Question: How do we know which Dharma method from the 84,000 Buddha discourses in the Three Baskets (Tripitaka) of the twelve scriptural divisions is most suitable for modern people to practise?
Answer: All the Dharma taught by the Buddha are inseparable from the threefold training of ethical discipline, meditative concentration and wisdom that leads to liberation from cyclic existence.
Since the Buddha's time, 2500 years ago till now, all the Dharma centres worldwide have followed the teachings of the Buddha to engage in training, and lay disciples can choose either to work on the four foundation of mindfulness or the other Dharma methods at their chosen time and environment for the achievement of peace of their body and mind.
Generally, we tame our body, speech and mind by upholding the precepts in our daily life, as well as bringing our mind back to the present moment to watch our mind state, practise meditative concentration and wisdom.
Everyday we should try our ultmost ability to maintain right mindfulness, cultivate the habit of watching our body and mind, guard our six sense faculties (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind) against the six external defiling sense objects (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and mental objects) and train ourselves so that our emotional well-being will not be easily affected by people, circumstances and things.
The Platform Sutra states: 'Externally to be free from the grasping of form is meditation; internally to be free from distraction is meditative concentration.'
Yong Jia's Song of Attaining Enlightenment states: 'Walking is meditation, sitting is meditation; whether it is speaking or not speaking, moving or not moving, all abide and rest in the state of calmness.'
The teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni is to guide sentient beings to discover their own innate "buddha nature" or "Tathagata-garbha", and get to understand the origin of the mind is "impermanent, conditioned and non-self." There is a need to let go of all dream-like thoughts, preventing one's mind from sinking into delusion; that is, to bring the mind back to the present moment, returning to "buddha nature".
Always turn the mind inwards to watch the mind, and constantly dispel all distracting thoughts. Through this, strengthen your wisdom (prajna), transcend all conceptual notions of dualism, such as good and evil, right and wrong, and thus, be rid of mental afflictions.
Through the threefold training of moral discipline, single-pointed concentration and wisdom for the purpose of liberation, we can polish our mind to mirror-like clarity, and thus, our mental discernment can be sharpened to see the actual nature of all matters of people, circumstances and things, and understand that all mental afflictions are "impermanent, conditioned and non-self," thus, entering into the state of liberation.
Question: What is the meaning of cherishing one's good fortune?
Answer: What is known as good fortune? The opposite of good fortune is misfortune. What is known as misfortune? Misfortune refers to disasters and calamities. Normally, if there is no disaster and calamity in one's life, then it is considered good fortune. Unfortunately, there are people who live in good fortune, but do not appreciate it. They do not think that it is good fortune to live a safe life without any disaster, but instead, their minds lack contentment and only desire for more. They seek for more good fortune, including fame, gain, power and status. They plunder to own and have incessant desires. In the process of pursuing, they think of all ways to get what they want and fear to lose what they have gained. Constantly worrying about personal gains and losses, and hence, they fall into a mental state of anxiety and unrest.
There is a need to cherish the good fortune we have! How should that be done? Firstly, there is a need to curb our desires by having contentment. Secondly, there is a need to live this life without over indulgence by being frugal. There is a limit to life, but there is no limit to desire. If we allow our desires to go untamed, getting into trouble will be a matter of time. There are too many "go-getters" in our society, expanding their business blindly in an endless pursuit, and at last, it is like blowing a balloon, over inflating it and "pop", bursting it into pieces! Think about the consequence!
Living life too extravagantly is like treading on a rope in space, and it is not fun falling from it. The basic purpose of eating a meal is to fill our stomach or at most, fulfill our taste buds. Wearing clothes is to cover our body and of course, it is ok to dress well, but it will be overly extravagant if we are like the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos who possessed over 4000 pairs of shoes. There is an ancient saying: Treasuring one's good fortune is treasuring one's clothing and food, but not referring to treasuring one's wealth. If we think about the labour and sweat put in by the farmers, we cannot help but treasure a half bowl of leftover rice. Even though a piece of tissue paper does not cost much, but when we think about how much natural resources were used to make one, we cannot but treasure it. A person who holds such a view will naturally know how to cherish his good fortune.
