Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Compassionate Governance Needed

Original article of the piece published in The Malaysian Insider today.

It is welcoming to note that the Minister of Women and Family Development will review the Child Act stating among other things, that caning could be an offence under a new law to replace the Child Act 2001.  We appreciate the fact that we aim to make alignments and rectifications to the Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC) ( which Malaysia is a signatory. 

We firmly believe this is they right direction, that children have rights and it is wrong to inflict pain  upon another, especially to children in this case. Hitting a child and inflicting pain a reminder and lesson for any wrong doing may not be the best way to do affect change. While the physical pain may serve as a lesson,  the lessons from the mental pain is stronger, the lesson they will eventually pick up will be that violence is a legitimate process of learning. 

Latest studies have shown that in terms of whether parental aggression (spanking) decreases aggression in the child, the answer is no. In fact, spanking tends to increase child aggression. “Spanking predicted increases in children’s aggression over and above initial levels [of aggressive behaviour]” and “in none of these longitudinal studies did spanking predict reductions in children’s aggression over time” Instead, spanking predicted increases in children’s aggression. [Source]

We believe hitting is not the answer. Patience, listening to them and working with children to understand themselves is the solution. 

We would like to echo and support Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin that parents be merciful when teaching their young. He further stated in hi Facebook Page, “When educating or raising children, the responsibility of parents is to do it with compassion and mercy.” (The Malay Mail, 26 Jan 2015)

To be compassionate and merciful take a long process of educating and communicating with our children. This process also involve the parents. In the Buddhist practice, introspection in our our mental state of parents is just as critical, not to let the actions of our children’s education be lead by anger or ignorance.
We are also deeply aware that reinforcing caning and other from of capital punishment,   the fact that it is legitimate to inflict pain on to other if intentions are right. This amendment to the Act, will be a great opportunity to force different approach to “disciplining” children, perhaps a more compassionate ones. 

Stopping the caning the only the first step. We must encourage the development of positive and wholesome environments - from homes and school where learning and education takes place positively.

Hence, making it law against caning we feel is an excellent starting point. Criminalising caning of children will not work unless effort is made to further move away from a punitive approach of solving problems with individuals and society. This will probably require a review of our education system, the way we define discipline, review learning styles and begin to be inclusive of different learning abilities.  Let us not continue to be grounded in doing things that were handed to us from the past just because Caning and forms of physical punishment must be removed all together and in its place develop a compassionate principle of governance. 

Love and compassion have guided the best of individual human behavior and values throughout human history. But suspicion, indifference, animosity and hatred have also characterized human relations -- particularly in dealing with people of different tribes, religions and cultures. Because of the subjective nature of these sentiments, these are rarely factored in designing systems of governance of our public or private institutions.

In  our world today, we can all do with much less violence and aggression. Strengthened by the core values of our shared spiritual practices, we can build a compassionate and peaceful country.

Thank you

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interfaith Roundtable - Sharing my Talking Points (revised)

I was invited to a be a panelist in at the 4th International Seminar on Interfaith Harmony and Tolerance held at the International Islamic University, Malaysia. Here are key points in my opening remark. I have given some more thoughts as I wrote this and have also included my response on some questions raised.
1. Celebrate diversity. We are different, accept it. Stop trying hard to find commonalities. Stop trying to have to tolerate, start accepting each other. Better still, appreciate each other and celebrate diversity. Be inclusive.
2. Focus on spiritual practice. Our religious practice is our personal prayer, communion and interaction with our God or higher self. It is personal. This is our spiritual practice. In our quiet prayer, meditation and reflections our lives become transformed. Spiritual practice brings out goodness and makes us the best in what we do. It evolves sets of values that will become principles to live our lives. These sets of values take our spiritual practice to the social dimension where we meet and interact with others.
3. Drive positive social transformation. Give spiritual practice a social face. We need to consciously take our values to the social dimension and along with others, make shared values work for the betterment of our communities, our societies and our world. I believe the spiritual community needs to positively influence the areas of Economics (livelihood), Environment (our social as well as our ecological environment) and Governance (some may call politics, but social issues are beyond mere politics). One or more of these three area must be infused with our shared spiritual values. Interfaith dialogues need to be able to draw this out and add value to our world.
Inter-faith Economic Forum. In response to a question that was raised during the panel, I mooted the idea that funds from the generosity of our fellow spiritual practitioners could be channeled to develop an interfaith economic forum. Funds can channeled and driven to develop alternate voices in the media, both conventional and social media, possibly even invest in social impact projects. Such a forum will potentially be an alternate voice for the masses driven shared spiritual values. Drop me a note if you think this may work, or how to get it to work. (more on this separately)
Friendship. After a few hours discussion where people talk about religion, quote religious texts, and trying hard to find some "sameness" come the best part. The best part of the forum is the "makan" (eating), not so much because of the food but the opportunity to meet and speak to people and build roots of interfaith harmony, called friendship.
At the end of the day it is not about interfaith harmony, it is about harmony. It is not about religion and how religious people work together - it is about people. Maybe in the future interfaith dialogues, let's leave religion behind and bring only our spirituality.

