This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
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.
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 dreaming?! 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 concerned. 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
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!
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 lifetime. 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 mentalwreck, 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 consequences.2 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 holiness. 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 you. 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 so?” “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 wisdom. 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.
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 mindboggling 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. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
Accumulating renunciation by leading a simplistic life or renouncing material ideals Accumulating insight, wisdom by finding knowledge Accumulating effort by carrying the task all the way through without quitting Accumulating tolerance and endurance Accumulating truthfulness, honesty and integrity 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 suffering.2 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 perfections. 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. 2. 3. 4. 5. the Buddha Gagusantha the Buddha Gonakamana the Buddha Kassapa the Buddha Gotama (our Buddha) 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 teachings. Summary 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 ambition. “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 ambition. “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 me.” 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!
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 ourselves! 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 salt. 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 bitterness. 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.
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 Buddhists. 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 Thailand. 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 tamboon 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 people. 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 world. 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 coincidence. 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
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. 2. 3. 4. 5. Body = physical self = mass = rupa Memories = Jerry = energy = nama Thoughts = Jerry = energy = nama Feelings = Jerry = energy = nama 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 way. 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. 2. 3. 4. When you fall into a deep sleep When you are unconscious either with or without anaesthetics When you are in a coma 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?!
E=mc2 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. E=m 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 that! 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 now!1 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). Summary 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 earth. 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.
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 perspective. 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 (sight Jerry 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 (sight Jerry1,2,3), every time Lucy saw herself in the mirror, she became more and more angry at Jane (sight Jerry1,2,3) 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 accordingly. 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. Misleading 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 occasions. 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 Jerryinfested 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 it? 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 chance! 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.
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 doubleedged 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. 2. 3. 4. 5. Body = physical self = mass = rupa Memories = jerry = energy = nama Thoughts = jerry = energy = nama Feelings = jerry = energy =nama 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 voice: “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 2 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. Dreams 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 up. 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 principle. 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 experiences.
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 impossible.
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 Summary 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
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 going! 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 rebirthconsciousness stepping into the womb, a life won’t be completed and will result in a stillbirth. 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 stillbirth. 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 rebirthconsciousness 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 account.
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 construction. 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 goodhearted 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 life. 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!
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 on. 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: • • Summary 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. 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.
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 late. 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!
Misconception 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 cessation. Therefore, opposite from dependent origination, the Buddha describes the dependent cessation in a stream of karmic logic: 1. 2. 3. 4. Through the total fading away and cessation of ignorance , sankhara ceases, through the cessation of sankhara consciousness ceases, through the cessation of consciousness 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 himself: 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. Vipassana 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. Non-action 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 nonaction (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 rebirth. 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 instead. 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.
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. Normality 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 ecounfriendly 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! Anomalies 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
4 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 experience! Mozart 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 too. 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 balllike 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 manmade 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 you.’ 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.
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. Similarity
Quote from Emotion in animals, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion_in_animals
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. Aisha 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. http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/orphans.asp
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 success. Olmeg 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 himself. 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 friendsand 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. Pali-lai-yaka 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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/features/246index.shtml
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-laiyaka 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.
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 here. 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 (sammaditthi). 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 truth. 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 selfmotivation, 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 truth. 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 read. 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 words. 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. Summary 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. 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 dogooder. 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! 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. 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 breaking! 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 difficulties. 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. 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.
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.
Visakha versus Migara
People who are born into fortunate circumstances must not be complacent and think that luck will always be on their side. That’s why the Buddhists are told to extend their good deeds (boon) by doing wholesome acts as much as they can. I have told you the story of Visakha in the prequel of this book when she lost her granddaughter. When Visakha first got married, she found it rather difficult to adjust to the way people did things in her husband’s household. That was because her father-in-law, a millionaire called Migara, was a follower of Jainism which was one of the famous spiritual orders during the Buddha’s time. Nigantha Nataputta was the leader of this Jain order and passed away before the Buddha. The ascetics in Jainism did not wear any clothes. There are still Jain ascetics in India today, and they walk around naked. However, Visakha was a devout Buddhist before she married into this family. She often felt terribly embarrassed when the Jain ascetics came around to receive alms food from her father-in-law.
One day, while Visakha was tending to her father at meal time, a Buddhist monk came by and stopped at the gate to receive alms food. Visakha was very happy to see a Buddhist monk and wished her father-in-law would react. Although the millionaire Migara knew that the Buddhist monk was at the gate, he pretended not to see and ignored the monk because he did not consider the Buddha as his teacher. Visakha was a very clever lady and tried to divert 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 Buddhist monk. Migara also knew his daughter-in-law’s strategy and insisted on not looking in that direction and kept on eating. Visakha realised she could not change her father-in-law’s mind. She then said to the Buddhist monk: “Please move on to the next house, venerable sir. Migara the millionaire is eating his left-over food.” No sooner had Visakha finished her words than Migara threw his tray of food against the wall and flew into a rage. He growled at Visakha: “How dare you say that I was eating the left-over food? I am the millionaire of this town. I have never eaten left-over food. That’s it. I have put up enough with your arrogance and your sarcastic remarks. You can pack your bag and return to your father. I don’t want you here anymore.”
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Migara then asked his servant to fetch the Brahman who was responsible for Visakha marrying into this household, so that he could tell the Brahman to end this marriage. Meanwhile, Visakha remained calm and said nothing until the Brahman came and asked her what was happening. Visakha told the Brahman that she was an honourable lady and was accepted into this household with great honour. There was no way she would leave this household as an outcast. She needed to clear her name by explaining what she meant by what she had said. A makeshift court hearing then began. Visakha calmly explained: “The meaning of the ‘left-over food’ was merely symbolic. It means that my father-in-law was reaping the result of his good deeds from his previous lives. That’s why he was lucky enough to be born as a millionaire. What I would like him to do is to extend his good karma so that he could remain fortunate. That’s why when the Buddhist monk came round; I would have loved for him to offer alms food to the monk. I did not have any malicious mind towards my father-in-law at all, not in the slightest.” The Brahman confirmed that what Visakha had said was absolutely right. Migara felt rather embarrassed and resented Visakha even further because he could not find any
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better reason to argue with her. He then brought up a list of events that he did not agree with in regard to what Visakha had done in his household and what her father had told her before she left her family home. However, one by one, Visakha managed to answer all her father-in-law’s questions. The millionaire finally surrendered to his daughter-in-law’s reasoning and her brilliant articulation. He then apologised to Visakha and begged her to stay on. Visakha refused and told Migara that she was starved of doing meritorious deeds, especially giving alms food to Buddhist monks as she used to do at home. Migara then told Visakha to do whatever she wanted, which made her very happy. Later on, Migara had an opportunity to listen to the Buddha’s teaching. That first meeting with the Buddha changed Migara’s beliefs completely. He became a devout Buddhist and totally idolised his daughter-in-law for helping him to walk the right path. Migara worshiped the ground his daughter-in-law walked on so much that he called her ‘mother’. Visakha became very well known and popular among the people in town for her noble behaviour and her great generosity in supporting the sangha. She subsequently earned a new name. She was known as ‘Visakha, Migara’s mother’. Visakha felt rather embarrassed about her new name but didn’t know what to do, until her first son was born, that is, when she named him Migara.
