at the time. It turned out that Shirley and Jenny
had lived in the same circus 22 years earlier, when Jenny was just eight years old and
Shirley was thirty. Since being reunited, they rarely leave each other's sides and are
clearly very happy to be back together.3

Love ingredient

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories of each elephant on Daphne’s website
and highly appreciate her hard work and dedication towards all the animals in her care.
Daphne’s findings on elephants’ human emotions can highlight the significant notion that
I have conveyed to you. I have no doubt in the slightest that behind that elegant and
majestic body of an elephant is the nature of a true self or mental Tom and Jerry, which is
exactly like ours. That’s why their emotions are human-like. It just so happens that the
elephants’ brain size might be more advanced than other animals, which allows them to
have more skill in expressing themselves. This also goes for dogs, apes, horses and
dolphins. I have been watching another documentary about the nurturing of a baby
orangutan. Due to the vast deforestation making way for palm oil industries, a great
number of orangutans have been killed, if not, made homeless. An orangutan’s sanctuary
has been set up to help these poor animals. In the orangutan school, the babies learn to
fend for themselves in the wild, and viewers have witnessed the endearing nature of baby
orangutans similar to human babies. There is no doubt that ‘love’ is a crucial ingredient
for a happy life that is shared by humans and animals alike because inwardly we are all
the same.


There is also an elephant-related story in the Pali canon that is worth telling. In
the previous chapter, I mentioned about the 10th Buddha whose name is Su-mangkala.
Once the monk order in Kosampee had arguments that even the Buddha, after 3 attempts,
could not settle the score for his followers. So, the worthy one decided to spend his 10th
rain retreat in the forest all by himself. In this forest, there was an elephant that ran away
Do animal have feelings? By Marc Bekoff

from his heard for a quiet hideaway in the jungle. The elephant came to pay humble
respect to the Buddha and made a space under the Sala tree for him. As the story goes,
this elephant whose name was Pali-lai-yaka, took charge in looking after the Buddha by
using his trunk to regularly clean the place as well as fetch water for the greatest teacher
in the world. Apparently this elephant was a Buddha-to-be (Bodhisattava), that’s why
despite being born in woeful state, he had a chance to be born in the same period of time
as our Buddha and tended to his needs. The Buddha predicted that the elephant Pali-lai-
yaka will be enlightened and become the remote future Buddha, the 10th Buddha after our
present one. His name will be Buddha Su-mankala.

The cause to animal realm

You can see that to the Buddhists, it isn’t alien for us to think that any one of us
could be born into the animal realm. The karma that will send you to the animal realm is
ignorance towards the good news of leaving the prison of life as a result of not asking
questions about life, its meaning and its real purpose. This happens to the group of people
who spend their whole life floating up and down the scale of emotions without seriously
questioning the profound subject of pain and turmoil, the cause of sorrow and how to end
suffering. They are not necessarily bad people, they can be very good moral people who
would never hurt a fly but are too lazy to search for the right knowledge. If not, it could
be that they are simply living in the culture that has no access to Buddhist wisdom. I
often tell Thai people that it isn’t a co-incidence for them to be born in the Buddhist
country like Thailand. Being born in the rich Thai Buddhist culture and especially into a
devout family, it is almost like you are sitting on a spring of wisdom which already sends
you half way down the road to Nirvana. It is a shame that many Thai people take their
cultural wealth for granted and don’t pay as much attention to the practice as they should
have done.
Anyway, your lack of right wisdom might justify your rebirth in the animal realm.
Whether you will be born as a Corgi (a type of dog) living in Buckingham palace or a
penguin in the freezing south pole or a crocodile in a swamp in the outback of Australia
or an elephant in Africa or a beautiful butterfly in the tropical rain forest, it depends
entirely on the mix-match of your karma. The almighty law of karma will look into your
karmic record and work that out for you.

Better die with an enlightened one

As long as you are not exposed to the good news about leaving samsara, you
won’t have a chance to do the appropriate karma which will pave the way for you to
leave samsara in the future. So, although bad karmas are not committed, there is no
guarantee you won’t go to woeful realms like the animals’. Your being a good person but
lack of wisdom may cause you to return to this planet as a loving pet in a well-off family
and be well looked after. Only ignorant people will look at spoiled glamorous pets with
envy. Never make a wish to be born as a lucky and spoiled pet in a wealthy family or any
type of animal at all. If you want to make a wish, aim at Nirvana (jail breaking) only.
Wise Buddhists have a saying that it is better to die with an enlightened one than
to live in eternity with an ignorant person. The profound meaning of this saying points

directly towards the opportunity to learn the good news of leaving samsara from a
knower. According to Buddhism, it is very important to have contact with a knower even
though it might badly turn out. The best example was Devadhat, the equivalent character
to the Christian’s Judas. Although Devadhat had, out of jealousy, done some really awful
karma to the Buddha, after he had paid off all his sinful deeds in hell, he will still be able
to be enlightened and become an individual Buddha in the far future.4 That is because
Devadhat had connections with a knower, and such a favorable karmic connection will
guide him to ultimately leave samsara, whereas if one never bumps into a knower, the
positive karmic link won’t happen and neither will the journey to Nirvana.

Karmic connection with animals

Having understood the above, in recent years whenever I had a chance, I made a
point to talk to animals, big and small, mainly in my garden. If they were big animals
such as dogs, cats, or elephants, I would look straight into their eyes as I talked to them
because the eyes are the windows leading to the soul (mental/true self). I will also touch
them if I could. I would like to believe that such physical and mental contact would
create some karmic imprint and will give result. I would tell them to quickly come back
in human form and have a chance to get hold of my books so that I could help them to
leave samsara. This is my way of forming a karmic connection with animals. If this truly
works out, once the mental self leaves the animal realm and is reborn as human, that
karmic connection will find its way to give result and lead that person to stumble upon
Buddhist teachings somehow– maybe even my books! This is the best way for you to
help animals as far as leaving samsara is concerned.

Should you believe in the law of karma and rebirth and want to make sure you
will not be born into the animal realm, you must do your best in finding the right
knowledge as I explained in this book. Once you engage in vipassana practice, the
gateway to woeful states (the west wing) will then be closed to you.

An individual Buddha is someone who can develop oneself spiritually without help until ultimate
enlightenment is reached but he is unable to form a Buddhist establishment and teach people on an
extensive scale like a Buddha can.

Chapter fourteen

The last boost of confidence

I have reached the end of this last volume, all about the requirements you need to
achieve before you can comfortably climb the meditation ladder. I am sure that there
must have been a lot of doubting thoughts running through your mind while progressing
through this book. To non-Buddhists and especially western minds, these requirements
are not at all easy. Some of you might be convinced by what I have said and are about to
give it a go. Whether you are sceptical or convinced, I want to give you a last boost of
confidence. There are a couple more things I need to say, which may help you to make up
your mind regarding the contents of this book and its prequel The User Guide to Life…
The Moral Diet.

Enlightenment is not subject to debate

I would like to make it very clear to you that although doubt and clarification
through debating are quite necessary for many issues in life, ultimate truth, however, is
certainly not one of them. The Four Noble Truths, the law of karma, the cycle of rebirth
and the state of ultimate enlightenment are unfortunately not debatable issues.
Why is that? Well, judging by logic, you can only talk and debate about
something that you know well because you either have facts in your hands or you have
experience. If someone asks me to sit on a panel and discuss the subjects on cars,
football, Scotland, or pig farming, I have to quickly refuse because I have no facts nor
any related experience to share with people on those subjects. I will not have a clue what
to say apart from driving a car and eating bacon! However, I will not turn down any
request on the topics of Tai Chi, Thailand, Thai culture or Buddhism because I have
plenty of facts and experience to share – simple logic!

Likewise, people who can truly share the knowledge about ultimate truth must
have facts and the essential first-hand experience. I am not talking about facts and
experience gained from reading the holy texts. In this case, it has to be the original
experience gained from the practice only. The sole practice that you can do to obtain the
knowledge about Nirvana is vipassana. Having said that, even though you have practiced
vipassana, it still doesn’t guarantee that you would know ultimate truth right away. To be
able to talk and convince people about this most important subject, you must initially
know exactly what the fourth foundation of mindfulness (the innocent perception) is. So,
surely if one has never practiced vipassana, one is not in the position to talk and debate
about Nirvana. If you don’t know what ultimate truth looks like, what on earth can you
talk and debate about? Without my ‘Eureka experience’, I certainly wouldn’t be qualified
to talk about this subject either and you wouldn’t have seen this book. It is as if a school
of fish get together and agree to debate on birds and the sky, or a flock of birds debate

about fish and water. Are they in their right mind to know what they are talking about?
Of course not!

Watch out for the intellectuals

I bring this up because I happened to be one among a few people who had to give
some input on a course called Buddha and Christ. The panel was made up of ‘experts’ in
Christianity and ‘experts’ in Buddhism. There were about 20 participants who were
mainly church ministers and the rest were devout Christians. There were no Buddhists
among the participants apart from a Bangladeshi Buddhist monk of the Theravadin
tradition, a lady of the Mahayana tradition and myself.

There was a great deal of talking and debating going on during that two-day
course. My part was to talk about Buddhism in relation to Tai Chi, the Thai way of life
and also to lead a half an hour Tai Chi session for the participants. Although the way the
course was run was not really my style, I had to admit that I learnt a great deal from it in
terms of the Christians’ reflections on Buddhism and about how people do things over

The incident that led me to bring this issue up was when a man, a university
lecturer with his PhD credentials in theology and a collection of his references, carefully
made his contribution to the Buddhist and Christian discussion. Being a very articulate
intellectual with a high level of confidence, his talk obviously captured the attention of
the audience. The contents involved a great deal of references plucked out from many
books by renowned authors. At one point, he confidently denied the existence of ultimate
truth, God and Nirvana and said something like there was no such experience; they are all
in the mind.

