Tuesday, June 29, 2010
It does feels weird now, but change is the only constant, Annica, the Buddha says. But stepping down doesn't mean leaving. We are still going to be around, going to be here for every sharing session, will be here to give our fullest support for the youth group!
The transition will only be complete and official come August but Vicky, Mabel and Ernest has already resumed duties of the President and Vice-Presidents. The new committee will be announced once it is being finalised.
At the same time, it has been with great pleasure and pride to see Vicky, Mabel and Ernest assumed their roles. Having seen them grow up so much over the past 6 years they have been here with us at SBM Youth. You don't know how proud I am to see everyone stepping up now to assume roles
It's an exciting time here at SBM and I hope everyone give them your fullest support and together, as a family, we can bring SBM Youth further! Keep the Dhamma wheel spinning, keep youths engaged in the Buddha's teachings, keep your faith strong, keep building strong spiritual friendship and always lift your heads high and raise your hands upwards because you are proud to be a young Buddhist.
Monday, June 28, 2010
by Bro. Piya Tan
Buddhism is today a global religion, thanks to technology (especially printing, IT and the Internet), an openness to education, and its missionary spirit. A very vital aspect of this global Buddhism is a dynamic presence and meeting of eastern Buddhism and western Buddhism, especially the phenomenal growth of western Buddhism today. The two are of course often closely interwoven, as they are an integral part of global Buddhism.
The globalization of Buddhism can be seen as the two interlinked threads of development, namely, modernization and westernization. Modernization is effectively the rise of “Buddhisms” as Buddhist individuals or groups undergo religious changes, planned and unplanned, to keep up with challenges and changes, or to effect and sustain their presence and growth.
We shall here focus our reflection on the interaction between eastern Buddhism and western Buddhism. An interaction arises through seeing differences and a desire to learn from them. This interaction is further healthily encouraged by their common vision of the Buddha Dharma.
The main source of these differences is that while eastern Buddhism tends to be more steeped in spiritual insight, western Buddhism tends to be advantaged with social maturity. One interesting characteristic prevails throughout eastern religious history, that is, the co-existence, even to this day, of a number of religions in the same community or country, even where there is a dominant religion.
Although social and political unrest often storm such societies, the grassroots generally live and let live. Such religions are, as a rule, harmonious, when they are not used or violated by the powerful and the eccentric. This persistence of harmonious co-existence in the east is what nurtures numerous profound contemplative traditions, such as those we often see in Buddhism.
History is often a record of how humans inflict suffering upon one another, with interludes of peace and prosperity. So it is with religions. In eastern history, however, we tend to see less overlapping of religion and politics (except perhaps in some forms of Islam) than in western history. In other words, when the pre-modern generals, kings and emperors went to war or decided to expand their territories, it was only rarely that they did so for the sake of religion: they did so more for the sake of power and territory.
Only in western history, we see crusades, religious wars and campaigns to assert the presence and power of a particular religion, that is, Christianity. Such spirited and organized belligerence can only occur with the overlapping of politics and religion. As a rule, the western potentates and rulers were Christian (or at least nominal ones), and were defenders of the faith.
In terms of social history, such a centralized kingdom or empire (when there was peace) allowed the growth of wealth, knowledge, technology and greater power. With a common religion unifying pre-colonial Europe, whose royal families were often united through marriages, they could then divert their attention to conquer other nations for God, glory and gold; hence, colonialism.
If we stand back and look at our histories, we can say that while the religious climate of eastern history (with less overlapping between politics and religion) tends to favour religions of personal transformation, western history, on the other hand, is marked by the morganatic marriage between politics and religion, that necessitates some level of social maturity, needed to hold an empire together, along with its colonies.
The sun may have set over the western empires, and wars today are more economic in nature than political, but the west now faces a new kind of invasion: that of eastern religions, such as Buddhism. In fact, the invasion is so complete now, we can say that the natives have completely befriended Buddhism to the extent of westernizing it.
Buddhisms, eastern and western, can greatly benefit by learning from one another. Eastern Buddhism badly needs to infuse itself with social maturity, that is, we must be willing and able to see ourselves as a “local” community living and working as Buddhists, and to have the courage to dextrously address both internal problems and external issues with wisdom and compassion.
Western Buddhism, marred by technology-centred materialism, spiritual fuzziness, and religious scandals, can further mature itself by imbibing the eastern contemplative tradition. They need to turn away from exotic and externalized Buddhisms, and move towards Buddha-like inner spirituality. A global Buddhism that has the hallmarks of spiritual insight and social maturity will make this world a very much better place.