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Three in a day
Once there was a small man who bought a cow from a cattle market. The cow, for some reason, was in a very stubborn mood for the entire journey home. As he was pulling the cow into the pen, the angry animal picked the man up by the horns and threw the man a few yards away. The man broke his neck and died that instant. The dead man’s son decided to take the cow to the cattle market and sell him at a low price. Another tall man came along and bought it. He took the cow home and had to walk past a river. It was a hot day so he took the cow towards the river’s bank and freshened himself up. While the man was bending down to scoop the water up, the cow, standing behind him, picked him up by the horns and threw him into the deep river, and he drowned. This cow was then taken to be slaughtered, the meat was cut and sold off which left only a pair of horns. Another fat man came along, bought the pair of horns and took them home. He walked for a distance and felt rather tired. He decided to hang the pair of horns on a branch of a tree and lay down under that tree to have a rest. While he was resting, the branch broke off, the pair of horns dropped, stabbed right into the man’s stomach and killed him straight away.
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People could not understand why those three incidents happened within one day. They went to ask the Buddha about the story behind these extraordinary events. The Buddha then told the people how the law of karma had led three people to their death in one day. In their previous lives, the three men were merchants and they had to travel a great deal to sell their merchandise. They were also greedy men. They once came to a small town where they made quite a good sale. Being greedy and stingy, they decided not to spend too much money on hotels. Instead, they chose a little old cottage which belonged to a poor old lady.
“If you let us stay for a couple of nights and cook us both the morning and evening meals, we’ll make it worth your while. We three are merchants. We have made a great deal of money from this trip so you must not worry. We’ll make sure you will live comfortably from now on.”
One man persuaded the old lady, and the other two men nodded their heads in support. The woman had never opened her house to any stranger before but she could not resist the reward offered. She reluctantly said:
“Well, as you can see, I am very poor myself. If you promise that you will give me some money towards your stay and the food, I don’t mind that.”
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The old woman did her best to cook the three men a nice meal by using what she had left in her little kitchen. She also made sure that the men had a comfortable place to sleep. On the morning before the men were supposed to leave, the lady got up at the crack of dawn and went into the woods nearby to find some wild mushrooms and bamboo shoots. She was hoping to cook a nice breakfast for the men before they left. When she came back a couple hours later, she found no men in the cottage, all their belongings were gone too and there was no sign of any money left for her. Once she realised that she had been conned, she was furious at the way she had been treated. She decided to chase after the thieves and finally caught up with them. The three men not only refused to admit their wrong doing, they, without any shame, taunted the old lady too. Having no physical strength to hurt the thieves, she fought her battle by put a curse on the three crooks instead.
“You most ungrateful men, you listen to me. As soon as I bump into you three again in my next life, whether I am a human or not, I make sure I will kill all of you within one day. And that is a promise!”
My karma is good
Once there were a king and a queen. They were very close and often shared their inner thoughts together. One day, the king said proudly to his wife:
“I am sure you must feel grateful that I love you enough to marry you and make you my queen.”
The queen smiled to her husband and said confidently:
“Hm…I don’t think so. I don’t think it was you who granted me such opportunity to be queen. I think it was my karma. It is very clear that my karma was good and that’s how I could become queen.”
Indeed, the old lady was born as a cow and she did bump into the three men in this life. That was how the karma of both parties led to that extraordinary event. So the Buddha concluded the story.
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Having expected to hear of his own glory, the king’s ego was terribly dented by his wife’s indifferent answer. He then planned to give his wife a lesson. In the middle of the night while his wife was in a deep sleep, the king took the ring off her finger and threw it into the river by the palace. This ring was given to her on the day she was crowned queen. Without the ring, her royal status would be weakened unless she had further endorsement from his majesty, the king. The king thought to himself that his wife had no choice but to surrender to him.
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At breakfast next morning, the queen didn’t even notice the absence of her ring until the king brought it up and asked her what she was going to do about it. The king expected his wife to beg him for a replacement. To his surprise, she did not show any concern about the missing 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.”
I can tell you the truth that it was I who took your ring off your finger and threw it into the river. I could not possibly think how this ring could find its way back to you again!” “Well, my dear, don’t you know that karma works in the most mysterious way!” said the queen.
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,
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Buddha is fake
Sing Jo was a young man in ancient China; he earned his living by pulling a rickshaw. His father passed away when he was a young boy. He had to work hard ever since so that he could look after his mother. He also strictly followed Confucius’ teachings and always fulfilled his filial duty to his parents. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew that he was not only a good son but also a very kind man who could never do enough for people. He did his best to save his hard earned money. When the village needed help to build a road and a rainbow bridge36 to create a shortcut to the nearest town, Sing Jo not only contributed his savings towards the project, but also his labour when the construction was on its way. After a long day of pulling the rickshaw, he would go home to have dinner with his mother and quickly rushed to lend a hand at the building site where he would work until late into the night. When his day time work was a bit slow, he would come straight to the construction site and work there until someone called him for a service. He never moaned about anything and was very happy with what he was doing.
