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Concentration and Awareness

Dharma discussion on Saturday 15 June 2019

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Thay explained that when we sit in meditation, we first establish concentration by fixing our mind on the area where our in and out breaths touch our skin: the touching point. It is the area around our nostrils and the top of the upper lip. Once we have established concentration, we can progress into establishing awareness by following our in and our breaths. In this way, through regular practice, we will able to realise the true nature of our mind.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Our Practice in a Nutshell

Dharma discussion on Saturday 1 December 2018

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Thay explained that the reason why we practice sitting meditation is to calm our defiled and conditioned mind so as to realise our true mind. Our true mind is indestructible, immutable, unconditioned and not subjected to death and decay. When we abide in our true mind, we will able to live in equanimity and tranquillity, and see the true nature of things. We are no longer attached to pleasures or stressed by afflictions. Liberation is thus attained.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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As Strong As Diamond

Dharma discussion on Saturday 14 July 2018

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Thay taught that regular meditative practice, be it breath meditation, mantra recitation or visualisation on holy objects, leads to strong mental stability. Like a strong diamond cutting tool, a strong stable mind can ‘cut through’ the negative energies of worry, anger, despair, anxiety, etc.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Resistances

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 11 – 12 November 2017

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Thay explained that we sometimes experience resistances when we want to engage in our spiritual practice. This is due to the presence of negative energies associated with us. We can generate positive energies, such as doing repentance, sharing of merits, interacting with spiritual friends, etc, to counteract the negative energies so that we can continue in our practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Saying out our faults

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 13 – 14 May 2017

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Thay explained that if we have broken or suspect that we may have broken any of the precepts we vowed to uphold, it is important that we speak out on our transgressions especially during a spiritual gathering. By saying out our transgressions we allow the negative imprints of our misdeeds to be released from our mind, thus enabling us to begin anew.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Our Body – Our Companion

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 25 Mar 2017

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Thay explained that our body is like our companion. Even though we know that our body is subject to old age and illness, we still need to take care of our body, ensuring that it is healthy and functioning well. Like a companion, a healthy body plays an important supportive role in our spiritual practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Motivation

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 18 – 19 March 2017

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Thay reminded us the importance of examining and understanding the motivation underlying all our actions. Having a selfless intention is essential in the cultivation of bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Ceremonies

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 18 – 19 February 2017

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Thay taught that we do not participate in ceremonies to acquire merits. Rather, we participate in ceremonies to allow the positive energies (generated in the ceremonies) to purify the negative energies in us.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Protecting Our Mind

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 21 Jan 2017

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Thay taught that we need to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions and feelings in whatever we are doing. We should be careful not to allow illwill,  anger or hatred to always arise in our mind even when we are doing things do not like or when we are in an unpleasant situation. This is because the seeds of these negative energies, if not carefully dealt with, will transform into habitual and uncontrollable anger.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Dharma Protectors

Dharma discussion on Saturday 26 November 2016

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Thay explained that dharma protectors actually protect the practitioners. We carry a dharma protector on each of our shoulders.

The kind-looking dharma protector looks after us so that:
when good things have not happened to us, we make opportunities or conditions for them to happen; and
when good things have happened or are happening to us, we make efforts to promote them and to share the good results with everyone.

The fierce-looking dharma protector looks after us so that:
when bad things have not happened to us, we do not make opportunities or conditions for them to happen; and
when bad things have happened or are happening to us, we make efforts to stop them or prevent them from becoming worse, as well as not to react adversely to them.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Repentance

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 12-13 November 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that repentance is an integral part of our spiritual practice. By confessing our wrongdoings in the presence of our fellow practitioners, we release from our mind the negative energies associated with the wrongdoings. This helps to clear the obstacles for us to begin anew in our practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Coming Out of Meditation

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 12-13 November 2016 (1)

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Thay explained the importance of massaging our body at the end of our sitting meditation, a practice only to be found in our tradition (steps to massage our body can be found here: Meditation and Chanting Guide). Massaging our body helps to relieve the tension and soreness in our body due to the long sitting. By doing so, we keep our body in a good condition for continual sitting meditation practice. The tension and soreness is also a reminder that our body is impermanent and subject to pain and decay. We can still enjoy our sitting meditation despite the soreness and numbness.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Letting Go

