到最后,路也是要自己走的

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CNY 2012

doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon! In fact, it seems to be just starting for me.

Over the next two weeks, I will be attending six steamboat/dinner gatherings. I have a newfound respect for vegetarians who can maintain their composure amid the feasting, especially if they are dining with omnivores.

Now that I have a boyfriend, family elders and cousins have been asking about the wedding. I’m not in much of a hurry, as Pupsie has yet to start work and we are still unable to agree on what kind of flat to get. I want a 4-room, maximum 5-room, but he wants an Executive apartment. I am more inclined towards BTOs (the name doesn’t make any sense to me, btw) but he likes resale flats for their bigger size. Resale flats tend to be in better locations and are bigger, but I still prefer having more spare cash to save and spend. Oh well this is an oft repeated and never-ending debate. Too early to tell for now.

I feel quite paisay to be at the receiving end of angbaos at this age. Doesn’t feel very good taking cash from retirees and aunties who’ve already spent a lot on CNY food.

PM Lee’s call for more dragon babies baffles me. All the past calls for more babies have baffled me. I cannot comprehend how more babies or Singaporeans in the future would automatically lead to a better economy and less foreigners. What if they become a liability to society, which is a real possibility with some parents not prepared to raise kids? How many Singaporeans are willing to do jobs that the foreigners are doing now – build condos, wash dishes, make coffee, wait tables?

Stripping away all societal norms and family expectations, I realise I cannot think of a good reason to have kids. It could stem from my subconscious inadequacy and fear towards the Herculean task of raising them into sensible, compassionate human beings who will not piss the hell out of me. But I’ve spoken to some married people and they tell me you will know it when you know it.

Off to Pup’s house for dinner.

The fare hikes will not stop me from taking cabs.

The feeling of cruising home in air-conditioned comfort after a long day at work, without having to battle queues and commuters who are too absorbed in their iPhones to move into the centre of the MRT carriage, is priceless. A one hour journey(with 2 transfers!) shortened to just 15 minutes is a lifesaver, especially on days where all my body parts conspire to ache.

I will still take cabs whenever my ailing body wills me to, provided I can get one at all. Ubi Ave 1 is just not the favourite haunt of cabbies.

As I heartlessly throw things away, I wonder if any part of me gets thrown away.

My memories, my growing up, the keepsakes.

No point getting too attached eh.

I have been throwing away the presents and odds and ends from primary and secondary school.

What doesn’t get thrown out are my diaries, autograph books, year books and stamp/sticker collections.

If one day, I need to let up more space, then those will have to go, too.

Just not the diaries. Heh.

简单,是一种境界。

家里快要进行装修工程,老妈忙着整理。

20年不见的垃圾(对我来说,两年内没用的东西就等于垃圾)一一出土,

四个人的家庭,竟有3个煮水壶,无数台slow cooker,  还有10只热水壶。

大小杯盘,我们也丢了好几车。多数都是买东西送的赠品!

家里面积不小,可是囤积了这些垃圾,变得无美感又窄小。

就是这样

曾经为此煎熬,发现徒劳的时候就只有接受!

因为房子不是我买的,要装垃圾或装修,也由不得我做主。

这阴影让我恨透一切赠品,积点卡,信用卡,诸如此类提倡“买多,送多”的可恶伎俩。

对,就是让新加坡人趋之若鹜的 free gifts 和 reward points.

就算家里不需要这些赠品,还是一定得拿,才不会吃亏 —— 这就是一般人的心态吧?

囤积到无法负荷的地步,才发现这些东西是垃圾,没办法,只好自食其果,浪费时间丢丢丢。

(这些垃圾,你送人都不会有人要,所以要舍得丢!)

在这个世界上,抵挡不了物质诱惑,没钱也要买买买,把生活复杂化的人很多。能化繁为简的人有多少?

简单,是一种境界。

我觉得一间房子不需要什么装潢,名牌家具,只要没有一件东西是生活里用不着的,就是美。

人,拥有越多东西,就活得越累。

我们到底是在用这些物品,还是被他们用?

看到满街的人埋头于iPhone, 下楼梯都要“指指点点”,完全不害怕滚下楼梯……

答案可想而知了。

Meeting Venerable Thubten Chodron: Reflections of a Buddhist Youth

Yesterday, I had the immense good karma to chat with Venerable Thubten Chodron and my fellow Dharma friends, Perry, Ching Wi, and Niki about our practice and innermost thoughts toward Dharma work. I went without any expectations; and I didn’t even have a single question in my head for the Venerable.