Finally, the road and the rainbow bridge were finished and a few years after that his mother developed an illness and died. Sing Jo had never got married. Without any responsibility to tie him down and now in his forties, he decided to lead a monastic life and become a monk. After a few years of learning the basic skills of meditation and chanting, monk Sing Jo decided to move away from the temple in the village and live in a cave on the side of the mountain instead. A young novice who had always been fond of monk Sing Jo asked to go with him and promised to look after him. They both had managed to turn the small section of the mountain where there was a cave into a very basic monastery. They had a little shrine with a Buddha image. Everyday, they would burn the candles and incense and they did their regular morning and evening chanting together. There were a few households at the foothill and they were only too glad to offer alms food. So every morning, monk Sing Jo and his young novice would walk down to the foothill and receive food from the well-wishers. People also came up and visited the monastery from time to time. A few more years had gone by, monk Sing Jo gradually developed some skin complaints. He tried many herbal remedies but nothing helped him to get better. His skin disease got worse – it was leprosy! Despite the hardship, he never complained of his ill fortune. His novice, who had
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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.
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now become a monk, was still very much faithful to him and took good care of his master. Although monk Sing Jo did not go for his alms round for a long time, he kept up with his regular chanting and meditation practice. There was a night when it rained heavily with thunder and lightning too. Monk Sing Jo had to come out of the cave to use the outdoor toilet when he was suddenly struck down by a bolt of lighting and killed. The young monk threw up his hands in despair at finding his master’s body the next morning and said:
“Master Jo, I cannot understand what’s going on. You are a born do-gooder but you seemed to have bad luck in return. Your father died when you were young, you worked hard to look after your mother; you used your savings and your labour to help build the road and the rainbow bridge; then your mother died; you became a monk and had leprosy. Now, you are struck down by lighting. I am very confused, master. Maybe there is no real Buddha. Maybe the Buddha is fake and so is the law of karma.”
Acting on impulse, the despaired and confused young monk grabbed a piece of charred wood burnt by lighting and wrote on his master’s hand three Chinese words “Buddha is fake!” He went through a period of mourning for his master and decided that he would carry on living there by himself for a bit longer. Therefore, he kept up with the daily routine of chanting as if his master was still around.
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Meanwhile, the nearest town to the village where Sing Jo used to live had just welcomed a new governor and his wife. It was only one month after their arrival when the wife gave birth to their first born, a baby boy. For some unknown reason, the baby was born with a clenched fist and no one could open it no matter how much they tried. The baby also cried a lot and nothing seemed to pacify him. After two weeks of putting up with the baby crying, the mother began to notice that her baby would stop crying at a certain time. Every day around six o’clock in the morning and seven o’clock in the evening, the baby would stop crying and suddenly become very content. The governor asked his local officers to notice what triggered his baby to stop crying. After another two weeks of observation, they could link the baby’s happy moment with the sound of the beating gong and the chanting which came from the mountain not far from the town. The governor told his officers to follow that sound and find out from where it came. Finally, they found the temple where monk Sing Jo used to live. The junior monk was still there and carried on with his daily routine of gong beating before the morning and evening chanting. The officers then told the monk why they were there. The monk asked when the baby had been born. When the officers told him, he realised that it was the same time when his master Jo was struck down by lighting.
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The monk was invited back to see the baby. No sooner did the holy person enter the room where the mother was holding the baby than the baby giggled, waving his hands and legs and showed obvious excitement at seeing the monk. The monk approached the baby and gently opened his clenched fist. To his amazement, he could see three words “Buddha is fake!” written on the baby’s hand. The monk burst out with loud laughter, shook his head and said:
“All right, master Jo. Indeed, Buddha is not fake. The law of karma is certainly real. The result of all your good karma has finally arrived. This time, you will have a much easier life. I am very happy for you.”
The great honourable Mor
The Chinese strongly believe that having a burial ground with good feng shui would bring good fortune and prosperity to the family for generations to come. There was once a wealthy man who had a wife and two daughters. He was looking for a piece of burial ground with good feng shui for himself. He found a piece of land by a mountain and had arranged to buy it. To make sure that there were no bad spirits around, he spent a night camping on his piece of land. He was woken up in the middle of the night by an angry voice saying:
“How dare you to even think about buying this piece of land? This spot is already reserved for the great honourable Mor and his family and no one else.”
The monk told the governor and his wife the story of his Master Jo. They were delighted to know. From then on, the baby was always happy. The governor also contributed a generous sum of money to rebuild the monastery by the mountain. The monk spent the rest of his life at the monastery and worked hard with his practice. He never doubted the Buddha again.
The wealthy man realised he had trespassed onto someone’s land; he apologised to the spirit and gave up the land. 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,
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leaning against a big pillar in front of the temple shrine, who was busy reading a book. Out of curiosity, the old man approached the young scholar and engaged in a conversation. When the family name was asked, the young man said smilingly:
“My family name is rather unusual. It is Mor. There are not many people around who use this name, I am afraid.”
exam first. I think once I become a mandarin; it won’t be too difficult to find a good wife.”
The old man nodded his head with agreement and said:
“Why don’t you marry my daughter? You don’t need any dowry; I don’t want anything from you.”
Upon hearing the name, the elder suddenly remember the previous incident at the burial ground. The wealthy man found out that although the young man was poor, he had ambition. In ancient China, all young scholars, including Mr. Mor, had an ultimate goal of passing one of the most difficult exams so that they could join the mandarin class and take part in serving their country. The wealthy man knew that this young man would fulfil his goal one day in the future. The old man then thought of his eldest daughter who was at the right age to be married. He then asked the young man if he was married. The young scholar was rather puzzled by the question, however, he politely answered:
“No, I am not married yet. To get married, one needs money and I don’t have any dowry to offer to any girl just yet. My parents are very poor but they have done their best for me to have an education because I always love to learn. I am so grateful and that’s why I want to concentrate on passing the
The young intellectual was rather shocked by the bizarre suggestion suddenly sprung on him by a total stranger. He looked at the older man right in the eyes and said:
“How could I? You are rich and I am very poor. How can I marry your daughter?”
The older man shook his head and waved his hand back and forth and said:
“I told you not to worry about money. I just want you to be my son-in-law and look after my daughter for me. That’s all I want from you. Now, what do you say?”
The young man thought that it must be his very lucky day. Once he saw how determined the old man was, he knew that he had nothing to lose. This news would make his parents very happy too. He agreed to the wealthy man’s request. The father quickly came home to tell his wife that he had found a very promising young man who would have a very bright future and that he had agreed to marry their daughter. They told the eldest daughter who was totally shocked and disgusted by the news.
