2020年7月12日 星期日

57 - Puffin the Cat

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

57 - Puffin the Cat Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Once upon a time, there lived a cat named Puffin. One day, as Puffin wandered around the garden, she could smell the aroma of food wafting through the air. She sniffed around and thought, “Yum, food...But where is it coming from?” Looking around, she continued to sniff. Eventually, she followed her nose and soon arrived at the neighbor’s house. The smell of delicious food got stronger and Puffin knew she was in the right place. Quietly, seeing as no one was around, she entered the house. Puffin jumped onto the kitchen table and began to snatch food. As she was about to grab more, she heard voices coming towards her and she quickly escaped the house.

On her way back, Puffin realized what she had done and felt bad. She then thought of her  mother who had passed away. She detoured to the graveyard and sat before her mother’s portrait. Feeling guilty and remorseful, she said, “Mother, I have done something wrong. I just stole someone’s food, but it was my first time! I promise I won’t do that again. Yes, mother, I remember your words, ‘do not hunger over things that don’t belong to you.’ Since I was a kitten, you always taught me not to steal and reminded me to be a pure and noble cat. That’s why I’m here to confess. Please forgive me.” Puffin cried and repeatedly said to herself, “Never will I be a thief again!”

A week went by and one afternoon, while Puffin was wandering around the garden, she again smelled delicious food. She seemed to have forgotten her earlier promise and quickly entered the house to steal again. This time, she consoled herself by saying, “The family prepared too much food anyway and I was only trying to help them finish it all!”

Then, after a couple of days, Puffin showed up at the neighbor’s house and stole food again for the third time, her theft now becoming a habit. This time, she sought to justify her actions and thought, “Why did they leave food out there to tempt me? It’s not my fault!”

Without feeling guilty or sorry, she continued to steal the neighbor’s food. By the fourth time, Puffin started to find her own suitable reasons for her wrongdoing. She began to speak not only for herself but for cat society as a whole. She made a long and eloquent argument, declaring “In cat society, it’s unfair that some are rich and some are poor. There is a need to redistribute social resources, and so we need a cat to carry out such duty in the name of justice. This burden has fallen onto me and I was chosen.”

As time went by, her theft continued for the fifth time, then sixth, seventh, and had become her daily habit, Puffin was now sitting at the neighbor’s table and eating their food like a customer in a restaurant. 

Eventually, the neighbor realized what Puffin was doing. They prepared lots of food and waited for her to visit. Without fail, Puffin made her way into the house as was her habit. Except this time, she was caught red-handed by the police. And she was led, handcuffed, to the police car, she yelled to the neighbor, “I'm not a thief, I am a noble messenger of justice...I was only trying to help you...”
Despite her now difficult situation, Puffin still showed no remorse for what she had done.

This story highlights how one’s conscience can be drowned by desire. When Puffin stole food for the first time, she felt sorry and guilty. However, this moral sense did not last long. Soon, she was overwhelmed by her desires and acted in ways without conscience.

If we look at the chaos in today’s society, it is due to the lack of conscience. The Buddha once said, “If one can adorn in good conscience, such is supremely solemn.”

In order for the world to become a better place, one important principle to uphold is “humility.” We should have humility through being aware of things we have done wrong and resolve to improve. In this story, as Puffin stole food she went through a mental process, and time after time, she tried to find reasonable explanations for her mistakes. However, she made no resolve to stop her wrongdoing.

For someone without a conscience, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or being intoxicated means nothing. If today’s world has more and more of such immoral people, then problems arising from pornography, violence, corruption, crime, and discrimination will be endless. Everyone has a personal responsibility to keep society safe and peaceful. Each of us should work to purify our hearts and mind and cultivate a virtuous and just conscience.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
“Conscience is the clothing that adorns the body and mind.
Repentance is the water that purifies heart and mind.”













2020年7月6日 星期一

56 - Soccer Game

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

56 - Soccer Game Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Once upon a time, there was a soccer fan named Mike. He was so devoted that he never missed a soccer game of his favorite team, the current champions. One time, it was the finals of the championship and his team and their rivals had attracted over 100,000 spectators. Mike was there with his friends cheering on their favorite team. It was a very close-fought game and everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats with excitement as the intensity of the match continued to rise. 

