The only way I can have encounter with the Dharma is either with books or with the internet. Like how I was influenced into the culture in Mathematics, I advocate it to personal interaction with high level Mathematicians and Theoretical Physicists. One can learn Physics until he got an A1 or A2 in ‘O’ level or ‘A’ level, but when one talks to a Nobel Laureate, one can feel that the learning has not reach a 妙、不可思议level. This is not something one can show, but it is something that one can definitely feel he is there. I guess that is why they say “Cloud 9”. If you are among the clouds, the feeling is certainly wonderful, and you know you are about there but you cannot show or describe to anyone, that you are already there.
So I must thank the few Malaysian teachers that I learned from on YouTube, they greatly influenced and taught me, they give me the 精进心 (perseverance) or virya–an energy to continue and better what I do. If a country want to win an olympic medal who would be better than a medalist who also went to a similar primary/secondary school, eat the same hawker center Economic Beehoon and talk with the same Singlish /Malaysian accent as you?
法轩法师-faxuanfashi is a Malaysian who gave Dharma talks in Mandarin and Cantonese. His Cantonese has such a strong Malaysian-Singapore accent, he reminded me of myself learning to speak Cantonese in Toronto with Hongkongers in early 90’s. Every word sounds like its Mandarin equivalence. For instance we pronounce 非常，开始，or 始终，wrong in Cantonese because of our habits in Mandarin. (Another example the very short 夕阳无限好 took me very, very long to finally say correctly in Cantonese.) Even though his accent were laughable, he was invited to speak in Hong Kong and many parts of Cantonese speaking Malaysia to give Dharma talks. He was able to relate to everyday Singaporean/Malaysian Chinese, and I spend many, many hours absorbing 善知识 from him. Faxuan had experience as a Theravada monk in his younger days, so he knows both the Theravedan and the Mahayanist way. He speaks at a level any typical Singaporean/Malaysian Chinese can understand even though he is well versed in Leng Yan （楞严）Sutra and is deep in the Dharma knowledge.
尘聪法师 also known as Lama Yeshe now is a Tibetan lama receiving transmission from Nubpa Rinpoche. I consider myself very fortunate to have found Lama Yeshe’s talk on the internet. Lama yeshe was a big time lawyer in Malaysia until he realize that vexation (烦恼) has no roots and leave the house to become a Chinese Mahayanist Buddhist monk. Then he found Nubpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan who reduced himself to a lowly gardener whilst suffering persecution in PRC. So Lama Yeshe followed Nubpa Rinpoche because he saw the Metta and kindness in Nubpa Rinpoche. To say that Lama Yeshe’s is powerful is an understatement. When he talks, I feel a lion roaring the truth very loudly and clearly. But I also hear his chinese talk peppered with English and Singlish. And he pronounced 心 (heart) as ‘sim’ — something only Hokkien and Teochew people would do.
Taku Umi Chen (Brother K.C. Chen) — Takuumi must be very young when I first heard his Dharma on the internet a few years ago. Now he is ordained as a Buddhist Monk. As a child, he would follow his mother to a buddhist temple and many times, they would chant the sutra for a few hours. And with that, he could recite(背) some of the sutras, e.g. the Ksitigarbha Sutra. When he was just a upasaka, I would listen to his talk about the importance of the Surangama Sutra. Later when I researched more on the net, I found that I need to attend (minimum) something like 136 lessons from 淨心長老. Each lesson will be an hour long and after each lesson, I probably need to do homework (including practice) of 2-4 hours each time, to fully understand the details of the sutra. I tried it for a few lessons and find it very slow and long. But since Takuumi suggested (提倡) chanting the mantra instead, I followed Takuumi’s YouTube version (20 mins) and started chanting the mantra a few times a day hoping to memorize it. After a year and a half, I think I finally got it in my head and I would do 7 times a day every day. This involved waking up very early in the morning because I hope to finish them and do some sitting meditation before the sunrise. Takuumi is very cheerful each time in his talk. He is said to know Japanese and is very good in Chinese especially with those deep, deep words from the Buddhist sutras. But I like it because he is also well versed in Sanskrit and for that reason, he advocated the Surangama mantra in Sanskrit, even though the Chinese transliterated version is more commonly heard in Buddhist temple every morning for 早课. A pdf file containing that can be downloaded from his cloud by clicking here.
The only forms of news that is available to me is sg.yahoo.com and AISAONE.com. The Straits Times actually cost money to subscribe. Of course I will read The Straits Times, as I have been reading that for the first half of my life, and it will certainly give me that sense of continuity on the second half of my life, but it is being cut off when the online version is not free.
Nonetheless, I still can go to SG.Yahoo and ASIAONE to continue my access to my root culture. Actually there is also ZaoBao but my Chinese is my 2nd language and I got C’s and sometimes B, so I usually prefer the English news.