A lot of thoughts went through my mind while I was listening to this clever man.
Although I knew his well crafted speech could not convince the three Buddhists nor
could it shake the deeply rooted faith of those devout Christians in that room, I couldn’t
help thinking of his young students who still very much needed spiritual guidance. What
chance do they have in having a guide like this clever man with no real wisdom? It is
obvious that such false views can cause a great deal of damage to young people as far as
searching for spiritual knowledge is concerned.

When I had a chance to talk, I saw no other way but to shake his confidence
regarding his false view. Exactly as I said above, if one has never walked the path, how
would one know what is waiting for you at the end of the road? I also said that ultimate
truth was right there in front of him but he could not see it because he didn’t know what it
looked like. In such a word battle, only the one who leans against the real ultimate truth
can inwardly survive without being shaken. Although I had great sympathy for that man’s
visibly dented ego, I had no choice under such circumstances.

What is the right view?

It isn’t surprising that such misconception does exist and is indeed widely spread
among the highly intellectual people, and not only in the western world but in Buddhist
countries as well. That is because global education has been dominated by western
intellectuals and their standards of learning. People, especially scholars, will listen
attentively to such false views which are bound to have an effect on people and are
undoubtedly very damaging. There is no way that the world can get rid of clever people
dishing out ignorant views about whether ultimate truth exists or not. This problem has
been consistent all the way back to the Buddha’s time. There were several kinds of false
view spreading among those searching for spiritual knowledge, such as the view on:
• eternalism (Sassata-ditthi)
• annihilationism (Uccheda-ditthi),
• inefficacy of action (Akiriya-ditthi)
• non-causality (Ahetuka ditthi)
• nihilism (Natthika-ditthi)

The Buddha had to spend a great deal of time trying to put people’s views right.
That’s why in the very first item of the noble eightfold path, which is ‘the way’ to find
ultimate truth, the Buddha had to clarify what was meant by the right view (samma-
ditthi). Regarding the right view, at least on the thinking level, you must admit the
following do exist:
1. The Four Noble Truths – suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering
and the path leading to the end of suffering.
2. The three characteristics of nature – everything is impermanent (Aniccata),
unsatisfactory (Dukkhata) and not self (Anattata).
3. The path, the fruit and Nirvana.
4. The law of karma and the cycle of rebirth – One must believe that karma or action
yields results. Good karma gives good result, bad karma give bad result.

All the above are the overall structure of life and nature which are seen by
enlightened people who have reached the end of their mental and spiritual journey. It is as
if the Buddha is standing on top of a hill where he can see the whole picture of the valley
whereas the not yet enlightened people are scattering around in the valley, some of whom
are trying to walk towards the hilltop. Hence, those people have no way to know what the
scenery viewing from the hilltop would be like. Not until they have reached the hilltop
will they know for themselves. Prior to that, it can only be speculation and not the real
The Buddha did not tell us to sit down and discuss the Four Noble Truths. Instead, he
told us to acknowledge them first and experience them later – meaning the end of
suffering – by putting the noble path into practice. This is the only format of learning if
you want to find ultimate truth. There is no other way that you can get round it.

For the above reasons, the Buddhists have a long tradition of listening attentively to
monks who, they believe, pass on the Buddha’s words, wisdom and experiences. The
process of learning Buddhism is listening, taking advice, practising and finding the truth.
I suppose it is very much the same with Christianity. Then again, the problem begins to
spin around in circles. Due to the increasingly weak religious establishment, monkhood

has become the escape route from poverty for many men. Many monks do not seriously
follow in the Buddha’s footstep and therefore have no real knowledge gaining from
experience to pass on to lay people. Consequently, false views make their ways into
people’s minds and spread like wild flowers. In the end, the public becomes very
confused: not knowing to whom they should listen.
I think in the end, the key person is your immediate teacher plus your own wise
judgement. My way of writing – by using simple reasons and less difficult jargon – is
aimed at eliminating your confusion and boosting your Buddhist understanding. If you
are lucky enough to come across a real teacher who can guide you all the way to Nirvana,
you must know your great fortune and must not let your golden opportunity slip away by
being complacent.

How I run my Tai Chi class

This is also the reason why my teaching is the way it is. People who have come
through my class know very well that I practically do not give them a chance to talk let
alone debate during my Tai Chi sessions. I told my students that they came into my class
to learn a mental skill by using Tai Chi and Qi Gong movement as the means. When you
learn a skill, you don’t have to talk much; you keep on doing certain things repeatedly
until you master the skill. When you want to drive, you don’t excessively read the driving
manual, do you? Instead, you get behind a wheel and drive. Only through this nature of
teaching, will my students be able to take their first crucial step on a long journey to
ultimate truth. I don’t mess around. Should anyone be not happy with this arrangement,
they can make up their own minds. I made it very clear that a big or small class was not
my main concern. I was happy in working with just one student who was keen to learn
from me. If there was a day I turned up in class and there was no student for me to teach,
I would teach myself to be wiser.
By sticking with that principle without expecting anything in return plus my self-
motivation, my work seems to survive so far; there are now ‘more than one’ students who
want to learn from me.

True and false beliefs do not change the actual facts

After reading this book, it isn’t surprising that some of you may still be sceptical
about the enlightenment of the Buddha, and the rebirth concept. The Buddha knew this
would happen, so he told us the following.

The Buddha said that it makes absolutely no difference if people believe in his
enlightenment or not because the truth is always there – always has been and always will
be – regardless of what people want to believe. The sheer difference is that your belief in
his enlightenment will certainly shorten your mental journey to find your true self
whereas the non-believer will take a much longer time.

Comparatively speaking, you can believe that the sun rises in the west and sets in
the east, which we all know is a wrong view. However, that false belief doesn’t change
the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. You can be as stubborn as you

want and refuse to listen. Your false view, however, make no difference to the actual fact.
The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west.

If you want to believe that China is near New Zealand, it doesn’t change the fact
that China is actually next to Russia. Your false view about the location of China will
cause you to waste a lot of time when trying to find China. You can spend your whole
lifetime searching for China at the South Pole but you will never find it. However, if you
listen to the expert, you will find China in no time at all. So is the search for ultimate

You may want to argue that ultimate truth and rebirth are no comparison to the
facts about sunrise and sunset or the location of China because there is no way to prove
such spiritual experience. This should make you think twice whether or not you want to
take the Buddha’s words for it. Ultimate truth, the law of karma and rebirth will not just
disappear into thin air or stop working only because you think they are total nonsense.
The huge difference is that non-believers will spend a much longer time orbiting around
samsara. Whether or not you want to take a risk and bear unnecessary suffering that you
could have avoided is entirely your choice. Ultimately, you have to make up your own
mind. I have already helped you as best I can.

To read or not to read

I often come across students who are very confused as to whether or not they
should read books on Buddhism because sometimes they are told to read but sometimes
not to read. There are in fact two separate stages of learning and finding out where
ultimate truth is.

The first stage is to find out the knowledge on the thinking level. If you especially
come from a non-Buddhist background and know nothing about Buddhism, how can you
find out about the Buddha’s enlightenment if you do not read? Indeed you must read
extensively at this stage and find out as many facts and information as possible about
Buddhist concepts. Should you read my books, you will then find out that life has an
ultimate goal to fulfil which is walking out of this prison of life or samsara for good.1
When you read a bit more, you will also find out the means to the end: vipassana
practice. You can see that without reading the relevant books, there is no way you would
know the important message about leaving samsara. Therefore, at this stage, you must

I’ve been there!
Then again, a problem occurs. Just simply finding out information at this stage
can be very confusing. Not to mention the 84,000 Buddhist topics in the Pali Canon! It is
very easy to get caught up in the jungle of wisdom too. The state of ignorance is no fun at
all; it is dark and confusing. That is because every Buddhist author and teacher can offer
you of what they know and the material can be subjective. So, to whom should you

Please read ‘Different words but same meaning’ in chapter 2 The User Guide to Life…The
Moral Diet, the prequel of this book.

listen? This is the most hideous bewildering stage which you have my deepest sympathy
because I’ve been there before. I read a great deal when I first endeavoured on this path
and I ended up being even more confused than before I went into it. Living in a Buddhist
country means that you can go straight into the meditation practice while you are still
trying to get the concepts right in your head. Having tried many meditation schools which
offered different techniques of meditation only added more confusion.

First-hand experience does help

My advice to you if you are at this difficult stage is to stick to the book and advice
that is most appealing to you or makes the biggest impression on you. That should be a
good start. Not every Buddhist author is also a teacher, and vise versa. However, the
books produced by the teachers who do not write are in fact the speeches or the actual
vocal teaching of those teachers. Ones who can systematically write Buddhist texts and
teach meditation are quite rare. In such a case, one needs to be an intellectual as well as
wise. I will personally pay more attention to the teacher who can teach but cannot write.
Many prominent Thai monks in the past who could teach so successfully, could not read
or write. Ajahn Mun Puritatto, Luang Por Cha, Luang Por Tien all came from a peasant
background. These are the types of teachers who can guide people from their first-hand
experience which is much more effective. As for those who can write Buddhist books but
do not know how to teach, they can easily pluck out information from here and there and
make it into their own books. They always have to use the second level of language
which is normally very dull, dry and tasteless; there is no freshness and life in their

I don’t mean to offend anyone in particular. The fact is that there are many
westerners going into Buddhist countries and spending some time in monasteries either as
lay persons or monks, and they are so keen to come home and write Buddhist texts based
on their experiences. I must warn you about this. There are some who genuinely know
what they are talking about but there are also some who do not have a clue. Please
remember that even the born Buddhists still find Buddhist practice difficult which makes
it even more challenging for non-Buddhists. My suggestion is that you stick to the book
or rather the teacher who can inspire you most. Once you have the inspiration, everything
else after that will be easier. You do need that initial inspiration to boost you through the
difficult path ahead.