Going into the second half, the game was a close tie, each team having scored one goal apiece. Sitting next to Mike was his friend Ben. Both were following the game with great enthusiasm when Mike decided to light his cigarette. As he started smoking, he was unaware that the flame from the cigarette had started to burn Ben’s shirt. Suddenly, feeling the burn on his skin, Ben yelped, “Ouch! That hurts!”

Only then did Mike realize that due to his carelessness, his friend’s shirt had caught fire due to his cigarette. He quickly apologized, “I’m so sorry for burning your shirt.” Just at that moment, their favorite team had scored a goal. As Ben was so focused on the game’s development, he simply shrugged and replied, “Oh! Don’t worry about it, I’ll just buy a new shirt.” Without feeling bothered, he turned his attention back to the game.

But, they both did not realize that Ben’s shirt was still aflame, and as everyone was busy cheering on their respective teams, the fire spread to the long hair of Ben’s girlfriend. She suddenly screamed, “Ahh! My hair!” At that moment, Mike realized that Ben’s shirt was still on fire and that it had spread. He quickly reached over to put the fire out while apologized at the same time, “I’m so sorry, it was my fault...because of my cigarette…” But before he could finish explaining and apologizing, the other team had stolen the ball and scored a goal. Ben’s girlfriend was so focused on the action that she didn’t seem to care too much about what had just happened to her hair. She said, “Oh! Don’t worry about it, this game is more important than my hair, I’ll just get a haircut!” She quickly turned her attention back to the game.

This story highlights that, when we view something as more important than our notion of self-importance we can avoid many disputes over right and wrong. Mike’s friend and girlfriend were able to overcome their attachment to their notion of self-importance or self-conceit, as the soccer game was more important and it didn’t matter to them what happened to his shirt or her hair. If they had remained attached to their notion of self-importance, then the situation could easily have escalated into a big argument with Mike.

In Buddhism, there is a concept known as “no-self.” “No-self” does not mean that there is no notion of the self, what it truly means is that we should not cling to the concept of a self that is unchanging. Buddhism explains that the concept of the self is made up of the Five Skandhas, a collection of elements consisting of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formation, and consciousness. To see the self in terms of these elements, we can recognize that the self is not simply a single entity that is fixed and independent. Often, we grasp onto things believing they are real, fixed, and do so from the point of view of our ego or pride. This leads to our suffering. We should learn to see through this delusion by accepting the empty nature of the self. This means to truly see the self in terms of the Five Skandhas, to recognize that the true self is just a momentary gathering of conditions which eventually will disperse.

Once we understand the empty nature of the self, we can eliminate discrimination between people and let go of our attachments. Walking this path can help us overcome suffering and be liberated. If we can forget the self and understand the empty nature of the self, this will surely lessen our afflictions and sufferings.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
“By being mindful of impermanence, one can see the origin and cessation of things and thus practice diligently.
By being mindful of no-self, you can know your true nature and thus be at ease.












2020年6月28日 星期日

55 - Mind Your Own Business

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

54 - Follow the Rules Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Bright and early each morning, at the riverbank, a group of people waited to cross the river by boat. Sam, the ferryman, was in charge of sailing the boat across the river every morning.

One day, Sam overslept and started work later than usual. A frequent passenger greeted him, “Morning Sam!” and smiled, tapping his finger on his watch to show him that he should hurry and get ready.

To get the boat ready, Sam had to push it through sand, and into the river. While pushing the boat into the river, all manner of sea creatures such as shrimp, crabs, and even fish would be pushed out of the way, and some sadly ended up crushed by the boat.

Many people were waiting to cross the river, as the boat was small, Sam had to do a few round trips. Among the people left behind after the first group had left were a scholar and a Chan master.

