27 Sep 2007

Bloodstained Saffron Revolution: Let's all pray for Burmese monks & people

An injured monk receiving medical treatment, AFP, 27/09/07

Unfortunately, the junta chose the worst way to crackdown the protesters. For Buddha's sake, they are monks. They didn't do anything wrong. They just walked on the street and prayed. That's it!

Being a Buddhist, I firmly believe that if you attack a monk, you are doomed. How can you attack someone who has devoted himself wholly to the teaching of the lord Buddha? In this case, the junta would eventually fail because they are conducting such evil actions against monks, against Buddhism.

Though the international community is trying to sort out the Burma crisis, I don't see economic sanctions as good measures to solve this problem. Economic sanctions would only make people's life there more difficult. Only up to certain levels would it affect the junta and its leaders. Mostly, it would be the Burmese people who suffer from sanctions.

China is really the key to this problem. It is such a shame that China only said that they wish to see stability in Burma and declared that they do not wish to be involved in other country's internal affairs. It is not hard for us to know why they have such cold reaction towards this issue. It is all about the 2008 Olympic Games. In fact, I personally think this is a great chance for China to improve its bad image on humanitarian issues. China has such great influence on Burmese junta, and if they want to, they truly can help the junta find a way to cease the crisis. So far, we have known UN has decided to send their envoy to Burma. However, I don't think UN can be a good help without a strong support from Chinese government.

We really cannot do anything to help the monks and people in Burma. All we can do is only be highly supportive. I would pray to Buddha and pray for the people there. Hoping that no more violent crackdown would be on news again. I am also so hoping that the junta can realize the people power is way stronger that they have anticipated. They must stop attacking those monks, and they should return the country to its people.

According to news, Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to the prison, but no one can confirm if this is true. If it is true, then the junta must have known that the power form the monks and people can throw them out, which is why they decided to move her to the prison. In fact, it is an useless action because Suu Kyi has lived in the heart of all Burmese, and keeping her in the jail would only provoke the protesters further that definitely would form a strong power to overthrow the junta. But, this for sure would go through violent phases. Indeed, no one wants to see more bloody scenes, and we are hoping that it will not happen.

Let us all loudly say the mantra of Avalokiteshvara(觀音菩薩):
Om Mani Padme Hum

The meaning of this mantra is, as H.H. Dalai Lama explains,
Om: the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha
Mani: an altruistic intention to be enlightened, that is compassion and love
Padme: wisdom
Hum: individuality
This is a practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. (see the meaning of this mantra on Wikipedia)

The power of this mantra can help us support the monks in Burma. Reciting it will give us good belief and support. Only when we have built up our own belief can we truly support the monks and people in Burma.

26 Sep 2007

"We don't have homosexuals like in your country", I believe you becuase you have killed them all

"You exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator", Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, made this comment on the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before he gave his speech at Columbia University.

Sure he does. Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia clearly shows us what 'dictator' means. As New York Time concluded,

"There are many reasons we find Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies and pronouncements loathsome. High on that list are his denial of the Holocaust, his call to wipe Israel off the map and his country's sponsorship of terrorism. Equally loathsome is Iran's denial of basic civil rights to its citizens, including the right of free speech." Editorial, New York Times, 25/09/2007

Reuters, 24/09/2007

The Holocaust is a fact that is not old enough for us to forget. Some of the survivors are still alive. Denying it means to deny history. How can we deny history? If we do, we would be living in make-believe where everything is controlled by the one who creates this delusion. It is obvious that creating delusion is the easiest way for this man to satisfy his own needs and desires. In other words, he is manipulating the truth by hypnotizing himself and his people so that he can achieve the ultimate resources and power. He is making himself a human-god whose words are the only truth, and surely he controls everything in his regime. Certainly, whoever is against his will shall deserve punishments. Isn't he a true dictator?

