Studying Buddhism three years ago brought me to different countries, cultures, Buddhist traditions, meditation retreats and Zen centre stays. It has been an uphill but fulfilling battle applying the teachings to real life issues. AMA.

Siew Joo
Jun 8, 2017

Despite growing up in a largely Buddhist family for 33 years, I mainly prayed to higher forces to avoid the bad and attract the good. Please excuse me, I do not mean offence - that includes God, gods at times.

After certain destablising events three years ago, I started learning about Buddhism, more seriously. It brought me to: different countries and cultures; Buddhist traditions; learning environments; friends etc.

Religion for me has not been easy, mostly.

Task#1: Figure out the overview of things according to its cosmology and knowledge from different traditions.

Task#2: Learn about its proposed solution through different texts and real-life experiences like meditation.

Task#3: How to practise outside your meditation session. For example, what happens when:

  • somebody screams at you in public
  • other people misunderstand you
  • life presents multiple challenges to you at the same time/bad time
  • there is a conflict

I only wish the learning process and the path to getting more evolved is this systematic and straightforward.

I am not a scholar or Buddhism teacher so I am in NO position to offer authoritative advice - just personal experiences for your use or info. I also welcome questions/sharing from folks practising other religions/philosophies.

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Jun 8, 8:56PM EDT0

Not all questions asked may be captured and therefore not be visible to me. You can try re-posting to see if it helps. Apologies and thanks!

Last edited @ Jun 8, 8:42PM EDT.
Jun 8, 8:41PM EDT0

What is "zen"? Always wanted to ask that

Jun 8, 3:54PM EDT0

That is challenging! I honestly don’t know. I have had an interview with a Zen master (i.e. asking him questions about practice etc). At the end of the session, he gave me a question to think about, if I remember correctly - “what is the cat’s dhamma nature?”.

To date, I had issues with that question.

However, I learnt a lot from his advice – e.g. he taught me that one can make plans but not get attached to time (i.e. do not get angry when your plans are disrupted by unforeseen circumstances). I think it is good if you visit their site or a general wiki for more info.

Jun 8, 8:30PM EDT0

Thanks!

Jun 9, 10:45AM EDT0

Do you feel some physical changes after meditating, Siew Joo?

Jun 8, 2:47PM EDT0

It is hard to attribute physical changes to meditation because I do not meditate for long hours everyday. But I personally tried alleviating my cold and tension due to stress etc through meditation, successfully.

Jun 8, 8:18PM EDT0

I bet you've been to Tibet? How was it?

Jun 8, 1:39PM EDT0

No, I’ve not been to Tibet but I’ve been to Shangri-la, Yunnan, which is not too far away. I can only say Yunnan is beautiful but like Tibet, you have to take precautions for altitude sickness. I suspect foreigners need a visa for Tibet?

Jun 8, 8:16PM EDT0

I guess so ...

Jun 9, 6:28AM EDT0

What was the hardest thing in studying buddhism for you?

Jun 8, 1:32PM EDT0

One challenge -

There are people who are very skilful with meditation and at high levels of concentration, they can enter states of mind that is peaceful and blissful. Sometimes me wanting those states get in the way of doing.

Last edited @ Jun 8, 8:14PM EDT.
Jun 8, 8:14PM EDT0

I got your point! Then I wish us all effective, not over-ambitious meditation!Thanks for answering

Jun 9, 7:04AM EDT1

Where did you travel to learn about Buddhism?

Jun 8, 7:44AM EDT0

I’ve travelled to Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand for retreats. For regular studies, I’ve done it mainly in Singapore. The Zen centre is in Singapore as well – I suppose many of us, at least I used to associate Zen mostly with Japan/Korea.

Jun 8, 8:09PM EDT0

Friend/enemy/stranger game

Jun 8, 4:55AM EDT0

Rough Guide To Retreat Schedule

Jun 8, 4:50AM EDT0

whats to begin with if you want to take up budhism?

Jun 8, 1:02AM EDT0

If you have a tradition/teacher you are inspired by, maybe you can explore that first.

Try out with a centre you think would be conducive to you learning Buddhism over 1-3 years (e.g. not too far, comfortable environment etc). In Buddhism, the guru/teacher is very important but there is a lot to that in which I am not educated.

You can also try the following:

  • teachings by Ajahn Brahm whom I think offers the most accessible teachings to lay people to date – you see, he was a school teacher. He spoke at the U.N. and is very humorous.
  • I’ve read this partially and it is quite helpful in terms of fleshing out the approach of Buddhism towards our existence: The Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Thanissaro.
  • I also like Sravasti Abbey’s online resources of the vast teachings from the Lamrim.

Last edited @ Jun 8, 4:26AM EDT.
Jun 8, 1:57AM EDT14

Thank you!