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“No way will I marry a poor man who enjoys reading a few books. How can I face my friends once they know that my future husband has no money at all? No father, I am sorry. I cannot marry him.”
The parents did their best to persuade their daughter to change her mind, but to no avail. She refused point blank. The other daughter overheard all the arguments and felt very sorry for her father that his integrity would be in tatters. She offered to marry the poor man instead. Although the father thought about marrying his elder daughter off, he did not actually tell the man which daughter he would proposed. So it really didn’t matter if the younger daughter was the bride. Soon the rich and the poor family were related by marriage. The elder sister later married a rich man in town. Whenever there was any family gathering, there was always prejudice against the poor family especially among the fleet of servants who served the two daughters. Finally, the young scholar had to travel to the main city so that he could take part in the most competitive exam in China. He had to set off for a long journey which involved spending a night in a small inn in one little town. Every Chinese household has a house-spirit shrine, placed on the floor in the front room. On the night before the young scholar arrived, the inn owner dreamt that his
house spirit came to tell him about a guest who was about to arrive on the next day. “You will have a guest today whose family name is Mor. He will pass the exam and become a mandarin. He is a good man and will be very powerful in the future. I am only a house spirit. His future status will be morally higher than me. So I have to give him respect by standing up every time he passes my house. To save my trouble of standing up and down every time he walks past me, I want you to cover my house up with a piece of red material. If I don’t see him, I don’t have to stand up.” The next day, the young scholar arrived at the inn some time late afternoon. Once the owner of the inn knew that he was Mr. Mor, he quickly covered the house spirit up with the red material as he had been told. The promising young man was intrigued and couldn’t help asking for the reason. The owner of the inn felt rather awkward but couldn’t help leaking the secret. He leaned forward to the young man, and whispered:
“Well, I’m not supposed to tell you. But never mind, I don’t think it will hurt, now that you have asked me. Last night, my house spirit came into my dream and told me that you would be coming today. He also said that you are a good man and you will pass your exam and become a mandarin. The house spirit had respect for you so, he asked me to cover his
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house up so that he doesn’t have to stand up every time you walk past him.”
The young scholar went into his room with many thoughts coming through his mind. Now that he knew he would pass the exam. He couldn’t help imagining his bright future in being a mandarin and having respect from people. Having known that even a house spirit had respect for him caused a sudden change in his mind. His humble thoughts were quickly replaced by arrogance and the good feeling of having power in his hands.
“Once I become a mandarin, it won’t be long before I become the governor of my town. People will have to take orders from me. Then, I want to see the faces of my sisterin-law and all his servants who always look down upon me and my family. Now, they will look up to me for a change. Hm…thinking about the wife, I know she is a good wife but she is not pretty enough to be a governor’s wife, is she? I will certainly look for some beautiful concubines.”
The next morning, as he was checking out from the inn, he noticed that the red material had gone and the house spirit was not covered. He asked the owner of the inn the reason.
“Well, my house spirit came to me again last night and told me not to bother to cover him up anymore because your mind has changed, and so will your future too. He no longer has respect for you. He said you would fail your exam and had no future.”
The young scholar was shocked and realised his wrong-doing. Although it was only the wrong thinking, it gave the impact right away and would cost the whole of his future. He quickly went down on his knees in front of the house spirit and confessed his sin.
“Please do forgive me, house spirit. I have already learnt my lesson. From now on, I will not think out of line again. I will strictly follow the moral precepts as I have done in the past even if I become a mandarin. I will treat everyone well, especially my wife who has been very good to me. Please do forgive me and bless me to pass my exam.”
The young scholar lay on his bed with one arm resting on his forehead, grinned to himself and kept on dreaming of what he could do once he became the powerful governor. The young man hardly slept that night because he was too excited dreaming and planning his future.
The young man felt very ashamed of himself. He 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
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anyway. But with the change of his heart, he finally passed the exam, became a mandarin and kept his moral obligation. Due to his honesty and integrity, he had become very famous indeed. Everyone knew him as the great honourable Mor. The elder sister’s fortune had also changed too because of her ill mind. Her rich husband had become a drunkard and a gambler and destroyed all the fortune his father and father-in-law had built for him. He then developed an incurable illness and died at the age of 40. The younger sister felt sorry for her sister and offered her help but she had too much pride to accept any help from the people whom she used to look down upon. Whilst the younger sister became the mandarin’s wife and had the respect of the people, the elder sister retreated into a monastery and become a nun for the rest of her life.
