14 January 2017
As someone who doesn't know very much about Buddhism, the sharing on Basic Buddhist Practices and Aspirations last Saturday was interesting, to say the least. The session was quite thought-provoking and insightful, making my first SBM sharing an enjoyable one.
We started off with a short presentation about Puja, before splitting into smaller groups and going to five stations to learn about the offerings to the Buddha, their significance, and what they represent. The first station highlighted the offering of light; light repels darkness just as wisdom repels ignorance. A fitting analogy raised: Ignorance is like clouds in the sky, partially blocking the sun so only its glow shines through. Only when the clouds are removed can the sun shine brightly, like how wisdom can only spread when not obstructed by delusion and ignorance. We also learned that wisdom differs from knowledge in that wisdom is the application of knowledge.
In addition to being a way to honor the Triple Gems, the next station, incense, represents morality and ethics. The smell of incense spreads, like how a good deed can benefit countless others around us, even without us knowing. The way the smoke rises into the air and diffuses gradually into the surroundings may also represent impermanence of life.
Speaking of impermanence, the next station was about the offering of flowers. Flowers are impermanent; even the most beautiful and fragrant flower will wither in time, reminding us of the impermanence of everything. Hence, bringing out that we should live in the present and value all we have now. Next, water symbolizes purity and clarity. When we offer water, we are reminded to have a clear and bright mind, without clouded judgement and free of the 3 poisons.
Lastly, the offering of fruits symbolizes the fruits of enlightenment, as well as the reminder that all actions will have an effect, kind of like the saying "you reap what you sow". It was also mentioned that not everything that happens is due to a definitive cause, for example, it does not necessarily mean that some babies are born with deformities because of their past actions.
After going round to all the stations, we gathered back together for the sharing on aspirations. We learned that aspirations are different from ambitions as ambitions is a strong desire to achieve one's goals in life, whereas aspirations are ideals, or hopes we have for ourselves in life. Aspirations are believed to be more noble desires than ambitions as ambitions may be materialistic in nature and drive some to achieve them via unwholesome means. Though aspirations may arise from desire, they are not inherently bad. While we musn't let greed overtake us, we should still set goals and aspirations for ourselves to become better people.
Thank you Shiyun for this reflection! It was a pleasure meeting you and it was a pleasure seeing many faces from our Camp Ehi Passiko in December 2016 join us for the first sharing of 2017! Hope to see many more faces in future!
May all of you be well and happy!