Since I attended talk of Ven. Ding Hong 定弘法师, who was formerly 钟茂森博士 an associate Professor in Queensland University, now a monk. Venerable Ding Hong knows Theory of Relativity very well (and gave many talks on Einstein’s Theory and also many talks on CAUSALITY, reincarnations and rebirths) It seems that, not only should I abstain from pure entertainment like movie and concert, but I should avoid NEWS too. As it was explained (and I am also quite convinced) that most news are either surrounding the subject of 饮食男女 or something to do with the breaking the five precepts — killing, stealing, lying, drinking and sexual misconduct(杀、盗、淫、妄、酒、贪、嗔、痴、慢、疑). So really to keep our 5 (or six) senses calm and pure (清静), we could only chant “Amitabha” or frequently go back to our breathe like what we do whilst meditating. We are in this 五浊恶世 world for a reason. And the reason is not to bash in luxury and comfort (although, we could we simply use up our 福报 (merit or reward, think of it as some kind of reward certificate ), and when we have none of this 福报 left, all we have is obscuration to walk the 8 noble path, and then it’s going to be rough ride all the way. (Sleepy when one wants to meditate, couldn’t get to dharma talk on time or be there at all either because one is sick or bus is late, objection from people surrounding you, discouragement or ridicule causing one to go further and further away from the Dharma Law etc, etc)。 It seems like摄六根 (block the six passage) is what most Buddhist monks do, but upasaka and upasika should live to do that as well, otherwise, most practice will go as waste.
The Noble Path (V-I-S-A, L-E-M-C) starts with the Right View, in the Pure Land and Chan Buddhism teaching, it is the first and the most important of the eight, and it roughly means, one must view “I” as fake, completely understand the law of “causality”, and act (that means live every moment) completely wary of whether one is gaining merit, or destroying it. Learn that there is no way one can do something and not be known as even the smallest act is stored in the alaya consciousness (阿赖耶识).
Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo – the part of the Japanese language that even local Japanese do not know. This is a very interesting drama about a young, pretty Japanese teacher of a class of foreigners interacting with her students. Keiko is a modern young Japanese so untypical of a Japanese teacher. But out of a desperate need to complete an assignment from this private school, she is willing to put herself on the line and prove to the principal that she can make it and be an exceptional teacher of a relatively hard-to-teach foreign adult students.
Orignally, many years ago, I intended to watch this dorama to improve my Japanese, but due to good, accurate subtitles, I learned little and got stuck episodes after episodes of this captivating J-dorama on youtube.
Years later I caught my wife watching “KELAS INTERNATIONAL” on youtube about a class of foreign students learning Bahasa Indonesia in a very popular Indonesian comedy/drama show. After only two episodes with her, I thought it was a copycat of the Nihonjin shiranai Nihongo show. But on closer look, I realized it is of a very different genre.
Nihonjin-no-shiranai-Nihongo tends to focus on the interesting part of the language that was only peculiar in the Japanese language. One has to engage one’s brain and do learn some etymolgy of Japanese characters., while KELAS
focus on the students and has more episodes on the slapstick jokes and odd behavior of various foreigners while in Indonesia.bringing their local habits into that of Jakarta. Most actors are real foreigners, except for the “China” student played by a Chinese Indonesian whose exaggeration is probably why people love this show. She does reminded me of a Chinese Indonesian from the island of Sulawesi, they don’t speak Mandarin well and mixed Hokien, Teochew, Cantonese and Mandarin and Bahasa when she spoke her version of Chinese. Also unlike the Japanese (Nihonjin), one episode is less than 30 minutes. Even the pronunciation of each student’s name is inherently by another student. For example “玲玲” -Ling Ling（China student’s name） is pronounced “Rin Rin” by the Japanese guy. And the Japanese guy would not distinguish “h” and “f” crating lots of errors and laughter.
听闻说法，知道多接触一些善知识能添福. 。在网络上听闻说法(除了聖嚴法師大法鼓节目的)起初都是听英语的。其中有听Ven. Robina Courtin 的, Ajahn Chah 的, Ajahn Brahmavamso Mahathera 的 和Ajahn Yuttadhammo 的。但有可能是跟粤语很有密切的因缘，偶而也听听用广东话的法师和居士们说法。说起来也奇怪，我的方言不是广东话，是新洲的闽南语福建话，但我却跟广东话结了一点点的佛缘。好多次，为了把心经记下来，用了普通话，又读诵又唱 ，但总是漏了一、两行。直到有一天,无意中在youtube找到梅艳芳的《心经 》。很快的就把它，滚瓜烂熟的唱熟了。不用说，中文的心经也自然而然的记了下来. 。之后也喜欢听在网络上用粤语的讲经说法。其中有三为用广东话的法师，反复听了好多，都觉得这些法师们都好慈悲耶！
了一法師 －－－了一法師的口气跟我研究生时认识的一位香港学生很相识。说话总是有一点讽刺性，可是却点到为止从不会伤害到别人。这样子好像是横刀直入之后却模不到伤口,反而会另一个人反省一下到底法师说的有没有道理。通常了一法師的 youtube video 只有一张图，上面可能就只有佛经的一两句，或只有佛珠，一个人只能听，没有动画可以看。
定弘法師 －－－在出家之前，法师像是一位乖乖子，好像是那种很听话，读书成绩很好的Mama’s Boy.出生于广州，国语也讲得很靓。好像从小就跟净空法师很有缘。他妈妈带他大，他竟然读到博士学位（钟茂森博士），还在Kansas 和 Queensland University 就业。但后来他还是把一切都捨了，出家跟着净空老法师学净土。定弘法師因为用广东话说法，好多好多香港人也因此觉得非常有幸，感恩不已。在圆明寺讲了《无量寿经》,以下是一般人的看法：
Going to Toronto is always my wife’s idea because she needs to fix her cravings for good Cantonese/Malaysian food. And it is a way to keep her sanity and her homesickness in check. It’s the usual trip from one Chinese grocer to another and one Indonesian restaurant to another Malaysian restaurant.