This is a true story which happened during the time when the Japanese invaded China. There was a very big and well known temple in Shanghai where people came to worship the great saint (Bodhisattva) called Guan Yin. There were a number of devout elderly worshippers who lived in this temple permanently. Their families would visit them from time to time. There was an old lady named Yee Gow – meaning second aunt – who was very deaf. She had never been married so she did not have any immediate family visiting her regularly. Being deaf, she 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
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at meal time. Sometimes she refused to come out when someone called for her because she could manage on what she had in the small kitchen by her quarters. This routine went on for many years without any disruption. Then, the Japanese invaded China. Suddenly the bubbling city of Shanghai was taken over by Japanese soldiers marching with heavy machine guns, tanks, and the roaring sounds of fighter-aircraft. There was fighting, shooting and bombing, and people were killed. The whole country was thrown into chaos, confusion, devastation and extreme fear. Those who lived in the big cities like Shanghai evacuated and fled to the countryside where they could escape the heavy bombshells. Many families rushed to the temple to fetch their elder relatives, but no one came for Yee Gow. She was left behind unnoticed in the upheaval of the situation. That was because the temple was very big and Yee Gow spent most of her time in her own room. Being deaf, she was totally unaware of the commotion, shooting and bombing which was going on just outside the thick walls of the temple gates. Through panicking and fear, the temple was quickly deserted; all the daily events suddenly came to a halt. The main gate was shut and padlocked. Yee Gow was unintentionally left alone in the temple! She wasn’t aware of the frightening situation until one day she felt rather hungry and wondered why no one came to
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fetch her for a meal. Normally, people who meditate and chose to lead a monastic life have a tendency to make less fuss. Yee Gow was like that; she didn’t really mind. Instead, she went into the little kitchen in her quarters where there was plenty of rice and preserved food. She cooked herself rice porridge which she had with preserved vegetables. This was a simple meal with which all Chinese vegetarians could be very happy. After she had her meal, she would retire into her room, and sit in silence. Her mind was occupied only by the name Guan Yin Pusa. After a while, she more or less got used to her routine and in not seeing anyone around. It didn’t bother her in the slightest because she was contented with her life. In other words, it was her inner peace that made her feel safe and sound. Yee Gow was left alone for nearly three months. When the political situation calmed down, people began to return to the city. The temple wardens and the worshippers came back to the temple. Along the thick wall surrounding the temple, there were traces of bullets here and there although the main gate remained shut and padlocked. When the gate was opened, there was no sign of ruin in the temple area at all. Everything remained intact. The front wing of the temple where the main shrine room was, and the back wing which made up the main kitchen and dining area were joined by a courtyard which was an open space and was made into
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a sizable garden with a good variety of trees and plants. The garden was found in an overgrown state and some plants had died off because of the lack of care. Right in the middle of a big bush, a bomb which had never gone off was located. A temple warden quickly informed the authorities and the bomb was removed safely. While a group of worshippers were cleaning up the temple, Yee Gow was spotted – she was happily doing her washing by her quarters. She was totally oblivious of what was happening. Only then, did the people realise that Yee Gow had been left alone in the temple all this time! “Where have you all been?” was what Yee Gow said delightfully to the first man she bumped into with a nice smile on her face. The people thought that it was better not to let Yee Gow know anything about the war and the undetected bomb in the garden only six yards away from her quarters. The devout worshippers had no doubt that it was indeed the loving-kindness and compassion of saint Guan Yin Pusa who had protected the temple and of course Yee Gow too.
An old monk at Ban Nong Wee
Yee Gow’s story tells us that if we can do something to our heart’s content, everything we do will be enjoyable and we can do it for as long as we want. Contentment is, therefore, the key factor for a stable and happy life. The concept may sound easy but without vipassana practice, reality is not as easy as it sounds. Yee Gow’s story also reminds me of an old monk I met when I spent my three months of rainy retreat in a small and remote village called Ban Nong Wee of Payao province in Northern Thailand some thirty years ago (1977). “Tu chao” is the northern dialect word for a monk. In this small village temple, there were two tu chaos, one in his twenties and the other in his seventies, and three young 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 shrine and for all kinds of temple activities. They wanted to make sure that I was safe enough and did not want me to be too far away. Hidden away by a few teak trees was a little kuti where the old tu chao lived. The tu chao spent most of his time on a rocking chair on the balcony of his kuti. He 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 the tu chao hardly talked to anyone else, his face had a distinctiveness of serenity and loving-kindness. His smile was very warm and welcoming, and he really made people feel comfortable and relaxed just to be in his presence. No wonder he did not have to talk much. I often looked at the elderly tu chao every time I walked past his kuti. I didn’t feel like disturbing him much when I saw him sitting and resting his head so peacefully in his rocking chair. Nevertheless, I often wondered what wisdom this old tu chao could share with me. One day, I approached him at the balcony and paid my humble respects to him. He looked at me with his usual welcoming smile and asked whether I had my meal which was the very Thai way of greeting. After a brief moment of small talk, I asked him some serious dhamma questions. I went straight to the point and asked him whether Nirvana really existed and where it was. He smiled and said softly
“Of course, Nirvana does exist and it is right here.”
For some reason, even though I could not understand much of what the tu chao said at the time, I had a distinctive feeling that he was talking about something of which he had first hand experience. The tu chao did not use any fancy dhamma words, nor did he go through any dhamma topic at all; instead, he tried to tell me that if he leaned the good side of his ear and eye against his rocking chair, his world was completely quiet because the eye and ear that were exposed to the world were no good anyway. Then, he brought it to the conclusion that Nirvana was just right there. It has been thirty years since that brief conversation took place. Somehow I always remember it very well. It is only these recent years when my own practice has developed to a certain level that I can understand exactly what that old monk tried to tell me. In fact, I am quite sure that he must have reached some level of holiness.
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.”
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The two brothers
I got the theme of this story from my teacher Tang Mor Sieng. It inspired me to elaborate on the details which are based on my own dhamma practice and experience I have been through myself. This story can depict our modern life style; there are, I am sure, many people want to follow the Buddha’s path but are not ready to commit themselves to the strict regime of monastic life. I, therefore, want to reassure you that the path to ultimate enlightenment can be walked as a lay person. In ancient India after the passing away of the Buddha, there were once two brothers in their twenties, who agreed to set off for a journey of a lifetime so that they could learn the dhamma from different teachers, and they aimed to settle down with the teacher who could teach them to understand the most profound dhamma. After two months of travelling, they reached a small farm house which was quite remote from the next village. It was dusk and the two brothers had no choice but to ask the owner of the farm to let them spend a night there and they would leave early in the morning. The two brothers were rather surprised to find out that there was no man there at all. The farm was owned by a middle
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age mother and her beautiful daughter in her early twenties who appeared to be strong and tough and agreed to let them spend a night in the farm house with a few of their animals. The two men got up at the crack of dawn, washed themselves by the well and were about to leave after they had thanked the two women. The daughter had already been up and was milking the cows. She saw the men and shouted for them to come to see her.
“If you two are not in a rush, my mother would like you to stay for breakfast before you leave. She is preparing a meal right now,” the young woman said to the men smilingly
while still milking the cow. The younger brother felt reluctant and was about to refuse, but the elder brother quickly agreed to the kind invitation before he could say anything. He was annoyed at his elder brother but kept quiet. A while later, the two men and two women were having breakfast, and engaged in some small talk. At one point, the mother paused briefly, went into a deep thought, and said:
“Why don’t you two men stay here and work for me in the farm. My husband died a few years ago and we never had a son. It is sure good that this daughter of mine is tough and strong. We were thinking of selling the farm and moving into
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the town instead, but if you can work for us, we won’t have to sell the farm.”
I am sure you’ll soon find out. Well, we’ll see when we’ll see, I suppose. Good luck and goodbye, brother.”