Looking at the crushed sea creatures, the scholar asked the Chan master, “Master, did you see it? While pushing the boat into the water, the ferryman slaughtered so many lives. All these little fish, shrimps, and crabs were dead. Now, who's fault is it? Is it the passengers or the ferryman? In Buddhism, taking a life is an offense. Who will bear the bad karma resulting from this? Should it be the passenger or the ferryman?”

This is a difficult question to answer. If we say it is the fault of the ferryman, we must consider that it is for the sake of the passengers that he pushed the boat into the water. The crucial detail here is that the ferryman did so with no intention of taking lives. If we say it is the fault of the passengers, we must consider that they simply wished to cross the river, and once again, in doing so had no intention of taking lives. All things being equal, then who exactly is responsible for the loss of so many lives?

The Chan Master cleverly answered, “If this is the case, then it is your fault!”
On hearing this, the scholar became very angry and replied, “Why is it my fault? I am not the ferryman and have yet to board the boat as a passenger. How could this possibly be my fault?”

To teach the scholar an invaluable lesson, the Chan Master then said, “Because you didn’t mind your own business!”

This story highlights that the world itself is always at peace. However, many people are nosy busybodies who create unnecessary gossip. “Mind your own business” is a common saying that asks for the respect of other people's privacy. It also means that people should stop meddling in what does not concern them.

In Buddhism, it states that all karma created has been initiated by the mind. Our mind is the source of our actions. In Chan Buddhism, there is a concept known as “no-mind.” “No-mind” refers to the absence of both aversion and desire in the mind. While one continues to deal with difficulties as they arise in daily life and the mind, one can deal with them without craving, anger, attachment, or vexation. It is important not to confuse “no-mind” with a careless mind. With a mindset of “no-mind,” one can be rid of illusions and discriminations, with one’s mind at peace and in balance. All wrongdoings will subside, and one will naturally become at ease and untroubled.

In this story, the scholar’s question over who is guilty of killing the sea creatures is an example of the incessant mental chatter in our minds. This chatter and unnecessary spread of our thoughts from a single observation pave the way to suffering. This is because our negative thoughts and emotions are triggered by external objects. Our mind is then drawn to the vicious cycle of perceptions about past, present, and future experiences gained from our senses. These senses are based on our inner urges of desire, egotism, and wrong views.

As the Buddha said, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

Mindfulness and meditation can remedy this vicious cycle of thoughts created by our minds.  Being mindful of the present moment and observing without discrimination, we avoid negative emotions and unnecessary suffering.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says, 
A deluded mind is like a hooked fish, the body and mind suffer.
A pure mind is free, shining like a full moon with clarity.














妄心妄境,如魚吞鉤,痛楚割截身心 。

2020年6月22日 星期一

54 - Follow the Rules

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

54 - Follow the Rules Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Once upon a time, there was a young family with both children in elementary school. Due to their busy work schedules, the parents were unable to take their children out for short trips. However, as the children had been begging about going to the beach, the parents finally decided to take them out there.

The night before, the dad gathered everyone in the living room and announced, “Seeing as you both have been very well-behaved, mom and I have decided to take you to the beach! But before we leave tomorrow, we need to have a quick meeting, so you both can keep a few things in mind.”

Slightly frustrated, the son, Daniel, began yelling, “Dad…why?! I thought we’re going to the beach for fun! Why do you always have to set rules on us?! This is pointless, we just want to have fun and play around!”

The daughter Rosie, also shouted, “Yeah dad! Stop being so serious! We’re finally going on holiday, can’t we just enjoy ourselves?!”

Listening to his children, the dad was extremely disappointed and the meeting ended abruptly, leaving everyone gloomy for the remainder of the evening. 

The next day, as the family arrived at the beach, they were drawn to the beautiful sights of the golden sand and the calmness of the deep blue sea. Many people were in the water, splashing each other and letting the waves wash over them. Others were building sandcastles or surfing. Seeing how much fun everyone was having, Daniel was eager to get into the water. He began opening the bags they had brought with them. After searching for a while, he could not find his swimsuit. Frustrated, he complained to his dad and said, “Where is my swimsuit?”

His dad shrugged and replied, “I don’t know.”