When to stop reading
The second stage is the actual practice. Let’s suppose that you know exactly what
Buddhism is all about on the thinking (reading) level. Let’s say you wholeheartedly agree
to everything that the Buddha said. Now, you are ready to give it a go. You want to take
part in the practice, and you can also find a meditation teacher who can help you with the
first step of a long journey to Nirvana. This is the very stage that you must lay off your
reading materials. People who come as far as this stage, normally have great interest in
the details of meditation experiences gained by certain renowned teachers and not the
wide scope of Buddhism to which they used to pay attention.

At this stage, all meditation teachers especially those who have glimpses of
Nirvana, will tell their students not to read at all. Not to read any texts at all is a strict rule
of most meditation schools in Thailand. This is very much the case when you take part in
a meditation retreat. It is best to stop reading altogether while you are in retreat and
concentrate purely on the practice.
Reading at this crucial stage can bar you from seeing the truth. Should we replace
the term ‘the innocent perception’ for Nirvana and ultimate truth, you will have better
perspective. If the nature of the truth is the innocent perception, to be able to perceive the
world (sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tangible sensations) innocently, your mind has to
be spotlessly clean from your thoughts and feelings (Jerry). Only one single thought will
corrupt your viewing the world and take away your innocent perceptions which take
away ultimate truth.
Intellect and wisdom use the same airport to exercise their ability and to land. The
airport is the mind. If the mind is used for the exercise of intellect, thoughts have to be
deployed and the innocent perception becomes impossible. On the contrary, if the mind is
used for the exercise of wisdom – viewing the truth – all thoughts and feelings (Jerry)
have to vacate the mind completely so that innocent perception can be made possible.
This is the main reason why vipassana practitioners are told repeatedly not to
think too much and to let go of their thoughts always. Some Zen teachers even tell you to
burn your holy books if you want to see the real truth. I won’t go that far.
This format of teaching is, however, traditional. If teachers are following the
traditional rule, they might not be able to explain to you why you cannot think which
doesn’t make much sense. How can one live a life without using thoughts? This can
cause a lot of misunderstanding and turn people away from meditation.
In fact, it isn’t a matter of not using your thoughts at all, you need to clear your
mind to create a higher chance for you to view the truth which is necessary during
meditation – provided that you have clear guide lines. Once you know what the innocent
perception is – which is highly likely to happen during your meditation retreat – you can
resume using your thoughts as normal thereafter. The difference is that once you know
what the truth is, your ability in using the thoughts will be improving as your vipassana is
progressing. You won’t be deluded by Jerry as you were before learning.
Admittedly, this is also another confusing stage especially for mentally active
people. All these will, however, be made clear in my future book focused on the subject
of bringing your mental self back home. In the mean time, it is quite enough to know that
reading any books during vipassana practice is not a very good idea. If you are still hit by
confusion about reading at the second stage, my final advice is for you to put the book
down and work on vipassana instead. Be decisive! I hope this explanation can help you to
eliminate your confusion for now.


1. Life is full of lovely and ugly surprises. As you grow older, the nasty ones seem
to spring on you more often than the nice ones.
2. We have no way to know what is around the corner. After this book, I hope you
know that there is no such thing as ‘a coincidence’. It is you who has crafted your

life in the way that it turns out. Your action alone will carry your karmic identity
with you to your next life.
3. It is safer to believe in the law of karma than not to believe. It costs nothing. If
there are no such thing as heaven and hell, you at least feel good in being a do-
gooder. But if they truly exist, your doing good deeds now will result in a very
nice house waiting for you in the after life – benefit all round!
4. Try to view life in a full circle. Before you know anything, you will come back to
earth and moan exactly the same things you are moaning about now. So, make
sure you decorate your future life well by not going to the lower realms, at least.
5. This world is full of suffering and unfairness that cannot be wiped clean by any
means – it always has been and it always will be in different degrees. It is
because we are living in the jail of life where suffering and unfairness are parts of
its reality. There is no such thing as ‘happy ending’ for a life in jail – except jail
6. If you happen to be in a position to help at least one person on earth to overcome
his/her suffering and restore justice, you should be very proud of yourself. Should
you be able to help more than one person, you are a real asset to the world. Just
make sure you don’t lose your will to fight for justice despite the great
7. If you cannot or are not in the position to help others, don’t despair; admit the
imprisoned predicament and prioritise your ultimate goal of life. Once you are
following This User Guide to Life, you might be surprised to find yourself
stronger inwardly and have enough inner strength to help others.
8. Without including the law of karma, rebirth, samsara and Nirvana into the
equation, life is no less than a long ribbon of cosmic jokes which nothing makes
sense whatsoever despite the mountains of intellectual knowledge we have. You
cannot run away from the big ‘WHY?’. You will definitely take your ignorance,
confusion and the ‘why’ to your after life, these unfavourable qualities won’t be
rotting away with your body. Hence, why not quickly learn now when you have
this golden opportunity to get hold of this book.

Finally, I hope you have made a right choice for your life and hope very much
that this book and its prequel: The Moral Diet, have given you a clear guideline as how
to walk out of samsara.
Please be very patient and never give up despite repeated failure. As long as you
keep on walking the path, you will definitely get to the destination of life – getting out of
samsara. This is a guarantee.


Story time

These stories were originally placed in different
chapters in the first edition of The User Guide to Life. To
avoid making the chapter too long in the present edition, I
decided to put them in the appendix of this book instead.

If you are a non-Buddhist and especially do not
grow up in Buddhist culture, it is important for you to read
these stories which relate one way or another to the law of
karma and rebirth. These stories, some of which were based on
true historic events, can help you put all the karma concepts
in this book into a clearer perspective and hopefully may
inspire you to root your belief further.
1 One day, while Visakha was tending to her father at
meal time, a Buddhist monk came by and stopped at the
Visakha versus Migara gate to receive alms food. Visakha was very happy to see
a Buddhist monk and wished her father-in-law would react.
People who are born into fortunate circumstances Although the millionaire Migara knew that the Buddhist
must not be complacent and think that luck will always be monk was at the gate, he pretended not to see and ignored
on their side. That’s why the Buddhists are told to extend the monk because he did not consider the Buddha as his
their good deeds (boon) by doing wholesome acts as much teacher. Visakha was a very clever lady and tried to divert
as they can. her father-in-law’s attention by asking him to see the tree
and the bird singing by the gate so that he could see the
I have told you the story of Visakha in the prequel of Buddhist monk. Migara also knew his daughter-in-law’s
this book when she lost her granddaughter. When Visakha strategy and insisted on not looking in that direction and
first got married, she found it rather difficult to adjust to kept on eating. Visakha realised she could not change her
the way people did things in her husband’s household. That father-in-law’s mind. She then said to the Buddhist monk:
was because her father-in-law, a millionaire called Migara, “Please move on to the next house, venerable sir. Migara
was a follower of Jainism which was one of the famous the millionaire is eating his left-over food.”
spiritual orders during the Buddha’s time. Nigantha Nataputta No sooner had Visakha finished her words than
was the leader of this Jain order and passed away before Migara threw his tray of food against the wall and flew into
the Buddha. The ascetics in Jainism did not wear any clothes. a rage. He growled at Visakha:
There are still Jain ascetics in India today, and they walk “How dare you say that I was eating the left-over
around naked. However, Visakha was a devout Buddhist food? I am the millionaire of this town. I have never eaten
before she married into this family. She often felt terribly left-over food. That’s it. I have put up enough with your
embarrassed when the Jain ascetics came around to receive arrogance and your sarcastic remarks. You can pack your
alms food from her father-in-law. bag and return to your father. I don’t want you here anymore.”

356 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 357
Migara then asked his servant to fetch the Brahman better reason to argue with her. He then brought up a list of
who was responsible for Visakha marrying into this household, events that he did not agree with in regard to what Visakha
so that he could tell the Brahman to end this marriage. had done in his household and what her father had told
her before she left her family home. However, one by one,
Meanwhile, Visakha remained calm and said nothing Visakha managed to answer all her father-in-law’s questions.
until the Brahman came and asked her what was happening. The millionaire finally surrendered to his daughter-in-law’s
Visakha told the Brahman that she was an honourable lady reasoning and her brilliant articulation. He then apologised to
and was accepted into this household with great honour. Visakha and begged her to stay on.
There was no way she would leave this household as an Visakha refused and told Migara that she was starved
outcast. She needed to clear her name by explaining what of doing meritorious deeds, especially giving alms food to
she meant by what she had said. A makeshift court hearing Buddhist monks as she used to do at home. Migara then told
then began. Visakha to do whatever she wanted, which made her very
happy. Later on, Migara had an opportunity to listen to the
Visakha calmly explained: Buddha’s teaching. That first meeting with the Buddha
“The meaning of the ‘left-over food’ was merely changed Migara’s beliefs completely. He became a devout
symbolic. It means that my father-in-law was reaping the Buddhist and totally idolised his daughter-in-law for helping
result of his good deeds from his previous lives. That’s why him to walk the right path. Migara worshiped the ground
he was lucky enough to be born as a millionaire. What I his daughter-in-law walked on so much that he called her
would like him to do is to extend his good karma so that he ‘mother’. Visakha became very well known and popular among
could remain fortunate. That’s why when the Buddhist monk the people in town for her noble behaviour and her great
came round; I would have loved for him to offer alms food generosity in supporting the sangha. She subsequently earned
to the monk. I did not have any malicious mind towards a new name.
my father-in-law at all, not in the slightest.” She was known as ‘Visakha, Migara’s mother’. Visakha
The Brahman confirmed that what Visakha had said felt rather embarrassed about her new name but didn’t know
was absolutely right. Migara felt rather embarrassed and what to do, until her first son was born, that is, when she
resented Visakha even further because he could not find any named him Migara.