However, in cherishing one's good fortune, there is a need for wisdom in order not to experience more losses than benefits. For example, putting food out in open for too long, inappropriate storing of food in the fridge and improper heating up of food may cause bacteria growth that leads to food poisoning when consumed. This will result in losing a big fortune (health and wealth) while treasuring a small fortune (some food). Thus, it is necessary to be able to discern, weighing the pros and cons and make the right choices. This is what it means by truly cherishing one's good fortune.
Question: Can learning the Dharma improve interpersonal relationships?
Answer: In order to improve one's relationship with others, we must first understand that our interaction with others is like playing back a ball. How hard we hit the ball determines how strong the ball will return. The kind of attitude we use to treat others, others may also return us with the same attitude. Therefore, we should radiate more goodwill towards others, in order for others to treat us the same. When both sides treat one another with sincerity, we will naturally be able to get along happily. The philosophy of cause and effect in Buddhism has the benefit of improving interpersonal relationship between people.
The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng said, “For the common people who practise the Dharma, there is no impediment; always look for one's own faults, one will act in accord with the Dharma.” This means that for those people in this world who wish to practise the Dharma, there will be no contradiction in whichever Dharma methods one practises; if one constantly examines one's own faults, one will not stray from the path and will be able to build good relationship with others.
Therefore, in our daily life, when we are talking and working with people, we should pay more attention to our body, speech and mind. Always self-reflect and self-examine areas whereby others are not satisfied with us. Be determined to improve and humbly learn from others. Listen more to others' opinions. Always remind oneself that ego-grasping is that which ruin our relationship with others. Whenever others criticise us, observe if anger arise in our mind. We should learn to tame all our negative attitudes, such as our pride.
Whenever others need our help, if it is within our capability, we should initiate to lend a helping hand. Such an attitude of getting along with others will naturally enable us to build good relationships widely and establish good interpersonal relationship with the masses.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: What is the meaning of “nan mo fo”（南无佛）? Why is it pronounced as “nan mo fo” instead of “nan wu fo”?
A:“南无”in Chinese is the phonetic translation of the word “Namo” in Sanskrit, preserving its original pronunciation. Certain parts of Fujian province in China still preserve this original pronunciation. The meaning of “Namo” is to pay respect, hence“南无佛”means to pay respect to the Buddha .
Why do we need to pay respect to the Buddha? It is because the Buddha is an enlightened and wise being. He realized that life contains compulsive sufferings (the truth of suffering), and these sufferings in life are caused by our mental afflictions (the cause of suffering). The Buddha has reached a transcendent state free from suffering (the end of suffering) and has found a way to end our suffering (the path leading to the end of suffering). That is why the Buddha is worthy of our homage.
“Namo fo” also means paying homage to our Buddha nature, the awareness nature of our mind. We all possess Buddha nature but because of grasping to our emotions and thoughts, mental afflictions occur, our Buddha nature is obscured. That is why we need to maintain our state of awareness and not indulging in day dreaming, carrying unnecessary afflictions baggage in our life. When we encounter situations, be it pleasant or unpleasant, we must be aware and alert, realize the situation; think it all out in order of importance and urgency and to deal with it rationally. In doing so, we will live in peace, at ease and justified. This is the true essence of paying homage to the Buddha.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: How do we reduce our vexations in daily life?
A: First of all, we need to cultivate the habit of awareness (to be in a state of mindful reflection). This will allow us to have a clearer understanding of the arising and cessation of our vexations.
In our day-to-day life, when vexations arise, there is no need to eliminate it. As long as we are aware and calmly observe its arising, our body, speech and mind will not be led astray, our vexations will gradually cease.
When we reflect upon our vexations, we will discover its impermanent nature, and that it arise and cease due to causes and conditions (non-self). Therefore when we talk about ceasing our vexations, there is nothing substantial to cease. The important thing is to develop the habit of awareness (mindful reflection). As long as our mind is not disturbed by our vexations, they will gradually cease. This is the method to cease our vexations. By doing this, we learn to transcend and break free from our mental bondage.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: Why is it necessary to observe noble silence?
A: The problem lies in our state of mind, which is used to being restless and constantly having thoughts. Without a calm mind, we are unable to see the source of a problem. Imagine there are jewels in a bowl of water, but if the water is murky, would you be able to see the jewels? Certainly not! Similarly, if the water is being stirred, we would not be able to see the contents in it clearly. Instead, if we allow the water to become still, we can then see what’s in it clearly.