Daniel whined, “Why didn’t you remind us to bring our swimsuits? Going to the beach is pointless if we can’t swim!”

His dad said, “Son, last night I gathered you all to discuss what we needed to prepare and bring for our trip. But, you didn’t want to listen, thinking that it would mean more responsibility and rules for you. So in the end, of course, no one remembered to pack swimsuits.”

Listening on, the mum added, “This is what happens when you don’t listen to your dad and I. In the end, you are the ones that suffer the consequences.” 

As the children could not see the importance behind following rules and obeying their parents, the family had a disappointing time at the beach. As a result, they ended their trip early and returned home.

Soon after returning home, it was almost dinner time. Daniel and Rosie came to the dining table. However, to their surprise, nothing was prepared. They asked, “Mom, where is our dinner?” Their mother replied, “There is no rule that says I have to cook every meal for you! You can both find a way to feed yourselves.”

At that moment, Daniel and Rosie finally realized why their parents had always set rules for the family.

This story highlights that many of us do not like rules, as we feel constrained by them. There is a Chinese saying, “Without following rules, not even a square or a circle is possible.” This means that there needs to be a set of rules or standards, otherwise, we cannot make a square or circle.

In this world, we exist and live in a society surrounded by people. Whether it be in public spaces, workplaces, or even social gatherings, we need certain conventional rules in order for everyone to work and live together cohesively. Working in an orderly manner requires delegation and cooperation in order to achieve common goals. However, young people today strive to be innovative and different, quite often calling out for freedom without rules. They perceive these rules as confinement, thinking it dictates the way they should live and work. In reality, if our freedom is aimless and without boundaries, it can be very dangerous. Just like driving a car without brakes. As you enjoy the feeling of the speeding car, at the same time, disaster could strike any moment when we lose control of our vehicle.

Therefore, there need to be rules for everyone to follow within society, our homes, and in life, so that we can live in harmony and happiness.

In Buddhism, we are encouraged to observe the Five Precepts, which are to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxicants. Many people think that by upholding these Five Precepts, it is like imposing restrictions on themselves. However, the purpose of these Precepts is to help guard our actions, so that we do not cause harm to others and ourselves. As a result, we can enjoy true freedom from the joys of living in peace and harmony with one another.
Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
      “Precepts are the jewels that adorn body and mind.
      Precepts are light breaking through the darkness.
      Precepts are the rain after a drought.
      Precepts are a moated castle holding off the enemy.”

















2020年6月14日 星期日

53 - Being Saved

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

53 - Being Saved Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Once upon a time, there lived three people in a house, each with a disability. One was deaf, another was blind, and the third crippled. They met in a hospital, later became good friends and then lived together. Their house was designed to suit their individual needs so they could easily carry out their daily routines.

One day, the deaf person was cooking lunch. While busy with the stove, a kitchen towel caught fire. He panicked and tried to put it out with water but, before he knew it, the fire spread, and it quickly raged out of control. 

He ran to warn his two friends. In a panic, they had to rapidly resolve issues: What can they do first? How do they respond? More importantly, how do they escape the fire safely despite their disabilities?

The blind person thought of a plan. He told his crippled friend to get on his back so he could carry him. He then grabbed his deaf friend’s arm and signaled for him to follow. All three of them were to be guided outside to safety by the instructions of their crippled friend.

Quickly, the three of them managed to evacuate the house. Outside, the firemen had just arrived. Amazed at their teamwork and cooperation, they had safely escaped the fire. 

The moral of the story is that in this world, we rely on one another and coexist together. All things are made possible from causes and conditions. Nothing exists on its own, no person is an island, this is the unchanging truth of the universe.

Take a flower for example. Planting the seed is the cause. But it cannot bloom without conditions such as soil, water, sunlight, and air. All these conditions come together to make it possible for this flower to blossom. Likewise, the house we live in requires more than just bricks and cement. We need other materials such as slates, steel, wood, nails, glass, and so on. Also, we need builders, designers, plumbers, architects, and other professionals. This ensures a house has solid foundations, preventing damage and other issues.

