Monday, December 31, 2007

What is the 8th Consciousness?

The 8th consciousness is a concept taught in the doctrine of the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism. They enumerate the 5 senses, supplemented by the mind, the defilement of the mind (klesha), and finally the fundamental store consciousness (ālaya vijñāna), which is the basis of the other 7. This concept is not taught in the Theravada. One could think of it as a field that stores all the seeds of your good & bad karma from all your past lives until the present life. It is the most subtle core of the being that we believe to be our "self".
So what can we do about this alaya vinnana? One cannot reach it in the normal state of consciousness. You can only reach it by deep meditation until the formless jhanas. The 4 formless jhanas are none other than the 4 aggregates of the mind focused at a single point. The jhana of infinite space corresponds to a universal "feeling" of emptiness. The jhana of infinite consciousness corresponds to "cognition" expanded outwards. The jhana of nothingness corresponds to "mental formations" coming to a temporary halt, and the jhana of neither perception nor non-perception corresponds to "perception" being unable to identify itself. The mind appears to be infinitely empty and unmoving in those states, deceiving many undiscerning meditators to believe they have attained Nibbana; but in reality it still contains very subtle seeds of defilement called Avijja (fundamental ignorance). This is what is meant by a field or store. Once they receive the right stimulus (external conditions) they will develop into the plants of either lobha (likes), dosa (dislikes) & moha (unawareness).
Therefore Jhana by itself is useless if one does not use Vipassana to reflect on the nature of those states of mind. It is through constant mindfulness of aniccam, dukkham & anattam leading to dispassion that gives one the wisdom to destroy the seeds of Avijja and reach Nibbana. Once that is achieved, the field transforms into a bright mirror - everything can be reflected in it but nothing ever sticks on to it. The alaya vinnana is gone forever and what is left is only the Bodhicitta - the awakened mind.
As Chan Master Dazhu Huihai taught in his treatise, the 8 consciousnesses are transformed into the 4 Buddha Wisdoms. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body - these 5 consciousnesses together become Accomplishing Wisdom. The 6th consciousness of the mind alone becomes Observing Wisdom. The 7th consciousness alone becomes Equanimous Wisdom and the 8th consciousness alone becomes Perfect Mirror Wisdom.
How do these 4 Buddha Wisdoms apply to our awakened mind? Ven Dazhu further taught that when the mind is deep and still like the void, bright and completely motionless - this describes Perfect Mirror Wisdom. When no sense object can cause a single thought of like or dislike to arise, then duality is void. This voidness of duality is Equanimous Wisdom. When all the sense organs can discriminate clearly in their respective realms, but no confused thought arises to hinder the freedom of the mind - this is Observing Wisdom. When all the sense organs can be used at the appropriate time, in a correct way with no discrimination of form -- this is Accomplishing Wisdom.
And how do the 4 Buddha Wisdoms relate to the 3 Bodies (Trikaya) of the Buddha? The Perfect Mirror Wisdom becomes the Dharmakaya (Reality Body). The Equanimous Wisdom becomes the Sambhogakaya (Reward Body). However, Observing Wisdom and Accomplishing Wisdom combine to become the Nirmanakaya (Emanation Body). These 3 Bodies are set up as names and differentiated as concepts only as an expedient means to help those who do not yet understand the Dharma. If one readily understands this doctrine, the expedient means of the 3 Bodies is not necessary. Why is that? Because one clearly comprehends that their nature are formless, being established only from the fundamental non-abiding mind, which also does not exist.
So practice Samatha-Vipassana meditation earnestly, until one can vanquish Avijja and transform the Alaya Vinnana into Perfect Mirror Wisdom or Dharmakaya. Then you will know for yourself what the Buddha has taught. This is the path taken by all Noble Ones.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The History of LP Ong Dam & LP Metta

Extracted from Ajarn Toon's webpage at:

