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On Humility & Equanimity

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”

Confucius

“Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.”

Abraham Lincoln
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Day 2

After working in the forest on the 1st day, I started to get weak, not conditioned to taking 1 meal a day. We woke up at 4 am, under a heavy thunderstorm throughout the night, I would have gone back to sleep! (waking up at 4 am or earlier happens only when there is a road race) The group meditation starts at 4:30am and ended at around 7am (everyday – 7 days a week).  After meditation, we had our breakfast (exactly 19 hrs since the last meal on the previous day).

My stamina and endurance are still alright, however I am not used to carrying heavy stuff, my weakness is the lack of strength, probably need to train more by lifting weights. My body temperature was exactly 37C (luckily Robin had bought along a thermometer, plus panadol).  Because of the heavy rain, we were excused from Day 1 task, so we were now in-charge of all the toilets till the day we left (9 cubicles ++ ) 🙂 We were required to wash the toilets exactly after lunch, we don’t mind at all, calling ourselves Toilet ICs!  Anyway, we still find time reading in the library, before the 4pm meditation.

It is never easy to stay in a monastery, in Mandarin, we called it 道场 “training ground”.

Shortly, I gained back some strength and the body temperature was back to normal.

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Grateful for all the people who had given us food during the past week, we followed the precepts (a requirement in monastery/retreats). We only eat because it sustains the body, because it’s our duty to keep the body reasonably healthy.

There was this friendly Malay family of 3 (a bit amazed), who had brought us food during one lunch and again after our 4:30 am meditation on the second day. Thank you, the only thing I can give to the Muslim friend is a smile 🙂 And he returned the smile.

At that moment, I thought of all the good Malay friends I had in Singapore, especially those I knew in NS days. Now I appreciate & understand my friends more, during Ramadan, the fasting month.

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Day 3 – pindapatha

After breakfast, we followed 2 monks for an alms round at around 8am, we took a van out with a driver, we stopped half-way and walked towards the small town, we walked bare-footed for more than 1 km, houses to houses, the small pebbles on the road hurts everytime I took a step, the floor was wet and hard, came across a couple of dead frogs with flies circling over their bodies (crashed by passing vehicles), being mindful, I watched every steps, not to step on any rubbish, especially broken glasses if any.

Shortly we walked to the market place, standing behind my teacher, we waited for the villagers to offer us food, it was an unforgettable experience. When he received the food, he will turn around and pass it to me, so his bowl will be empty.

I get in touch with my true self, I kill my pride, ego. Non-self…

An enlightening moment, just that 15 mins standing bare-footed in the market, in slient.

Everything seems to freeze.

The food collected was enough to fill the back of the van, the lunch was shared among 20 over people in the monastery, just barely enough (our only meal, nothing is wasted, the workers were the last to eat everyday, any leftover were brought back by them). The lesson on not wasting any food!

Alms Bowl

My teacher’s alms bowl… he went out everyday to collect food, for the last 10 years.  A day experience for us is sufficient & wonderful. One of the tradition for more than 2,500 years… however I think some of the things are difficult to substain in this modern world.

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The Seven factors of Enlightenment –

Mindfulness, Investigation, Energy, Rapture, Tranquility, Concentration, Equanimity.

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No, I’m NOT enlightened. Finally, I came across this clip which I like to share 🙂

This post is just a personal experience. I seek the highest truth through exploration, investigation & experiences, I am not here to convert anyone. During this trip, on the library shelves, it included the Bible & Quran (under world religion category) as the respect for all religions.



During my national service as an infantry between 95-97 and even reservist (another 10 continuous years), I had been to countless number of forests, both local and overseas. For overseas training, had been to Thailand’s forest at Kanchanaburi, Brunei’s Temburong Jungles and Taiwan’s mountainous forest.  It was our playground, playing our games there, creating noise, killing the plants as we moved in companies and battalion levels, both men, equipment and vehicles, firing both blanks & live rounds, disturbing the peace by cursing and swearing. At night we were attacked by the mosquitoes infested forest.

We usually stay for a few days or up to a week … imagine the rubbish we created (eat, shit and sleep). So the training grounds in Singapore which is much smaller (Lim Chu Kang Area or Tekong island) stinks like hell even today.

I never appreciate any forests, as there isn’t any good experiences at all, it reminds me of carrying heavy load, lack of sleep, digging of defences at midnight, lots of sweat and suffering… We always bring our weapons into the forest to fight a “fake” war there.

But recently, I learnt it is actually a very peaceful and beautiful place.

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Day 1 (4 Jul)

The Venerable welcomes us, “How was the trip?”,  “Do you get to sleep?”

“Yes some sleep”, I replied

I waked up at around 3:30am as the roads were bumpy. Robin woke up earlier as he had to ensure the bus stops at the right location before travelling all the way to Ipoh. And we arrrived before 6am on the small town call Temoh. The hill we are located, is half surrounded by a Chinese cemetry. ( no pictures, actually i feel like taking a few shots)

“Go give some help in the forest.”

“Sure!”

