Kalyāṇamittā

Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin

June 2011 edition
Dear Kalyāṇamittā, Namo Buddhāya! NEW! Have you noticed? We got BPC logo on our masthead! • Is Buddhism Pessimistic? Read article by Ven P Gnanarama on Pages 2-4. • “A Lady Who I Knew” – Who is she that is so well loved and respected? Read Ven Cittara’s article on Pages 5-7 • Pālibhāsā or Pāli language constructed for modern use on Page 8 Cool.... Now you can exchange pleasantries with your classmates and friends • Missed something Hot? The temple tour on 30/4/11? Read a tour participant’s write-up and see the snapshots on Pages 9-11 • Alive! with the Teachers’ Welfare Sub-Committee. Read Page 12 to find out the Great World City Dead Deed. • AKAN DATANG: Diploma In Buddhism class 2011/2012 will commence October 2011. Please encourage your family, relatives, friends and colleagues to attend the Preview on 25June Saturday 3-4pm at MV. Full details on Page 13.

With Mettā, Jasmine Tan Editor/BPC eBulletin

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin
Venerable Dr P Gnanarama

Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
Pessimism is a gloomy view of life. Pessimists constantly anticipate defeat and see only the worst aspect of everything. Due to wrong evaluation of things, he is afraid of facing the facts of life. Pessimism is therefore considered an inner check of activities which leads the pessimist to despair, disappointment, frustration, inaction and inhibition. Contrary to hopelessness, which characterizes pessimism, optimism offers a view of life that is bright, full of hope and expectations. The optimist is thus locked in a fool’s paradise in a Utopia for the time being. But when he realizes the real nature of the fabrics of life, he is utterly disappointed and falls into chaos. Some Western sociologists and writers have accused Buddhism of being pessimistic from the beginning. It seems that they do not like to hear the Truth of Suffering as the first truth of the Four Noble Truths. It may be due to hidden agendas or lack of proper knowledge that they criticize and accuse Buddhism. How then does not recognizing the stark realities of life be tantamount to pessimism? Let us now examine how far this accusation is valid in the context of the Buddhist teaching of Suffering. In the First Noble Truth, the concept of Dukkha is rendered into English as suffering, ill, pain, unsatisfactoriness, anguish, anxiety, humiliation, pervasive humiliation, disappointment, sorrow, predicament etc. All of these tendencies denoted by these words are found one way or other in the concept of Dukkha in Buddhism. As drafted in the First Noble Truth, there are three strata of sufferings:(1) Physiological Suffering : Birth, Old Age, Disease and Death (2) Psychological Suffering: Separation from the pleasant Union with the unpleasant and Not getting what is desired (3) Psycho-Physiological Suffering : Five Aggregates of Grasping rūpa, vedanā, saññā, sankhāra, viññāṇa as upādanas

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin
Continuation …. Is Buddhism Pessimistic?

Suffering is also one of the Three Characteristics of Existence (Tilakkana). It stands relative to the other characteristics called Impermanence and ‘Non-Substantiality’ The psychoanalyst Freud says that man is suffering from an uncertainty, a fear expressed in terms of anxiety. He remarks further that anxiety takes the form of separation anxiety due to the loss of loved objects or object’s love; and castration anxiety due to the deprivation of what one desires. According to him, anxiety is a harrowing unease that overpowers man’s reason. The existentialist philosopher, Kierkegaard, says that man is tormented by life’s problems, which he calls anguish. Kant asserts that man is always overwhelmed by a mental attitude called predicament and Schopenhauer says that man is always suffering from an unquenchable thirst due to willing and striving, the basis of which is need and want, followed by pain. Here we see how the Buddhist concept of suffering has echoed into the Western psychology and philosophy to a certain extent in different ways.

