Sunday, May 26, 2013

Vesak Day Poem 2013


On Vesak Day this year, I sat in meditation for two hours at home.  During the last half hour or so of my sitting, the full moon shined brightly on my face through my high window.  The moon light reflected around the metal rim of my glasses and, through slightly-open eyes, it was a truly beautiful sight.  I felt great joy.  More than usual, I mean.

The next day, during my sitting meditation, I found the mind more concentrated than usual.  Near the end of the sit, through the same high window, I noticed a lone star.  One, tiny, singular beautiful speck of light.

Inspired, I wrote this poem:
Sitting. Full moon shining on my face.
Smiling. Dharma shining in my heart.
Watching. A single star in the sky.
Knowing. A speck of wisdom in my mind.
And the Chinese version:
(Yes, thanks to the beauty of the Chinese language, readers of Chinese may find subtleties not present in the English version.  For example,  止观 means "stop and see", and it also means shamatha, which was my state of mind at the time.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My speeches in Seoul

Back in March 2013, as part of my visit to Seoul, I was invited to speak at an event called Sebashi.  It is known to be "the TED of Korea" and is organized by the Christian Broadcasting Service (CBS).  They have a big audience and are very selective about their speakers, so it is a great honor to be invited.  Being an ignorant young foreigner, however, I didn't have the slightest idea.  All I knew was my publisher had put a speaking engagement on my calendar and that I was supposed to deliver a 15 - 20 minutes speech to "change people's lives".  I was like, sure, whatever, I'll do it.

When I arrived, the producer asked me, "What is the title of your second speech?"  And I was like, "What second speech?"  It turned out that I was supposed to deliver two 20-minute speeches, not one.  Yikes.  I had 10 minutes in between make-up and waiting for the event to start to create another 20-minute speech.  I didn't try to escape by climbing through the open window in the toilet.  See, kids, this is what separate the men from the boys.

One of the 2 speeches below was put together in 10 minutes.  Identifying which one is an exercise left to the reader.

As if that is not enough last-minute pressure, the producer also said to me, "We know you are a prominent Buddhist, and our audience is mostly conservative Christians, so we like you to be mindful with your use of words."  From his body language, I could tell it was his courteous Asian way of communicating what an American would say, "Don't F this up."  The good news is after I finished speaking, my hosts had nothing but huge smiles on their faces.  I never doubted the trans-religious appeal of my message, but it's good to see my hosts coming to the same conclusion.  I'm guessing my trans-religious good looks didn't hurt either.

The third video below is my conversation with the audience together with Dr Si-Hyung Lee, a distinguished Korean psychologist and author of numerous best-selling books.  He wrote a very nice review of the my book which starts with, "I have nothing more to say other than to call him a genius."  We had a great conversation and a lot of fun together on stage.

And here they are:

Three Easy Steps to World Peace

Joy Becomes You

Conversation with Chade-Meng Tan and Si-Hyung Lee