Dharma discussion on Saturday 22 October 2016 

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Thay explained that letting go means not harbouring. Like a kaleidoscope, our mind, conditioned by our habitual tendencies, conjures up all sorts of images when we interact with the external environment. A Thien (Zen) practitioner knows that these images are not real and do not represent the actual situation. As such, we let go of these images and abide in a state of calmness and awareness.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Living in Our True Self

Dharma discussion on Saturday 8 October 2016 

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Thay taught that awareness of breathing should not be limited to sitting meditation only. We should maintain awareness of our breathing in all our daily activities. Our body is able to breathe by itself, we do not need to force ourselves to breathe. And yet we often forget to notice this essential function of our body. We maintain awareness and mindfulness in the activity we are doing and not following whatever thoughts or feelings that arise, and at the same time aware of our in-breath and out-breath. In this way, we are said to be living in our true self.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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In Quietude

Dharma discussion on Saturday 24 September 2016 (1)

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Thay pointed out that we can remain in quietude despite meditating in a noisy environment. The mind that pursues the external sounds is not our true mind. Like a non-participating observer, we just allow the external sounds to ‘flow’ past us while we maintain looking inward (refer to earlier post on Inward Contemplation) in our meditation.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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A Being

Dharma discussion on Saturday 23 July 2016

A being

Thay explained that the definition of a being should not be restricted to living things only. A non-living thing, e.g. a cup or a table, is also a being because, like a living thing, its existence is a combination of causes and conditions. All beings, living or non-living, come into existence when there are sufficient causes and favourable conditions, and they cease to exist when the causes and conditions are no longer supportive.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Seeing Buddha, Seeing Myself

Dharma discussion on Saturday 23 July 2016 (1)

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Thay explained that Buddha images and statues serve the function of a mirror, reflecting our true nature (also known as Buddha nature, true self, true mind). All along, our true nature has been obscured by our false-thinking mind. Rooted in greed, anger and ignorance, our false-thinking mind has brought pain, worry, anxiety, hatred, etc, into our lives. Thien (Zen) meditation helps us progress towards awakening from forgetfulness and realising our true nature.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Not Be Blown Away

Dharma discussion on Saturday 9 July 2016 (2)

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Thay reminded us that we are constantly being ‘blown at’ by the 8 winds (or the 8 worldly conditions) of: praise and blame, happiness and pain, fame and disrepute, and gain and loss. We feel happy when praised, angry when blamed, joyous in gaining something, despondent in losing something. Like a yo-yo, our mind bobs up and down as we are tossed about by these 8 winds. Our Thien (Zen) practice helps us to develop Right Stability (calmness and awareness) and prevents us from being ‘blown away’ by the 8 winds.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Inward Contemplation

Dharma discussion on Saturday 9 July 2016 (1)

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Thay taught the method of inward contemplation, which is the main form of sitting meditation practice in our tradition. There are 3 levels of inward contemplation. The first level is body contemplation: in-breath and out-breath; rising and falling of chest and abdomen during breathing. The second level is contemplation on our feelings: pleasant and unpleasant feelings that come and go during meditation. The third level is contemplation of emotions: anger, sadness, grief, joy, etc, that appear and disappear during meditation. This practice helps us to see impermanence and the conditioned. Such insight is essential towards attaining liberation.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Making Offerings

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 28-29 May 2016

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Thay explained that the act of making offerings is an expression of commitment in the threefold practice of sila (morality), samadhi (concentration and mindfulness) and panna (wisdom). Making offerings with the sole intention of acquiring merits for oneself is a wrong practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Positivity in Impermanence

Dharma discussion on Saturday 30 April 2016

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Thay explained that the notion of impermanence should be looked upon with positivity and not negativity. Whatever state we are in, or whatever issues we are dealing with will not last forever. Thus, we can make efforts to create the causes and conditions to improve the situation and issues we are dealing with.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Two Techniques

Dharma discussion on Saturday 9 April 2016

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Thay taught 2 techniques that can help us maintain awareness of our breath.

The first technique is breath counting. We breathe in normally till the limit of our in-breath is reached and breathe out normally till the limit of our out-breath is reached. This process of inhalation and exhalation is counted as 1 breath. We count up to 10, and when we reach 10 counts we start counting from 1 again. We do not control our breathing; we let our breath takes its own course.  

The second technique is body scan. We scan from the top of our head down to our toes. As we scan each part of our body, e.g. eyes, ears, heart, kidneys, etc, we send thoughts of gratitude and appreciation to that part of our body. If any part of our body feels tense, we send thoughts of loving-kindness and compassion to that part, relieving the tension and stress. We do not need to rush through the scanning process; we scan at a pace comfortable to us.    