358 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 359
2 People could not understand why those three incidents
happened within one day. They went to ask the Buddha about
Three in a day the story behind these extraordinary events. The Buddha then
told the people how the law of karma had led three people
Once there was a small man who bought a cow from to their death in one day.
a cattle market. The cow, for some reason, was in a very
stubborn mood for the entire journey home. As he was pulling In their previous lives, the three men were merchants
the cow into the pen, the angry animal picked the man up and they had to travel a great deal to sell their merchandise.
by the horns and threw the man a few yards away. The man They were also greedy men. They once came to a small town
broke his neck and died that instant. The dead man’s son where they made quite a good sale. Being greedy and stingy,
decided to take the cow to the cattle market and sell him they decided not to spend too much money on hotels. Instead,
at a low price. Another tall man came along and bought it. they chose a little old cottage which belonged to a poor old
He took the cow home and had to walk past a river. It lady.
was a hot day so he took the cow towards the river’s bank “If you let us stay for a couple of nights and cook us
and freshened himself up. While the man was bending down both the morning and evening meals, we’ll make it worth
to scoop the water up, the cow, standing behind him, picked your while. We three are merchants. We have made a great
him up by the horns and threw him into the deep river, deal of money from this trip so you must not worry. We’ll
and he drowned. This cow was then taken to be slaughtered, make sure you will live comfortably from now on.”
the meat was cut and sold off which left only a pair of One man persuaded the old lady, and the other two
horns. Another fat man came along, bought the pair of horns men nodded their heads in support.
and took them home. He walked for a distance and felt The woman had never opened her house to any
rather tired. He decided to hang the pair of horns on a branch stranger before but she could not resist the reward offered.
of a tree and lay down under that tree to have a rest. She reluctantly said:
While he was resting, the branch broke off, the pair of “Well, as you can see, I am very poor myself. If
horns dropped, stabbed right into the man’s stomach and you promise that you will give me some money towards your
killed him straight away. stay and the food, I don’t mind that.”

360 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 361
The old woman did her best to cook the three men 3
a nice meal by using what she had left in her little kitchen.
She also made sure that the men had a comfortable place My karma is good
to sleep.
On the morning before the men were supposed to Once there were a king and a queen. They were very
leave, the lady got up at the crack of dawn and went into the close and often shared their inner thoughts together. One day,
woods nearby to find some wild mushrooms and bamboo the king said proudly to his wife:
shoots. She was hoping to cook a nice breakfast for the men “I am sure you must feel grateful that I love you
before they left. When she came back a couple hours later, enough to marry you and make you my queen.”
she found no men in the cottage, all their belongings were The queen smiled to her husband and said confidently:
gone too and there was no sign of any money left for her. “Hm…I don’t think so. I don’t think it was you who
Once she realised that she had been conned, she was furious granted me such opportunity to be queen. I think it was my
at the way she had been treated. She decided to chase after karma. It is very clear that my karma was good and that’s
the thieves and finally caught up with them. The three men how I could become queen.”
not only refused to admit their wrong doing, they, without
any shame, taunted the old lady too. Having no physical Having expected to hear of his own glory, the king’s
strength to hurt the thieves, she fought her battle by put ego was terribly dented by his wife’s indifferent answer. He
a curse on the three crooks instead. then planned to give his wife a lesson. In the middle of the
“You most ungrateful men, you listen to me. As soon as night while his wife was in a deep sleep, the king took the
I bump into you three again in my next life, whether I am ring off her finger and threw it into the river by the palace.
a human or not, I make sure I will kill all of you within one This ring was given to her on the day she was crowned
day. And that is a promise!” queen. Without the ring, her royal status would be weakened
Indeed, the old lady was born as a cow and she did unless she had further endorsement from his majesty, the
bump into the three men in this life. That was how the karma king. The king thought to himself that his wife had no choice
of both parties led to that extraordinary event. So the Buddha but to surrender to him.
concluded the story.

362 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 363
At breakfast next morning, the queen didn’t even I can tell you the truth that it was I who took your ring off
notice the absence of her ring until the king brought it up your finger and threw it into the river. I could not possibly
and asked her what she was going to do about it. The king think how this ring could find its way back to you again!”
expected his wife to beg him for a replacement. To his “Well, my dear, don’t you know that karma works in
surprise, she did not show any concern about the missing the most mysterious way!” said the queen.
ring at all and said to her husband:
“I truly believe in my karma. If I still deserve to be
your queen, I am sure that the ring will return to me very soon.”
Later on that day, a fisherman caught a big fish in
the river. Wanting to please the king and queen, he took
the fish to the palace and offered it to the king. The cook
took the fish into the kitchen and steamed the whole fish
in the way that the king and queen liked to eat it. The
cooked fish was placed right in the middle of the royal
table for the evening meal. As the queen was scooping the
flesh off the fish, she could feel that the silver spoon was
hitting a stone. She had a closer look and laying in the
stomach of the fish was a shiny stone which the queen
recognised right away. She took the shiny object from the
fish, gave it a good wipe, and showed it to her husband
with a big grin on her face and said:
“See, my darling? I told you my karma was good!”
The king finally had to surrender to his wife’s karma
approach. He said smilingly:
“All right, I give in to you. You are right. You are
queen because of your good karma and not my power. Now,

364 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 365
4 Finally, the road and the rainbow bridge were finished
and a few years after that his mother developed an illness and
Buddha is fake died. Sing Jo had never got married. Without any responsibility
to tie him down and now in his forties, he decided to lead
Sing Jo was a young man in ancient China; he earned a monastic life and become a monk. After a few years of
his living by pulling a rickshaw. His father passed away when learning the basic skills of meditation and chanting, monk
he was a young boy. He had to work hard ever since so that Sing Jo decided to move away from the temple in the village
he could look after his mother. He also strictly followed and live in a cave on the side of the mountain instead.
Confucius’ teachings and always fulfilled his filial duty to his A young novice who had always been fond of monk Sing Jo
parents. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew that he was asked to go with him and promised to look after him. They
not only a good son but also a very kind man who could both had managed to turn the small section of the mountain
never do enough for people. He did his best to save his hard where there was a cave into a very basic monastery. They
earned money. When the village needed help to build a road had a little shrine with a Buddha image. Everyday, they
and a rainbow bridge36 to create a shortcut to the nearest would burn the candles and incense and they did their
town, Sing Jo not only contributed his savings towards the regular morning and evening chanting together. There were
project, but also his labour when the construction was on a few households at the foothill and they were only too
its way. After a long day of pulling the rickshaw, he would glad to offer alms food. So every morning, monk Sing Jo
go home to have dinner with his mother and quickly rushed and his young novice would walk down to the foothill
to lend a hand at the building site where he would work and receive food from the well-wishers. People also came up
until late into the night. When his day time work was a bit and visited the monastery from time to time.
slow, he would come straight to the construction site and
work there until someone called him for a service. He never A few more years had gone by, monk Sing Jo gradually
moaned about anything and was very happy with what he developed some skin complaints. He tried many herbal
was doing. remedies but nothing helped him to get better. His skin
disease got worse – it was leprosy! Despite the hardship, he
A rainbow bridge is the bridge with the curving shape like a rainbow
which is a traditional Chinese architecture dated back in the ancient time. never complained of his ill fortune. His novice, who had

366 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 367
now become a monk, was still very much faithful to him and Meanwhile, the nearest town to the village where
took good care of his master. Although monk Sing Jo did Sing Jo used to live had just welcomed a new governor and
not go for his alms round for a long time, he kept up with his wife. It was only one month after their arrival when the
his regular chanting and meditation practice. wife gave birth to their first born, a baby boy. For some
There was a night when it rained heavily with thunder unknown reason, the baby was born with a clenched fist
and lightning too. Monk Sing Jo had to come out of the cave and no one could open it no matter how much they tried.
to use the outdoor toilet when he was suddenly struck down The baby also cried a lot and nothing seemed to pacify him.
by a bolt of lighting and killed. The young monk threw up After two weeks of putting up with the baby crying, the
his hands in despair at finding his master’s body the next mother began to notice that her baby would stop crying at
morning and said: a certain time. Every day around six o’clock in the morning
“Master Jo, I cannot understand what’s going on. You and seven o’clock in the evening, the baby would stop crying
are a born do-gooder but you seemed to have bad luck in and suddenly become very content.
return. Your father died when you were young, you worked The governor asked his local officers to notice what
hard to look after your mother; you used your savings and triggered his baby to stop crying. After another two weeks of
your labour to help build the road and the rainbow bridge; observation, they could link the baby’s happy moment with
then your mother died; you became a monk and had leprosy. the sound of the beating gong and the chanting which came
Now, you are struck down by lighting. I am very confused, from the mountain not far from the town. The governor
master. Maybe there is no real Buddha. Maybe the Buddha is told his officers to follow that sound and find out from
fake and so is the law of karma.” where it came. Finally, they found the temple where monk
Acting on impulse, the despaired and confused young Sing Jo used to live. The junior monk was still there and
monk grabbed a piece of charred wood burnt by lighting carried on with his daily routine of gong beating before the
and wrote on his master’s hand three Chinese words “Buddha morning and evening chanting. The officers then told the
is fake!” He went through a period of mourning for his master monk why they were there. The monk asked when the baby
and decided that he would carry on living there by himself had been born. When the officers told him, he realised that
for a bit longer. Therefore, he kept up with the daily routine it was the same time when his master Jo was struck down by
of chanting as if his master was still around. lighting.

