Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It is time to abandon wisdom

Meng with the Zen Master Subul Sunim

The great Korean Zen Master Subul Sunim recently gave me this advice: "To acquire wisdom is hard, but to abandon it is even harder.  You have accumulated a lot of wisdom, and your wisdom has brought you to this point, but to advance further, you need to abandon that wisdom."

Upon hearing that, I was half unstuck.

A few days later, my dear friend, Zen teacher Soryu Forall made it more specific.  He said, "In your meditation, you have been observing yourself from a high ground.  It has gotten you this far.  It is now time to stop observing and just be in experience fully.  Fully.  Fully!"

There and then, I understood how to abandon my wisdom.

And I was unstuck.

The wise man walks to the door.  The fool walks in.

Friday, September 26, 2014

An act of peace: Making a stand against child slavery

Last Sunday, on the International Day of Peace, my dearest friends and fellow Co-chairs of One Billion Acts of Peace, Dawn and Ivan (each of whom has been nominated 8 times for the Nobel Peace Prize), challenged me to perform or commit to performing a substantial act of peace within 7 days.

I accept your challenge, Dawn and Ivan!  On 25th October 2014 (Make a Difference Day), Vivianne Harr and I will work together to launch a 30-day stand against child slavery.  We aim to raise US$25,000 to benefit Free the Slaves.  Watch out for our announcement.

[Update: I told a few friends and we already received a commitment of US$10,000 from an anonymous donor.  Yay!  Keep doing that and we will be forced to raise our donation target even before our 30-day campaign begins.  Make me do it, I dare you.]

I like to dedicate this act of peace in honor of two very inspiring people I befriended recently, Vivienne Harr and Congressman John Lewis.

Vivienne is a heroine who, at the age of eight, decided that she wanted to end child slavery worldwide and, by age ten, already raised more than US$100,000 towards that goal.  John is a widely-revered hero who spent his life upholding everybody's civil rights.  The contrast between them is beautiful.  One a young, idealistic, white lady, the other an elderly, dignified black gentleman.   It goes to show that heroes and heroines can be found everywhere, in every social segment, at every age.  Thank you, Vivienne and John, for inspiring all of us with your goodness.

I hereby challenge three of my friends to each perform (or commit to performing) an act of peace within the next 7 days: Arianna Huffington, Biz Stone and Congressman John Lewis.  Remember to also challenge three other people to each perform an act of peace!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When I grow up, I want to be worthy of being in the Buddha's shadow

Prince Siddhartha left home to seek enlightenment shortly after his son, Rahula, was born.  After six years of intense struggle, Prince Siddhartha gained full enlightenment and became the Buddha.  By the time he came home to visit his family, Rahula was already seven years old.

As the Buddha approached the palace, Rahula's mother, Princess Yasodhara, pointed to the Buddha in the distance and instructed her son, "That man is your father, go to him and ask for your inheritance."

Rahula ran towards the Buddha and then walked alongside him.  According to one interpretation of the story, it was presumably a hot day and Rahlua kept himself shaded in the Buddha's shadow.  After a while, Rahula looked up to the Buddha with a smile and said, "It is so pleasant to be in your shadow."

When I read that account, that last sentence resonated with me to my core.  It felt like the perfect metaphor for me.  All I really want to do is to be in the shadow of the Buddha.

So these days, whenever somebody asks me what I want to be when I grow up, I say that when I grow up, I want to be worthy of being in the Buddha's shadow.  That is all.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Seven Lotus 七朵莲花

This song is too beautiful to be left untranslated.  Translation is done by yours truly.

Seven Lotus

In a beautiful sea, lotus flowers blossom in seven colors
The lovely Guru Rinpoche walks towards me
He asks me whether there is true love in my heart
I say that there is love in my heart like seven open lotus flowers

I long for lotus flowers opening in everybody's heart
I long for love appearing everywhere between heaven and earth
I long for fresh flowers of peace blooming everywhere in the human realm
I long for no more suffering and no more sorrow

(Guru Rinpoche's Heart Mantra) Om Ah Hung Ben za Guru Péma Siddhi Hung

I see lotus flowers opening in everybody's heart
I see love appearing everywhere between heaven and earth
I see fresh flowers of peace blooming everywhere in the human realm
I see no more suffering and no more sorrow

(Guru Rinpoche's Heart Mantra) Om Ah Hung Ben za Guru Péma Siddhi Hung




(莲花生大师心咒) Om Ah Hung Ben za Guru Péma Siddhi Hung


(莲花生大师心咒) Om Ah Hung Ben za Guru Péma Siddhi Hung

Monday, June 30, 2014

Plastic currencies

Angel and I were talking about countries with plastic currencies.