PEACE, _/\_

Super Rich Communist Buddhists?

It is interesting to watch this development where religion, politics and economics intertwine.

Buddhists need to understand and respond without losing its spiritual grounding and practice.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Thoughts on Interfaith Dialogues

I wonder how many interfaith dialogues we have attended and how many time we end up talking about the same thing over and over again, doing the same thing over and over again with little change.

This was no different in the round table which I attended as a penalist early this week.

While there were several inspirational points brought up by the penalist, I walked out from the function room achieving almost nothing. We seem to spend a lot of time talking about tolerance and came to little conclusion. It also seems that some penalists a were trying hard to paint a positive picture of peace and harmony in our country while we can see that our leadership is seems pretty disinterested to address issues that seems to be causing disharmony. 

There were long sessions discussion about the text of holy books and what should have been the case and what's not. Too many "shoulds".

At the end of every dialogue (this one is no different), one remark is that is always mentioned is, "we are short of time.....". 

The good thing about dialogues is that we get to meet new friends and from this simple friendship, roots of harmony is nurtured. This is the real value of such events.

Then there was the good food that accompanied the event. This is the actual platforms of real dialogues. The platform for friendship.

So, bring on more dialogues, remember to provide good food!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Buddhism and Human Rights - A Reflection

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, so let me share a reflection and express my support for human rights as a Buddhist.
The Buddhists have a practice known as the undertaking of Precepts. Specifically, there is a set of Five Precepts or Panca-sila. 
As a Buddhist, the undertaking of the precepts is the most basic practice that cuts across all major Buddhist traditions.  As a ritual, Buddhists often recite the Five Precepts on a daily basis to remind themselves of their duties to self and society.
The Five Precepts constitute the basic spiritual training practice in the following aspects of life. They are the training to abstain from harming living beings, taking what is not given, indulging in sensual misconduct, speaking the untruth and substance abuse and intoxication.

The precepts and human rights
The first of the Five Precepts translates “I undertake the training rule to abstain from destroying lives”.
This recitation is so basic that children in temple Sunday schools can recite and memorise it. The precept tells us we should avoid harming one another – not just human beings – but also animals and all living beings.
The destruction of lives can come in many forms. The worst form is the deliberate act to end a life – killing.
There are other forms of destruction – such as physical and emotional abuse that has no place in our spiritual practice.
As Buddhists, we cannot condone such acts as, the abuse of women and children from the homes to places of work. We cannot accept the fact that harm and pain can be inflicted upon others, no one has the right to physically harm another – whatever the reason.
We cannot condone the acts such as racism, discrimination based on class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.  Some abuses go so deep that the victim suffers physical and emotional damage.
The Third Precept provides us with a strong reminder to respect the will of others, especially those different from us. It is about appreciating others for who they are.
As we recite the precepts and reflect on the value of life, we are deeply aware that the destruction of lives happens on various levels, including political persecution, torture and death in custody.
Laws that allow the opportunity for bodily hurt, mental and emotional trauma and that remove justice and freedom must be abrogated.
I am reminded of the Fourth Precept that the value of truth. It is imperative to speak our minds to prevent the further damage and destruction to lives. Recitation of the precepts in ancient language words without the action is an empty practice.

