Archive for November, 2007

30
Nov
07

LOVE LETTERS~ Compassionate communication works miracles


Thich Nhat Hahn

THERE IS A French woman who kept old love letters from her husband. He
wrote her beautiful letters before they married. Every time she got a
letter from him, she savoured every sentence — every word —
it was so sweet, so understanding, so full of love. She was delighted
whenever she got a letter, so she kept all his letters in a biscuit box.
One morning, while she was rearranging her closet, she discovered the
ancient biscuit box where she stored all his letters. It had been a long
time since she had seen it. The box of letters told of the most wonderful
time, when she and her husband were young, when they loved each other
and believed that without each other they could not survive.

But in the past several years, both husband and wife had suffered a lot.
They didn’t enjoy looking at each other any more. They didn’t
enjoy talking to each other any more. They didn’t write letters to
each other any more. The day before she found the box, her husband informed
her that he had to go on a business trip. He did not find it pleasant
to stay home, and perhaps he was looking for a little bit of happiness
or pleasure on his trips. She was aware of that. When her husband told
her that he had to go to New York for a meeting, she said, "If you
have work to do, please go ahead." She had grown used to this: it
was very ordinary. Then, instead of returning home as planned, he telephoned
and said, "I have to stay two more days, because there are things
I still need to do." She accepted this very easily, because even
when he was at home, she was not happy.

After hanging up, she began to rearrange her closet and she discovered
the box. It was a box of Lu biscuits — a very famous brand in France.
She was curious because it had been a long time since she opened that
box. She put down her duster, opened the box, and smelled something very
familiar. She took out one of the letters and she stood there and read
it. How sweet was the letter! His language was full of understanding and
love. She felt very refreshed, like a piece of dry land finally exposed
to the rain. She opened another letter to read because it was so wonderful.
Finally she brought the whole box of letters to the table, sat down, and
read one after another until she finished all forty-six of them. The seeds
of her past happiness were still there. They had been buried under many
layers of suffering — but they were still there. So, while reading
that letter he wrote when he was young and full of love, she felt the
seeds of happiness in her begin to be watered.

When you do something like this, you water the seeds of happiness that
lie deep within your consciousness. In the recent past, her husband had
not been using that kind of language at all. But now, when reading the
letters, she could hear her husband speaking in that sweet way. Happiness
had been a reality for them. Why did they now live in a kind of hell?
She could hardly remember that he used to talk to her like that, but it
had been a reality. He was able to talk to her in that kind of language.

DURING THE HOUR and a half she spent reading all these letters, she watered
the seeds of happiness in herself. She realised that both of them had
been unskilful. They had watered the seeds of suffering in each other,
and they had not been able to water the seeds of happiness. After reading
all the letters, she was motivated by the desire to sit down and write
him a letter to tell him how happy she was at that time, in the beginning
of their relationship. She wrote that she wished the happiness of those
golden years could be rediscovered and recreated. And now she could again
call him "My beloved one" with all honesty and sincerity.

She spent forty-five minutes writing that letter. It was a real love
letter — addressed to the charming young man who had written the
letters she kept in a box. Reading his letters and then writing a letter
took about three hours. It was a time of practice, but she did not know
she was practising. After having written the letter, she felt very light
inside. The letter had not yet been delivered; her husband had not yet
read it; but she felt much better because the seeds of happiness had been
reawakened — they had been watered. She went upstairs and put the
letter on his desk. And for the rest of the day, she was happy. She was
happy just because the letters had watered the positive seeds in her.

While reading the letters and writing to her husband, she gained some
insight. Neither of them had been skilful. Neither of them knew how to
preserve the happiness they deserved. In their speech, in their actions,
they created hell for each other. Both accepted living as a family, as
a couple, but they no longer had any happiness. After having understood
this, she was confident that if both of them tried to practise, happiness
could be restored. She became full of hope and no longer suffered as she
had in the past years.

When her husband came home, he went upstairs, and he saw the letter on
his desk. In the letter, she wrote: "I’m partly responsible
for our suffering, for the fact that we don’t have the happiness
that both of us deserve. Let us begin anew and restore communication.
Let us make peace, harmony, and happiness a reality again." He spent
a lot of time reading the letter and looking deeply into what she had
written. He did not know that he was practising meditation. But he was
practising also, because by reading his wife’s letter, the seeds
of happiness in him were also watered. He stayed upstairs for a long time,
looking deeply and getting the same insight that she had gained the day
before. Because of that, both of them had a chance to begin anew and to
restore their happiness.

Nowadays, people, lovers, don’t write letters to each other any
more. They just pick up the phone and say, "Are you free tonight?
Shall we go out?" That’s all, and you have nothing to keep.
That is a pity. We must learn to write love letters again. Write to your
beloved one; he may be your father or your son. She may be your daughter,
your mother, your sister, or your friend. Take time to write down your
gratitude and love. •

Extracts from Anger: Buddhist wisdom for cooling the flames

07
Nov
07

am i a buddhist?


Many people declare themselves to be ‘Buddhists’ when in actual fact they do not know what being Buddhists really means. Many students ( I was once like that too ), when required to fill forms state their religion as “Buddhism” or “Agama Buddha” although they have no idea at all what the essential Teachings of the Buddha (Dhamma) is all about …. let alone understanding and practicing the Dhamma.
Today, we see so many different ‘Brands’ of “Buddhists” . Let us look at them and do some reflection.