Jun 9, 11:45AM EDT0

How often do you attend a Buddhist temple?

Jun 8, 12:18AM EDT0

I visit two to three centres/temples a week at times. Sometimes, I take breaks.

Jun 8, 1:37AM EDT0

How many Buddhist people in your life do you have?

Jun 8, 12:11AM EDT0

I have a lot of friends who are Buddhists – I visit two to three centres/temples a week at times.

Jun 8, 1:36AM EDT0

Are there any Buddhist priests or teachers who have been important to you?

Jun 7, 9:04PM EDT0

Yes, all the teachers from the traditions I’ve come into contact with taught me something. They are important to making my spiritual journey and achievements to date.

However, I read/go to classes from three main traditions mostly – Thai Forest tradition, traditions that started with Lama Je Tsongkhapa; and Zen (Kwan Um School of Zen) tradition.

Last edited @ Jun 8, 2:04AM EDT.
Jun 8, 1:34AM EDT0

Are there any meditations you think I should try?

Jun 7, 5:55PM EDT0

For me a feel-good practice is one on loving kindness (from “Knowing and Seeing (2003 edition) by the Venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw) – it is instant.

You can try this:

“May I be free from danger”

“May I be free from mental suffering”

“May I be free from physical suffering”

“May I be well and happy”

You can swap the “I” with “all beings” and try it.

You can also try meditations on cultivating Bodhichitta from the Tibetan Mahayanist traditions - which may be too lengthy for this post.

You can also just focus on your breath.

Jun 8, 8:36PM EDT0

What are your feelings/thoughts about the noble truths?

Jun 7, 4:39PM EDT0

I have a better appreciation of suffering and the noble 8-fold path but I know I do not have a solid renunciation. That means I am still not utterly convinced that arranging external conditions is not a means to everlasting happiness. I suspect this will change for the better if I manage to achieve a stable samadhi.

What about you? You seem to be a fellow practitioner as well.

Last edited @ Jun 8, 1:37AM EDT.
Jun 8, 12:47AM EDT0

What is some advice you could give to people just starting out with meditation?

Jun 7, 2:24PM EDT0

Try your best to start small and work consistently.

Also, over time, seek out teacher(s) you trust and learn meditation in the context of a religion (try not to divorce it from religious knowledge/practice as if it is some trendy practice).

Also, apply whatever you learnt from meditation in daily life, outside of your session and have fun!

Last edited @ Jun 8, 12:51AM EDT.
Jun 8, 12:44AM EDT0

Awesome! do you feel changed in some way?

Jun 7, 11:40AM EDT0

Yes, I feel changed considerably. It changes the algorithm(s) in you – I think I am gradually moving towards a better life, in general.

Last edited @ Jun 8, 4:28AM EDT.
Jun 8, 12:42AM EDT0

What are some Buddhist traditions that are interesting to you?

Jun 7, 10:27AM EDT0

All are interesting to me but I read/go to classes from three main traditions mostly – Thai Forest tradition, traditions that started with Lama Je Tsongkhapa; and Zen (Kwan Um School of Zen) tradition.

It is like a multi-pronged attack on the same problems – they express/train themselves differently and it can be fascinating to see the different presentations/approaches/training activities related to the same subject matter(s).

Last edited @ Jun 8, 2:08AM EDT.
Jun 8, 2:07AM EDT0

What drive you to study Buddhism & learn how to meditate three years ago ?

Jun 7, 10:10AM EDT0

Hello! Thanks for your question.

I started with Vipassana meditation because I read “Eat, Pray, Love” and I wanted to try going silent, without books, writing, emailing for 10 days.

I looked to religion to get a better sense of things since whatever that brought me thus far 3 years ago, did not work very well.

I was pretty inspired by the Trappist monks since young and I did consider Catholicism three years ago. However, I cannot agree that there is a Creator because I cannot accept that a compassionate creator would create such a world – the one we see today.

I started Vipassana and went on to learn Buddhism through Tibetan, Theravada and then Zen traditions. It has been a really satisfying journey!

Last edited @ Jun 8, 9:11PM EDT.
Jun 8, 12:39AM EDT0

What is something about Buddhism I don't know?

Jun 7, 9:52AM EDT0

Buddhism is very illuminating, albeit very complex. After learning more, its proposed solution is actually more oblique/long-term than I thought.

For instance, one says that if you have good intentions, you have good results. The thing is that good intentions is not exactly an on-the-spot affair – you cannot decide to have good intentions today – in the face of tough ethical decision making.

Your intentions generated upon contact with whatever situation(s) that come your way is dependent upon your experiences and habits throughout this entire life – not to mention your past lives! As such, it is a wise to work towards having good intentions, and doing good everyday.

Last edited @ Jun 8, 12:48AM EDT.
Jun 8, 12:37AM EDT0