Whilst the younger brother remained silent, a way to refuse the woman’s request, the elder brother asked more questions about the arrangement. To the younger brother’s horror, the elder brother finally agreed to what the woman suggested. When they both had a chance to be alone, the younger brother said angrily to his elder sibling:
“I cannot believe you. We have agreed to set off on this journey to find the ultimate enlightenment and you are willing to give up that holy ambition the first sign you have the opportunity to be with a beautiful girl and all her wealth. This is just very convenient, isn’t it? I cannot believe how weak my brother is and I am very disappointed in you. How can you treasure all these worldly values more than your own spiritual salvation?”
The elder brother also wished for his younger sibling to find the best dhamma teacher so that he could achieve his spiritual goal. After twenty years had gone by, the young traveller was now a Buddhist monk and he had visited many famous meditation schools and learnt from many well known dhamma teachers. His spiritual knowledge had been widened by meeting people with his own interests and reciting a great deal of famous sutras. However, he still had not yet settled down in a particular monastery. For some reason, he still had a need to search for something better. He then travelled nearer to the place where he and his brother had stopped some twenty years before. He was intrigued to find out how his brother’s family life was, so he decided to drop in for a visit. It was a great delight to his elder brother to have a chance to see his young sibling again. The brother invited his brother the monk to a small hut a good fifty yards from the main house and they both sat down for a chat just like old times. The monk was rather intrigued and his first question was: “What is this place?” “Well, this is where I live.” The brother answered calmly as usual.
The elder brother listened to his brother with an amazingly calm reaction. He did not answer back nor did he try to explain why he chose to stay behind. He remained silent and let his brother get everything off his chest while he was listening. Then, it was time to say goodbye. The younger brother had no choice but to leave his elder brother behind.
“All right, it looks like whatever I said cannot change your mind. You have made your choice to live a family life. Remember how the Buddha said that life is suffering.
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The monk was even more surprised because inside the hut barely had anything but one small bed enough for one person. He could not wait for further explanation. The brother knew exactly what was going through the monk’s mind and quickly said:
“Well, look at you, brother. You look so radiant in your robe. Now, please tell me first of your adventure. Did you finally find a good teacher who helped you to understand the profound dhamma?”
Once that question was raised, the monk could not help to boast about his experience in meeting many well known dhamma teachers and taking part in reciting the profound sutras. He was also very keen to recite the sutras to his brother to show him that he had learnt a great deal during these twenty years. The brother calmly and carefully listened to what his brother told him without any interruption. After a long monologue, the monk asked his brother:
“How about you, brother? How many children do you have? Or are you already a grandfather? Now, you tell me about your family life.”
would be very difficult without a man to take care of this farm for them. I had never thought about marrying her, but I knew you could not understand so I let you think as you did. Once you left the farm, I went back to the house and had a good talk with the mother and daughter. I told them that I had always wanted to be a monk once I could find a good teacher. Therefore, I made a deal with them that I would help them out as long as they would leave me alone to do my own things. They have kept the deal up until today. We have become very good friends. In fact, the mother passed away about three years ago and now there are only the daughter and myself here. I never had any intention to marry that beautiful young girl. That’s why I built myself this little hut here where I have lived ever since.”
The monk gasped with amazement once his brother told him his story up to this point. He reluctantly asked:
“Brother, you are telling me that you have been working side by side with that beautiful woman all these years and you have never wanted to be more than just friends with her? It is rather difficult for me to believe, I must admit. The reason I left here twenty years ago was because I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist that pretty young woman. I counted it a blessing that my passion for enlightenment was stronger. It was also you who decided to stay behind so, there was no point for both of us to fight for one woman, was there? But
The elder brother smiled gently and said:
“Well, it was you who assumed that I was going to marry that young beautiful tough woman twenty years ago. In fact, when her mother talked about letting us stop and work here on that morning at the breakfast table, I did not think anything other than helping out these two women. Life
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I was so sure that no sooner had I left this farm that you would quickly agree to marry her.” “You know now that you were very wrong. Of course, my passion for enlightenment was no less than yours. At that time, I just thought to myself that in fact, if I really wanted to pursue the dhamma practice, there should not be anything to stop me, no matter where I was and what kind of livelihood I led. Maybe with a bit of determination, I could make it work out both ways. That’s why I thought I could help this family out as well as carrying on with my dhamma practice,” the elder brother explained. “Please tell me the truth then brother. Did you never have any feelings for that young enchanting woman all these years? Did you never make any wrong move and give in to your burning desire?” asked the monk with great curiosity. “I wouldn’t have been a human if I did not have moments when I wanted to bow down to my temptations. We are men after all; man’s sexual desire is indeed much more powerful than woman’s. In fact, there were countless times when I wanted to give in to my burning desire and ask her to marry me. That would have made her mother very happy too, but I always remembered what you had reminded me before you left. Life is suffering and I should work hard
for my own salvation. I bit my tongue and on I carried. Strangely enough, I seem to have survived until now.”
The monk became more and more intrigued of how his brother could manage to carry out such an extraordinary way of life.
“Now, you must tell me how exactly you practised your dhamma to make you survive all these years,” asked the monk. “Well, I practised only one thing. I watched my mind. No matter what I was doing during the day and night, as long as I was awake, I was constantly watching my mind all the time. Of course, it was more difficult when I had to work side by side with that exceptionally pretty woman. I had to work extremely hard in my heart. I often had to come back to this cottage and 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 recited, “Buddha, Buddha, please help me.” It was extremely difficult during the early years but after a while I seemed to learn something by just watching my mind in this way. I could see a certain pattern of how the mind would flare up and calm down after a while as long as I had my awareness. Once I could understand how the mind worked, I faced my next battle with a little bit more confidence as life was progressing. I also kept on with my basic meditation skills. Every night before I slept, I would sit in meditation and be aware of my
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breathing. This had helped me a great deal in fighting the 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 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 teacher, I elaborated the story line so that it can correspond to the previous story: The Two Brothers. Most people tend to think the insightful Buddhist teachings are hidden in the difficult jargon and totally overlook the mundane activities of daily lives. Should you apply the meditation technique of ‘bringing your mental self back home’, you will see the profound meaning of this following story. Once there was a Buddhist scholar who had heard the reputation of an extraordinary teacher called Ar Meng. He was quite intrigued and wished to learn the dhamma from him. It was a long journey to find this great teacher but the young man thought it would be worth his while once he had a chance to listen to the supreme dhamma from him. The man set off his journey on foot and it took him seven days before he could get to the nearest town to where Ar Meng was staying. He began to ask around and everyone gave him a very similar impression:
“Oh…you want to see Ar Meng. Oh…good, good, good. You must go and see him.”