368 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 369
The monk was invited back to see the baby. No 5
sooner did the holy person enter the room where the mother
was holding the baby than the baby giggled, waving his The great honourable Mor
hands and legs and showed obvious excitement at seeing
the monk. The monk approached the baby and gently opened The Chinese strongly believe that having a burial
his clenched fist. To his amazement, he could see three words ground with good feng shui would bring good fortune and
“Buddha is fake!” written on the baby’s hand. The monk prosperity to the family for generations to come.
burst out with loud laughter, shook his head and said:
“All right, master Jo. Indeed, Buddha is not fake. The There was once a wealthy man who had a wife and
law of karma is certainly real. The result of all your good two daughters. He was looking for a piece of burial ground
karma has finally arrived. This time, you will have a much with good feng shui for himself. He found a piece of land
easier life. I am very happy for you.” by a mountain and had arranged to buy it. To make sure that
there were no bad spirits around, he spent a night camping
The monk told the governor and his wife the story on his piece of land. He was woken up in the middle of the
of his Master Jo. They were delighted to know. From then on, night by an angry voice saying:
the baby was always happy. The governor also contributed “How dare you to even think about buying this piece
a generous sum of money to rebuild the monastery by of land? This spot is already reserved for the great honourable
the mountain. The monk spent the rest of his life at the Mor and his family and no one else.”
monastery and worked hard with his practice. He never The wealthy man realised he had trespassed onto
doubted the Buddha again. someone’s land; he apologised to the spirit and gave up the

A few months had gone by, the man often thought
of the name Mor which was an unusual family name. There
were not many people around who had such a name. One day,
he was walking past a temple and spotted a young man,

370 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 371
leaning against a big pillar in front of the temple shrine, who exam first. I think once I become a mandarin; it won’t be too
was busy reading a book. Out of curiosity, the old man difficult to find a good wife.”
approached the young scholar and engaged in a conversation. The old man nodded his head with agreement and said:
When the family name was asked, the young man said “Why don’t you marry my daughter? You don’t need
smilingly: any dowry; I don’t want anything from you.”
“My family name is rather unusual. It is Mor. There The young intellectual was rather shocked by the
are not many people around who use this name, I am afraid.” bizarre suggestion suddenly sprung on him by a total stranger.
Upon hearing the name, the elder suddenly remember He looked at the older man right in the eyes and said:
the previous incident at the burial ground. The wealthy man “How could I? You are rich and I am very poor. How
found out that although the young man was poor, he had can I marry your daughter?”
ambition. The older man shook his head and waved his hand
In ancient China, all young scholars, including Mr. Mor, back and forth and said:
had an ultimate goal of passing one of the most difficult “I told you not to worry about money. I just want you
exams so that they could join the mandarin class and take to be my son-in-law and look after my daughter for me. That’s
part in serving their country. The wealthy man knew that this all I want from you. Now, what do you say?”
young man would fulfil his goal one day in the future. The old The young man thought that it must be his very lucky
man then thought of his eldest daughter who was at the right day. Once he saw how determined the old man was, he knew
age to be married. He then asked the young man if he was that he had nothing to lose. This news would make his parents
married. The young scholar was rather puzzled by the question, very happy too. He agreed to the wealthy man’s request.
however, he politely answered:
“No, I am not married yet. To get married, one needs The father quickly came home to tell his wife that
money and I don’t have any dowry to offer to any girl just yet. he had found a very promising young man who would have
My parents are very poor but they have done their best for me a very bright future and that he had agreed to marry their
to have an education because I always love to learn. I am so daughter. They told the eldest daughter who was totally
grateful and that’s why I want to concentrate on passing the shocked and disgusted by the news.

372 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 373
“No way will I marry a poor man who enjoys reading house spirit came to tell him about a guest who was about
a few books. How can I face my friends once they know that to arrive on the next day.
my future husband has no money at all? No father, I am sorry. “You will have a guest today whose family name is
I cannot marry him.” Mor. He will pass the exam and become a mandarin. He is
The parents did their best to persuade their daughter a good man and will be very powerful in the future. I am
to change her mind, but to no avail. She refused point blank. only a house spirit. His future status will be morally higher
The other daughter overheard all the arguments and felt than me. So I have to give him respect by standing up every
very sorry for her father that his integrity would be in tatters. time he passes my house. To save my trouble of standing up
She offered to marry the poor man instead. Although the and down every time he walks past me, I want you to cover
father thought about marrying his elder daughter off, he did my house up with a piece of red material. If I don’t see him,
not actually tell the man which daughter he would proposed. I don’t have to stand up.”
So it really didn’t matter if the younger daughter was the bride. The next day, the young scholar arrived at the inn
some time late afternoon. Once the owner of the inn knew
Soon the rich and the poor family were related by that he was Mr. Mor, he quickly covered the house spirit up
marriage. The elder sister later married a rich man in town. with the red material as he had been told. The promising
Whenever there was any family gathering, there was always young man was intrigued and couldn’t help asking for the
prejudice against the poor family especially among the fleet reason. The owner of the inn felt rather awkward but couldn’t
of servants who served the two daughters. help leaking the secret. He leaned forward to the young man,
Finally, the young scholar had to travel to the main and whispered:
city so that he could take part in the most competitive “Well, I’m not supposed to tell you. But never mind, I
exam in China. He had to set off for a long journey which don’t think it will hurt, now that you have asked me. Last night,
involved spending a night in a small inn in one little town. my house spirit came into my dream and told me that you
Every Chinese household has a house-spirit shrine, would be coming today. He also said that you are a good man
placed on the floor in the front room. On the night before and you will pass your exam and become a mandarin. The
the young scholar arrived, the inn owner dreamt that his house spirit had respect for you so, he asked me to cover his

374 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 375
house up so that he doesn’t have to stand up every time you The next morning, as he was checking out from the
walk past him.” inn, he noticed that the red material had gone and the house
spirit was not covered. He asked the owner of the inn the
The young scholar went into his room with many reason.
thoughts coming through his mind. Now that he knew he “Well, my house spirit came to me again last night
would pass the exam. He couldn’t help imagining his bright and told me not to bother to cover him up anymore because
future in being a mandarin and having respect from people. your mind has changed, and so will your future too. He no longer
Having known that even a house spirit had respect for him has respect for you. He said you would fail your exam and
caused a sudden change in his mind. His humble thoughts had no future.”
were quickly replaced by arrogance and the good feeling of
having power in his hands. The young scholar was shocked and realised his
“Once I become a mandarin, it won’t be long before wrong-doing. Although it was only the wrong thinking, it
I become the governor of my town. People will have to take gave the impact right away and would cost the whole of his
orders from me. Then, I want to see the faces of my sister- future. He quickly went down on his knees in front of the
in-law and all his servants who always look down upon me house spirit and confessed his sin.
and my family. Now, they will look up to me for a change. “Please do forgive me, house spirit. I have already
Hm…thinking about the wife, I know she is a good wife but learnt my lesson. From now on, I will not think out of line
she is not pretty enough to be a governor’s wife, is she? I again. I will strictly follow the moral precepts as I have done
will certainly look for some beautiful concubines.” in the past even if I become a mandarin. I will treat everyone
The young scholar lay on his bed with one arm resting well, especially my wife who has been very good to me. Please
on his forehead, grinned to himself and kept on dreaming of do forgive me and bless me to pass my exam.”
what he could do once he became the powerful governor.
The young man hardly slept that night because he was too The young man felt very ashamed of himself. He
excited dreaming and planning his future. thanked the house spirit who gave him the lesson and the
warning. He carried on with his journey with a humble mind
and did his best in the exam thinking that he would fail

376 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 377
anyway. But with the change of his heart, he finally passed 6
the exam, became a mandarin and kept his moral obligation.
Due to his honesty and integrity, he had become very famous Yee Gow
indeed. Everyone knew him as the great honourable Mor.
This is a true story which happened during the time
The elder sister’s fortune had also changed too because when the Japanese invaded China.
of her ill mind. Her rich husband had become a drunkard
and a gambler and destroyed all the fortune his father and There was a very big and well known temple in
father-in-law had built for him. He then developed an incurable Shanghai where people came to worship the great saint
illness and died at the age of 40. The younger sister felt sorry (Bodhisattva) called Guan Yin. There were a number of devout
for her sister and offered her help but she had too much pride elderly worshippers who lived in this temple permanently.
to accept any help from the people whom she used to look Their families would visit them from time to time. There was
down upon. Whilst the younger sister became the mandarin’s an old lady named Yee Gow – meaning second aunt – who was
wife and had the respect of the people, the elder sister re- very deaf. She had never been married so she did not have
treated into a monastery and become a nun for the rest of any immediate family visiting her regularly. Being deaf, she
her life. was quite happy to spend her day sitting in silence and chanting
the name Guan Yin Pusa in her quarters – a small housing
area with a little kitchen at the back of the temple provided
for permanent residents.