To observe noble silence does not mean that speech is prohibited, but refraining from making idle speech. The objective is to train ourselves to focus on the present moment and look inward whenever we are faced with problems or in vexation. If we let our mind stay calm, like the murky water settling down, we would be able to see the rise of our emotions and thoughts clearly. By listening to our mind, we can then see the crux of our problem and resolve it with the best solution.
When we settle down and become calmer, we would be less affected by our emotions and thoughts, and be able to see things more clearly. We would be more perceptive and more empathetic, and as such we would be more effective in helping others by understanding their problems.
Hence, the observance of noble silence allows us to focus on the present moment, stay calm and reflect upon ourselves, so that we can assess the situation clearly, say only what needs to be said, and do what needs to be done. In this way, not only can we benefit ourselves but others as well.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: What is the significance of the “The Four Doctrines of the Buddha”?
According to the Sutra, “Buddha” means mindful awareness. The four doctrines are:
- The Doctrine to Introduce Mindful Awareness
- The Doctrine to Expound Mindful Awareness
- The Doctrine to Experience Mindful Awareness
- The Doctrine to Stay in Mindful Awareness
i. The Doctrine to Introduce Mindful Awareness: In this doctrine the Buddha expounded on the sufferings (Dukkha) experienced by sentient beings which include the following:
- Association with the unbeloved is dukkha
- Separation from the loved is dukkha
- Not getting what is wanted is dukkha
- In conclusion, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha
The Buddha chose to abandon his comfortable lifestyle and free himself from the bind of lusts, and sought the way to transcend aging, sickness and death by engaging the path of cultivation.
ii. The Doctrine to expound Mindful Awareness: In this doctrine the Buddha taught sentient beings the various means of meditation and contemplation with the objective of leading them towards Buddhahood. The methods of cultivation taught by the Buddha invariably centred upon ridding one’s attachments and returning to his innate awareness.
iii. The Doctrine to expound Experience Awareness: In this doctrine, the Buddha taught us to maintain awareness through our body, feelings, emotions and thoughts, generate thoughts and contemplate that all external objects, events and people as well as our internal body, feelings, emotions and thoughts are subject to impermanence, causes and conditions, and they are empty in nature. This is how one transforms afflictions into an enlightened mind.
iv. The Doctrine to stay in Mindful Awareness: In this doctrine, the Buddha expounded on the realization that all external objects, events and people and our internal body, feelings, emotions and thoughts are subject to impermanence, causes and conditions and are empty in nature. Unless we reached the state of complete awakening, we may still be influenced by the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance, which thrust us back to the state of having attachments. This is why it is important to stay in Mindful awareness.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: Why do we need to chant the Buddha's name?
Our mind is constantly in a state of flux as, habitually, our thoughts arise from moment to moment in a random manner. WHen this happens, we are easily lost in our thoughts. Chanting the Buddha's name is a means to recapture our mindful awareness. By doing this, we become aware that our thoughts and all matters in the external world are impermanent in nature, they arise and demise subject to changes in causes and conditions, and they are empty in nature. Because of our attachment to our thoughts and external forms, our mind becomes deluded and we will be wasting our life in pursuing material things to satisfy our incessant craving and desire.
How to keep our mind from becoming lost? By focussing on chanting the Buddha's name, it is easier for us to be aware of the arising and passing of thoughts. We would be able to see more clearly that our thoughts and all external matters are in reality impermanent, arising from causes and conditions, and are empty in nature. With such awareness, we would be more willing to let go of our attachments. This will in turn free us from our vexations arising from such thoughts. When the need arises, we will exercise our mind to remain calm and think in a clear and objective manner to analyze the situation from a larger perspective. This will often result in a win-win situation that is beneficial to all parties. When there is no need to think, we abide in chanting the Buddha's name and remain in a state of mindfulness. In this way, we will not waste our precious time and lead a meaningful and fruitful life while maintaining an equanimous mind.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: Why are there eighty four thousand Dharma ways for Buddhist practitioners?
The Buddha uses different teachings in order to address the different requirements of sentient beings. Because of differences in background, customs, education etc. of sentient beings, the Buddha utilises various expedient means to help sentient beings to resolve their different problems. For example, for those with higher wisdom, the Buddha taught them to seek enlightenment by understanding one's mind. By reflecting on the true nature of our mind, we realise non-self directly. For others, the Buddha uses a gradual and systematic approach to allow them to practice methodically.