Me: Singapore has plastic bills.
Angel: AND, Canada has plastic bills.
Me: AND, plastic ducks have plastic bills.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

SIY wins Axiom Business Book Award

Search Inside Yourself has just been named a Gold Medal winner at the 7th Annual Axiom Business Book Awards honoring the year's best business books and their authors and publishers.

I am deeply honored and humbled.  Thank you for all your support, my friends.

[Announcement at: www.independentpublisher.com]

Saturday, March 29, 2014

This calmness is our natural birthright

In his first sermon after his enlightenment, the Buddha identified the cause of suffering as tanha, which literally means "thirst" but is often inadequately translated as "craving" **.  Specifically, the Buddha identified 3 forms of tanha: the thirst for sense pleasure (kama-tanha), the thirst for existence (bhava-tanha), and the thirst for non-existence (vibhava-tanha). 

I chanced upon a beautiful commentary on tanha by Eknath Easwaran in his translation of The Dhammapada (he uses the Sanskrit equivalent of tanha, "trishna"):

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0f/Eknath_Easwaran_courtesy_of_the_Blue_Mountain_Center_of_Meditation.jpgIn Buddhist psychology, each desire is an isolated moment of mental activity - a dharma, in the Buddhist technical vocabulary - rising up in the mind.  It can be ignored, or one can choose to yield to it.  If one yields, the next wave of desire will have greater power to compel attention, and the mental agitation it causes will be more intense.  On the other hand, if one chooses to defy a strong desire, the pain can be considerable.  “Know me to be the power called Thirst,” Trishna demands of the Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment, “and give me my due of worship. Otherwise I will squeeze you with all my might and wring out the last of your life!”  However, if one succeeds in not giving in to selfish desires as they arise, the mind gradually quiets down, leaving a longer and longer interval between waves of desire in which the mind is calm.  This calmness is our natural birthright, a state beyond the suffering entangled with desire.  All the Buddha’s teachings come round to this one practical point: to find permanent joy, we have to learn how not to yield to selfish desire.

(** It get worse.  Apparently, the Chinese translation for tanha is 愛, which literally means "love".  Whoever made THAT translation deserves to be slapped.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Search Inside Yourself in 13 Languages and Counting

As of January 2014, Search Inside Yourself is published in English and 12 other languages.  Here is the entire set, including the 5 English-language editions (the US hardcover edition, 2 UK editions and 2 international editions).

Collect the whole set!

Update (2014/01/27): Cathy from HarperCollins says, "SIY has been licensed to 24 foreign publishers so far – you should have a few more editions to add to the collection soon!"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Meeting Stan Lee

I love going on cruises.  You visit exotic places, you get to eat like a pig, and occasionally, you run into one of your heroes.

I was on a holiday cruise in December 2013.  On day 10 of the 15 days cruise, I saw Stan Lee in the dining room just a few feet away from me.  My reaction was, "OMFG!  It's Stan Lee!"  (OMFG stands for "Oh My God", for those who are wondering).  I was holding boiling hot tea with one hand and a plate of chocolate-filled dessert of some kind with the other hand (see "eat like a pig" above), plus I didn't have my camera, plus Stan seemed occupied, so I didn't approach him.  And he left.

Subsequently, I told my wife to keep a lookout for Stan Lee.  Not being a huge fan of comic book superheros herself, she asked how she would recognize him.  I said, "Easy, just look for a 91-year-old man who looks like he created Spider-Man."  No, that description didn't work, I don't know why.

Near the final day of the cruise, on a day we were all dressed up for "formal dinner", by sheer coincidence, I was walking down a flight of stairs and Stan was walking up.  And me met.  That was then I asked for a photo (by then, I made sure to always have a camera handy just in case something like this happened).  And that is why this picture was taken at the stairs.

Thank you, Stan!  And happy birthday!

(Also see: the rest of Meng's Wall, mengswall.com)