Meal time in this temple was identified by the sound of
a huge gong when all residents and worshippers would
gather around rows of tables and have their vegetarian meals
together. Yee Gow couldn’t hear the sound of the gong; she
had to rely on other members to tell her. However, it wasn’t
every day that Yee Gow joined in with the rest of the residents

378 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 379
at meal time. Sometimes she refused to come out when fetch her for a meal. Normally, people who meditate and
someone called for her because she could manage on what chose to lead a monastic life have a tendency to make less
she had in the small kitchen by her quarters. This routine went fuss. Yee Gow was like that; she didn’t really mind. Instead,
on for many years without any disruption. she went into the little kitchen in her quarters where there
was plenty of rice and preserved food. She cooked herself rice
Then, the Japanese invaded China. Suddenly the bubbling porridge which she had with preserved vegetables. This was
city of Shanghai was taken over by Japanese soldiers marching a simple meal with which all Chinese vegetarians could be
with heavy machine guns, tanks, and the roaring sounds of very happy. After she had her meal, she would retire into
fighter-aircraft. There was fighting, shooting and bombing, her room, and sit in silence. Her mind was occupied only by
and people were killed. The whole country was thrown into the name Guan Yin Pusa. After a while, she more or less got
chaos, confusion, devastation and extreme fear. Those who used to her routine and in not seeing anyone around. It didn’t
lived in the big cities like Shanghai evacuated and fled to the bother her in the slightest because she was contented with
countryside where they could escape the heavy bombshells. her life. In other words, it was her inner peace that made her
Many families rushed to the temple to fetch their elder feel safe and sound.
relatives, but no one came for Yee Gow. She was left behind
unnoticed in the upheaval of the situation. That was because Yee Gow was left alone for nearly three months. When
the temple was very big and Yee Gow spent most of her time the political situation calmed down, people began to return to
in her own room. Being deaf, she was totally unaware of the the city. The temple wardens and the worshippers came back
commotion, shooting and bombing which was going on just to the temple. Along the thick wall surrounding the temple,
outside the thick walls of the temple gates. Through panicking there were traces of bullets here and there although the
and fear, the temple was quickly deserted; all the daily events main gate remained shut and padlocked. When the gate was
suddenly came to a halt. The main gate was shut and padlocked. opened, there was no sign of ruin in the temple area at all.
Yee Gow was unintentionally left alone in the temple! Everything remained intact. The front wing of the temple
where the main shrine room was, and the back wing which
She wasn’t aware of the frightening situation until one made up the main kitchen and dining area were joined
day she felt rather hungry and wondered why no one came to by a courtyard which was an open space and was made into

380 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 381
a sizable garden with a good variety of trees and plants. The An old monk at Ban Nong Wee
garden was found in an overgrown state and some plants
had died off because of the lack of care. Right in the middle of Yee Gow’s story tells us that if we can do something
a big bush, a bomb which had never gone off was located. to our heart’s content, everything we do will be enjoyable
A temple warden quickly informed the authorities and the and we can do it for as long as we want. Contentment is,
bomb was removed safely. therefore, the key factor for a stable and happy life. The
concept may sound easy but without vipassana practice, reality
While a group of worshippers were cleaning up the is not as easy as it sounds. Yee Gow’s story also reminds me
temple, Yee Gow was spotted – she was happily doing her of an old monk I met when I spent my three months of rainy
washing by her quarters. She was totally oblivious of what retreat in a small and remote village called Ban Nong Wee
was happening. Only then, did the people realise that Yee Gow of Payao province in Northern Thailand some thirty years
had been left alone in the temple all this time! ago (1977). “Tu chao” is the northern dialect word for a monk.
“Where have you all been?” was what Yee Gow said In this small village temple, there were two tu chaos, one in
delightfully to the first man she bumped into with a nice smile his twenties and the other in his seventies, and three young
on her face. novice monks in their early and mid teens. They built me a little
hut (kuti) ten yards from the main building (sala) used as the
The people thought that it was better not to let shrine and for all kinds of temple activities. They wanted
Yee Gow know anything about the war and the undetected to make sure that I was safe enough and did not want me to
bomb in the garden only six yards away from her quarters. be too far away. Hidden away by a few teak trees was a little
The devout worshippers had no doubt that it was indeed kuti where the old tu chao lived. The tu chao spent most of
the loving-kindness and compassion of saint Guan Yin Pusa his time on a rocking chair on the balcony of his kuti. He
who had protected the temple and of course Yee Gow too. was deaf in one ear and rather blind in one eye. His deaf ear
and blind eye were on the same side of his face; I cannot
remember which side.
There was an old man from the village who paid
a regular visit to the old tu chao. It was always the same

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routine: the old man talked and the tu chao listened. Although For some reason, even though I could not understand
the tu chao hardly talked to anyone else, his face had much of what the tu chao said at the time, I had a distinctive
a distinctiveness of serenity and loving-kindness. His smile feeling that he was talking about something of which he had
was very warm and welcoming, and he really made people feel first hand experience. The tu chao did not use any fancy
comfortable and relaxed just to be in his presence. No wonder dhamma words, nor did he go through any dhamma topic
he did not have to talk much. I often looked at the elderly at all; instead, he tried to tell me that if he leaned the good
tu chao every time I walked past his kuti. I didn’t feel like side of his ear and eye against his rocking chair, his world
disturbing him much when I saw him sitting and resting his was completely quiet because the eye and ear that were
head so peacefully in his rocking chair. Nevertheless, I often exposed to the world were no good anyway. Then, he brought
wondered what wisdom this old tu chao could share with me. it to the conclusion that Nirvana was just right there.

One day, I approached him at the balcony and paid It has been thirty years since that brief conversation
my humble respects to him. He looked at me with his usual took place. Somehow I always remember it very well. It is
welcoming smile and asked whether I had my meal which only these recent years when my own practice has developed
was the very Thai way of greeting. After a brief moment of to a certain level that I can understand exactly what that
small talk, I asked him some serious dhamma questions. I old monk tried to tell me. In fact, I am quite sure that he
went straight to the point and asked him whether Nirvana must have reached some level of holiness.
really existed and where it was. He smiled and said softly
“Of course, Nirvana does exist and it is right here.”
He then went on to explain by keeping on pointing
to somewhere at the end of his eyes and said:
“My ear is deaf on this side and I cannot see much
on this side of my eye. When I turn my head to this side
(the good side of his ear and eye), the world is very quiet. I
cannot see things and hear sounds. This is Nirvana. Nirvana
is right here.”

384 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 385
7 age mother and her beautiful daughter in her early twenties
who appeared to be strong and tough and agreed to let them
The two brothers spend a night in the farm house with a few of their animals.

I got the theme of this story from my teacher Tang The two men got up at the crack of dawn, washed
Mor Sieng. It inspired me to elaborate on the details which themselves by the well and were about to leave after they
are based on my own dhamma practice and experience I had thanked the two women. The daughter had already been
have been through myself. This story can depict our modern up and was milking the cows. She saw the men and shouted for
life style; there are, I am sure, many people want to follow them to come to see her.
the Buddha’s path but are not ready to commit themselves “If you two are not in a rush, my mother would like
to the strict regime of monastic life. I, therefore, want to you to stay for breakfast before you leave. She is preparing
reassure you that the path to ultimate enlightenment can be a meal right now,” the young woman said to the men smilingly
walked as a lay person. while still milking the cow.

In ancient India after the passing away of the Buddha, The younger brother felt reluctant and was about to
there were once two brothers in their twenties, who agreed to refuse, but the elder brother quickly agreed to the kind
set off for a journey of a lifetime so that they could learn invitation before he could say anything. He was annoyed at
the dhamma from different teachers, and they aimed to settle his elder brother but kept quiet. A while later, the two men
down with the teacher who could teach them to understand and two women were having breakfast, and engaged in some
the most profound dhamma. After two months of travelling, small talk. At one point, the mother paused briefly, went into
they reached a small farm house which was quite remote from a deep thought, and said:
the next village. It was dusk and the two brothers had no “Why don’t you two men stay here and work for me in
choice but to ask the owner of the farm to let them spend the farm. My husband died a few years ago and we never had
a night there and they would leave early in the morning. a son. It is sure good that this daughter of mine is tough and
The two brothers were rather surprised to find out that there strong. We were thinking of selling the farm and moving into
was no man there at all. The farm was owned by a middle

386 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 387
the town instead, but if you can work for us, we won’t have I am sure you’ll soon find out. Well, we’ll see when we’ll
to sell the farm.” see, I suppose. Good luck and goodbye, brother.”
The elder brother also wished for his younger sibling
Whilst the younger brother remained silent, a way to to find the best dhamma teacher so that he could achieve
refuse the woman’s request, the elder brother asked more his spiritual goal.
questions about the arrangement. To the younger brother’s
horror, the elder brother finally agreed to what the woman After twenty years had gone by, the young traveller
suggested. When they both had a chance to be alone, the was now a Buddhist monk and he had visited many famous
younger brother said angrily to his elder sibling: meditation schools and learnt from many well known
“I cannot believe you. We have agreed to set off on dhamma teachers. His spiritual knowledge had been widened
this journey to find the ultimate enlightenment and you by meeting people with his own interests and reciting a great
are willing to give up that holy ambition the first sign you have deal of famous sutras. However, he still had not yet settled
the opportunity to be with a beautiful girl and all her wealth. down in a particular monastery. For some reason, he still had
This is just very convenient, isn’t it? I cannot believe how a need to search for something better. He then travelled
weak my brother is and I am very disappointed in you. How nearer to the place where he and his brother had stopped
can you treasure all these worldly values more than your own some twenty years before. He was intrigued to find out how
spiritual salvation?” his brother’s family life was, so he decided to drop in
The elder brother listened to his brother with for a visit. It was a great delight to his elder brother to have
an amazingly calm reaction. He did not answer back nor did a chance to see his young sibling again. The brother invited
he try to explain why he chose to stay behind. He remained his brother the monk to a small hut a good fifty yards from
silent and let his brother get everything off his chest while he the main house and they both sat down for a chat just
was listening. Then, it was time to say goodbye. The younger like old times. The monk was rather intrigued and his first
brother had no choice but to leave his elder brother behind. question was: “What is this place?”
“All right, it looks like whatever I said cannot change “Well, this is where I live.” The brother answered calmly
your mind. You have made your choice to live a family as usual.
life. Remember how the Buddha said that life is suffering.