History of the Black Buddha Image (Luang Por Ong Dam) and Kind Buddha Image (Luang Por Metta)

The Black Buddha Image has a lotus-shaped body, with the fingers pointing towards the earth. Thais call this “Pang Marn Wichai.” In this image the Lord Buddha sits in a meditative position.
The image is 60 inches wide from knee to knee, and 69 inches tall from top to bottom. The Black Buddha Image was created during the reign of king Dewapal (1353-1393 BE). In 1766 BE, the Muslim army invaded Makoth and destroyed all the Buddhist temples and Nalanda University, the home of the Black Buddha Image. For seven centuries the Black Buddha Image was buried in the ruins of the collapsed building. Finally, in 2458 BE the Black Buddha Image was discovered by Dr. Spooner, a student of Sir Cunningham. The archaeologist Sir Cunningham had read Pra Than Sam Jang’s text about Nalanda University, and he was determined to survey the site. He was able to lead his team to the location, and he found the center stupa at the heart of Nalanda University. He soon discovered the remains of other structures. Mr. A.M. Bradley and Dr. Spooner participated in the survey, and they found the Black Buddha Image and many other Buddha images. However the Black Buddha Image is the only image they found in perfect condition, with only a few cracks on the nose and finger.

In India the Black Buddha Image is a called Teliya Baba (Luang Por Nam Man) or Mota Baba (Luang Por Wan) because people apply oil to the body of the Buddha image, and this oil is also used on thin babies, in the belief that it will make the child fat and healthy. In Thai the Buddha image is called Black Buddha Image (Luang Por Ong Dam) as the image is made of black stone. Both Indians and Thais respect the Black Buddha Image very much.

To celebrate the 50th year of His Majesty King Bhumipol’s reign, Thai people are honored to build Buddha images to offer to the King as gifts of great value. The first of two Buddha images is copied from the Black Buddha Image in Nalanda University in Rajagriha, India. This is
Luang Por Ong Dam. The second is the Kind Buddha Image, known as Luang Por Metta, and is described below.

In 1993 a party of Thai pilgrims travelled to important Buddhist sites in India, and they were very impressed by the Black Buddha Image. They took a model of the image to make a copy in Thailand. Now 12 Buddha images have been constructed and these have been distributed to three sites: Udon Thani, Sakhon Nakhon, and Nongbua Lamphu provinces. The holy ceremony celebrating these Buddha images was held on the 3rd of October 1993. The Buddha Image Building Committee also published the history of the Black Buddha Image, as well as texts on the 32 Maha Burislaksana (The 32 Appearances of the Great Man), and on the 80 Adidtayanupayanchana of the Lord Buddha. These books are guides to the process of constructing Buddha images.

In 1994 Phra Kru Pawana Jitsunthon the abbot of Wat Aranyigavas in Ban Peu, Udon Thani, made a pilgrimage to India and visited Wat Thai Buddhakhaya (Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhigaya), the place where the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. He paid respect to the 60 inch-wide Buddha image called “The Kind Buddha” and he brought a model of this Buddha image back to Thailand in order to make a copy.

The image enshrined in the Mahabodhi Temple was considered especially wonderous. Its height of more than 2 metres makes it the largest surviving seated Buddha image created using black stone, painted in gold by the pilgrims. The gilded image of the Buddha seated cross-legged, with one hand pointing to the earth, i.e. in the posture of the Bhumisparsa Mudra in which the Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment. This sculptural representation of the Buddha is unique with its calm facial expression and superb physical beauty. All the pilgrims from all over the world offer prayers at the feet of the large image of the Buddha installed in the ground floor of the Maha Vihara facing east. Its great size may indicate that it once served as the central image of the Mahabodhi Temple.

