Monday, April 13, 2015

Statement: ASEAN NEEDS TO ADDRESS RISING INTOLERANCE IN MYANMAR

INEB participated and gave a talk. Other Faith-based organizations were involved. I think religious organization needs to move out and off our spiritual values to bring betterment to society.



10 April 2015

STATEMENT: ASEAN NEEDS TO ADDRESS RISING INTOLERANCE IN MYANMAR

HUMANiTi Malaysia, in partnership with the OIC, KAICIID and ALTSEAN-Burma, convened a roundtable ‘Tolerance in a People-Centred ASEAN’ on 6-7 April 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The event brought together diverse stakeholders from the ASEAN region, including representatives of more than 20 national, regional and international non-governmental organisations, to discuss key trends, issues of concern and share approaches to promote tolerance in ASEAN.


Weekend in Bangkok

It was a good weekend in Bangkok and Ayudhaya - inspired with friends and teachers. 

I have been taught the value of live and change. In our lives must be able to bring change for the better - for ourselves, others and our environment _/\_

Thank you

What Next?

Malaysians have been failed.

Failed by BN MPs who continue to govern by repression and fear, with little regard to human rights and dignity, concern only to bulldoze their way through.

Failed by PR MPs who were absent, lacked commitment to the job there were suppose to do.
We are failed by the silly excuses for supporting the act. We are also failed by all the stupid excuses for not being present in parliament to vote the bill.

What next?

I guess I will go back to my meditation cushion, close my eyes, and offer Metta - it's a starting point especially when too much anger and negativity is out there. Yet, I know I cannot sit here for long pretending everything is alright.

What next?

Malaysia uses specious terrorism regress on human rights | World news | The Guardian



Cannot Support Death Penalty, yet.......

Any person or governments that adheres to their faiths that believes in love and forgiveness cannot support the death penalty. I know I can't.

"Governments using the death penalty to tackle crime and security threats are either deceiving themselves and the public or, in some cases, cynically attempting to look effective by executing people. 
But there is no evidence that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than a prison sentence. This fact has been confirmed in multiple studies in many regions around the world, including by the UN"



Buddhism or Escapism?

Some practice meditation thinking it is Buddhism, but it may just be a another religion called Escapism. Do you know the difference?

(Both are -ism)




Saturday, March 21, 2015

HUDUD: BETWEEN DOGMA AND REALITY - Chandra Muzaffar

Dogma trumped justice and reason in the Kelantan State Assembly on the 19th of March 2015. 

When dogma overwhelms one’s outlook, reality is often set aside. By tabling the Syariah Criminal Code 11 1993 (Amendment 2015) or Hudud Bill at a time when the people of Kelantan are still struggling to overcome the devastating consequences of one of the most severe floods the state has known, the PAS government has deliberately given greater emphasis to modes of punishment than to the dire needs of the masses. Reason and justice demand that restoring the shattered lives of the tens of thousands of flood victims take precedence over every other task. 

In fact, if both state and federal governments addressed the underlying causes of the floods, they would discover that the failure to uphold environmental standards --- a cherished principle in Islam --- was one of the contributory factors. It is adhering faithfully to fundamental principles of this sort rather than remaining fixated on penalties and prohibitions that is the true essence of Islam. Similarly, a criminal code that concentrates upon modes of punishment will not solve the root causes of the many social ills that afflict Kelantan from drug-abuse to HIV/AIDS. What is needed is a determined effort to tackle the sociological and economic dimensions of these ills.

This inability to come to terms with the realities that confront them is also reflected in the reluctance of the proponents of hudud to examine the actual situation in the few countries that have implemented hudud. Nearly all of them are authoritarian, adopt a literal approach to laws and religious precepts, marginalise non-Muslim minorities and subordinate women. From the perspective of human dignity and social justice, not one of them is worthy of emulation.

Hudud proponents have also refused to consider the position of a number of important Muslim countries that have chosen not to implement hudud. The world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, has, since its founding in 1945 remained committed to Panca Sila as its national ideology. Panca Sila whose first principle is the Oneness of God makes no mention of hudud. It is significant that on the 11th of February 2015 all major Islamic movements in Indonesia, including Muhammadiyah and NahdatulUlama with millions of members reiterated their endorsement of the Panca Sila in the Yogyakarta Statement. 

Turkey, another country with an overwhelming Muslim majority and led by a party with an Islamic root is unambiguous in its choice of secular law as the basis of its system of governance. Neither the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt, an appendage of the Muslim Brotherhood, nor the An-Nahda of Tunisia, with its Islamic image, incorporated hudud into its manifesto when it sought power in the post- 2011 scenario following the Arab uprisings. Indeed, in the Arab uprisings as a whole which adopted freedom, dignity and justice as their battle-cry hudud was not a goal. 