Revisioning Buddhism 19
[an occasional re-look at the Buddha’s Example and Teachings, 30 June 2010]
Copyright by Piya Tan ©2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
This short film remains one of the most difficult and disappointing project ever embarked and fortunately for the Buddha's Middle Path, learn a lot from the phase.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The time is 6pm and the place is Cranwell Bungalow 3 at Changi Beach, where we hd some of our past camps at. Please do come and we can pay Nerf, mahjong or watch horror films.
A fringe event of the Buddhist Conference by Dharma-in-Action and supported by Singapore Buddhist Mission, Camp Lions brings together youths and volunteers from various Buddhist organisations and backgrounds. When you put some of the most active Buddhist youth groups in Singapore together, you get unity, strength, and sincere spiritual friends. No one is perfect, likewise no group is perfect. We have different strengths and weaknesses and we need everyone to compliment one another. Camp Lions 2010 is a success because of the combination of various groups like Dharma-in-Action, Buddhist Fellowship, Bee Low See, Buddhist Interact Club, Dharma Roundtable, Mangala Vihara, NUS Buddhist Society, NTU Buddhist Society, Singapore Buddhist Mission, Young Buddhist Chapter and of cos, our friends from across the causeway, Subang Jaya Buddhist Association.
Everyone from every Buddhist organisation made a difference.
And now, it's time for a new phase here in SBM, where a new main committee will take over from the old horses. It's an exciting time with this new transition. I am confident the new team is the strongest ever and will bring this youth group to even greater heights!
Sadhu and blessings to all!
- Brother Bear, 1/4 of the Old Horses.
A good reminder of the Buddha's teachings in the Sigalovada Sutta
"In five ways, young householder, the parents thus ministered to as the East by their children, show their compassion:
"In these five ways do children minister to their parents as the East and the parents show their compassion to their children. Thus is the East covered by them and made safe and secure.
Sadhu to all!
Monday, June 14, 2010
You name your God, I name mine. This has been going on since we first wondered why the sun rises, why there are stars in the night sky, why the wind blows and water flows, why we are here, why we die. It was a time long before science and human awakening. When people could not find the right answers for such things, they tell stories about it.
Some thinkers say that the kind of God that a tribe or group worships reflects their common struggles and hopes, and this story holds them together. But now our various communities throughout the world are becoming more globalized. We keep bumping into one other’s Gods.
In our global community, we can see a few interesting reactions to the God stories. Firstly, there are those who claim “my God” is better than yours: they are like selfish children; it is best to leave them alone. One great weakness of such a story-group is that their lives are moulded and guided by differences rather than by similarities. They live in a black-and-white world where “friends” are those who think and live like them; those who are different are “enemies”; those who fit into neither category are “strangers” to be converted, appropriated. There is a lot of measuring of humanity here, as if it is a measurable commodity.
Then, there are some God story tellers who see a commonalty in our need for a higher purpose: it does not really matter which God, they are wont to say. The story matters more than the story-teller, even the story-maker. Let us walk humbly with our God, they preach. This is a more empowering approach, as it allows everyone of us to be truly friendly to everyone else. There is much less measuring of humanity here. The main problem, however, is that there can be a lot of superficiality here, like a nicely packaged box, or one with layers of nice wrappings, but the content is really paltry, or nothing really.
The third group simply says, hey, these are just stories, great stories, but please look for their meanings. Stories may divide us, their spirit brings our hearts closer together. Let us live by the spirit, what the stories are really trying to tell us. The fact is that we cannot live by stories alone: we must live life as it comes. Stories may be about what the world can be or should be, but life is what things really are. So we need a reality check.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we are likely to notice that no matter how “perfect” the story we live by may be, the ending is not always what we expect it to be. The thing about stories is that once we know their ending, it becomes boring; we then forget what the story is really about. Or we invent our own ending to the story; in which case, we don’t really need the story, after all.
There is something much better than any story, even better than all the stories that can ever be told. That is, to look deep into ourselves. What do we notice? We might notice, if we look deeply enough, that we have a lot of thoughts rushing through our minds -- these are our great story tellers.
Our minds are the greatest story tellers. They are often very self-centred story tellers, for the simple reason our minds are, as a rule, unaware of other minds. If we look even deeper, we will see that our minds or hearts have lives of their own. We really have no control over them, and this is what the stories are about. They are our attempts at harnessing the wildness and wilderness that are our hearts. The God story seems the best story to do so.
