Reflections in a Covid 19 world

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By Pei Qi

Transience

As a Buddhist, I have been taught about the transience of all phenomenon and to see past the illusions of all that are mere reflections and consequences of karma. The Covid 19 situation has changed and taken away all that I have taken for granted. The experience of living in a Covid 19 world is a humbling one; it has shaken to the core, the foundations of the social constructs we have formed. It has got me thinking, at the end of the day, what is really mine? What is it that I am in control of? If a virus can change everything overnight, isn’t this a testimony to the truth that nothing is permanent? I thank my teachers who have taught me the Dharma.  These teachings that I have held close to me, have allowed me to transit quite calmly into this new world order that is dictated by the whims and fancy of the virus.

Mindfulness in daily life

Working from home has blurred the lines between family and work. More so than ever, I must not let emotions slow me down so that I can be a good employee and mother. Multitasking is not easy and I have learnt that if I keep a calm rational mind and keep a good watch over my thoughts, I can get the job done quicker with less fuss. When in a state of mindfulness, we will not hurt people with unintended consequences as a result of unmindful words and actions. The practice of sitting meditation is very essential as we do need some quiet time to watch our mind and maintain a state of awareness in stillness, with no distractions and I do my best to make it a part of me and my children’s daily routine. The state of mindfulness should not be restricted to the time we spend on sitting meditation, but every single moment of our lives. Consistent sitting meditation practice can, and will reinforce our ability to watch our mind and return to a state of mindfulness easily as we go about our daily lives. 

Empathy during these difficult times

As a Buddhist, I have also learnt to be emphatic to the needs and opinions of others during this Covid 19 situation, however diverse they may be. There have been so many opinions on how to manage the changes and in order for one not to be frustrated and confused, one needs to be able to take a step away and look at things not just from a larger perspective but also from another person’s point of view. Putting biases and personal likes aside when handling a matter or making a decision takes a lot of wisdom and self-awareness. I often fall back on Buddhist teachings when I have a difficult decision to make and when I do that, problems become less complicated. 

Buddhist congregation sessions during Circuit Breaker period 

To allow us to continue with Dharma practice during the Circuit Breaker period, our Dharma teachers, together with a team of volunteers have put our weekly Dharma sessions online with Zoom and I am unendingly grateful to them for providing this platform for us to practise and listen to the Dharma as a congregation.  As I chant the names of the Bodhisattvas, I am so grateful to the mercy they have shown, the guidance and hope they have given to mankind. May all fellow Buddhist practitioners continue to practise the way of the Bodhisattvas and emulate the Buddhas of the Past, Present and Future. May all fellow Buddhist practitioners continue to cultivate and transfer the merit of our practice to all sentient beings in this world of suffering.

 Be With Buddha. 

Earning our big pot of Gold

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By Alvin

 

After I started working and earning my own living, I began to wonder how much is enough for me to enjoy a good standard of living while saving for the future. I have dreams of becoming wealthy, but I pondered, “What does it really mean to be wealthy? What does it cost to become wealthy?”

 

Defining Wealth

Firstly, let’s discuss how personal wealth is measured. We typically define our personal wealth based on the amount we have in our bank account or the number or type of assets that we own. We spend a significant portion of our lives chasing the dream of becoming wealthy; a dream that has become distorted by modern society’s disproportionate expectations and never-ending comparison. On a daily basis, we always compare with our peers who are doing better in life. These comparison is often done subconsciously. Money is important in life, but are we forgetting the other types of wealth that we have, or we need to accumulate?

 

Cost of Earning Money

I remember seeing a photo of a frail and haggard looking Chinese Kungfu star, Jet Li with the caption saying: “when young, we spend our health to earn our wealth, now when we are older and with sickness, we spend our wealth on our health”. This is the best example to illustrate the point that we are giving up too much just to make more money. Earning a living becomes living to earn money, and then living to spend the money. Money becomes the basis of our life rather than us living our own life in the way we want. We have to consciously ask ourselves: is it worthwhile to work like slaves just to have the ‘richer’ lifestyle and to be like our peers who owns fancier material things? We must make these life choices consciously. 

 

Many people work excessively so as to achieve their financial goals. However, we should consider how our lives are revolving around work and how it consumes our time. Whenever possible, we must manage our time so that we have time for other things in life besides work. However,if we lose awareness of our mind, we tend to allow work to occupy our mind even during non-working hours, and work stress affects us continuously. I am also guiltyof this, perhaps especially so because I am not working a 9-to-5 job. I have to constantly remind myself that time is irreversible and I cannot allow work to occupy my whole life. However, I am not advocating anyone to do a YOLO (You Only Live Once)! Yes, we should live life to its fullest, but we need to liveit wisely.