Why have hudud proponents in Malaysia ignored realities in Kelantan and in the Muslim world and persisted in adopting a dogmatic approach towards hudud? Part of the explanation lies in their narrow, superficial notion of Islamic identity. Like ultra-conservative groups elsewhere, they regard hudud as the defining characteristic of an Islamic state and identity when in reality punitive laws constitute a minute fraction of the Quran. What defines the identity of the Quran and Islam is a profound commitment to human dignity and social justice rooted in God-Consciousness.

In Malaysia, a hudud-centred religious identity has been reinforced by the intimate link between Islam and Malay ethnicity which has strengthened identity consciousness as a whole in a situation where the Malay-Muslim populace has always perceived the large, economically stronger Chinese community as a challenge to its own position in what is historically a Malay land. It is this notion of identity shaped by these forces which clings on tenaciously to hudud and other such exclusive, distinctive dimensions of Islam in the hope of asserting the religion’s power and authority. 

The protection of identity along these lines has in turn spawned an irrational fear of discourse and debate within the Muslim community. This is why hudud as the inherited legacy of the jurists in Muslim history remains unexamined and under-evaluated. It is seldom highlighted by Islamic scholars in Malaysia for instance that the Kelantan Hudud Bill includes punishments for liquor consumption and apostasy which do not appear in the Quran. In the case of apostasy in particular the Quran does not provide for temporal punishment and only alludes to punishment in the hereafter. 

What is even more significant, hudud (or hadd in its singular form) is not used in the Quran in relation to punishment per se. As Islamic jurists have pointed out, the term that is employed in the Quran is Hudd Allah which occurs 14 times in the sacred text to signify limits --- limits in the general sense. This general concept of limits or boundaries in human behaviour is an idea of tremendous value which is eternally and universally applicable. It is because discourse on Islamic concepts and ideas is frowned upon in Malaysia that there has been no attempt to understand this deeper philosophical meaning of hudud. Instead the Malaysian Muslim mind has remained trapped in a penal code view of hudud which focuses upon punishments and penalties.

There is a third reason why many Malaysian Muslims are fixated on hudud. For more than three decades now, the question of hudud has been sucked into inter-party political rivalry. PAS, especially after 1982, has invariably presented itself as the champion of hudud. The UMNO leadership in the past sought to diminish Pas’s claim by arguing that PAS’s hudud lacked legitimacy since it was at variance with certain Quranic principles. Since 2008 however when the UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) government lost its two-third majority in the Federal Parliament and Malay support began to wane, some UMNO leaders have sought to project the party’s Islamic credentials by also playing the hudud card. Sensing that hudud is an almost insurmountable barrier separating PAS from its partner, the DAP, UMNO has attempted to exploit this difference in order to weaken the Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Some in UMNO may even see hudud as a way of strengthening ties with PAS. As a result of all this politicking, hudud has become more entrenched in the political landscape.

This brings us to the consequences of the hudud controversy for Malaysian politics and society. As we have seen, it threatens to split the PR. If either PAS or DAP leaves the PR, the PR will have less appeal in the electorally mixed constituencies which are vital in determining who is in power at the Federal level. On the other hand, this may also compel the PR parties to stick together in an uneasy, opportunistic alliance. 

The hudud controversy will also impact adversely upon the BN. If UMNO is perceived to be colluding with PAS, the non-Malay, non-Muslim parties in the coalition will become even weaker vis-a-vis their base. This possibility could have a disastrous effect upon the BN’s ability to rule from Putrajaya since a substantial chunk of its electoral support comes the indigenous non-Muslim communities of Sarawak and Sabah. It is important to emphasise that it is not only the indigenous, non-Muslim parties in the two states that would eschew any UMNO-PAS collusion; even the indigenous Muslim parties would reject any such move, given the social ethos in Sarawak and Sabah. 

What this means is that intra and inter-religious relations would deteriorate under the weight of hudud politics. Muslim opinion would become even more fractured. The Muslim non-Muslim chasm would widen. This deterioration could become even more pronounced if other Muslim majority states in the Federation also seek to follow Kelantan’s example and try to introduce hudud with the blessings of the Federal government. The temptation to do so would increase especially if the imposition of hudud enhances one’s electoral standing.

Since hudud is not just a set of laws but a reflection of a certain approach to Islam, it is not inconceivable that as an ultra-conservative understanding of the religion becomes more widespread, alternative views on various Islamic issues will be marginalised and de-legitimised. A particular interpretation of Islam associated with the religious elites will become so dominant that differences of opinion will not be tolerated. Conservative religious authoritarianism impacting upon society as a whole may well become the order of the day.

This has to be checked immediately. One hopes that if the Kelantan Hudud Bill comes up to Parliament, the MPs will vote according to their conscience and not yield to a notion of Islam which does not represent the essence of the faith. The judiciary if it is called upon to exercise its wisdom in this matter should also rise to the occasion and protect the integrity of the Constitution. Most of all, the people should come out in defence of justice and reason and not submit blindly to dogma. 

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Yayasan 1Malaysia. He has been writing on issues pertaining to Islam and society since the late seventies. 

Petaling Jaya


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) (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx) 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 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201309/research-spanking-it-s-bad-all-kids]

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