Namo Shayamunaye Buddhaya

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Willow Branch and Nectar Vase

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 26-27 March 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that statues and paintings are used to convey teachings and values. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is often portrayed as holding a willow branch and a vase containing nectar. Using the willow branch, the Bodhisattva sprinkles the nectar drawn from the vase onto people to alleviate their sufferings. The willow branch represents suppleness while the nectar vase symbolises a pure mind and body. So, in helping others we need to be understanding and accomodating, and that our intentions and actions are pure and sincere. Purity of mind and body is achieved through internal reflection and not through rites and ceremonies.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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True Freedom

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 26-27 March 2016 (1)

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Thay explained that true freedom is not about being free from restrictions or being able to whatever we like. Rather, true freedom means being free from false perceptions and that we are able to enjoy each moment of whatever we are doing.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya                                                                               

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Learning from the Earth

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 13 March 2016            

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Thay pointed out that the earth sets a good example for our practice. While enduring and accepting whatever treatment received from us, the earth constantly nourishes and supports our existence. Learning from the earth, without aversion or attachment, and with calmness and awareness, we accept and face whatever situations and conditions we are in.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya        

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Where is Our Mind?

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 13 February 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that our mind is not to be found in a specific location in our body. Where our actions (physical, verbal and mental) are, there our mind will be. When we are looking at something, our mind will be there directing, cognising and generating a whole lot of mental constructs which often do not portray the reality of the world. This is why it is so  important to understand how our mind works, so as not to be living in the world of our false thinking mind.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Just Manifestations of Energies

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 13 February 2016 (1)

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Thay explained that all events and things (material and mental, organic and inorganic) are just manifestations of energies. They exist because of causes and conditions. When conditions change, their manifestations also change. Understanding this, we will not be caught up in arrogance and complacency when we are in a good situation, and we will not be trapped in despair and hopelessness when we are in a bad situation.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Awareness of Breathing

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 23 January 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that our breathing is a bridge between our body and our mind. This is why we always place our awareness on our breathing at the start of our meditation, to allow our agitated or ‘jumping’ mind to calm and quiet down. Just as the water in a lake shows itself clearly when in perfect tranquility, our true mind reveals itself brightly when in perfect equanimity (upeksa).

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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No Quick Fix

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 23 January 2016 (1)

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Thay reminded us that there are no quick fixes and no shortcuts in spiritual practice. We have to exercise patience and perseverance. But we can be assured of the spiritual benefits brought about by our Thien (Zen) practice. The spiritual attainment of the Buddha and the enlightened Masters, past and present, is the best testimony to our practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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A Flowing River

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 9 January 2016 (1)

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Thay pointed out that a river, flowing incessantly, is never the same each moment; we do not step into the same river twice. We, essentially a mere composition of the five aggregates (body, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness) are also never the same each moment. Understanding this phenomena, we should not waste time chasing after the false and the impermanent. We should cherish each moment to further our practice especially when we are well and healthy.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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A Drum

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 12 December 2015 (2)

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Thay pointed out that we are just like a drum. Because:

  1. Like a drum, our body is hollow – there is nothing substantial.
  2. The sound of a  drum when played unskillfully and at the wrong time is noisy and unpleasant; the sound of a drum when played skillfully and at the right time is melodious. Likewise our mouth can be a noisy drum or melodious drum – producing unwholesome speech or unwholesome speech.

Let us all strive to be a prajna (wisdom) drum.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Real Wisdom

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 12 December 2015 (1)

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Thay explained that real wisdom is acquired not through studying, analysing, theorising, intellectualising, etc. Real wisdom is gained through calming and quieting the mind. For example, when the sea is turbulent and the waves are thrashing about, we cannot see the water clearly. Likewise, when the mind is calm and stable, our true nature appears. This is real wisdom.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Inter-Connectedness

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 14 November 2015 

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Thay talked about the inter-connectedness of all things. For example, a country governed by wise and honest leaders is likely to prosper and vice-versa. All phenomena are inter-connected, living and non-living alike.

Thay also advised the following 4 points in regards to our practice:

  1. When bad things have not happened, do not give create opportunities or conditions for them to happen.
  2. When good things have not happened, make opportunities or conditions for them to happen.
  3. When bad things have happened or are happening, make efforts to stop them immediately.
  4. When good things have happened or are happening, make efforts to promote them and to share the good results with everyone.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya