In Primary Six, I don’t quite understand my teacher when he mentioned why we should choose the best school and how we should be careful what to pick as the first choice.  As no parents helped me (nor compelled) me to pick my choice, I choose my first choice according to my teacher’s recommendation and ended up in my second choice which is my favourite choice because it is walk-able from my house!

I read with amazement my first “Buddhism book” from a Singaporean who followed Master Sheng Yan of Dharma Drum and in it.  In the book, the author mentioned that during his ‘O’ level time, he actually go against the trend and ‘rat race’ and picked polytechnic as his first choice and National JC as his second choice. Venerable Guo Jun (果骏,-Mahaboddhi Monastery) was a very fine student and so he made it to his first choice effortlessly!  But what I admire most about him is not his academics, but his endurance to do the Korean toughest traditional Seon (Sŏn, 禪) 90-day retreat 3 times!

When I was in my ‘O’ level, again I was faced with a choice of JC.  But I did not choose polytechnic despite the scare form my uncle, “English not so good, polytechnic was a better choice”.  My English wasn’t that good, but I thought JC would be more ‘fun’, because my brother was already in a JC and he seemed to show me that is the brighter path to take.  Basically I have no idea what I was doing because at that time I had no intention of going to the university at all.  My grandma gave me the impression that the university (or oversea education for that matter) is only for the rich, and we (阮人) as normal folks should only dream about it or wait for it in our next life.  So I pick my ACJC and had a blast of my teenage years in that school.

When great Naropa (那洛巴尊者) was young, he was well verse in “the study of logic, science, grammar, rhetoric and art.”  Comparing to him, I am maybe less than 10% of his ability in science.  Anyway, Naropa was about to go to the famous Nalanda University for his Buddhist study when some “dakini”(空行母) told him to basically:  “Stop philosophizing and seek out for a certain Tilopa for instruction!”  And so Naropa left Nalanda University to look for a certain person whom he did not recognize at first and was put to twelve very hard tests.  Some part includes grinding oil from sesame seeds for a prostitute.

In retrospect, I see that almost anything I chose from schools to JC to University to Master degree and PhD and even jobs were picked carefully.  Almost like a karmic force, I accepted one thing after another whether it was good or bad or so-so.  I have no regrets whatsoever.  After reading stories of great Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa.  And stories of venerables Yin Guang and Hui Neng, I felt very glade of how I let none of those things in my life stress me in any way.  As long as it is 善知识 and 大善知识, I will take is with complete challenge and contemplation.

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?

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.

Background Image of TAku Umi ‘s page.

The only forms of news that is available to me is sg.yahoo.com and AISAONE.com.  The Straits Times actually costs 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 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.  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 of 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 in 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, it  simply spends our 福报 — merit or reward), 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.  For instance one may feel sleepy when one wants to meditate, couldn’t get to dharma talk on time or couldn’t make it at all either because one is sick or bus is late, or there are objection from people surrounding you.  There could also be 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 passages) 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.

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 $1 + 1 = \infty$ 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.

# 我今見聞得受持，願解如來真實義

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.

Door Joke of a US college Mathematician

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:

• $0!=0,\ln(1) = 1, \cos(0)=0, e^0= 0$
• $(x+y)^2 = x^2+y^2, \sqrt{A+B} = \sqrt{A}+\sqrt{B}$
• $(x+y)^2 = x^2+y^2, \sqrt{A+B} = \sqrt{A}+\sqrt{B}$
• $\int \frac{1}{1+\cos^2 x} = \ln(1+\cos^2x), \int \tan x = \sec^2 x$
• $\frac{d}{dx} a^x = x a ^{x-1}$
• $\int \frac{1}{x^2+x} = ln|x^2+x|+C$
• $\frac{\sin x}{n} = si x, \frac{\sin x}{x} = sin$
• $2^x = y \Rightarrow x = \frac{y}{2}$

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