The elder brother talked to his brother monk in a very calm and peaceful manner as if there was nothing extraordinary about it. The brother monk then suddenly realised that while he was busy travelling and learning to recite the profound sutras and meeting different famous teachers, his brother had literally gone through the real life battle and used the dhamma to fight his way through life. He also realised that what his brother had done was in fact a million times harder than what he himself had done. He began to suspect that his brother might have reached some level of holiness. So, he asked his brother the straightforward question:
“Brother, has your search for ultimate enlightenment come to an end?”
The elder brother looked at his younger sibling with kindness and slowly nodded his head as the answer to his question. The brother monk quickly went down on his knees, paid great respect to his brother and said with overwhelming delight:
“I have finally found the teacher, brother!”
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It was dark by the time he knew where to go to find Ar Meng, so he decided to spend the night in that town and set off early in the morning. The enthusiastic scholar was rather excited that his search for a good teacher was about to end, and he was longing to listen to all the profound dhamma words. His mind was taken over by the excitement of the forthcoming events until he didn’t sleep. He got up at the crack of dawn and set off for the last three hours’ journey to the village by the stream. As he was entering the village, the local market was busy with shoppers come for their fresh produce. It wasn’t very packed because it was only a small village. The man began to ask around for Ar Meng.
“Oh, you want to see Ar Meng, good, good, good. There…he is over there.”
was looking. He shouted loudly over the crowd to the butcher who was busy serving his customers:
“Ar Meng…there is someone here wants to see you.”
Ar Meng stretched his neck and looked over the crowd trying to spot his new guest. Once he saw the young man, he too shouted over the crowd while he was still serving his customers:
“You want to see me. Come, come, come.”
The young man was rather reluctant to believe that this was the Ar Meng he wanted to see. However, he walked through the crowd to the front and was about to ask a question. Ar Meng looked at the man’s bewildered face and said:
“Don’t worry, I am the one. Just sit here on the bench and I will talk to you.”
The young scholar looked towards the direction the man pointed out for him. What he expected to see was either a village temple or a little hut at the end of the woods where the teacher could lead a secluded monastic life as he had expected. Instead, he saw an old wooden house situated at one corner of the market, and there was a small crowd of people gathering at the front of the house. He quickly walked to that house and asked an old man at the back of the crowd whether this was Ar Meng’s house. The old man looked at the young scholar and knew exactly for what he
The young man did not have a chance to say anything as he had rehearsed once he first met the teacher. Everything did not turn out as he had planned at all. He bowed his head to Ar Meng who was in his mid fifties, jolly and seemed to be very busy with his work. The young dhamma enthusiast sat down on the wooden bench watching Ar Meng, the extraordinary dhamma teacher who turned out to be a butcher selling meat right in front of his house. There were many thoughts rushing through the clever man’s mind. He was very confused by the situation but still hoped that when
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Ar Meng had finished with his work, he would engage him in a dhamma talk. Whilst Ar Meng was busy serving his customers, there was an old lady’s voice shouting from inside the house:
“Ar Meng, can you make me a cup of hot tea? And when are you going to cook me some breakfast? I have been up for ages now, you know?”
the high stool behind his meat stall and began to eat his porridge as well. By then, the small crowd had begun to build up again but they didn’t really want to buy meat, they came for a chat with Ar Meng who seemed to be a very good listener to people’s problems.
“Hm…don’t worry, things will sort themselves out, trust me,” Ar Meng said to an old lady who told him about
Ar Meng smiled broadly to his customers and shouted back: “Yes, mother. I’ll be with you in a second.” The butcher shouted back. He then asked his customers to wait for a while and disappeared into the house. He reappeared after a few minutes and continued serving his customers as well as chatting along with a couple of old men standing by the side of his meat stall. The subject of conversation was really nothing more than small talks - the weather and catching up with all the gossips in the village. When the last customer had gone by mid-morning, his mother shouted for Ar Meng again. Ar Meng disappeared into the house and cooked a meal for his mother. When he came out, he had two bowls of rice porridge, one in each hand. He offered one bowl to the young man on the bench.
“Here, eat this porridge with minced pork and spring onion. I cooked it myself. You must be very hungry.”
her problems in her family while he was still eating his porridge. All day long, Ar Meng either served meat to his customers, or listened and talked to people, or disappeared into the house and tended to his old mother’s needs. The young man sat there very patiently and still hoped to have a good dhamma talk with Ar Meng at the end of the day. By evening, Ar Meng had sold all his meat. He was still talking to someone while he was cleaning up his meat stall. When he had finished, he turned to the young man and said:
“You wait here. I must take my mother for a bath first.”
The young man who was indeed rather hungry ate the rice porridge happily. Ar Meng took his bowl and sat on
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Ar Meng disappeared into the house and emerged again carrying his old mother on his back. He walked towards the stream which was only twenty yards away where villagers had their daily bath. It was dark before Ar Meng came out of his house and sat by the young scholar on the wooden bench and said:
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“It sure was a long day, wasn’t it? Now, how do you like it?”
Man’s best friend
This story was sent to me by one of my students in Singapore, Jennifer. The author is unknown. A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them. After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me,
where are we?” “This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered. “Wow! Would you happen to have some water?”
The young man was not very sure of the question. In fact, he was very confused about the whole day events.
“What do you mean sir? I don’t quite understand. How do I like what exactly?” the man asked. “Well, you came to see me for dhamma, didn’t you? So, how do you like it?” Ar Meng explained.
The young man was even more puzzled by the answer. It looked like Ar Meng knew what he wanted but he just could not understand what he meant.
“I am sorry. I cannot understand what you mean. All day long, I sat here and watched you serving meat to your customers, chatting to people and disappearing into the house to tend to your old mother. This is the first time you have really sat down and talked to me. You haven’t really told me any profound dhamma yet. So, how do I know whether I like it or not?” the young man got things off his chest.