Buddhism explains that the human body is made up of the four great elements, consisting of earth, water, fire, and air, as well as the five skandhas. Skandhas mean “aggregates.” The Five Skandhas are: form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. Form includes everything we can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. Feelings occur when the mind responds to the outside world, and our perception refers to how we conceptualize or connect with external phenomena. Once we are aware of what is happening around us, that’s when mental formations are formed. They refer to activities that are produced from the awareness of mental objects. Last but not least, our consciousness, which is our awareness of ourselves and the world around us. For example, by using the same sense of smell, our awareness differentiates between pleasant and unpleasant smells. 

As the human body is made up of the four great elements and five skandhas, if any element is absent, the body cannot exist. If any of these conditions that make up a human body is unbalanced, that is when we fall sick. 

Buddhism speaks of the principle of causes and conditions. It means that all things come to fruition from causes and conditions. All existence follows this reciprocal relationship, hence the law of causes and conditions is the Truth.

If one can contemplate causes and conditions, we know how to appreciate all people and things we encounter in our lives. Furthermore, we must cultivate causes and conditions by making affinities with others. This will pave the way to ensuring that everything runs smoothly. It is often said, “in unity is strength,” meaning if we come together as one, we can survive. Just like in this story, the deaf, the blind, and the crippled needed to help one another and cooperate harmoniously to escape the fire. In other words, the right causes and conditions were there for the three of them to overcome the disaster.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
“Things arise out of causes and conditions.
Things disappear due to causes and conditions.
With causes and conditions, all goes well.
Without good causes and conditions, success is impossible.”











2020年6月7日 星期日

52 - Returning His Worries

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

52 - Returning His Worries Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Once upon a time, there lived a young couple, James and Anna, both taught in the same elementary school. Even though both earned average salaries, they were always happy and enjoyed their work. Their students enjoyed their cheerful characters and looked forward to their classes.

In the apartment next to James and Anna lived the Chairman of a real estate company, named Aaron. Though he lived a wealthy and lavish lifestyle, he was always unhappy. He worried about being robbed, and his possessions stolen. As a result, he always felt restless and unsettled.

Aaron often worked at home on weekends. His secretary would come to his place to drop off documents. One Saturday morning, as Aaron waited for his secretary, he went to the balcony to get some fresh air.  Looking around, he couldn’t help but notice the young couple, enjoying each other’s company, chatting on their balcony.  

James said to Anna, “It’s almost the end of the school year and we have yet to rehearse our performance for the teachers’ end of year party! Should we start practicing today?”

Anna replied, “Oh yes! Let’s start today! Why don’t you pick a song you can play on the piano, and I’ll sing along to it?”

In no time, the young couple had settled on a song and began rehearsing. While Aaron had gone back into his apartment, he had left the balcony doors open and heard the cheerful singing coming from James and Anna’s apartment. 

When his secretary arrived, he sighed to her, “Do you hear that? That young couple lives a simple and humble life. Why are they so happy? Simply playing the piano and singing brings them joy. I live in a luxurious apartment with a well-paid job. Surely I have achieved more than them, and yet, why am I so unhappy and miserable?!”

On hearing what Aaron said, his secretary replied, “If you're so unhappy and miserable, you can always share your worries with them!”

Puzzled, Aaron asked, “How do I do that? How can I share my worries with the young couple?!”

“You can give them one million dollars! That amount means very little to you anyway!” said the secretary.

After hearing what his secretary said, Aaron visited James and Anna the next day and gifted them one million dollars.

“You are too generous! I’m not sure we can accept such a large sum of money!” said James. 

“No, no, I am honored to share my wealth with you. As neighbors, we should look after each other. Please accept it,” replied Aaron. 

With slight hesitation, James and Anna finally accepted the money. However, as reality set in that they had just been given one million dollars, they were so happy that they couldn’t sleep that night. 

James turned to Anna, and asked, “What do you think we should do with the money?”

Anna said, “We should keep it in a safe place, save it for a rainy day.”
James agreed, “Yes you're right, we can probably hide the money under the bed or get a safe and lock it up. What do you think?”