The Black Buddha Image (Luang Por Ong Dam) and the Kind Buddha Image (Luang Por Metta) were cast on Sunday July 17 1994 and would be reproduced into 108 images to be located throughout Thailand, even in neighboring countries such as the Laos PDR.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

One & Many

Ven Yongjia wrote in his Song of Enlightenment:

"One nature penetrates into all natures;
One Dharma encompasses all Dharmas.
One moon is reflected in all waters;
All the water-moons come from one moon."

In Mahayana Buddhism we always hear about the teaching of Oneness. What is One and what is Many? One refers to the full moon in the night sky. Many refers to the myriad reflections of the moon in all the bodies of water on Earth. The reflections on Earth are our 5 aggregates. The full moon refers to our nature of knowing. The reflections, which are all different in their own way, arise and dissolve endlessly, but the full moon shines on unaffected. When a reflection realizes its true self is the full moon, it achieves enlightenment and is no longer affected by its own arising and dissolving anymore. But the reflection is still the reflection, the full moon is still the full moon; each still follows its own nature as it always has. The only difference is that the awakened reflection no longer suffers like other ignorant reflections. To quote from a Tibetan Dharma riddle:

"How do you prevent a drop of water from ever drying up?
By throwing it back into the ocean."

Among the infinite number of sentient beings, there is not a single being that does not possess the Buddha-nature. This Buddha-nature is our bare naked awareness, the mind detached from all its aggregates, your "original face before your parents gave birth to you". Because we cling on to the aggregates which are by nature unstable and unsatisfactory as ourselves, we subject ourselves to suffering endlessly. How can you prevent your body (rupa) and mind (nama) from drying up again and again? I leave that for readers to contemplate on their own.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Young Man & his Coffin

The Dhammapada says:
"As with force the cowherds drive their cattle out to graze,
in the same way do decay and death drive the life out from all sentient beings."
There is a report in Zaobao on Friday (16.11.07) about a 22 yr old man, Bai Zhixiang, who had been sleeping in a coffin in his room for the past 4 yrs. Apparently, he is a young medium for 2 deities of Hades, "Tua Di Ya Peh" or Black and White Wuchang. According to Taoist belief, these 2 deities are captains of King Yama, the Lord of Death, and are in charge of bringing departed souls of bad people to the nether realm.
Bai is one of the guardians of Lian Tian Gong temple in Woodlands, and had been "chosen" by the deities when he was 13 to become their medium. Since then, he became a disciple of one of the senior masters and started to learn the rituals of mediumship. 4 years ago, under the request of the deities, a temple devotee offered a Chinese coffin to him. He placed the coffin in his bedroom and used it as an alternative bed at times. Macabre as it seemed to ordinary people, the ironic thing is that his girlfriend of 2 yrs split up with him not because of the coffin, but because she was shocked by what he did during one of the deity possession rituals - having 10 steel pikes poked into his back!
Self-mutilation is actually quite normal during Taoist or Hindu religious ceremonies, but for the uninitiated, one can imagine how scary it would be for them to see it in real life. Despite the emotional setback, Bai have to continue as a medium as he has an irresistible karmic connection with the Hades deities.
Who are these 2 deities? There are many versions of their origins, but the popular one in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan is that during ancient times there were 2 sworn brothers by the names of Xie Bi-an (White Wuchang) and Fan Wujiu (Black Wuchang). Once they arranged to meet at a bridge over a river but it started to rain, so Xie went home to get an umbrella. Unfortunately the rain became very heavy and flood waters swelled, sweeping the faithfully waiting Fan into the river to his death. When Xie came back and found out what happened, he was so sorrowful that he hung himself at the bridge (thus he is always portrayed with a long tongue sticking out) to follow his sworn brother to the nether realm. In the hall of King Yama, he was so impressed with their loyalty towards each other that he made them his captains, entrusted with the task of bringing bad people to Hades to be judged. And so they had been doing their jobs ever since. Besides their normal routine, these 2 deities also visit the human realm when they are free to reward the good and punish the evil. As such, they are held in high esteem by many Chinese folks until today. The term Wuchang in Chinese means Impermanence, or Anicca in Pali. These 2 deities personify the law of impermanence, which all of us, whether young or old, rich or poor, noble or lowly must come face to face with at any time in our lives. Yet most people do not see this truth, and continue to live their lives heedlessly, driven by their craving and aversion towards all things. When their time on Earth is up and the Wuchang deities appear before them, it would be too late for them to regret their own deeds. They can cry all they want, but it wouldn't stop the deities from dragging them to Hades to be judged by Yama and his judges. In reality the the Wuchang deities are a reflection of the mind going through the death process, much like the Bardo deities described in Tibetan Buddhism. If your negative karma outweighs the positive, you will see the deities appear in the form that you are culturally conditioned to perceive, ready to take you down to Hades. If it is vice versa, then you will see Devas or Angels coming to receive you instead. Yet whether heaven or hell the tainted mind is still not freed from the ever turning wheel of samsara. Only those Noble Ones who have purified their own minds will see their true self at the dissolution of their bodies, entering Parinibbana there and then, in the footsteps of the Buddhas. This is the goal that all wise men should aim for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Man who married a Bitch