It is not hard for us to imagine living a life under such a dictator. You must comply with whatever he said. There is no space for discussion. By using Koran as the principle, Ahmadinejad imposes his ideas on this religious teaching and forms a pure Islamic world, as he called, whose fundamental proposition is not quite the same as what Koran originally said. Indeed, we human beings used to interpret sacred words with our mindset and give final conclusions that favour us only. In order to establish a pure Islamic world, he has made his country a weapon that aims at all non-Islamic countries. What a sacred mission he has that could make Iran a total offering to Allah. Due to the war that lingers for so ling, hating America and other western power has become the norm for most Muslim counties. Ahmadinejad's words and actions only make Iran more noble to its Muslim allies. This is why he insists on the development of nuclear weapons. This is why he supports terrorism. We shall never forget that terrorism is the term we use to signify those Muslims who intend to attack non-Islamic countries. No wonder, Ahmadinejad would support them because they are all Muslim brothers.

So horrible when sacred words are misinterpreted in such a way. Does Koran really teach people to hate each other, to kill each other? Shouldn't religion be about love and peace? Isn't religion a good support to human rights? We can never find a logical answer to these questions concerning what happened in Iran. It seems Ahmadinejad doesn't believe in love and peace. He probably thinks human rights is a ridiculous term that doesn't exist in this world at all. He is such a bad liar when he said "We don't have homosexuals like in your country" in his speech at Columbia University. In November 2005, two young men were executed for the crime of penetrative sexual acts between men. There is one more case in March 2005, one in 2004, and another in 2003. (see reference published on Human Rights News) Again, we see how a man manipulates history and hypnotizes himself. In fact, because of his ability to manipulate truth and his determination to practice his dictatorship in Iran, I believe in his words that there are no homosexuals in Iran. He has killed them all!

All his words in that speech only reaffirms his position as a true dictator. All those words only highlights his image as a liar and as a threat to the rest of the world. Though there are quite a lot of attack on Columbia University, I firmly believe that they have done a good job. Without having them inviting this person to give a speech, we would never have the chance to see how bad he is, how terrible he can be. It is always better to know then not knowing. Being ignorant only brings us more trouble. Only when we get to know what he is like could we figure out certain ways to prevent what he may do in the future. In the meantime, Columbia University has shown us what "freedom of speech" is. Everyone has the right to talk and present their ideas. If we don't let him talk, then wouldn't we be like him as well?

24 Sep 2007

Support Myanmar Monks!

Buddhists monks and their supporters in Yangon. Thousands of monks have marched in Myanmar's main city Yangon on Monday, piling the pressure on its military junta after a weekend that saw the biggest show of dissent in nearly two decades. AFP, 09/24/2007

Graphic fact file on the anti-government protests in Myanmar spearheaded by Buddhist monks. AFP, 09/24/2007

Buddhist monks rarely express their political views or join any political activities. If they march on the street and clearly express a certain political view, that means the leader of the country is really causing troubles that brings only misery to its people.

Monks in Myanmar must have had enough from the military regime. This is why they decided not to receive any offerings from anyone who has any connections with the regime. This is a very serious protest because receiving offerings, called alms, is an important tradition in Buddhism. The public offer their food or whatever to a monk, and the monk will pray for them that can help them to be closer to the Lord Buddha. Through this, the public receives peacefulness from the monk. For monks, they would not care who you are or what you have done; all they do is to pray for you, to bring peace to your heart.

Supposedly, you can be a very bad person, but the monk will still pray for you. Because they want to help you become a better person, and in the meantime, to help remove sins you have committed in this life. In other words, monks are generous, and they always do good to people without asking for rewards. This is the teaching of the Lord Buddha; it is what they have to do, and they will always do it.

It must be very difficult for the monks in Myanmar to make such a decision. Refusing alms is against the teaching of Buddha which could be considered as a crime for monks. The question here is why they would do such a thing that will affect their practice of Buddhism? I guess the answer is all about Myanmar's ruling junta. It has done no good the country, and it has led its people to poverty and hardship. It is this reason they marched to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been detained for almost 12 years. Though these monks did not say anything but only pray for Suu Kyi, this action can be interpreted as a request for the need of Suu Kyi and of course the need for democracy in Myanmar.

The protest still goes on, and there more and more monks, even the public, joining the protest. No one would ever know if the junta would take any violent and bloody actions. We can only hope that it will not happen. The international society, especially those so-called big countries, should support the action taken by these monks and protect them from any possible military assault.

