Friday, September 22, 2006

Conviction to improve

Spending half an hour in the morning and evening to meditate, pray or just have quite solitude is very beneficial. Many of us know that. For me, its something I've been trying to do for a long time. Its difficult, with lots of distractions in our daily lives. Everything else seems more important that quiet solitude...until disaster strikes.

We all believe that we will live a long life. We do not usually reflect on old age, sickness, death, separation from loved one. The Buddha advised us to reflect on these things daily. As long as we do not reflect, we will not have the sense of urgency to work on our mental and spiritual development...until its too late. Our development takes time. It doesn't happen suddenly (although it can if you are spiritually advanced through countless aeons of practice).

On your deathbed, will you have regrets? On my deathbed, I will regret not spending more quality time with my family, not spending that 30 minutes in the morning and evening every day in quiet solitude to improve my mind. Think about it. Its a total of one hour out of twenty-four hours a day. We can spend hours in front of the TV but we can't spend 30 minutes meditating or praying? Ridiculous isn't it.

My goal is to reflect on the cycles of life, suffering, old age, death, to spend 30 minutes a day in solitude doing meditation or praying. At least on my deathbed, I will know that I have done something to improve myself in my life, a life worth living for, a life with meaning.

Copyright © Bernard Ong, 2006.
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Calming the mind in the morning

This morning was a really bad morning. I didn't feel good about the day. Must have work up on the wrong side of bed. I am overseas and alone in the hotel room. I felt really restless in mind and body. After breakfast was no better.

I brought a book written/published by the late Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda called "Daily Buddhist Devotions". I recited the five precepts and did a short meditation on loving kindness. While reciting aloud in my room, I mindfully noticed the vibrations I felt caused by my voice while chanting. Together with the short meditation, my mind suddenly felt calmer and focused. It was an inner calm and inner peace.

Then it was off to work. I must say that the morning recital helped to slow my mind into some calmness. Focusing the mind during meditation has a calming effect, very unlike the rest and calmness you get while sleeping. It is an inner peace, a kind of non-materialistic calm.

Everyday, little by little, I am discovering myself and the value of the Buddha's teaching, how sublime and effective it is.

Copyright © Bernard Ong, 2006.
All rights reserved.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How long can you observe one of the five precepts?

How long can you observe the five precepts? The five precepts are moral guidelines that every Buddhist observes daily. They are:

1. I undertake to observe the precept of non-killing.
2. I undertake to observe the precept of non-stealing.
3. I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct. (Do not commit adultery)
4. I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from falsehood. (Do not lie)
5. I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from intoxicating drinks (including drugs)

sounds simple enough?

When I was a child, I couldn't even keep one precept such as non-killing or non-lying. One day, the late resident monk of Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple in Singapore, Ven. M.M. Mahaweera Mahanayaka Thera, who was my Dhamma teacher, asked a simple question. How long can you observe the five precepts without breaking it?

I was astounded. It was then that I made it a point to observe it earnestly. I recited the five precepts but paid attention to one, non-killing, for a start. I killed less ants. Even when ants were crawling in the sink, I would pick it up and put it on a window sill or in the garden. This went on until it became a habit. Then I focused on non-stealing etc.

It is still difficult observing the precepts. Simple as it sounds, practicing it requires sustained effort. If we can't even observe the precepts for a long period of time, can you imagine if we did not? Imagine the damage we could do to others and to ourselves without this simple moral guidance. Scary isn't it.

Take the effort to practice in earnest now. No better time to start than now, no matter what your age is. It only leads to goodness, and therefore should be done now.

Copyright © Bernard Ong, 2006. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What this blog is about

I was born into a Buddhist family in Singapore. I guess I have always been a Buddhist at heart. Am I a practicing buddhist? I'm not sure. I do try to practice. But try as I may, sometimes during the course of my life, things get hectic and I 'forget' to practice the sublime qualities such as Metta (loving Kindness), Karuna (Compassion), Mudita (Sympathetic Joy) and Uppekha (equanimity). Its very simple to understand these concepts, but very difficult to realize it and practice it earnestly.

This blog is about my experiences in practicing Buddhism in daily life, my reflections, my thoughts about what Buddhism means to me.