Upon arrival, we were told to give some support in the forest, building of “kutis” also known as “huts”.  A monk was with us too, together with 2 other workers. Before the trip, I was mentally prepared for anything, treat it as a training exercise! 🙂

So we started carrying the wooden crosses (carrying the heavy cross, and know what is suffering!) , was advice to find the pivot point so it will balance and reduce the weight, about 15kg,  and other planks at the bottom, walked around 30-50 metres up hill. After about 15-20 trips, hands and legs started to ache. My t-shirt was soaked in sweat, more irriated with the mosquitoes bite. Exhausted… we stop for lunch.

Pictures taken on the 3rd day (click to enlarge)

We are not required to have heavy manual work after lunch, as we are taking a meal a day.  What a day!! I wonder if we have more on Day 2, we don’t really call this fun… However have to agree, that nature was in complete harmony with the spiritual tradition for one to be in the forests to contemplate deeply and perfect one’s spirituality.

So we looked forward to the first group sitting meditation at 4 pm, at least we can rest & relax!

3hrs of sitting and watching our breath.. leg cramp, plus backache, after an hour plus for me it starts to get challenging.
Robin is a good meditator, able to sit for 3 hrs without moving.

Most people find it difficult to sit still for 15 mins, thinking of tasks on hand, together with thoughts of the past & what might happen in the future together with the pain that arises. If you can’t change it, if you can’t do anything about it, try to develop equanimity.  We have a “monkey mind”, never in the present moment, that is why we have to train.

The next post is on the most important lesson learnt. Lesson on humility and equanimity on Day 3.

This following talk is given by Ajahn Lee, a direct translation from Thai to English. good reading 🙂

I’d like to recommend basic principles of sitting in meditation for newcomers who’ve never done it before.

1. Make up your mind that you’re not going to gather up anything else to think about, that you’re going to think only about one thing: the qualities of the Buddha or the word buddho.

2. Be mindful of the breath, thinking bud-with the in-breath, and dho with the out. Or if you want, you can simply think buddho, buddho in the mind.

3. Make the mind still and then drop the word buddho so that you can simply observe nothing but the in-and out breath. You keep your mind still in one point. You don’t have to make it go in and out with the breath. Observe the breath: Does breathing in short and out short feel good, or does in long and out long feel good? How about in long and out short, or in short and out long? Learn to recognize which type of breathing is most comfortable, and then stick with it.

So these are three steps you have to follow. The first step is to stay mindful of the word buddho. The second is to be mindful of the breath, thinking bud-with the in breath and dho with the out. Don’t forget. Don’t get distracted. The third step, when the mind is still, is to drop the word buddho and to be observant of nothing but the in-and-out breath.

When you can do this, the mind will grow still. The breath will be still. Or you can say that it’s like climbing to the top of a very tall mountain, or like floating up above the clouds. The mind will feel nothing but a cool sense of pleasure and ease. This is the root, the heartwood, the apex of all that is skillful.

It’s called the root because it’s a good quality that runs deep and tenacious right down the middle of the heart. It’s called the heartwood because it’s solid and resilient, like the heartwood of a tree that insects can’t burrow into and destroy. Even through insects may be able to nibble away at the tree, they can go only as far as the bark or the sapwood. In other words, even though distractions may come and bother us, they can reach only as far as the sense doors: our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. Example, when sights strike against the eye, they go only as far as the eye. They don’t get into the heart. When sounds strike the ear, they go only as far as the ear, and not into the heart. When smells strike the nose, they go only as far as the nose. They don’t enter the heart. This is why we say that the goodness of meditation is the heartwood of what’s skillful, because the various forms of evil can’t easily destroy the goodness of the heart when it’s solid and stable, in the same way that insects can’t bore into heartwood.

When the mind is still, its goodness spreads out to cover the entire body, so that we stop doing unskillful things with the body. It will cover our speech, so that we stop saying unskillful things with our mouth. The unskillful things we’ve done with our eyes, ears, hands, will all get washed away.

When we have cleanliness in charge of our body, it’s goodness that’s high in quality – just as rain falling from high up in the sky spreads to cover everything. The higher it comes from, the more territory it covers. When the mind is high in quality, its goodness spreads to cover our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. It spreads to cover sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations. It spread to cover our thoughts of past and future. These are a few of the rewards that come from meditation.

The high-quality goodness coming from meditation is like rain falling from high in the sky. Not only does it wash away the dirty things on the ground, it nourishes the plants so that human beings can depend on them. In addition, it refreshes people with coolness. The Buddha showered his goodness on the world beginning from the very day of his Awakening, and his goodness is still raining on us 2,500 years later. The Buddha was a Great Being because of the high-quality goodness he developed through his meditation – the same meditation we’re doing now.

To put it simply every aspect of meditation is good. No matter how much you do, even if you don’t seem to be getting any results, it is all good regardless. Even when you simply repeat the word buddho, it’s good for the mind. When you’re mindful of the breath, it’s good for the mind. When you can make the mind still with the breath, it’s good for the mind. For this reason, meditation is something you should do at all times. Don’t let the time and opportunity to meditate pass by you.

Aug 23, 1956

The Heightened Mind

Translated from Thai