The cause of suffering is threefold: Craving for Sensuality, Craving for Becoming (in kāmabhava, rūpa bhava, arūpabhava), which is said to be rooted in eternalism (sassatavāda) and Craving for Annihilation (craving for life’s end) based on nihilism (ucchedavāda). These interpretations have been given in accordance with the contemporary philosophical background in India. Both eternalism and nihilism uphold the ‘soul’ theory. In the former, ‘soul’ is a permanent entity that survives death. While in the latter, it is a psycho-physical entity that ceases to exist after death.
Freud says that there are three functional parts of the mind: Id, Ego and SuperEgo. Id is biological and driven by the principle of pleasure. It is aggressive, antagonistic with society and erotic. Driven by Libido, Ego acts on the principle of reality. SuperEgo is conditioned by moral and social values that one has learnt from parents, society and religion etc from young. SuperEgo is constantly at war with Id. Ego mediating in this conflict, comes forward and offers socially acceptable means to Id to express its drives.

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin
Continuation ….. Is Buddhism Pessimistic?

Professor Jayatilleke has tried to explain the three facets of cravings with parallel concepts in Freudian psychology with the following:I Desire to satisfy our senses and sex (kāma tanhā) is compared to Libido of Freud. II Desire for gratification of egoistic impulses (bhava tanhā) is compared to Ego’s instinct. III Desire for annihilation (vibhava tanhā) is desire to destroy or eliminate what one dislike due to hate or to one’s own wrong views. Freud calls it Thanatos or Death Instinct. Schopenhauer classified his ‘unquenchable thirst’ or ‘willing’ into three aspects: I II III Sexuality Desire for self-preservation and Suicide.

He further illustrates that will is often unsatisfied and therefore there is suffering.

The above facts show that Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. It is realistic and aimed at understanding as they really are. Yathābhūta ññaṇa dassana.

- end of article -

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin A tribute to the late Sis Gina Tan by Ven Cittara, Chief Abbot of Mangala Vihara

A Lady Who I Knew
28 Apr 2003 was the day I arrived in Singapore. It was my first time in Singapore. My friend told me that he was visiting a temple and asked me if I would like to go with him. I said yes. After paying respect to my teachers, we left for a temple. It was Mangala Vihara (MV). At MV, a lady received us and showed us around the temple at about 8 pm. BPC classes were being conducted at that time. I thought Burmese Buddhist Temple (BBT) was big. I was really humbled when I saw MV and its activities. I was happy as Buddhism was apparently deeply rooted in Singapore. What I really did not know at that time was that this temple would be giving me food and shelter and that the lady I met would be the one who I could share my ideas, feelings and personal difficulties for the several years that followed. Though she was a devotee, towards me, she could be likened as my sister. Believe it or not. That was who she was. As a monk, I had very little time with my family. My parents wanted me to be a monk. I become a monk as they wished. But my parents had to pay the price dearly for their wish as both of them passed away during my absence. Being a monk, my current situation did not favour my sisters either. They had only a few hours to share with their little boy (Ko Toot) in 20 years. To be honest, as a human, I crave for love, care and kindness from my parents and sisters. The lady, somehow, shared her love, care and kindness with me. At first, I thought that she was kind to me. Later I realized that I was wrong. She was kind to many. And she was the one who knew my true personality. She understood the fact that “Everyone has weaknesses” Once again, believe it or not, that was who she was. When I came and stayed in MV, she was the one who asked about my life, family and teacher's background. Soon after, the founder of Mangala Vihara, the late Bhante, passed away. MV needed stability in terms of having a resident monk. At least, that was what she felt. We may agree or disagree with her. But honestly, we all could not deny her “Never say never” attitude towards MV. That was who she was.

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin
Continuation …The Lady Who I Knew

When I told her that I was going home, she said she also would like to come with me after getting her husband’s permission. She got permission and we went together. I asked, “Why do you want to come with me?” “I want to see some tourist sites so that we can organize a pilgrimage trip to Burma next year,” she replied. “Do you want to observe my family and teacher's background?” I asked. “Yes, part of it,” she said honestly. To me, like it or not. That was who she was. Truth be told, quite a number of our members found it a bit difficult to accept the changes between the late Master's era and the new resident monks’ tenure. All Bhantes from Sri Lanka have their own temples. Our members thought that since they had their own temple, the Bhantes' attention would be halved. They could not give full commitment to MV. Our members were right from their own view. Moreover, for Sri Lanka Bhantes, they could not live in MV their entire life like the late Master. So how could they ignore their own temples in Sri Lanka? No one can deny that fact too.

