Monday, January 31, 2011

When I grow up, I want to be a laughing buddha

I think humor should be an integral part of one's spiritual practice.  The part to enlightenment is fraught with difficulty, it is important to be able to laugh all the way on that journey.  Humor is also a great vehicle for transmitting both the speakable and unspeakable teachings.  The better you can make them laugh, the better you can help them learn.

Given that context, when I grow up and eventually become a buddha, I want to be a laughing buddha.  I want to be the type of buddha whom other buddhas want to go to when they need a few good jokes.  I imagine conversations like this:

Some other buddha comes to me and ask, "Hey, I'm scheduled to deliver a heaven-shaking lecture to a bunch of Great Brahmas.  Nice Gods, but kind of a serious bunch.  Do you have any jokes I can use to lighten them up?"

And I would say like, "Dude, why are you asking me?  Just go Google it.  Besides, remember you are a buddha, you are omniscient, you already know EVERYTHING!"

Other buddha: "I know you would say that."

I would then realize that since there is no separation between self and other, that mildly clueless buddha is also me.  D'oh!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Change must come from within

The Mountain View Mobile Library comes to Google every week.  It is a large converted bus that parks in our carpark, but they also set up a table just outside the bus to handle the extra human traffic.

One lady tried to pay a library fine at the table and the library employee told her to pay inside because they can only make change inside the bus.  And I said, "That is what the Buddha taught."  They both looked at me like, what?

I pointed to the bus and said, "Buddha says, change must come from within."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Because I am a doctor

My goal in life is to create the conditions for world peace in my lifetime, and to do so by making the benefits of meditation accessible to humanity.  I tell that to a lot of people.  I am amazed how few people actually ask me what I think of my chances of success.  Truth be told, I think my likelihood of success is zero, or if I'm very lucky, a very small positive number very close to zero.

I do it knowing my likelihood of success is zero or very close to zero.  One reason is this is such an important goal that any non-zero probability is worth pursuing.  Another reason is even if I'm only very partially successful, it will help a lot of people.  The world population is about 7 billion, if I'm only 1% successful, my work can benefit 70 million people, and if I'm only 1% of 1% successful, that is 700,000 people I can benefit.  That is still a lot of people.

I think the real reason I do it is simply because it is what I do.  That is it.   I am reminded of a Zen story: 

There was a military doctor in ancient China who served during war.  He was a hardworking doctor and treated many soldiers.  But after a while, he made a very disturbing observation.  He realized that soldiers he treated would either get injured again, or die in battle.  Hence, he began to feel that nothing he did for the soldiers was of any consequence.  He started asking himself over and over, "Why am I doing this?".

After a while, he suffered a nervous breakdown, deserted the army and escaped to a Zen monastery where he learned Zen.  After many months of meditation, he finally figured out the answer to his question, and happily returned to treating the troops.

Finally, somebody asked him, "So you figured it out?  Why are you doing this?".  And his answer was, "Because I am a doctor".

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wanted: A literary agent who probably does not exist

Now that I'm done drafting my book and Colin is almost done with the cartoons, it's about time we seek a literary agent.  I've been debating with myself whether I want to hire one (the best thing about debating with myself is: I always win).  My current decision: I should try to find that very special someone before I decide to go it alone.

The person I'm looking for is so special he/she probably doesn't exist, but I figured it's worth putting the word out.  Here are the qualities in the literary agent I'm looking for:

- First and foremost, you must aspire to "save the world".  In doing your job, you are motivated to serve the greater good more than anything else.  My goal is not to sell a book, my goal is to create the conditions for world peace in my lifetime and everything else I do is just a detail, including selling my book.  I am not looking for a co-worker, I'm looking for a partner for world peace.

- You must be compassionate.  Compassion defines your being.  However, you must be compassionate in a way that makes you highly effective and successful at what you do.  A good example of such a person is Stuart Diamond, master negotiator and author of Getting More.  Stuart is very good at what he does.  For example, he was the one who famously resolved the Hollywood writers' strike.  Better still, his negotiation techniques are based on compassion: seeing the other parties as human beings, understanding and serving them while creatively helping them to make the pie bigger for everyone involved.

- You must "get" Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.  You don't just understand these topics, you understand them enough to know their implication for world peace.  You understand things so deeply the word Dhamma ("Universal Law" or "Phenomenon") means a lot more to you than its dictionary definitions.

- You must be willing and able to think in non-traditional ways.  For example, you must be generous enough to give away your crown jewels for the benefit of greater good, but do it so skillfully that it profits you greatly.  A prime example of this is Google, of course.  We give away extremely valuable services, motivated mostly out of our desire to serve greater good of humanity, but also in a way that helps us make a decent living.

- You must have an impressive track record.  You must have successfully represented best-selling authors, for example.  I'm not just looking for someone to represent me, I'm also looking for a teacher, someone to learn from.

- Last but not least, you are open to the possibility of charging me a lot less than the standard rate of 15%.  Why would an impressive and successful professional like you want to work with someone like me for a large discount?  If you already know, you are probably the one I'm looking for.

I don't expect you to exist.  But if you do exist and are interested to work with me, please ping me.  I'm at