Perry started by sharing a framework for Dharma education, that he and Wen Jie, another Buddhist youth leader, came up with. In just a few words, Ven. Chodron summed up the key characteristics that such a framework should have:

  • People like to know there’s a structure to the path, so it’s good to provide this for them.
  • How the discussions happen is key. The session has to draw people out so they can share about what’s going on in their lives. (And isn’t this what the Dharma is all about?) When people come to Buddhist centres, they’re not just seeking information. They’re seeking virtuous friends and internal transformation. So we need to create an environment conducive for this type of sharing.

Perry mentioned the word “frustrated” quite a few times. Having been (actively and not-so-actively) involved in Dharma propagation since 2007, I, too, have been through periods of intense frustration and disappointment with the conditions and people that I had to work with. So I could understand Perry when he told us how frustrated he was, with the Dharma being so perfect, and yet he still hears people telling him they “are lost even after five years of being in a Buddhist group”.

I have come to realize that for me the best way to propagate the Dharma is to embody it. However, I do not practice very hard. The only sutra that I can memorise is the “Heart Sutra,” as my mother taught me to chant it when I was young. I attend meditation retreats, but I often doze off. I am seldom able to solve kong-ans (Zen riddles). I often have thoughts of aversion towards people I dislike. But I tell myself that it’s okay, as I am trying. Like all my spiritual friends, who are trying so hard to make time for self-cultivation and helping others at the same time, I do what I am able to do. This thought alone comforts and moves me deeply. I do not feel guilty, and I know I do not need to.

In my hiatus of sorts, I came to realize that being kind to myself is the only way I can be kind to others. I have to make time for my own practice. I am not there yet, but I am trying. Ven Chodron told me before I left that this was a good attitude to have.

Ven Chodron pointed out that people often do not see their own good qualities and that part of our Dharma practice is to point out people’s good qualities to them. We do this not to flatter them, but with a sincere mind that admires others’ virtues and good qualities. Hearing that others see goodness in them, people are encouraged to practice. I am fortunate enough to have friends and family who are extremely affirming of my talents and abilities, while wisely guiding me along the way. Perhaps we should go about surrounding ourselves with such friends.

Ven Chodron also reminded us that right motivation is the most important thing. Sometimes we can be so goal-oriented (having grown up in Singapore), that we forget about the process. But the Dharma is all about the process, she said. “All this doubt and frustration is part of the process. It is what you have to work with, to transform into the path. What you’re doing and the difficulties you experience are not wasted energy. Learning how to work constructively with these circumstances is the bodhisattva path.”

Thank you, Venerable, for this teaching. It was so gratifying to hear this, as I still feel helpless from time to time, wondering why things are this way and that, why I just cannot work with some people. “There are so many conditions that must come together, and everyone has different karma. You cannot control others’ present actions or the karma they bring with them from the past. All you can “control” is your own mind, your own motivation. In addition, when you work on a project that can benefit many people, its success depends not on your actions alone, but on the karma of all the people who have the potential to benefit from this project.”

With practice, I think I can learn to accept this fact of life, and my “trying” can be done with so much more joy. Ven. Chodron also advised that as Dharma workers, we have to ask ourselves, “What is it that moves me, and what do I aspire for?” When we know this clearly, we’ll be much more patient with ourselves.

Measuring the “success” of our Dharma propagation work could be an issue in results-oriented Singapore. Ven. Chodron shared that the way she measures success is not by numbers—the number of people attending an event or the amount of money raised for a beneficial project. Rather, success is when the friends and family of the people she works with say, “You’re a lot nicer person now. You don’t get as angry as you used to; you’re kinder and more peaceful now”. Isn’t this the Dharma’s function, and isn’t this what the work we’ve been doing is all about?

That day, I went home remembering all the affirmation, unconditional help, and scathingly honest advice that I have received from likeminded spiritual friends and teachers all these years, and I felt deeply grateful that our paths have crossed. That was the first time I could fully identify with what the Buddha said about spiritual friends, “Spiritual friendship is the whole of the holy life”; and my wish to practice hard so I can benefit myself and others, became stronger than before.

The writer is from Dharma In Action, a gathering of Buddhists from all walks of life collaborating on innovative and pertinent initiatives that foster stronger fellowship within the Buddhist community in Singapore. They see themselves as a dynamic platform where engaged Buddhists can share resources and work together open-mindedly, for the betterment of the Buddhist community, and ultimately, the society. Hence, they always welcome collaborations with fellow Buddhists and organizations. Website: www.dharmainaction.net