The ‘Burning’ “Buddhist”

You see quite a number of such “Buddhists” …. they burn bundles of joss sticks, joss paper and other paper paraphernalia at home, in Buddhist Associations and even Buddhist Temples. Poor Mother Earth ! She is choking and suffering and our environment gets more and more polluted. Talk about wise, wholesome and good Karmic actions ! When will such “Buddhists” ever learn that the ‘gods will not be appeased ’ ( and we don’t get peace within and without ) through a ‘combustion reaction ’? We need to conquer the Devils of Greed, Hatred and Delusion.

The ‘Wesak’ “Buddhist”

These ‘once a year’ “Wesak Buddhists” throng Buddhist Associations and Temples on Wesak Day carrying out so many deluded practices. They perform many meaningless rituals, have their fortunes read, their amulets and talismans blessed, rush for free Dana food ( the “Hungry Ghost” Realm is very real ! ) and “Holy Water”. They make supplication to the Buddha, asking for all sorts of favors with promises to do certain things if their material wishes are granted. Poor Buddha ! He must be very tired listening to the “bargains’ of these “Wesak Buddhists”.

The ‘Intellectual’ “Buddhist”

I have come across many friends who are like “Walking Encyclopedias” when it comes to ‘intellectual Dhamma’. They devour one Dhamma book after another , listen to many Dhamma Speakers and Tapes but alas all these remain at the intellectual level. The Dhamma is not practiced and actualized . Such intellectual Buddhists still cling on to their negative traits and habits. Talk about the practice of Dana … ha, now we understand partly why so many Buddhist Organizations lack Volunteer workers for Dhammaduta work. We have too many “intellectual Buddhists’ walking around !

The ‘Ceremonies’ “Buddhist”

We can see such Buddhists in some Buddhist Temples and Associations. They are caught up in lots of devotional rites, rituals and ceremonies the whole year long. So much of their time and energies are sapped indulging in unnecessary rites and rituals. When will they ever learn, understand, practice and realize the Sublime Teachings of the Buddha ? Unless and until they do, the defilements will remain or even multiply. We do not deny the role of a certain degree of devotional Buddhism but beware …rites and rituals can bind us more and more to the Wheel of Samsara.

The ‘Social’ “Buddhist”

There are Buddhists who are particularly active when it comes to socializing and fun activities. Of course, we need good Buddhist Fellowships, excursions, tours and other healthy recreational activities. But beware ! Our primary aim in being a Buddhist is to learn and practice the Dhamma , to seek and realize Enlightenment. ‘Social’ Buddhists sometimes frequent Buddhist Temples, Buddhist Societies and Associations with ulterior motives. They may be looking for potential life partners or have a hidden business or political agenda. The Dhamma takes backstage.

The ‘Deity’ “Buddhist”

It is interesting to note that many Chinese “Buddhists” regard the Buddha as another of their gods or deities. If you visit their homes, you can find the image of the Buddha placed at their shrine altar together with a host of other gods . ‘Deity’ “Buddhists” perhaps believe in this : ‘ The more gods, the better ( and merrier ) ….more protection and security ! ’ Will they ever learn the meaning of true Refuge in the Triple Gem ? I know of a ‘long-time Buddhist’ ( also an ex-Committee Member of a Buddhist Organization ) who was so afraid of removing his many gods from his shrine altar at home. He believes misfortune can strike him if he does so !

The ‘Emergency times’ “Buddhist”

Such Buddhists only pray to the Buddha or Kuan Yin in times of trouble, problems and conflicts. They pray for immediate solutions to their problems of health, poor business, love relationships, academic studies etc. etc. At other times, when they are relatively trouble-free, they will be too busy chasing material wealth and indulging in sensual pursuits. For such Buddhists, there is no time and place for Dhamma. I remember some time ago, there was a “Buddhist” man who came to our Buddhist Association with a very lost and stressed-up look. He wanted to learn Meditation to solve immediately his big problem …. insomnia and business loss. I suggested that he joined our Dhamma Study Class first. He did but it did not last . He was not patient and just wanted to solve his ‘emergency’ problem.

The ‘Preaching’ “Buddhist”

The Buddha once said, “ Others faults are easy to see but one’s own faults one hides like a fowler in disguise.” “Preaching” Buddhists do a lot of talking, suggesting, ordering and commanding. They project themselves as the “Know-All” in Dhamma but they themselves do little when it comes to real Dhammaduta work and Dana. Such Buddhists can be quite intelligent and creative but alas they don’t really practice the Dhamma. Talking and suggesting is one thing but wise pro-active action is another. Intelligence and Wisdom can be worlds apart.

The ‘Cultish’ “Buddhist”

Such Buddhists can be found everywhere. They can be filled with delusion, ego and conceit. Instead of spending their time practicing good Dana, Sila and Bhavana, they waste much time and energy chasing after “cultivated monks/nuns”, futile arguing over hair-splitting Dhamma points, attempting to convert others to their “cultish” brand of Buddhism and hero-worshipping and tending to their “enlightened leaders or teachers’. ( Let us not forget that our real Teacher is the Dhamma. The Buddha says, “He who sees the Dhamma sees Me.” )