The Dhammapada says:

"The evil-doer suffers here and hereafter;
he suffers in both worlds.
The thought, 'Evil have I done' torments him,
and he suffers even more when gone to realms of woe."

On Wednesday (14.11.07) I read an article in TNP (above) talking about a certain man in Tamil Nadu, India, marrying a bitch in the hope of lifting a curse on himself for wantonly killing 2 dogs many years ago. This ignorant man is acting under the misleading advice of an astrologer, who told him that was the only way to alleviate his suffering. Unfortunately for him, such a useless act would in no way lighten the negative karma that followed him for the past 15 yrs. These people's total ignorance of the Law of Karma is truly lamentable, considering that the Buddha's teachings once flourished there centuries ago.

The origin of his suffering is like this: 15 yrs ago this man happened to see 2 dogs in the act of mating. This somehow caused anger to arise in his mind, and in his anger the man stoned the canine couple to death. As if that was not enough, he even hung their carcasses from a tree as if to humiliate these animals. Soon after his evil deed, his hands and legs became paralysed, and he also became deaf in one year. He had been living with the fruits of his negative karma ever since.

Unknown to him, the ghosts of the 2 dogs he slain are still hounding him up to this day. They have been biting his hands and legs everyday in revenge, causing the paralysis. They are also barking loudly into his ear to express their hatred for him, causing his deafness. But nobody except this man can feel such karmic effects. Although he had enough pain and started to regret what he did, but foolish as he is, he believes that by marrying a dog he could make amends for his past deeds. This would of course in no way appease the hatred of the 2 ghostly canine tormentors feel towards him.

What he should do is to ask for repentance from the Triple Gems and sincerely seek forgiveness from the 2 dogs for his sins against them. This would offer him temporarily relief from his paralysis. After that he must practice Samatha-Vipassana meditation for 7 days and dedicate the merits of his practice to the dogs. Only in this way can his karmic tormentors be completely appeased and liberated from their current state into a realm of happiness. As such, the paralysis and deafness suffered by the man for such a long time would also be gone forever. I pray that this man would have a chance to hear the Dhamma and be freed from his suffering, otherwise his days of woe would not only continue for the rest of this existence, but into the next existence as well. Fearful indeed.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Strange photos taken in Paris

In the Doctrine of the Mean, Confucius said:

"The abundant virtue of spiritual beings is truly amazing! Looking for them, they cannot be seen; listening for them, they cannot be heard. Yet there is nothing that they do not embody. They cause the people of the world to fast for purification and wear grand clothes in order to perform sacrificial ceremonies. They are overflowing, seeming to be above, seeming to be on the left and right. The Book of Odes says: 'Trying to perceive the presence of the spirits, yet we cannot grasp them. How could we not respect them?' The manifestation of the subtle and the inconcealability of sincerity is also like this!"