Appreciating the value of life
The sole purpose of the precepts, beginning with the First Precept is to value life. We need to value life and all that support life. We cannot take away the right to education, cultural and religious practices of individuals.
More importantly, we must also support and sustain our ecological environment. Acknowledging and positively responding to climate change is a necessary part of our practice.
The Second Precept is a reminder that we must not take away what rightfully belongs to others. It also reminds us to of the need to develop generosity and to give without expectation of returns. True generosity is about being selfless in our generosity.
Selflessness can be achieved with a state of mind that is calm and peaceful.
The Fifth Precept reminds us of the need to have a calm mind, not quickly reacting to others is indeed a virtue.
With a calm and composed state of mind, meaningful discussions and dialogues will be able to be carried out. Truthful communication and right speech aids in the development of friendship. Healthy and positive relationships are foundations for a peaceful society.
As such it is not difficult for Buddhists to associate our practice of the precepts with the Declaration of Human Rights.
The precepts are indeed the basic building blocks of a peaceful society where human dignity, freedom and personal rights are preserved, we call this practice sila.
To practise sila is thus to train oneself in preserving one's true nature, not allowing it to be modified or overpowered by negative forces.
Acts of destruction are blinded by greed, rage or hatred. Such negative qualities as anger, hatred, greed, ill will, and jealousy are factors that alter people's nature and make them into something other than their true self.  
The practice of precepts is about returning to one's own basic goodness, the original state of normalcy, unperturbed and unmodified.
Our teacher, the Buddha, reminded us that even though we shut our eyes in meditation we cannot shut our eyes and hearts from the suffering of others.
We must strive to build a just society for our families and friends – present and future. Indeed, having a peaceful and just society to live is indeed a very high blessing. (Patirûpa dêsa vâso .... êtam mangala muttamam.)
Our spiritual and social duties are to cultivate our minds and at the same time work for the happiness and welfare of others. (Bahujana hitaya bahujana sukhaya.)
Let me conclude with a Buddhist Prayer of Loving Kindness:

SABBE SATTᾹ SUKHITᾹ HONTU    May all beings be happy.
SABBE SATTᾹ AVERᾹ HONTU    May all beings be free from enmity.
SABBE SATTᾹ ABYᾹPAJJHᾹ HONTU     May all beings be free from malice.
SABBE SATTᾹ ANĪGHᾹ HONTU     May all beings be free from worry.
SABBE SATTᾹ SUKHĪ ATTᾹNAM PARIHARANT   May all beings preserve their wellbeing

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mindfulness' Popularity - a Good thing?

Buddhism is not about meditation alone.

Meditation is a means to achieve insight leading to liberation and freedom from dukkha. 

Meditation, particularly, mindfulness practice is now gaining popularity. Is it really a good thing? Check this out.

Mindfulness’s moment is here. One million Americans are taking up mindfulness meditation each year. It’s in the conference rooms at Twitter, in schools and hospitals, and helping traumatized soldiers. And the scientific data on the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions has become so compelling that insurance companies are starting to cover them.

The backlash is here, too. Buddhist purists are dismayed by one-percenters using mindfulness to get even richer. Skeptics say that meditation’s benefits are being oversold and overhyped. And critics say that celebrity meditation-boosters like Arianna Huffington and David Lynch offer more flash than substance.

Read the rest of the article here

Friday, November 7, 2014

Found it?

have you found the Buddha within?

*try replacing Buddha with another other religious masters, it may still work :-)

Rethink Buddhism to respond to peace, justice an liberty

Shared a session at the Nottingham University Buddhist Society (Malaysia).

Key points shared were:
  • Do not be afraid to doubt. Question and get clarity.
  • Buddhist practice is both personal and social

It was good session, thank you. With peace and compassion, let's proactively help build a peaceful and just society. #nbs #walkintopeace

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reflections on Charity

Charity is good but not enough. Charity, in too may cases charity has become a tool for self-promotion and marketing (for corporations). Some are even making money on the process of charity. 

Yet, we continue to indulge in this - why?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Have we lost our spiritual and moral bearings?

Have we lost our spiritual and moral bearings?
A brief reflection on 57 years of independence.

I was browsing the news the day after Merdeka celebrations, this news caught my attention. The news of the arrest of a prominent academic and earlier, political leaders (mostly opposition)  under the Sedition Act 1948. This news seemed to have overshadowed the festivities of the celebrations.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sri Lankan Government: Take Urgent Action to Stop Attacks on Muslims

Here's statement signed by 250 concerned individuals and organisations from across the world together with the update on events we attached with the statement.

Sri Lankan Government: Take Urgent Action to Stop Attacks on Muslims

We the undersigned organizations, individuals and members of Sri Lankan and international civil society condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest wave of horrific violence led by the extreme right-wing Sinhala Buddhist organisation, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS – The Buddhist Power Force)against the Muslim community of south-western Sri Lanka in the towns of Aluthgama, Beruwala, Velipenna and Dharga Town.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Extreme Middle Path

I know we are suppose to be followers of the middle-path. 

Sometimes, we need to be "extreme" followers of the middle-path.  
I cannot help but to post this :-)   Enjoy!

Kammaṭṭhāna first came to international prominence in 1997, when five of its members boarded a New York City subway car and held 42 hostages in a state of transcendent serenity for seven hours while performing atonal syllabic chants. The group then claimed responsibility for a severe 2004 outbreak of interconnectedness in central London, later traced to a 23-year-old Kammaṭṭhāna sleeper cell operative who sat cross-legged in Trafalgar Square and read aloud from The Gateless Gate collection of 13th-century Zen koans.

Read on, click on the image above