Anna, deep in thought, replied, “I don’t think the house is safe, what if someone finds out and robs us?”

As the night wore on, both were unable to agree to a solution. They felt that no matter what they chose, nowhere would be safe. They kept disagreeing and for the rest of the night, they both tossed and turned in bed. It wasn’t until the next morning that they came to a mutual realization. Anna said to James, “Don’t you think the cash that we have received overnight has brought unwanted worries into our lives??” 

James replied, “Yes, I think you’re right. We should return the one million dollars to Aaron.”

That evening, James and Anna decided to visit Aaron. As they greeted Aaron on his doorstep, holding the money in a large bag, the young couple happily said, “Thank you for the one million dollars, but these are your worries, not ours. We are better off returning your worries to you!”

This story highlights that money in itself is neither good nor bad. When linked to the act of doing good deeds, money is our wealth. However, when used to stimulate our greed, money embodies the evil within us. As the saying goes, “There is no differentiation in Dharma, for Dharma itself is neither good or evil. Our actions, whether good or evil, speak the Dharma. Therefore, through understanding the law of cause and effect, good deeds will bring good merits while wrongdoings will bring bad karma. It is our choice of how we choose to use the Dharma in our lives.” Ultimately, we choose how we spend our money. Many people choose to do little with their money, leaving their savings in their bank account. However, our life savings cannot follow us beyond death.

While this story demonstrates the scenario that wealth can bring worries into our lives, we should learn to appreciate that wealth also provides us the opportunity to help and serve others. When we contribute to society, we should remember that money is not the only measure of our wealth. Wealth can be seen in every aspect of our lives. For example, speaking kind words, doing good deeds, giving others convenience, and developing good affinities with others. These are all forms of wealth. Therefore, true wealth resembles the motion of water, in that it only becomes valuable through allowing it to flow and circulate.

Many people in this world are wealthy. But few truly know how to spend their wealth. Money is only truly yours when well spent. Are you willing to take on these words of wisdom?

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
Money can gain merits if used for good.
Money can be evil if used for ill.
To possess wealth is a blessing.
To spend it well is true wisdom.












2020年5月31日 星期日

#51 - Barks of Life

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

51 - Barks of Life Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Once upon a time, there was a young man named Ray who recently got married. He met his wife in college, and they instantly fell in love with each other.

One evening, Ray met with his friends for dinner. Since Ray was just recently married, his friends were curious and asked him how married life was.

Ray happily replied, “Married life is wonderful! I feel so happy and content. When I was single, I would come home to an empty house with no dinner ready. So I always resorted to eating instant noodles. But now, when I get home, I am greeted by my dear wife, beaming with joy upon seeing me. Her lovely smile is what I look forward to coming home. Not only that, she also brings me my slippers at the door, and makes me feel very at home. Even Fluffy--our adorable dog runs around me, barking with joy. Furthermore, my wife’s delicious cooking is ready on the dining table, waiting for me. Who would complain about such a life? I’m blessed with the perfect married life!”

Ray’s friends nodded as they listened, and felt happy their friend was lucky to have found a great life partner. However, Ray’s happy, married life was not to last forever.  

One year later, Ray met with his friends again. Before his friends even had a chance to ask, he began to complain, “Married life is upsetting. When I come home, my wife no longer greets me with a smile, instead, she nags me...telling me to do house chores, demanding that we make this or that investment, expecting that I come home on time, blah blah blah.”

One of his friends interrupted him and asked, “No more slippers then?”

Ray continued, “No! My dog brings me my slippers now. My wife is too busy nagging me. It’s only been a year, my romantic dinners have vanished, my gentle loving wife has turned into a nagging companion. Being married is like being in prison.”

Seeing Ray so downcast, his friends suggested that he go to the temple and speak to a Venerable. Though Ray was not religious, he thought why not, any good reason to get away from his nagging wife is welcomed.