Ar Meng slapped loudly on his thigh, burst out with laughter and said:
“I knew it. You clever people are all the same, looking for profound words of dhamma. I’ve been talking the profound dhamma with you all day long and you haven’t even heard a word I said.”
Suddenly, the young scholar was enlightened.
the man asked.
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“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.”
The man gestured, and the gate began to open. “Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, “come in, too?” the traveler asked.
“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t accept pets here.”
“What do you call this place?” the traveler asked. “This is Heaven,” he answered. “Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.” “Oh, you mean the place with the golden street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s Hell.”
The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog. After another long walk, and at the top of another 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
“Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?” “No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.”
“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.
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Two deities and the cooking oil
This last story was originally inserted into one chapter of the old edition when I expressed my difficult experience in helping people along this path to free samsara. There were times when I felt it was almost impossible to carry on and wanted to give up my charitable work. I then thought of this following story which was, once again, from teacher Tang Mor Seing. My work has, however, survived by setting a clear goal of helping just one person at a time. Two deities descended from heaven and wanted to help someone who deserved to be helped. They disguised themselves as street vendors selling cooking oil. The judgement day had arrived, and the two vendors placed two huge barrels containing cooking oil at the main junction of the market place. Instead of selling them at a low price as 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
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there was hardly anyone there who felt that he should just get what he needed. A lot of them kept on coming back for more. The two divine beings shook their heads, felt hopeless and thought: “these people are too greedy to be
Finally, there was a man who approached the deities and asked for just one small cup of cooking oil. He insisted that was all he needed. The heavenly beings smiled to each other and were glad that there was at least one person on earth worthy to be saved. They followed the man to his house and asked whether he wanted to know the way to heaven. The man answered: “No, I don’t want to know the way
to heaven. What I want to know is your secret as to how you could keep that cooking oil full to the brim in the barrel at all time. If you could tell me that secret, I will be very rich and happy.”
The two celestial beings suddenly disappeared into thin air and never returned to earth again!
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The significance of the 25th milestone
Most culture have a way in marking the entering of the adulthood at certain age, for instance, Jewish boys have to be circumcised at the age of 13 (if I remember correctly), a ceremony marking the significant milestone of life. With the influence of the Buddhist culture, Thai people (meaning men) mark the significant milestone of turning into adulthood by being ordained as monks – mainly at the age of 20. Nevertheless the 25th milestone is also another stage of life that must be carefully observed by Thai people both men and women. Reaching the children’s 25th birthday, all Thai and Chinese parents like mine will tell their children to take extra care of their physical safety, tell them to stay well clear from all potential dangers. Some parents become paranoia and fear that their children might tempt fate and go off to do mountain climbing, bungee jumping, sky diving and so on. Most parents keep on pounding the safety codes into their children’s head despite the full knowledge that absolutely anyone can be run over by a motorbike on their own door steps. However, to counteract the misfortune that could be forced upon by sheer “bad luck”, the 25 years old people are told to do huge merits (tam boon) by often giving alms to
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monks, being ordained as monk, strictly observing the moral precepts, turning vegetarian, giving more to charity and so on. By doing the huge merit all through their 25th birth year, the Thais believe that they would be well protected by the dark omen casting over them at this significant milestone of their lives. To the western mind, this is nothing more than superstition. My parents especially my mom were no different from others, one at a time, the seven of us were told accordingly to be extra cautious as we reached our 25th milestone. As I am the 6th among the seven siblings in my family, I heard my mom echoing the same tune to my brothers and sisters. When I was in my early teens, I couldn’t wait till my turn as I felt it must be very special in turning 25. By the time I reached that significant landmark, I had been through so many extreme ups and downs in life. I’ve been through two political uprisings during my student years and nearly got myself killed. I left home to stay in a temple up north and then in a cave for 7 months in total; I put my mom through hell with worries. I even had my brief extraordinary enlightening encounter at the age of 23. By the time I reached my 25th birthday, I felt everything but special. Trying to fulfil her parental duty and totally unaware of her daughter rather mature spiritual status, my mom guided me to do a series of 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 as part of our Buddhist tradition that we must obediently observe without questioning. It was no hard work for me as I had been doing good deeds for as long as I could remember. Still, I felt safe and secured to be under my mother’s wings as most children would feel. This must sound very strange to the western people as 25 years of age is considered well passed adulthood. Having lived in England for nearly as long as I lived in Thailand and had not been surrounded by people who talked about it, I have temporarily forgotten all the rituals surrounding the 25th birth year. Not until the past year when I suddenly realised that my first born was reaching his 25th birthday. My powerful mother instinct rapidly becomes active: feeling the strong need to protect her offspring from danger. I, however, was a bit worried in not knowing how to rationally explain this ritual to my son who has been brought up in England and grown up with Star Trek and The X Files. There is no doubt my son would take this concept as sheer nonsense and might look at his mother as someone being utterly superstitious. This is part of the reasons for this article. As far as the reasons go, this could be the Thai ancestral ingenious strategy in wanting to guide their children towards the ultimate purpose of their lives - the knowledge
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resulting from the Buddha’s enlightenment. The fundamental Buddhist concept of life is to know that life has a clear purpose to fulfil which is to leave the cycle of rebirth (samsara), the same meaning as reaching the end of all suffering and attaining eternal peace. The means to leave samsara is by observing the moral precepts as well as cultivating the minds by doing meditation. Therefore, the meaning behind this social ritual at the age of 25 is nothing more than encouraging youngsters to observe the moral precepts and to do meditation. This is the reason why it is popular for men to enter the monk hood at this time of their lives since both practices – moral and meditation – will be carefully observed by novices. The much more profound meaning of this moral tradition is based on the simple fact: what goes around comes around. The Buddhists firmly believe that no one can escape from the consequences of their own actions and they are particularly scared of their bad karmic consequences. To the karma believers, there is no such thing called a coincidence. This is the answer to all the “freak accident” when bad events happen to random people resulting in far too familiar questions: why me and not why you? Why they killed my children and not others’? Why my loved ones got on that doomed plane even though they weren’t supposed to be
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there? To the Buddhists, all those unfortunate events are the results of the previous bad karma which have caught up with them. By regularly doing meritorious deeds, like giving 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 reasonable 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.
As far as I am concerned, this is quite an ingenious strategy from our Thai ancestors who wanted to secure peace and happiness to their younger generations.
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