Having conquer my craving for food (and almost anything else) , I have nothing to look forward to except to be a good chauffeur around the Greater Toronto and a good translator if information of products only have Chinese.
But this trip, I have the rare opportunity to dine with an Abbot from Dharma Drum Meditation Center.
Near the end of the trip, I request my wife to meet some Singaporeans and have dinner with them before driving that 4 hours home. And just so lucky, Mr. Tan, one of my Torontonian friends have to pick up an Abbot from the Dharma Drum Meditation Center to start a 3-day retreat to be held in Mississauga. The other Singaporeans were waiting and speculation “Wah, don’t know got the 因缘 or not, the Abbot might join us for dinner le”. Mr. Tan after picking up the Abbot had a separate reservation and was able to come to this Zen Garden. Every Buddhist stood up, clasped their hands in respect when FaShi stepped in. We requested that he sit with us for dinner.
During this hour, GuoXing Fashi, asked me whether “1+1=2” is some kind of truth or does it come with a model. I gave my two cents of what this so called “math” is all about and that it is a tool/language used for mostly science to describe their work. And that yes, it could also have or one can also have 1+1=10 (binary addition) or 1+1=3 if there is simple 买二送一sales going on.
Then I have the opportunity to listen directly from the Master the concept of “無我 ” as to 离颠倒梦想 in everyday life to 解除烦恼. Thanks to my friend Mr. Tan, I am really, really lucky, 如此受用不尽 ‘s dharma, I will contemplate on it and vow to understand it.
To know what kind of culture America has in High School Math, teaching a typical class in first year university or Community College will give you a very good idea. The image below is only funny here, never funny or brought up in Singapore.
so what other kinds of funny errors do they have a lot (and laugh it off)? Here is another off my colleague’s door. There are so many of these, someone publish it into a book.
So when you teach the students, they really got all confused in their algebra. Off the top of my head, here is a list of what’s considered common in the US:
But like an Olympic swim clinic, my job here is to correct a future Olympian’s error or bad habit. And different students have different bad habits. So this is like a Dharma Master trying to help his student with his affliction. With constant diligence, the student will hope to let go and reduce his kleshas.
Let me end with another so-called funny Math joke. If you are a Singaporean who commit this error and your parents saw it, it will hardly be funny
This year, the Mathematical Association of America had its Allegheny Mountain Sectional Meeting (conference) downtown in my city that I lived. So I decided to take the public bus down. Nobody, I believe, in my department did it. It is just a little thing, and if I were in New York City or Singapore or London, I’m sure, myself and many other professors will do the same thing. But that’s not how most cities in America are built. They are built with “everyone has a car” in mind. So taking the public bus, is just so rare, it is a predicament.
I did my part reducing carbon footprint. I have to wake up very early to take the first bus to school because that day, I have a Test for my students and I have to be in my office in case some students want to see me. SO I walked out at 5:30AM in the cold ERIE April Fool’s Day, walked about three-quarter of a mil, then waited I think a further 10-15 mins before the bus arrived. If I missed this bus, I’ll have to catch the next one an hour later.
So after class at 2:30PM, I brave the cold and walked to the bus stop in the school and waited for the 3:17PM bus to go downtown.
There I met one of my students. He talked to me and said this driver is frequently late. I laughed and told him how unreasonable this would be if it were in Singapore or London or NYC.
But despite catching a bus which was late, and despite getting off at a bus stop earlier then the correct one, I still managed to arrive at the meeting early enough for the first talk of the conference.
After the talk, I was in a dinner sitting with my colleague. At the end of the dinner, we all flashed out our cell phones and the amazing thing was: none of us (all five of us) was carrying a smart phone. And that’s not because we were old or we don’t know how to use Technology, we are all mathematicians! But that’s another thing I would write about when I have time.