388 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 389
The monk was even more surprised because inside would be very difficult without a man to take care of this
the hut barely had anything but one small bed enough for farm for them. I had never thought about marrying her, but
one person. He could not wait for further explanation. The I knew you could not understand so I let you think as you did.
brother knew exactly what was going through the monk’s Once you left the farm, I went back to the house and had
mind and quickly said: a good talk with the mother and daughter. I told them that
“Well, look at you, brother. You look so radiant in your I had always wanted to be a monk once I could find a good
robe. Now, please tell me first of your adventure. Did you teacher. Therefore, I made a deal with them that I would help
finally find a good teacher who helped you to understand them out as long as they would leave me alone to do my own
the profound dhamma?” things. They have kept the deal up until today. We have become
Once that question was raised, the monk could not very good friends. In fact, the mother passed away about
help to boast about his experience in meeting many well known three years ago and now there are only the daughter and
dhamma teachers and taking part in reciting the profound myself here. I never had any intention to marry that beautiful
sutras. He was also very keen to recite the sutras to his brother young girl. That’s why I built myself this little hut here where
to show him that he had learnt a great deal during these I have lived ever since.”
twenty years. The brother calmly and carefully listened to what
his brother told him without any interruption. After a long The monk gasped with amazement once his brother
monologue, the monk asked his brother: told him his story up to this point. He reluctantly asked:
“How about you, brother? How many children do you “Brother, you are telling me that you have been working
have? Or are you already a grandfather? Now, you tell me side by side with that beautiful woman all these years and
about your family life.” you have never wanted to be more than just friends with her?
The elder brother smiled gently and said: It is rather difficult for me to believe, I must admit. The reason
“Well, it was you who assumed that I was going to I left here twenty years ago was because I knew I wouldn’t
marry that young beautiful tough woman twenty years ago. be able to resist that pretty young woman. I counted it
In fact, when her mother talked about letting us stop and a blessing that my passion for enlightenment was stronger.
work here on that morning at the breakfast table, I did not It was also you who decided to stay behind so, there was no
think anything other than helping out these two women. Life point for both of us to fight for one woman, was there? But

390 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 391
I was so sure that no sooner had I left this farm that you for my own salvation. I bit my tongue and on I carried.
would quickly agree to marry her.” Strangely enough, I seem to have survived until now.”

“You know now that you were very wrong. Of course, The monk became more and more intrigued of how
my passion for enlightenment was no less than yours. At that his brother could manage to carry out such an extraordinary
time, I just thought to myself that in fact, if I really wanted way of life.
to pursue the dhamma practice, there should not be anything “Now, you must tell me how exactly you practised your
to stop me, no matter where I was and what kind of dhamma to make you survive all these years,” asked the monk.
livelihood I led. Maybe with a bit of determination, I could
make it work out both ways. That’s why I thought I could “Well, I practised only one thing. I watched my mind.
help this family out as well as carrying on with my dhamma No matter what I was doing during the day and night, as long as
practice,” the elder brother explained. I was awake, I was constantly watching my mind all the time.
“Please tell me the truth then brother. Did you never Of course, it was more difficult when I had to work side by side
have any feelings for that young enchanting woman all these with that exceptionally pretty woman. I had to work extremely
years? Did you never make any wrong move and give in to hard in my heart. I often had to come back to this cottage and
your burning desire?” asked the monk with great curiosity. lick the wounds. It was very painful but I was so determined
to win my inner battle. When I was really desperate for help,
“I wouldn’t have been a human if I did not have I recited, “Buddha, Buddha, please help me.” It was extremely
moments when I wanted to bow down to my temptations. We difficult during the early years but after a while I seemed to
are men after all; man’s sexual desire is indeed much more learn something by just watching my mind in this way. I could
powerful than woman’s. In fact, there were countless times see a certain pattern of how the mind would flare up and
when I wanted to give in to my burning desire and ask her calm down after a while as long as I had my awareness. Once
to marry me. That would have made her mother very happy I could understand how the mind worked, I faced my next
too, but I always remembered what you had reminded battle with a little bit more confidence as life was progressing.
me before you left. Life is suffering and I should work hard I also kept on with my basic meditation skills. Every night
before I slept, I would sit in meditation and be aware of my

392 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 393
breathing. This had helped me a great deal in fighting the 8
battle during the day. I must admit that my inner battle has
calmed down. In fact, it has eased off quite a lot during this Ar Meng
past couple of years. I have more calm moments than not.
Well brother, this is what I’ve been doing all these years.” The theme of this story is also from Tang Mor Seing
The elder brother talked to his brother monk in a very teacher, I elaborated the story line so that it can correspond
calm and peaceful manner as if there was nothing extraordinary to the previous story: The Two Brothers. Most people tend
about it. to think the insightful Buddhist teachings are hidden in the
difficult jargon and totally overlook the mundane activities
The brother monk then suddenly realised that while of daily lives. Should you apply the meditation technique
he was busy travelling and learning to recite the profound of ‘bringing your mental self back home’, you will see the
sutras and meeting different famous teachers, his brother had profound meaning of this following story.
literally gone through the real life battle and used the dhamma
to fight his way through life. He also realised that what his Once there was a Buddhist scholar who had heard
brother had done was in fact a million times harder than what the reputation of an extraordinary teacher called Ar Meng. He
he himself had done. He began to suspect that his brother was quite intrigued and wished to learn the dhamma from
might have reached some level of holiness. So, he asked his him. It was a long journey to find this great teacher but the
brother the straightforward question: young man thought it would be worth his while once he
“Brother, has your search for ultimate enlightenment had a chance to listen to the supreme dhamma from him.
come to an end?” The man set off his journey on foot and it took him seven days
The elder brother looked at his younger sibling before he could get to the nearest town to where Ar Meng
with kindness and slowly nodded his head as the answer was staying. He began to ask around and everyone gave
to his question. The brother monk quickly went down on him a very similar impression:
his knees, paid great respect to his brother and said with “Oh…you want to see Ar Meng. Oh…good, good, good.
overwhelming delight: You must go and see him.”
“I have finally found the teacher, brother!”

394 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 395
It was dark by the time he knew where to go to find was looking. He shouted loudly over the crowd to the butcher
Ar Meng, so he decided to spend the night in that town and who was busy serving his customers:
set off early in the morning. “Ar Meng…there is someone here wants to see you.”
The enthusiastic scholar was rather excited that his Ar Meng stretched his neck and looked over the crowd
search for a good teacher was about to end, and he was trying to spot his new guest. Once he saw the young man, he
longing to listen to all the profound dhamma words. His too shouted over the crowd while he was still serving his
mind was taken over by the excitement of the forthcoming customers:
events until he didn’t sleep. He got up at the crack of dawn “You want to see me. Come, come, come.”
and set off for the last three hours’ journey to the village by The young man was rather reluctant to believe that
the stream. As he was entering the village, the local market this was the Ar Meng he wanted to see. However, he walked
was busy with shoppers come for their fresh produce. It through the crowd to the front and was about to ask
wasn’t very packed because it was only a small village. The a question. Ar Meng looked at the man’s bewildered face and
man began to ask around for Ar Meng. said:
“Oh, you want to see Ar Meng, good, good, good. “Don’t worry, I am the one. Just sit here on the bench
There…he is over there.” and I will talk to you.”
The young scholar looked towards the direction the The young man did not have a chance to say anything
man pointed out for him. What he expected to see was either as he had rehearsed once he first met the teacher. Everything
a village temple or a little hut at the end of the woods where did not turn out as he had planned at all. He bowed his head
the teacher could lead a secluded monastic life as he had to Ar Meng who was in his mid fifties, jolly and seemed to be
expected. Instead, he saw an old wooden house situated very busy with his work. The young dhamma enthusiast sat
at one corner of the market, and there was a small crowd down on the wooden bench watching Ar Meng, the extra-
of people gathering at the front of the house. He quickly ordinary dhamma teacher who turned out to be a butcher
walked to that house and asked an old man at the back of selling meat right in front of his house. There were many
the crowd whether this was Ar Meng’s house. The old man thoughts rushing through the clever man’s mind. He was
looked at the young scholar and knew exactly for what he very confused by the situation but still hoped that when

396 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 397
Ar Meng had finished with his work, he would engage him the high stool behind his meat stall and began to eat his
in a dhamma talk. porridge as well. By then, the small crowd had begun to build
Whilst Ar Meng was busy serving his customers, there up again but they didn’t really want to buy meat, they came
was an old lady’s voice shouting from inside the house: for a chat with Ar Meng who seemed to be a very good
“Ar Meng, can you make me a cup of hot tea? And listener to people’s problems.
when are you going to cook me some breakfast? I have been up “Hm…don’t worry, things will sort themselves out,
for ages now, you know?” trust me,” Ar Meng said to an old lady who told him about
Ar Meng smiled broadly to his customers and her problems in her family while he was still eating his
shouted back: “Yes, mother. I’ll be with you in a second.” The porridge.
butcher shouted back.
He then asked his customers to wait for a while and All day long, Ar Meng either served meat to his
disappeared into the house. He reappeared after a few customers, or listened and talked to people, or disappeared
minutes and continued serving his customers as well as chatting into the house and tended to his old mother’s needs. The
along with a couple of old men standing by the side of his young man sat there very patiently and still hoped to have
meat stall. The subject of conversation was really nothing a good dhamma talk with Ar Meng at the end of the day. By
more than small talks - the weather and catching up with all evening, Ar Meng had sold all his meat. He was still talking
the gossips in the village. When the last customer had gone to someone while he was cleaning up his meat stall. When he
by mid-morning, his mother shouted for Ar Meng again. had finished, he turned to the young man and said:
Ar Meng disappeared into the house and cooked a meal “You wait here. I must take my mother for a bath first.”
for his mother. When he came out, he had two bowls of rice Ar Meng disappeared into the house and emerged again
porridge, one in each hand. He offered one bowl to the young carrying his old mother on his back. He walked towards
man on the bench. the stream which was only twenty yards away where villagers
“Here, eat this porridge with minced pork and had their daily bath.
spring onion. I cooked it myself. You must be very hungry.” It was dark before Ar Meng came out of his house
The young man who was indeed rather hungry ate and sat by the young scholar on the wooden bench and said:
the rice porridge happily. Ar Meng took his bowl and sat on