For the whole month of October, I was in Paris for a training program organized by my department. The classes were only half-day, so in the afternoons I took the opportunity to do some sightseeing. Paris is a truly beautiful city; there were historic monuments, cathedrals, museums, palaces, squares, gardens & statues everywhere. Being in Europe for the first time, I was quite overwhelmed by the rich history & culture of the city. But one place was particularly interesting for me as I managed to take some unusual pictures there. This place is none other than the Invalides Army Museum (seen above), which besides being a museum for a large number of military relics from the medieval times until WW2, also houses the Tomb of Napoleon, his brothers & other great generals.

Emperor Napoleon died in 1821 after being exiled to the island of St Helena by the British, following his defeat at Waterloo in Belgium. His remains were moved back to France in 1840 and entombed in a sarcophagus at Les Invalides.

This is the big red sarcophagus containing Napoleon's remains. Notice that there is a translucent white orb at the base of the sarcophagus. If you zoom in on this photo, you can also see another small white orb at the side of the sarcophagus. I didn't notice it when I took the picture, but only when I reviewed it later. Could the spirit of Napoleon still be hanging around his tomb?

Then there is also Jerome Napoleon, his youngest brother, the Marshal of France who died in 1860 at Villegenis and buried in Les Invalides later.

When I took a picture of his sarcophagus, immediately I saw this bright bluish orb obscuring the face of Jerome's statue. On closer examination, it is actually 2 orbs joining together at the level of his face. I thought this was very strange. If you zoom in on the picture, you can also see a faint but big white orb at the base of the statue. On the right of the base, as well as on the sarcophagus itself, you can also see 3 other faint & smaller white orbs. Jerome's spirit? Devadas or Petas? Whatever they are it convinced me there there were definitely many invisible beings inside this Invalides museum.

And this is Joseph Napoleon, his older brother and King of Spain for a short period. He died in 1844 at Florence, Italy and was moved back to Paris to lay beside his brother inside Les Invalides.

Again when I took a picture of Joseph's sarcophagus, I noticed the 2 big white orbs on the top left corner of the picture. These 2 orbs are not as bright as those in Jerome's picture, but still clearly visible. If you zoom in on the picture, you can also see 2 other fainter & smaller white orbs on the upper right side of the picture, one beside the statue & the other on the pillar. I was getting to be quite amazed at the number of invisible beings showing up there. But there were no other orb sightings seen in the subsequent photos I took at the museum.

Some time later I travelled to Brussels in Belgium. Above is the Arc De Triomphe in Brussels. Behind the monument is another military museum similar to the one in Paris.

When I asked my colleague to take a picture of me standing beside this big artillery gun, I was shocked to see a big & bright white orb above my head! On closer examination you can see that it is actually 2 bright orbs joining into 1. If you look really close, you can almost make out a face in those orbs. Man, just who are these "guys"?

The final odd picture will have to be this beautiful shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris at night. You can immediately see one small but bright white orb on the right side of the tower, as well as at the bottom. There is also another smaller but visible white orb on the right side of the photo. If you zoom in on the photo, you can actually see many other faint white orbs all around the tower. Interestingly enough, this shows that the Eiffel Tower is not just teaming with loads of human tourists, but spirit ones as well. I realized that the Dhamma is such that no matter whether you are Human, Deva or Peta, we all share some common activities, likes & dislikes. Perhaps the tower is so attractive that even the Devadas & Petas come to visit? Hmm.. I leave readers to ponder about that themselves.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Future of Burma

The Book of Great Learning says:
"He who loses the (hearts of the) people loses the state."
It has been 10 days since the beginning of the nationwide anti-Junta protests started by the monks in Burma, and the situation is getting worse every day. Already large numbers of monks & civilians have been beaten, arrested, even slain by the merciless soldiers sent in to crack down on peaceful protesters.