Free Aung San Suu Kyi!

A Myanmar activist holds a potrait of Myanmar's opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok. Thousands of monks have marched in Myanmar's main city Yangon on Monday, piling the pressure on its military junta after a weekend that saw the biggest show of dissent in nearly two decades. AFP, 09/24/2007

19 Sep 2007

Mika - Any Other World

I heard this song when I was in Greece. Once I heard it, it's like brain tumor that stays forever. I just love it, and I really can't say why. The rhythm is pretty and the words are poetic. Though it seems quite gray, it doesn't really get you that desperate feeling. It is more like you have finally realized that life is full of different kinds of difficulties that we all need to learn to let go. Only when we finally let go of all those trivial feelings could we truly relieve ourselves from all forms of confines.

Here is the lyric,

In any other world
You could tell the difference
And let it all unfurl
Into broken remnants

Smile like you mean it
And let yourself let go

'Cause it's all in the hands of a bitter, bitter man
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
Take a bow, play the part of a Lonely, lonely heart
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
To the world you thought you lived in'

I tried to live alone
But lonely is so lonely, alone
So human as I am
I had to give up my defenses

So I smiled and tried to mean it
To make myself let go

'Cause it's all in the hands of a bitter, bitter man
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
Take a bow, play the part of a lonely lonely heart
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
To the world you thought you lived in'

Say goodbye

In any other world
You could tell the difference

"I never ever, I forget my story.
My face is no sad, but inside, I am sad."

17 Sep 2007

Some words about love and life; a reply to a friend's message

A friend's message:

... It was not until last week that I have to know the truth (from one of my colleagues): his wife has suffered from cancer. I was so shocked by the news. For over a week, I have been thinking of the meaning of life. What is the most precious thing in life? A decent job, money, a partner or self experiences? Jobs and money are necessary for survival but they are not everything. A partner is so diffcult to find. It may be self experiences that really count in the end. After all, life is so short and full of the unexpected ...

Some words I say:

I am so sorry to hear news like this. I hate to know people suffering from any kinds of disease or from any kind of uneasiness. I guess that is my personality. I am quite easy to identify with those people. However, they do suffer, and there is nothing we can do for them. All we could do is to give our support and to be strong for them. I guess this is why I want to work for NPO/NGOs. At least, working in these organizations gives me the chance to be there for these people.

Just look at those poor man in Darfur; genocide is way more scarier than any kinds of physical disease. They need our help in whatever ways that can at least help them feel that life is still worth living. Of course, this is very different from your story, but I want you to know that the meaning of living a life is not just pursuing something so trivial, such a money, position, and material satisfaction. Indeed, material part is important for our living in this world, but it is not the only thing that we should look on to. We are human beings, and we are born with the ability to love and give help. To love someone, like a partner, or to love every living thing. To help whoever needs help. This is a belief that we should always bear in mind.

Of course, you can practice this through material ways, but I firmly believe if you practice this through your heart, your mind, and practice it in everyday life, such as being a good support for the one you care about, then what you receive would be more precious than what you give. Don't we usually hear "I’ll be there for you" in movies? Dalai Lama also says that "offering our support without us being realizing that we are actually offering support always gains us delightful feelings that make us happy." Isn't being happy the only goal that we all try so hard to look for in this life? When a person feels happy, naturally s/he thinks whatever actions s/he does is full of meanings that inherently makes his life meaningful.

Back to your story, I believe your friend is not asking for assistance. He is only telling you something that has become so unbearable in his heart. He is only sharing his feelings with you. Nothing you can do to change the conditions of his wife, but your support would give him strength that helps him to be strong in front of his wife. When he is strong, he can stand by his wife and help her face the unexpected future. Sometimes, I feel cancer is the disease Buddha gives us to remind us what we have lost, namely, love. Cancer patients are weak, both physically and mentally. All they need is the will to live. There are cases that cancer patients survive their disease because of their strong will to live. According to these case studies, the result shows most of these patients receive strong and good support from their friends and relatives. Instead of feeling terrible, we need to offer our love/support to them, be there for them.