398 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 399
“It sure was a long day, wasn’t it? Now, how do you 9
like it?”
The young man was not very sure of the question. Man’s best friend
In fact, he was very confused about the whole day events.
“What do you mean sir? I don’t quite understand. This story was sent to me by one of my students in
How do I like what exactly?” the man asked. Singapore, Jennifer. The author is unknown.
“Well, you came to see me for dhamma, didn’t you? A man and his dog were walking along a road. The
So, how do you like it?” Ar Meng explained. man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to
The young man was even more puzzled by the answer. him that he was dead.
It looked like Ar Meng knew what he wanted but he just He remembered dying, and that the dog walking
could not understand what he meant. beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the
“I am sorry. I cannot understand what you mean. road was leading them.
All day long, I sat here and watched you serving meat to After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall
your customers, chatting to people and disappearing into the along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At
house to tend to your old mother. This is the first time you the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed
have really sat down and talked to me. You haven’t really told in the sunlight.
me any profound dhamma yet. So, how do I know whether When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent
I like it or not?” the young man got things off his chest. gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the
Ar Meng slapped loudly on his thigh, burst out with street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the
laughter and said: dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw
“I knew it. You clever people are all the same, looking a man at a desk to one side.
for profound words of dhamma. I’ve been talking the profound When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me,
dhamma with you all day long and you haven’t even heard where are we?”
a word I said.” “This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered.
Suddenly, the young scholar was enlightened. “Wow! Would you happen to have some water?”
the man asked.

400 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 401
“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice “What do you call this place?” the traveler asked.
water brought right up.” “This is Heaven,” he answered.
The man gestured, and the gate began to open. “Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “The man
“Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, “come in, down the road said that was Heaven, too.”
too?” the traveler asked. “Oh, you mean the place with the golden street
“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t accept pets here.” and pearly gates? Nope. That’s Hell.”
The man thought a moment and then turned back “Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name
toward the road and continued the way he had been going like that?”
with his dog. “No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks
After another long walk, and at the top of another who would leave their best friends behind.”
long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate
that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence.
As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside,
leaning against a tree and reading a book.
“Excuse me!” he called to the man. “Do you have
any water?”
“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.”
“How about my friend here?” the traveler gestured
to the dog.
“There should be a bowl by the pump.”
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there
was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The
traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself,
then he gave some to the dog. When they were full, he and
the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by
the tree.

402 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 403
10 there was hardly anyone there who felt that he should
just get what he needed. A lot of them kept on coming back
Two deities and the cooking oil for more. The two divine beings shook their heads, felt
hopeless and thought: “these people are too greedy to be
This last story was originally inserted into one chapter helped.”
of the old edition when I expressed my difficult experience
in helping people along this path to free samsara. There were Finally, there was a man who approached the deities
times when I felt it was almost impossible to carry on and and asked for just one small cup of cooking oil. He insisted
wanted to give up my charitable work. I then thought of that was all he needed. The heavenly beings smiled to each
this following story which was, once again, from teacher other and were glad that there was at least one person on earth
Tang Mor Seing. My work has, however, survived by setting worthy to be saved. They followed the man to his house and
a clear goal of helping just one person at a time. asked whether he wanted to know the way to heaven.
The man answered: “No, I don’t want to know the way
Two deities descended from heaven and wanted to to heaven. What I want to know is your secret as to how
help someone who deserved to be helped. They disguised you could keep that cooking oil full to the brim in the barrel
themselves as street vendors selling cooking oil. The judgement at all time. If you could tell me that secret, I will be very rich
day had arrived, and the two vendors placed two huge and happy.”
barrels containing cooking oil at the main junction of The two celestial beings suddenly disappeared into
the market place. Instead of selling them at a low price as thin air and never returned to earth again!
they had done for the past few days, they shouted for people
to bring their own containers and help themselves. No sooner
had the announcement ended than the throng of the crowd
rushed to the oil barrels. Everyone tried their best to get as
much oil out as they could manage. The two disguised gods
used their magical power to keep the oil from drying up
no matter how much had been taken out. They noticed that

404 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 405
11 monks, being ordained as monk, strictly observing the moral
precepts, turning vegetarian, giving more to charity and so on.
The significance of the 25th milestone By doing the huge merit all through their 25th birth year,
the Thais believe that they would be well protected by the dark
Most culture have a way in marking the entering of omen casting over them at this significant milestone of
the adulthood at certain age, for instance, Jewish boys have their lives. To the western mind, this is nothing more than
to be circumcised at the age of 13 (if I remember correctly), superstition.
a ceremony marking the significant milestone of life. With the
influence of the Buddhist culture, Thai people (meaning men) My parents especially my mom were no different from
mark the significant milestone of turning into adulthood by others, one at a time, the seven of us were told accordingly
being ordained as monks – mainly at the age of 20. Nevertheless to be extra cautious as we reached our 25th milestone. As I am
the 25th milestone is also another stage of life that must be the 6th among the seven siblings in my family, I heard my
carefully observed by Thai people both men and women. mom echoing the same tune to my brothers and sisters. When
Reaching the children’s 25th birthday, all Thai and Chinese I was in my early teens, I couldn’t wait till my turn as I felt
parents like mine will tell their children to take extra care of it must be very special in turning 25. By the time I reached
their physical safety, tell them to stay well clear from all that significant landmark, I had been through so many
potential dangers. Some parents become paranoia and fear extreme ups and downs in life. I’ve been through two political
that their children might tempt fate and go off to do mountain uprisings during my student years and nearly got myself
climbing, bungee jumping, sky diving and so on. Most parents killed. I left home to stay in a temple up north and then in
keep on pounding the safety codes into their children’s head a cave for 7 months in total; I put my mom through hell
despite the full knowledge that absolutely anyone can be with worries. I even had my brief extraordinary enlightening
run over by a motorbike on their own door steps. encounter at the age of 23. By the time I reached my 25th
birthday, I felt everything but special. Trying to fulfil her
However, to counteract the misfortune that could be parental duty and totally unaware of her daughter rather
forced upon by sheer “bad luck”, the 25 years old people are mature spiritual status, my mom guided me to do a series of
told to do huge merits (tam boon) by often giving alms to meritorious deeds all through my 25th birth year. I didn’t quite

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understand back then and followed my mom’s moral guidance resulting from the Buddha’s enlightenment. The fundamental
as part of our Buddhist tradition that we must obediently Buddhist concept of life is to know that life has a clear
observe without questioning. It was no hard work for me purpose to fulfil which is to leave the cycle of rebirth (samsara),
as I had been doing good deeds for as long as I could the same meaning as reaching the end of all suffering and
remember. Still, I felt safe and secured to be under my attaining eternal peace. The means to leave samsara is by
mother’s wings as most children would feel. This must sound observing the moral precepts as well as cultivating the minds
very strange to the western people as 25 years of age is by doing meditation.
considered well passed adulthood.
Therefore, the meaning behind this social ritual at the
Having lived in England for nearly as long as I age of 25 is nothing more than encouraging youngsters
lived in Thailand and had not been surrounded by people to observe the moral precepts and to do meditation. This
who talked about it, I have temporarily forgotten all the is the reason why it is popular for men to enter the monk
rituals surrounding the 25th birth year. Not until the past year hood at this time of their lives since both practices – moral
when I suddenly realised that my first born was reaching his and meditation – will be carefully observed by novices.
25th birthday. My powerful mother instinct rapidly becomes
active: feeling the strong need to protect her offspring from The much more profound meaning of this moral
danger. I, however, was a bit worried in not knowing how to tradition is based on the simple fact: what goes around
rationally explain this ritual to my son who has been brought comes around. The Buddhists firmly believe that no one can
up in England and grown up with Star Trek and The X Files. escape from the consequences of their own actions and they
There is no doubt my son would take this concept as sheer are particularly scared of their bad karmic consequences.
nonsense and might look at his mother as someone being To the karma believers, there is no such thing called a co-
utterly superstitious. This is part of the reasons for this article. incidence. This is the answer to all the “freak accident” when
bad events happen to random people resulting in far too
As far as the reasons go, this could be the Thai familiar questions: why me and not why you? Why they killed
ancestral ingenious strategy in wanting to guide their children my children and not others’? Why my loved ones got on
towards the ultimate purpose of their lives - the knowledge that doomed plane even though they weren’t supposed to be

408 The User Guide to Life...The Law of Karma Supawan P. Panawong Green 409
there? To the Buddhists, all those unfortunate events are the As far as I am concerned, this is quite an ingenious
results of the previous bad karma which have caught up strategy from our Thai ancestors who wanted to secure peace
with them. By regularly doing meritorious deeds, like giving and happiness to their younger generations.
alms, is a means to run away from their karmic debt.

Should the 25 years old person stick to the custom
by observing the 25 items of good deeds all through their
25th birth year, the result of their meritorious achievements
will take effect accordingly. The results of their good deeds
will act like a safety shield, protecting the persons from all
kinds of evil and dangers that might pounced on them so
unexpectedly due to their previous bad karma.

To guarantee that the birthday person will commit
to their positive acts, traditionally one will make a vow in
front of the Buddha image. Once the promise is made, it is
the mark of the beginning of the new chapter in life: entering
the responsible adulthood with the guarantee of some reason-
able level of happiness and good fortune due to the good
karma they have carried out during their 25th birth year.
The 25 items of good deeds are normally made up of the
combinations of moral precepts, giving, meditation practice
and wisdom: the knowledge guiding one to knowing the true
destination of life.

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