But let us look deeper into ourselves. While our minds differentiate us with our stories, there is something that is intimately “us” from day one, something that runs the same way in all of us, whether we are human, beast, or alien. No matter which universe or multiverse we are in: we breathe, and we all breathe the same way. To breathe is to live, to live is to breathe.
Our perspective of life is inextricably and essentially linked to the way we breathe. The more violent we are, the heavier we tend to breathe. To breathe is also to slow-burn ourselves up, as it were. As such, the more violently we breathe, the faster is the burning, the more violent our lives become.
Even in physical exercise, there comes a time when our breathing flows harmoniously with our bodies. Then body and mind act as one. Yet, there are times when we need to simply sit comfortably still and forget about the body for a while. There is just the breath, getting ever more peaceful. It comes to such still point, a radiant stillness, that the joy is unspeakable.
This is the well-spring of religion: it is the realizing of our true selves. We seem to be just a blink in the vast moonless cloudless night sky, amongst billions of other twinkling stars. What beautiful stars, what blissful space! This is the religion that needs no converts, that can never have followers. For we have come to the journey’s joyful end. We’re truly home.
Recommended reading: Udumbarika Sihanada Suttta (D25 = SD 1.4), http://dharmafarer.org/
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Buddhist Conference 2554 – Creating Happiness in the Here and Now
Presents Fringe programme:
Workshop: Buddhist Teachings and Practices which Builds Resilience in the Helping Profession
For Educators, Healthcare and Helping Professionals
Specially for teachers, social workers, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, medical professionals and others in the helping professions.
3 July, Saturday, 2.00pm – 6.00pm
By Dr. Tan Eng Kong
Cheng Beng Buddhist Society (20-24A Lor 27A Geylang Road S388112)
How can teachers, healthcare and helping professions incorporate the Dharma in our daily work? How can we prevent burnout in our professions as well as to retain our motivation and passion? There will be experiential exercises of direct benefit that is based on mindfulness based therapy to build our resilience and sustain our passion. Topics include compassion fatique, Psychological Management of Self-Care, Mindfulness Meditation, Eight-fold Path for the Professional and Q&A.
Dr. Tan Eng Kong (MBBS, MPM, FRANZCP) is the Founder and Chairman of Metta Clinic in Sydney, a group practice consisting of psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists. He is the Founder President of the Australian Association of Buddhist Counsellors & Psychotherapists (AABCAP). He is also the Director of Training of AABCAP’s two year Buddhism and Psychotherapy Professional Training Course. He graduated in Medicine in Malaysia in 1971 and was the first batch of Psychiatrists in the Master of Psychological Medicine course in the University of Malaya in 1975. Dr. Tan was the Founder President of Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) in 1971. He is a Foundation Member of the University Buddhist Education Foundation (UBEF) in Australia. He has more than 30 years of experience in practice and training.
This workshop is a Fringe Programme of the Buddhist Conference 2554: Creating Happiness in the Here and Now on 23 October 2010. The organisers are grateful to the Cheng Beng Buddhist Society for its premises.
Venue sponsor: Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.
Partners: Amitabha Buddhist Society, Bodhi Meditation Centre, Buddhist Library, Camp L.I.O.N.S, Firefly Mission, For You Information, Pao Kwan Foh Tang, Poh Ming Tse Temple, and Singapore Buddhist Mission
Just to further confirm, below are the people who have signed up for the retreat camp.
15. Wencong’s mum
17. Zhen Yu
20. Chin Ren
Those of you who wants to go but your name is not on the list, please call/text me (Kevin) @ +6592391484 to confirm.
Those of you who wants to go but your name is not on the list, please call/text me (Kevin) @ +6592391484 to confirm.
Million thanks and Sadhu,
the Video-Buddhist-Boy (and DESPERATE for a proper and functioning video camera for the youth group).
Part 2. More coming up!
It is winter morning in 2006, and Kate, a young resident doctor finds herself communicating with an affable young architect, Alex. They communicate by leaving their notes in the magical mail-box of a glass-walled lakehouse that Kate had previously rented from Alex. The problem is that Alex is living exactly two year before, in 2004!
A bond grows between them as they experience various interesting new connections, such as Kate accidentally leaving her copy of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” at the train station two years back, and which naturally Alex retrieves for her. They fall in love from the distance, but soon Kate realizes she is only fooling herself.