The lady might have thought that I could be the solution as I have no temple of my own (in fact, I was a run-away monk) and no teacher who could take me back and order me to stay with him. She could have been rather relieved after coming back from Burma. I was truly a nomad monk. Very few people understood her intention towards MV. She took some blame for what she believed in and what she did. We may like her or we may not. But no one can deny her concern and commitment to the temple. That was who she was.
It was amusing. When my friends came for our ceremonies and saw somebody, they asked “Is the gentleman the lady’s husband?” I said yes with a gentle smile. When I explained about something to our helpers, they could not figure out someone’s name. Only a moment later a man asked “Do you mean the lady’s husband?” At that time I laughed loud. She had such an influential image on people. Believe it or not. That was who she was.

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin
Continuation… The Lady Who I Knew

Though she knew she was gravely sick, somehow, she still managed to go on two trips, Sri Lanka and Burma. These were places she probably wanted to go, places where the Lord's teaching are strong in existence. She produced immense mental energy from her skinny body. Take it or leave it, that was who she was.

At least I could console myself that I became MV’s resident monk and I could contribute a bit for the temple when she was still with us. I just worry that I cannot fulfill her wish. But I make sure I try my best. More importantly, I could not experience my parents’ dying moments and I could not do anything at their last moments. However, I fully witnessed her last moments. I did my best. Yes. She has left us.
See you Madam Gina Tan.

- End of Article-

Editor’s Note:
Sister Gina Tan Kwai Kum left us on 21Feb2011. This article was read as the eulogy on the 100th day memorial service for Sis Gina Tan held on 21st May 2011 at Mangala Vihara Temple. A Dana lunch for the MahaSangha was later held and the merits transferred to Sis Gina Tan. The Management Committee of BPC Alumni thank the MahaSangha, all participants and volunteers for their kind contributions and attendance.

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin

Pālibhāsā
(Pāli Language)

In the BPC committee workshop held on 27Feb11, the alumni chairperson, Sis Jenny Quek had remarked that since we are the Buddhist and Pali College, it would be appropriate for us to also promote the use of Pāli. With this new column, under the tutorage of Sis Dolly Goh, we hope to inspire each and every alumni to not only continue to learn Pāli but to also speak the language. This short exercise will also keep the language from going extinct. Our lessons are basic, short and sweet. Have a go!

Pāli Suppabhātam Subha aparanhaṃ bhavatu Subha sāyaṇhaṃ bhavatu Svāgataṃ Nisīdāh’imasmiṃ āsane Kacci khamanīyam kacci yapanīyaṃ? Sukhito’smi Thutiṃ kāromi

English Good Morning. Good Afternoon. Good Night. Welcome. Please take a seat. How are you? I am fine. Thank you.

Tell us if you like this. Feedback to : bpc2alumni@gmail.com

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin
By Derrick Huang, tour participant

Three Traditions, One Goal – Experience of a local temple tour
What a way to start a hot and stuffy Saturday afternoon! Together with more than 20 other students from the Buddhist and Pali College, we joined the local temple tour organized by the Recreation & Retreat Committee on 30April2011. While waiting to board the tour bus, we chatted with our tour guide, Uncle Choo.
We were rather excited about this trip that was specially planned for us as most of us do not know much about the local Buddhist temples and their rich history. However, with Uncle Choo’s wealth of Buddhism and Dhamma knowledge, we were in good hands. We were scheduled to visit 4 temples of which 3 were of the traditions of Vajrayana, Theravada and Mahayana with the 4th temple a combination of the three traditions. We waited till 2pm before we left Mangala Vihara to start our tour. The first stop was the Sakya Tenphel Ling (Sakya Teaching Center) located in Pasir Ris. Uncle Choo told us that the word “Ling” denotes “temple” in the Tibetan language. We had to remove our footwear before entering the main shrine hall. A female volunteer at the temple then showed us around the temple grounds and explained the meaning and significance of the different images. We were introduced to Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin), Green Tara, White Tara and Medicine Buddha. All of these deities have their own mantras to chant for invoking the blessings of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. The temple’s lineage is of the Sakya’s Sect which is one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The other three are Nyingma, Gelug and Kagyu. After spending some time and photo-taking at Sakya Tenphel Ling, we proceeded to Sasanaramsi Burmese Temple at Balestier. The Buddha statue in the main shrine hall of this Theravada temple is similar to the one at Mangala Vihara. Perhaps it’s this familiarity and that it is of the same tradition as Mangala Vihara, that we felt sudden peace and tranquility upon entering the main shrine. We paid obeisance to the Buddha. Some went to receive blessings from the monks, who were in the shrine hall. On the third level of the temple was a golden Buddha statue with the “fearlessness” mudra. After paying respects to the Buddha image, we left the temple for our next destination.