The Dao De Jing says:
"Why threaten the people with death,
when they are no longer afraid of dying?"
My heart goes out to the suffering Burmese monks and people. Despite its rich natural resources, economically Burma is no better than North Korea after decades of isolation. After the recent 5-fold increase in fuel prices, the impoverished people are literally faced with starvation, which leaves them no choice other than to take to the streets along with the monks. However instead of being heard they are shot at, struck down with sticks and thrown behind bars.
The Junta government in Burma has oppressed its people for far too long. They have no qualms about plunging their own nation into an abyss of poverty and hopelessness, only to cling on to illegitimate power. Nothing has changed since the 1988 massacre of 3,000 over protesters, other than the mastermind of the violence - General Tan Shwe, another ruthless dictator. Like North Korean "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il, he himself lives like a King while the rest of the country are going through hell trying to survive from day to day.

What future does the Burmese nation have, under such a corrupt and violent regime? How can ordinary people and monks with little possessions hope to topple their military rulers, who have been entrenched in power for the past few decades?

The answer lies in one word - Karma. The sins of the Junta has ripened since 1988, and the reaping of their evil fruits is imminent. On the surface it looks impossible for the people to overthrow them, but the Junta is not as united as it appears to be. The moment they spilled the blood of the Sangha as well as the people, the Junta effectively sealed their own fate in the same way that the Taliban sealed theirs when they destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues. Forces of dissent among the military are growing stronger in different parts of Burma. These forces feel sympathy for the Buddhist religion as well as for their own countrymen. Mark my words, soon there will be revolts within the Burmese Army itself.

The Dao De Jing also says:
"When the people no longer fear oppression,
then the great calamity (for the ruler) has arrived."
And that would be the beginning of the end for the Junta and General Tan Shwe. Even as monks, ordinary folks and foreign journalists lay dying on the ground, surely the dawn of a new era awaits Burma after an eternal midnight. Let us pray for the safety and peace of all those suffering people. May they be protected by the power of the Dhamma, sadhu.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Monkey God Tree of Jurong West

During the middle of the week (14.9.07) there were a few newspaper reports on the discovery of monkey images appearing in a 16 yr old tree by the roadside along Jurong West St 42, near Blk 431. Some Chinese people believed that it was Qi Tian Da Sheng (Sun Wukong), the Monkey God manifesting in that tree and started spreading the word around. A certain uncle who first discovered the "miraculous tree" wrote a notice in red ink telling of the legend surrounding it. It says that: "Three yrs ago, a divine monkey had come searching for his father, the Monkey God, at this tree. But it was only until a recent accident which caused the bark of the tree to fall off that the Monkey God became freed. I (the uncle) discovered the image on the tree on Sep 9th at 9.52am when I drove past the tree, and was thus filled with a feeling of awe beyond words. May the Monkey God bless everyone." This notice now laid beside the foot of the tree, along with all the offerings of fruits, peanuts, flowers, candles & joss sticks as we could see in the top most picture. In a typical Singaporean fashion, many people also started to pray for 4-D numbers.

A closeup of the Monkey God image on the tree. Residents in the area also add to the legend saying that although a few accidents had happened at that spot, none had been fatal. One said he had seen a lorry crash into the tree in March, causing the front of the lorry to be completely smashed. This resident was driving past and stopped my car to see if the driver needed help, but he saw him climb out uninjured at all. Others said that in the last 13 years, the tree had been hit by vehicles 3 times; but in all those accidents, the drivers also escaped unscathed. So naturally people attributed these lucky escapes to the Monkey God's blessing & protection.

On the 14th, there were only dozens of people praying at the tree, mostly Chinese. Later Indian residents also started to come and pray. For them, they also believe that it is the Hindu Monkey God - Hanuman appearing in the tree.
But whether it is Sun Wukong or Hanuman, what matters most was that everyone believed they could get good luck by praying at this miraculous tree. Some smart Indian lady was also selling photos of the Monkey God image at $3 a piece.. she was already cashing in on the luck even as other people prayed for numbers.