I am reading Zhuang Zi (莊子) now. His words are smart, and he does enjoy playing with our trivial notions on the meaning of life and the universe. What is life? Is it something that you really can pursue and change? Why does he tell us to comply with the rules of the universe? Is it because we are never able to overcome nature? But why do we always try to succeed the nature? Don't our trivial goals only bring us unhappiness due to our constant failure to achieve these goals? Isn't life full of delightful feelings and happiness when we finally start to comply with the rules of the universe, or in other words, when we finally stop pursuing trivial things?

I found Zhuang Zi's theory quite similar to the teaching of Buddha. They both ask us to learn to quit our trivial habits in this life and to look at the world we live in. They both mention that the meaning of life is tightly bound to our notion of being happy in our everyday life. Of course, they are not saying that we should pursue happiness. They both highlight the idea that if we can comply with the rule of the universe, naturally we will stop craving, and this would definitely bring us peacefulness. Doesn't a peaceful mind make us happy?

7 Sep 2007

Luciano Pavarotti - Nessun Dorma, the best Prince Calàf ever

Nessun Dorma, Let No One Sleep, in Act III in Puccini's Turandot is probably the most famous opera aria in the world. I believe most people, me as well, know this aria from Luciano Pavarotti's amazing performance. His powerful and passionate voice is like magic that enchants everyone's ears, that penetrates everyone's soul, that seduces each of us to fall into the art of opera. In the statement mourning Pavarotti's death, Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) said,
Luciano Pavarotti was one of the finest singers of our time; ... [He] was one of those rare artists who affected the lives of people across the globe in all walks of life. Through his countless broadcasts, recordings and concerts he introduced the extraordinary power of opera to people who perhaps would never have encountered opera and classical singing, in doing so he enriched their lives. That will be his legacy. ... He had a unique ability to touch people with the emotional and brilliant quality of his voice. He was a man with the most extraordinary gift but with the ability to contact with anyone. He will be truly missed by millions.

True, he will be missed by millions.

Sad that we have lost such a great tenor. I remembered not long ago we just lost two great film directors, Bergman and Antonioni. 2007 has become a sorrowful year for all of us. It is sad to know people die, but it is even worse to fully understand that what we no longer have is their experience, knowledge and artistry. What worries us most is if we have any successors to these deceased masters. For the films industry, we have started to see some good directors showing their talent and creativity. However, in opera singing, the lack of new good tenors with powerful and magnificent voice connotes the decline of opera in modern time. In fact, the lack of tenors and sopranos is not the only reason that results in the decline of opera. It is our popular culture that brings opera to the end. Not only opera has this problem; most traditional performing arts face the same difficulty to survive now. Every time I hear the decease of a mater of a certain arts form, the same worry would pop up again.

Indeed, Pavarotti's voice is unique. It is "God-given glory" as Placido Domingo addressed. Now God retrieves his property, and we are only left with the recordings of this voice.

3 Sep 2007

Can't sleep? Don't worry, we offer sleeping pills!

Due to the protest about the noise from the residents around the New Bangkok Airport, the airport authority decided to offer these people earplugs and sleeping pills. Wait a minute, shouldn't sleeping pills be prescribed by doctors? The solution from the airport authority seems pretty naive and irresponsible. This is the most ridiculous news I have ever heard.

The news from the Bangkok Post: AoT gives sleeping pills as panacea

In fact, I have just visited this airport this July, and I am so disappointed in the service of the airport. It is just way too big without clear directions. It takes forever for transfer, and going through the security check point is such a pain in the ass. Moreover, It was so cold in that airport. The use of the air conditioning seems free there, and this is just so environmentally UN-friendly.

This airport should develop a proper plan to reduce the noise and air pollution caused by planes. They could have worked with private sectors or international groups to help the residents around the airport. Simply offering earplugs and sleeping pills is not only incorrect but irresponsible, and this may cause serious problems in the coming future. Long term studies on these pills show no encouraging results. It is even deadly for chronic use of these pills. (See The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills by Daniel Kripke, M.D., paper revised in Aug 2006) If the Airport keeps feeding the local residents sleeping pills, they definitely will pay more in the coming future.