All the methods taught by the Buddha can be reduced to 2 modes of cultivation i.e. developing calmness and insight.
(A) "Calm abiding" is the practice of ceasing our stray thoughts by focussing and stabilising our mind. When we achieve this, our mind becomes sharp and observant and we can penetrate the true nature of things without being affected by subjective emotions which include good and bad, true and false, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, love and hate etc. Abiding in a calm mind is also known as "Mindfulness".
(B) "Insight" requires us to utilize our thinking mind to analyse our thoughts in order to eliminate our afflictions relating to greed, hatred and delusion. The practice of insight is also known as right comprehension.
For example, the contemplation on causes and conditions help us to realise that all phenomena arise due to causes and conditions and cease due to changes in causes and conditions, nothing remains constant.
Through the practice of "Calm abiding" and "Insight", we will be in a better position to understand the true nature of suffering and use this practice to eliminate our afflictions of greed, hatred and delusion in our minds.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: What is the correct way to recite the Buddha’s name?
When reciting the Buddha’s name, one does not just chant it orally. With each arising thought, one needs to clearly think of the Buddha. To recite the name of the Buddha is to find the Buddha within us (the awakening mind) through chanting such a name as “Amitabha”.
What is the purpose of reciting the Buddha’s name? The main aim is to stabilize our mind so that we can observe the reality of our thoughts as they arise. When we become attached to our thoughts, we must learn to detach from them and return to our mindful awareness.
The more we recite the Buddha’s name, the clearer we are about the impermanence as well as the arising and cessation of our thoughts, realizing that they are illusionary as they are just products of causes and conditions. The faster we learn to detach ourselves from our thoughts, the more relaxed we will become, and we will be able to stay in the state of mindful awareness.
As an example, when we are angry, the anger can persist for days. However, when we recite the Buddha’s name, we will be able to stay calm and watch the arising and cessation of the anger, and detach from it by realizing its illusionary and unreal nature. We will learn to detect the anger as soon as it develops, and liberate ourselves from it by staying in a relaxed and mindful state.
It is important to have the correct goal and master the proper method when reciting the Buddha’s name. This allows us to benefit from every moment of our daily life, purify our body and mind, and become liberated.
Q: Is it a great achievement to score 100 marks?
Scoring 100 marks alone is not a great achievement. One needs to have a mind that maintains self-awareness. By scoring 100 marks, one may become egoistic and look down upon others unconsciously. This may become the cause of his future failures.
A great person is one who knows the problems within and without himself, and be able to deal with them appropriately. This way, by developing himself and helping others, he becomes a noble, mindful and disciplined person.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: Does Practise requires our mind to let go of all thoughts?
According to the ancient Zen Masters: “Do not fear of thoughts arise, real fear is in late realisation”. The essence of Practise is to maintain mindfulness at all times. When a thought arise, we should be clearly aware of the thought arise in the mind. When there is no thought, we should also be aware that there is no thought arise in the mind. In other words, we need to maintain mindfulness regardless of whether thoughts arise or not.
The purpose of allowing our mind to let go of thoughts is to allow us to experience the impermanence of our thoughts and non-self. Through the process of arising and cessation of phenomenon, we become aware that our thoughts are not real. The arising and cessation of thoughts are due to the external environment and the changes in cause and conditions in our mental state. When we are willing to let go of our attachment to our thoughts, they will also ceased.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: The Buddha statue I venerate at home has been replaced by a family member. I do not find the presence of the Buddha in the new statue and do not feel like venerating, what should I do?
It seems that you have developed an affinity to the old Buddha statue. Inevitably you feel unfamiliar and not used to the new Buddha statue.
What is important is not whether the Buddha exists in the statue, but whether there is a Buddha in our mind. In other words, have we discovered our inner Buddha (the awakening mind)?
We will be seeking the Buddha externally if we have no Buddha in our mind, or we have not discovered our Buddha nature. In that case we are not learning the teachings of the Buddha correctly.
The Buddha is the enlightened one who has discovered his innate awareness and subsequently help others to discover theirs. His teachings allow us to be more reflective and focus on the bigger picture to develop our great loving kindness (wisdom and loving kindness) towards all sentient beings. The study of Buddhism and veneration of the Buddha image inspire us to discover and experience our innate awareness and realization.