In a space of 2 days (15.9.07), the curious crowds who came to see the Monkey God Tree swelled to hundreds, even thousands, causing traffic jams & making a lot of noise for residents in the area. Some of these people even claim that they can see Guanyin & Ganesha images in the nearby trees. SPI guys went down, and they tested strong EMF fields coming from the tree. A local Thai white-robe Ajarn also came to perform prayers, revealing that there was indeed a "monkey spirit" dwelling in the tree. What was most amusing was the middle-aged auntie who claimed to be a medium for Hu Ye, the Tiger deity. She crawled around the tree like a tiger, only to pray for 4-D numbers like the others. What a smart way to beat the crowds..

This whole episode taking place in modern Singapore shows a good example of how folk religion is formed. Strange images appear in trees, rocks or other nature objects, & people immediately think that it is some gods, deities or spirits manifesting themselves. They start to pray, they start to spread the word, & soon a shrine is formed. As more & more people come it develops into a temple, perhaps even forming a religious sect later!
The Dhammapada says:
"Wonderful indeed, it is to subdue the mind,
so difficult to subdue, ever swift,
and seizing whatever it desires.
A tamed mind brings happiness."
What people fail to see is that the real monkey is not in the tree, but in their minds, or we can call it the monkey mind. In the story of the "Journey to the West", although Sun Wukong had great powers, it could only be put to good use after being tamed & taught in the right way by Buddha & Guanyin. Likewise, our mind is very powerful, yet very wild, undisciplined, easily distracted & quickly agitated. It constantly grasps at sensual objects, lusting for what it finds attractive, hating what it finds unattractive. This untrained mind of love & hate is the cause of endless becoming & dissolving, the source of all our Dukkha (suffering).
Thus in order to seek lasting happiness we have to train it in the path of the Ariyas, the Noble Ones. We restrain the monkey mind with the chain of mental Sila (the precepts), training it to focus on doing useful work with mental Samadhi (meditation), & make it realize the immense benefits of its own labour with mental Panna (arising of insight). Finally this monkey mind becomes completely tamed, well-trained, awakened. It is now a Buddha. Just like at the end of the "Journey to the West", Sun Wukong is bestowed the title of "Victorious Buddha" by the Buddha for his merits in protecting Master Tang Sanzang all the way to India & taking the scriptures back to Tang Dynasty China. This is the true path of the Monkey God, who is none other than our own Monkey Mind. Do you see it?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Korean Hostage Crisis: Prison of Ignorance

An interesting article I read in the ST today says the Taliban declared that the South Korean government paid them US$20 million as ransom to secure the release of all the hostages; something which they denied of course. The terrorist group had now vowed to use the funds to buy arms and mount more suicide attacks. "With it (the money) we will purchase arms, get our communication network renewed and buy vehicles for carrying out more suicide attacks." So said one of the Taliban commanders. Although the remaining 19 Koreans got to live, who knows how many more innocent people will die in their place now that the Taliban got so much more money to spend.

Many countries criticized the SK government for conceding to the Taliban's demands; but what are they to do otherwise? To let their own citizens die just like that? No, the SK government are not to blame for bailing their own people out. If there is anyone to blame, it should be the leaders of the Christian church group who sent these 23 Korean members to Afghanistan to do missionary work in the first place. The group had obstinately ignored government warnings against travelling to Afghanistan, after more than 1,000 Korean Christians were already deported since last year due to "security concerns". For these foolish church leaders, whose faith have blinded their common sense, the blood of the 2 Korean members killed by the Taliban is on their hands. Their actions have caused their own people to lose US$20 million to terrorists, in addition to the suffering on their own members. And when the Taliban kill hundreds, maybe thousands of other innocent people with their new weapons, these church leaders will realize the severe consequences of their ignorance. Instead of spreading God's word, they end up indirectly causing the loss of many lives in the near future.