Upon arriving at the temple, Ray went to the Main Shrine and was greeted by a Venerable who was expecting him. The Venerable led him to the reception room. On the table, tea and snacks were available. A little surprised, Ray quietly took a seat. Then the Venerable said, “Please have some tea and help yourself to the snacks.” Ray took a cup and sipped the tea. The Venerable asked, “How can I help?” Without holding back, Ray confided to the Venerable.

After listening to Ray, the Venerable said, “There is no need to feel troubled. You can still enjoy happy days like before.”

Puzzled, Ray asked, “How?”

The Venerable replied, “Well, it sounds to me that nothing has changed. Because when you arrive home, you still have someone that comes to greet you and brings you slippers. And there is still barking in the house.”

Ray frowned and mumbled, “But…”

The Venerable continued, “But the only difference is, your wife and your dog have swapped roles. Now you are greeted by your clever dog Fluffy, who is happy to see you and brings you slippers. As for your wife’s nagging, treat it like your dog’s barking, but in a different tune. You see, your life has not changed, you still have slippers waiting for you and barking when you arrive.”

Ray was comforted by the Venerable’s words and immediately felt better about his situation at home.

The moral of this story is that regardless of how the external world changes, what matters most is how we maintain our internal world. We need not let the external world drive us into misery and trouble. Shifting our mindset and transforming our delusions can help us resolve our internal conflicts. No matter what situation we face, if we can take charge and master our mind, we can live happily and be carefree.

However, we are often influenced by the external world due to our fragile mind. When we hear words of praise and see things we like, we feel like we’re in heaven. On the other hand, if we hear criticism or see things we dislike, we feel upset and hurt, even to the extent of losing sleep over it. As a result, this impacts our mental wellbeing and ability to enjoy life.

One of the Buddhist texts states that the mind of the Buddha is pure, without flattery and deceit, always basking in joy and compassion. Fundamentally, the mind of the Buddha and the ordinary mind is the same. If we can turn stinginess into selflessness, anger into happiness, greed into generosity, and violence into compassion, inevitably our worries and troubles will cease. This can be further explained through an analogy, namely, one will no longer be licking honey from the sharp edge of a knife. This illustrates that we are driven by our desires, that our cravings are strong, like the honey on the sharp edge of a knife. Though dangerous and we could easily cut our tongue licking the knife, we choose to take the risk just so we could satisfy our desires.

If we strive to change our external world, would it not be more important to change our internal world instead? Changing our mindset is the key, as the world can be seen as the manifestation of our mind. For example, on seeing a pond filled with fallen flowers, some may feel sad that the flowers have wilted and are no longer beautiful. In contrast, some people look forward to the fruits that are soon to come. These contrasting interpretations of the same scenario demonstrate that everything in this world can be found in our perceptions. Through transforming the way we think, we can transcend suffering and appreciate the pleasures in life.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
“Water is quiet if not stirred by the wind.
The mind perseveres if not stirred by distractions.”












2020年5月25日 星期一

50 - Better off Blind

The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality

50 - Better off Blind Host: Venerable Miao Guang

Listen to the full story here. (Or on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcast.)

Once upon a time lived a young couple, Josh and Jane. Both were in their twenties living a comfortable life with excellent careers. Josh was tall, handsome, fit, and popular with everyone. Jane was not only smart but also had the looks to rival a model. They were the perfect match, glamorous and stunning as a couple. It wasn’t long before they fell in love and were married.

Despite living a healthy lifestyle, Josh and Jane suffered from severe migraines. Due to their busy careers, they did not think to see a doctor for treatment of their shared condition. One day, while shopping for groceries, they passed by a pharmacy. Josh immediately said, “Jane, let’s check out the pharmacy and see what medicine they have.” 

Without thinking twice, Jane replied, “Great idea, let’s see what they have available.”   

However, without seeking proper medical advice, they were quick to buy what was available on the shelf and did not even research the potential side effects of taking the medication.

A few days later, as Josh and Jane were suffering yet another migraine, they took the medication they bought from the pharmacy. Both went to bed early that night, but, in the morning, they woke up to a completely different world. In a panic, Jane nudged Josh and screamed, “Oh my goodness! I don’t know what is happening but I can’t see!”