Hence, regardless of whether the Buddha exists in the statue, it is a good opportunity for us to discover our Buddha nature within and cultivate our mind. By living and abiding with the Buddha in us and through the realization that all things are impermanent and delusive, we will be able to disengage from our afflictions and emotions. This will enable us to deal with people and events more effectively with great loving kindness, and build our confidence.
I hope that we can all find the Buddha when we venerate the Buddha, and in the process develop our confidence and great lovingkindness for all sentient beings. Give it our best, we can do it.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: For those who live in favourable conditions and are not exposed to sufferings, how do we impart to them the teachings relating to suffering?
The Buddha taught us to recognise impermanence. This impermanence relates to our daily lives. Everything around us is subject to the law of impermanence. The characteristic of impermanence is that it is imposed upon us and we have little control over it.
When we observe our body, it is subject to old age, sickness and death. We need to eat and drink, pass motion, work, rest, exercise, sleep etc in order to maintain our body. We feel helpless and has little control over it. This is the suffering relating to our body.
If we observe our mind, it is also subject to mental suffering. Our moods, feelings and thoughts are constantly subject to change. Even though favourable environment makes us happy and contented, adverse situations or setbacks will eventually set in and result in negative emotions and feelings which will cause us to suffer.
Our life is constantly changing and favorable conditions will not last forever. When we are faced with an unfavorable condition, we should focus our attention on the present moment and calm our mind. This will allow us to objectively analyze the situation and seek a breakthrough to resolve our problems. In this way, we minimize the damage caused by the problem. In addition, we can use this as a form of mental training so that we can learn from the experience and to mature mentally through the process.
翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
What is a true friend?
Different people have different perceptions of what constitutes a true friend.
In my opinion, a friend is one who shows you the right path as you move forward. He is one who helps you solve your problems, one who understands you, one who shows concern for you, one who supports your right actions, and one who stop you from straying into the wrong doings. From a wider perspective, our body, mind and the Buddha are our good friends as they are always by our side, rain or shine.
Our body is our good friend because it stays with us throughout our lifetime. It allows us to eat, taste, digest, absorb, detox, and cleanse. When we are not well, it will alert us and get us out of danger. Have we asked ourselves if we understand our body and treat it well. What do we do in return for our body that works so hard for us days in days out? Do we take good care of it? Do we utilize our body wisely or do we create problems for it instead? What do we benefit if we over exert and cause it to fall sick? As such, we need to learn to understand, take good care and make proper use of our body.
Our mind is our good friend as it is with us all the time. But do we really understand our mind? Do we communicate well with it? Do we know what thoughts are in our mind and how they are created? Our mind is constantly affected by all kinds of emotions. Instead of managing our emotions by understanding that all thoughts are a phenomenon of impermanence and causes and conditions, do we allow emotions to take control, resulting in poor responses and wasted efforts?
The Buddha (the awakened mind) is our good friend as it is with us all the time, through thick and thin. When in need, the Buddha surely will help us. However, are we ready to help ourselves? Do we discover our Buddha nature, the expansive mind within us, so that we are able to face all challenges with broadened perspectives?
If we understand our body, our mind and our Buddha nature well, and if we take good care and make good use of them, we would be able to understand others better and take care of them. Then we would be blessed with a group of friends surrounding us, each learning from and helping one another. This is what I perceive to be good friends. What do you think?
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翻译：Yeo Hwee Tiong
Q: In The Four Methods of Enthrallment, how does the word "colleague" (Cooperation with others) differ from our workmate "colleague" in the daily working life?
In working life, “Colleague” generally refers to fellow working colleagues.
From the Dharma perspective, the word “Colleague” (Cooperation with others) in the Four Methods of
Enthrallment has a much wider meaning.
When we attempt to help others to resolve their problems, we need to see things from their perspective and provide the necessary assistance which can be material or mental support. This may include donations in kind, showing care and concern, being understanding and offering words of comfort and encouragement etc. More importantly, we need to let go of our prejudices and be genuine and humble in order to learn from the wisdom and experiences of a good teacher.
The ultimate objective of such co-operation is to guide us on to liberation from our afflictions and be enlightened.