Truly, Ignorance is a dark prison that defiles whatever deeds we do, be they good or evil. Faith without wisdom is blind faith, & instead of doing "God's work" as some of those people imagine themselves to be, they end up making a big mess out of everything, in God's name. Therefore in Buddhism much emphasis is placed on Wisdom Perfection or Prajna Paramita. Without wisdom, none of the practices we do will ever become complete. Whether it is Sila (Discipline) or Samadhi (Concentration), or the Paramitas of Dana (Giving), Sila, Ksanti (Patience), Virya (Zeal) & Dhayna (Meditation), all these practices will not be able to bear fruit without insight into the nature of reality that comes from the application of Prajna. It is only through Prajna that the other practices can be called "Paramita".

Although the Buddha had compassion for all sentient beings, yet he did not go out & try to help everyone indiscriminately. The Buddha had the Jnana (knowledge) to know when & where is the best to teach certain people, their mental aptitudes & whether they are ready to be taught or not. He is able to teach in such a way that people always receive the greatest possible benefit from hearing the Dharma at the right moment. If the necessary conditions are not ripe, the Buddha would not teach such a person, even though he is face-to-face with him or her. To do otherwise would not help the person, or worse, it might even be harmful when aversion or anger is aroused. It is because of such wisdom that the Buddha is known as "Satta Deva Manussa-nang" - the Teacher of gods & men. To always balance Compassion with Wisdom is what will truly benefit oneself & other beings. This is where we must all learn from the Buddha.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Travels in Pattani - Wat Rai

On 25th August 2007 I made another trip to Pattani in Southern Thailand. Besides the usual temples I also went to Wat Rai this time. Wat Rai is a new temple which needed funds to build its Ubosot & other buildings. Above is the current abbot of Wat Rai, Ajarn Daeng. When I went there he was not around, but at Wat Phra Mahathat in NST to participate in a Jatukam consecration ceremony.
Ajarn Daeng's room & Wiharn.
A tall potrait of the late LP Poom, who was Ajarn Daeng's master. Notice the picture seemed to exudes a mystical aura.
The temporary Bot of Wat Rai. The main Buddha image venerated is called Phra Si Thep Sakya. Below is the statue of LP Poom. The green board on the floor shows the Arattana katha taught by LP Poom.
The eating room.
A venerated Banyan tree outside the temporary Bot.
The new Ubosot is still in construction.
The temple counter selling Ajarn Daeng's amulets as well as a whole lot of other stuff.
Ajarn Daeng's LP Tuad amulets as well as bullet shell takruts. They are excellent for protection. The Thai Army guys in the area like his takruts very much. Readers interested in getting some of these stuff can email me at

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Temples in Pattalung - Wat Phaksak

Wat Phaksak is a more remote temple in Pattalung, relatively deserted and not many buildings around. There were lots of mosquitoes and it was next to a forest. It used to be one of the more famous temples, but not many people know about it now. Above is the main Sala of the Wat.

A photo portrait of LP Dit, the founding abbot of Wat Phaksak who passed away in 2507 BE (1964) at the age of 86.

In another rundown Sala, there is an altar to 4 Buddha statues.

This small wiharn enshrines the statues of LP Dit and his successor Ajarn Daeng.

There is a green pond in the the temple with a standing Buddha statue partially submerged right in the middle of it. Their idea of the Buddha taking a bath?

This is one of LP Dit's cross-hand Phra Pidta. Very affordable antique amulet!

Wat Phaksak's new batch of Jatukam, Roon Kodapi Mahasettee. The front side is completely the same as the popular 2549 Kodsettee batch, but the back side is LP Dit's Pidta. But unlike the Kodsettee it is much more affordable. One can consider it the poor man's Kodsettee! The amulets here are cheap because of its location & also it is not that well-known. With that I left Pattalung and headed back home.