Not knowing what to do, Josh tried to clear his eyes as he replied, “I can’t see either! My vision has turned pitch black! What is going on?!”

One of the side effects of taking the migraine medicine had resulted in their vision being severely impaired. Overnight, both had turned blind.  

Trying to come to terms with their shocking new reality, Josh and Jane were very afraid of losing each other. Their only source of comfort was to hold each other’s hands and hug each other. It was the reassurance they desperately needed to never leave each other. Over time, they became accustomed to their new way of life. Josh and Jane enjoyed each other’s company by making the most of their sense of touch and hearing.

Thirty years passed in a flash, and one day, Josh’s friend Max came over to visit them.
As Max came through the front door, he was greeted by Josh and Jane’s warm smiles. “How are you both doing?” Max asked.

“We’re doing great! We’re planning to spend the weekend relaxing at home and doing some housework. It does take us twice as long to get things done, on account of not being able to see.” Josh replied.

Having seen what the couple had been through over the years, Max asked, “Have you guys considered seeking treatment to restore your eyesight?”

Jane replied, “Yes, we’ve already visited several eye doctors in the past, and tried everything available, but so far nothing has worked.”

Seeing Jane’s disappointment, Max responded, “Technology has advanced significantly these days, and treatments are now much more effective. I know a high-profile eye doctor! He’s been very successful in treating patients with severe vision impairment. Maybe you guys should visit him for a consultation.” 

Unconvinced, Josh hesitated and replied, “Is it really worth seeking another diagnosis? We have tried everything, so why would this eye doctor find or recommend something different from those we’ve already seen?” 

Jane, feeling more optimistic, said, “I think we should try one more time. There’s no harm in seeking another medical professional’s advice anyway! Max, if you can connect us with the eye doctor, we will make an appointment.”   

After a few consultations with this eye doctor, Josh and Jane decided to have surgery on their eyes. It was a successful operation and both had their eyesight restored.

However, as Josh opened his eyes for the first time in thirty years, he was shocked when he saw his wife. The wrinkles on Jane’s forehead and her sagging skin was an almost unbearable sight for Josh. He yelled, “You're not my wife! This woman I see standing in front of me is ugly, who are you and what have you done with my wife?!”

As for Jane, likewise, she stared at Josh in utter shock and shouted, “You're not my husband! My husband is handsome and charming. This man cannot be him!”

Their youthful memories of each other’s beautiful and handsome looks had been robbed by the harsh reality of time passing and the aging of the human body. Family members and close friends’ attempts to convince them that they were husband and wife were unsuccessful.

Even the eye doctor was saddened at seeing the argument unfold. He said, downcast, “It seems like you were both better off blind, for what remains unseen, the heart does not grieve over.”

This story teaches us that all things are impermanent. We live in a world that is itself impermanent. Time waits for no one and the clock keeps ticking every second, every minute, every day. The formation of mountains and rivers continue to change, the news that we see in the media daily is always evolving, and how we perceive all things, including love, throughout our lives change. Our appearance and perception changes as we grow from a baby into an adult, then as we experience parenthood and finally living as retirees in the latter part of our lives. As we acquire more experience and knowledge in life, our thoughts and wisdom likewise evolve over time.

These examples show that our lives constantly change. Time will never stop for us no matter if we wish to prolong feelings of happiness and joy that we cling to. Similarly, we cannot fast forward or rewind time when experiencing anger and grief.

In this story, the once happy couple were unable to accept the reality of aging. They did not understand the truth of impermanence, causing them to be in a world of pain. If we learn to embrace  readily adapt to the conditions that we face, and be willing to grow as a person, then we shall adapt with ease to the flow of this ever-changing world. If we are bound by rigid ways of living, unable or unwilling to accept change, and clinging stubbornly to the past, we will not only experience disappointment and suffering, but will struggle to keep up with the ever-changing pace of modern times.

Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
      “We cannot stop time, but we can discover impermanence.
      Society’s impermanence makes progress possible.   
      Life’s impermanence makes future lives possible.”