Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MM Lee's views on Buddhism

MM Lee commented in an interview on 1/9/2010 that:
"The Buddhist believes in transmigration of the soul. If you live a good life, the reward is in your next migration, you will be a good being, not an ugly animal. It is a comforting thought, but my wife and I do not believe in it. She has been for two years bed-ridden, unable to speak after a series of strokes. I am not going to convert her. I am not going to allow anybody to convert her because I know it will be against what she believed in all her life. How do I comfort myself? Well, I say life is just like that. You can’t choose how you go unless you are going to take an overdose of sleeping pills, like sodium amytal. For just over two years, she has been inert in bed, but still cognitive. She understands when I talk to her, which I do every night. She keeps awake for me; I tell her about my day’s work, read her favourite poems.”
I think it comes as no surprise that MM Lee's understanding of Buddhism is quite superficial, no different from any ordinary man on the street. Afterall he has been secular and agnostic all his life. Belief in the transmigration, which is just another word for reincarnation of the soul is Hindu or Taoist in origin. Buddhists neither believe in a soul nor something that transmigrate from life to life. It is an eternalistic view that the Buddha rejected along with the nihilistic view of the materialists. What people call "Self" or "Soul" is merely a series of everchanging mental and physical factors that arise and pass away in accordance with cause and effect, nothing more. As such, MM Lee should not subscribe to one of the most common misconceptions that people have about Buddhism.
As for being rewarded in one's next life for doing good, that's not correct either. One of the virtues of the Dhamma is "Akaliko", or timelessness. The practice of the Dhamma is something that can be experienced here and now, with immediate results. One need not wait until the next life to receive one's reward. For example, when one practices meditation earnestly, one experiences calmness and serenity of mind right away. This is the reward in itself. MM Lee has experienced this "reward" himself, practicing the tranquility meditation that he learned from Mr Ng Kok Song; yet he does not realize it. Doing good and feeling joy all have an immediate effect on our consciousness and sub-conscious mind. If one develops mindfulness, one will realize this by oneself. As for what benefits one will get in the future, there's no point speculating whether there is or is not because knowledge will come by itself when one gains insight into the ultimate reality. At least MM still have a workable mind to train in calmness. For Mrs Lee, she is already in the final stage of life and no longer able to help herself. She will pass away in that helpless state, and go where her karma compels her to go. We come to this world with nothing and will also leave it with nothing. All that accompanies us are the good and evil deeds that we have done in this life. If there's anything MM should rightly understand about Buddhism, may he understand these 3 points, sadhu.


Anonymous said...

Lee Kuan Yew is a Christian. However I am quite surprise of his lack of knowledge on and understanding of Buddhism.

Unfortunately many Buddhists (who in essence are more Taoist than Buddhist) wrongly believe in "soul" and "reincarnation", particularly those from the Eastern region of Asia and the Tibetian Buddhism.

I know many people who claimed to be Buddhist but still have the wrong view of eternal soul and it is really hard to convince them there is no soul for reincarnation purposes.

Anonymous said...

Buddhists believe in the four noble truth and the dharma. Rebirths etc are natural phenomena and are acknowledged by the Buddha. Our aim is to strive to cease this rebirth and not being born again and again and again. As such his statement that we seek to be reborn in a better place is not right! Doing lots of merits will naturally brings us to a better "place" but this is not a buddhist's objective.

Pau Yui Chai

Wayne Woo said...

MM had stated quite clearly that he and his wife did not believe in any religion. However, some other members of the Lee family are indeed Christians.

hoangkybactien said...

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monksilo said...

hi, i write to congratulate you, a great site
i have linked you to my site and etc to further promote buddha
i see you visited many interesting temples, any temples in bangkok or nearer to bangkok you recommend worthwhile to visit

thk you
monk silo