On 14 February (Valentine’s day), Kate, sitting in the city plaza, had witnessed a terrible traffic accident and held a young man who died in her arms. Looking back, she realizes that life was too short to wait for what might be. She tells Alex, “Let me let you go,” and they stop writing. Frustrated, Alex quits the lakehouse and moves to the city to be with his brother, Henry.
Kate reconnects with her wealthy but unloving real-life boyfriend, Morgan, and they move into the lakehouse. One day, furious at Morgan’s inattention, she walks into the bedroom, and finds under a hollow-sounding floorboard, a small package: her lost book, "Persuasion," that Alex retrieved for her from the train station. Her thoughts return to Alex.
One unusually warm winter day, Alex and his brother, Henry, leave their office for lunch. When Alex suggests they meet up after work for a beer, Henry reminds him that it is Valentine’s Day and he has plans with his girlfriend. Valentine’s Day 2006! Alex suddenly rushes off to the lakehouse.
For Kate, it is Valentine’s Day 2008, and she and Morgan are at an architect’s firm to review renovation plans for an old apartment she wants to buy. After the meeting, Kate notices a drawing hanging on the office wall: it is that of the familiar lakehouse! The young man explains that it was drawn by his brother Alex who was killed in a traffic accident exactly two years ago!
Kate suddenly rushes to the lakehouse to write a note for Alex. Don’t look for her, she begs him, wait for another two years, and come to the lakehouse, instead. She puts the note into the mailbox and raises its flag. But Alex has rushed off to see her at plaza (in 2006). As he seems about to step into the street, he reads Kate’s note, begging him to wait for her. He has found Kate’s note after all! By remaining right there on the sidewalk, Alex breaks off from the original tragic timeline.
Kate meantime falls on her knees, weeping, desperately clutching the lakehouse mailbox. She must have been too late. Then the mailbox flag slowly lowers: Alex has picked up her note! Soon she sees a car arriving from beyond the high grass and then a figure walking toward her on the gravel path: it is Alex. “You waited!” she cries.
This is my favourite movie [Note 1] in recent times, as I can deeply relate to it. For me, it is not two years, but a 20-year wait. I was a monk for that long with one main aim: to study the Suttas and effectively transmit them to local Buddhists who badly need Dharma grounding. The best way to do Buddhist work surely would be to firstly be familiar with our own sacred scripture.
At that time (before the 1980s), Buddhist books (not to speak of Sutta translations) were very difficult to be found locally. Local Buddhism in English was dominated by foreign missionaries who were understandably focussed on raising funds to run their centres, and were not really capable of solving local Buddhist problems.
So I left for Thailand for monastic training. Due to language problems, I decided that it is best to learn some Thai, and then study Buddhism and Pali directly in Thai. After a minimum five-year tutelage, I returned to work in Malaysia and Singapore. Except for a small group of mostly young locals, most other Buddhists showed no interest in the Suttas. They would rather resort to chanting, blessings from monastics, and a weak and fuzzy Buddhism.
It was difficult to communicate the Suttas to the locals then: it was like Kate writing with Alex, from a distance, separated by time, as it were. It was as if I was living in another time.
A major difficult was my having to work almost alone as a monk. There were other local monks, but they were themselves just beginning their own training in Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. The western forest monks of Ajahn Chah’s monastery, too, were still under training in Thailand. Once I quipped to Bhante Sujato (from forest monastic tradition) that I was 20 years too early as a monk. Bhante retorted, “Actually, I was 20 years too late!”
But as I watched the “Lakehouse” movie, the story climax struck a resounding chord in me. Kate tells Alex not to be hasty in meeting her, but to wait two years later. Alex’s life is saved and they live happily ever after.
Those years I have waited to resume my Sutta work in Singapore, is now growing deep roots, and the joy and light the Suttas are giving us is attested by the number and regularity of the Sutta students since 2002. In fact, the Sutta Discovery, with its publications and website, is now a global phenomenon.
One movie moment still puzzles me, that is, when Alex remains on the pavement, keeping to Kate’s plea that he waits for two years. Alex could have looked left, looked right, then left again, and when it is safe, cross the road to meet his love! Maybe I have a regret now: should I have returned to Singapore earlier?
Piya Tan ©2010
[Note 1]: “Lakehouse” (2006), a romantic drama remake of the Korean movie “Il Mare” (2000). Written by David Auburn and directed by Alejandro Agresti, it starred Keanu Reeves (Alex) and Sandra Bullock (Kate).
Thursday, June 3, 2010
More coming up!