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin
Continuation… Three Traditions, One Goal” – Experience of a local temple tour

The third stop was the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery of the Mahayana tradition located at Toa Payoh. It was almost 5pm and we noticed volunteers were already making preparations to close the temple’s various halls. Uncle Choo explained the meanings of why certain images of deities and Bodhisattvas are depicted in the monastery and the symbolism of the objects held in the hands. Though tired, we managed to tour the vast monastery, finishing at the Hall of Guan Yin. Here we saw the 18 Arahants, commonly mentioned in Chinese books and stories.

Our final stop was the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple at Bishan. It is the biggest Buddhist temple in Singapore as it combines all the 3 different Buddhist traditions into one area for worship. Unfortunately, the temple was already closed when we got there. We could only walk along a sheltered walkway besides the garden and admire the stone carvings of “the little monks”.
As we journeyed back to Mangala Vihara, Uncle Choo shared with us some Dhamma songs he composed to help us relax. He also exhorted us in the Dhamma by saying that everything is impermanent. We can only find refuge in the Dhamma and that we have to put in efforts to practice daily. Though it was a hectic tour of the four temples, we nevertheless, enjoyed ourselves as much as Uncle Choo enjoyed sharing with us his wealth of knowledge in Buddhism and Dhamma. We realized that though there are many different traditions in Buddhism, all of which culminate into one path and one goal, which is to realize the highest happiness, unconditioned, unborn and unmade. The attainment of that goal lies in our hands, through diligent practice of the Dhamma. See following page for photographs

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin

Temple Tour Snapshots
Left: The grand and imposing gateways of Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery at Toa Payoh. Below (R) A beautifully ornate octagonal roof at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (Bright Hill Temple)

Above left: At the Sakya Tenphel Ling, prayer offerings made from butter and salt can last for more than a year.

Left: “Tourists” from BPC posing with a golden statue of a standing Buddha on the 3rd level of the Sasanaramsi Burmese Temple at Balestier.

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin

Report from the Teachers’ Welfare Sub-Committee , headed by Bro Ong Keng Boon, Co-headed by Sis Jean Lau

Book of the Dead marks a New Beginning
On 7 May 2011, BPC teachers were treated to a documentary movie titled “The Tibetan Book of the Dead", screened in conjunction with the Buddhist Film Festival 2011 at GV Great World City. This marked a new beginning in the BPC Alumni's work since it was reinvigorated in 2008. The movie outing was the first event organised by the Alumni's Teachers' Welfare Sub-Committee. A timely show of appreciation to our teachers who sacrificed their time to support the work of the BPC in propagating the Dhamma. Going forward, the sub-committee hopes to introduce more activities, such as sharing sessions, teaching-related talks and courses to allow teachers to bond with one another and to cope with the demands of teaching. The sub-committee welcomes suggestions from both teachers and alumni to improve the welfare of BPC teachers. Please send your valuable feedback to Ong Keng Boon [kengboon@aga.com.sg] or Jean Lau [metta_moon@yahoo.com.sg].

Note: Not all participants are in this photograph.

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Kalyāṇamittā
Buddhist & Pāli College of Singapore eBulletin

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