 

The Essential Wealth

It is obvious that there are other types of wealth, such as kinship and friendship, which are very important in our lives. However, there is an essential wealth, which other wealth depends on. I am not referring to the ‘wealth of knowledge’, although being knowledgeable is crucial in our knowledge-based economy. To me the most fundamental form of wealth is the ‘wealth of wisdom’. Being wise, we will know how to better spend our time, identify better ways to earn our living, select what to invest in, and decide how to spend our budget. A person can accumulate a tremendous amount of money, but without wisdom he can lose it easily, anytime. Being wiser, we can also improve our relationships with our family and friends.

 

Don’t be Greedy

Based on my existing wealth of wisdom, I am constantly reminding myself not to be too attached to money as I strive to enrich my pot of gold. When investing, I need to remind myself not to be greedy. For example, when buying a stock, we should not aim for the lowest price to buy and the highest price to sell. As long as we can make a profit, we should not regret that we could have earned more. This logic also applies to our daily groceries shopping. For example, after buying groceries from a stall,we discovered that the next stall sells it at a cheaper price. Some people will go back to the first stall and demand a refund, spending a lot of time and effort to make sure they do not lose out. Actually, we should take it as a lesson learnt for future purchases, but if we are feeling cheated and ‘heart pain’,then we are missing the point. Being smart means making good decisions to make sure we always make the most gains, but with wisdom, we avoid being ‘penny wise but pounds foolish’.

 

How to Accumulate Wealth of Wisdom

 

So, the next question is, how to accumulate wisdom? My advice is to be a BuddhistPractitioner who learns and applies Buddhist Teachings in our daily lives rather than just a ‘believer’. Even though Buddha’s teachings have been passed on for thousands of years, it still has much relevance to us. Personally, they have guided me in slowly changing my thinking and mindset. I have only just started my ‘wisdom accumulation’, but I have discovered that I am not as attached to chasing materialistic goals or being caught up in consumerism. I still feel the occasional work stress when there is a tight timeline, but I am enjoying more of my work. This is because, through my Buddhist cultivation, I am more aware of my choices in life, and Iam more balanced when I seek my pot of gold.

 

Changing my outlook on life and money

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By 智扬

 

Jen Chen Buddhism is very practical and applicable in all aspects of our daily life. Recently, I realised that my outlook on life has changed. I find myself not as ‘kiasu’ (afraid of losing), and not as competitive as what our current day society has been forging us to be. Now, I am beginning to view earning money as not the most important objective in my career or even in my life. Yes, we still need to earn a living, but with a renewed perspective, I go about doing my job professionally, working to the best of my abilities and not blindly striving for the biggest profit or fat pay-checks. 

 

Growing up in a very competitive society, I used to aspire to lead a good life; I wanted to climb up the corporate ladder, own a property early and drive a fancy car – these were the benchmarks to gauge how well I am doing in my life. I now realise that these are just materialistic pursuits, and I had been following and chasing these external yardsticks in today’s ever changing world where it can be a endless pursuit. 

 

Now, I view working as more of a necessity to earn a simple living and my definition of a good life has changed. Any honest and decent job that can sustain a comfortable living is good enough. I do not need to wear fancy clothes and accessories to make myself look good, as I do not deem these as things that others will judge me on. Similarly, I do not judge others based on what they wear and how much they make. I am glad to have realised this early, rather than realising it at my deathbed when I look back and ask myself why had I spent my whole life chasing after all these materialistic stuff. We came to this world penniless and that’s how we will depart. As simply put by Jen Chen Buddhism Reverend Teacher Chen Ming-An, “there is only one path we take in our life, the path towards death” (我们人生只有一条路走,就是死路一条).

 

I know that the way I handle my finances is still not ideal. I hope to reduce my expenses in my indulgences; a meal at the hawker fills my stomach the same as a meal at an expensive restaurant. I will keep reminding myself I have more than enough clothes and shoes to wear, even when my favourite brand or a design I like is on sale. Hopefully, these savings can help to increase my contribution to those who need it more. A dollar to us may be small change, but to others, a dollar can be their family’s daily expenses for food. I know that I cannot contribute millions of dollars to make a big change but I know that I can start small and do my small part, and so can you.

 

I have finally stopped buying lottery

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By 亚花

 

Time flies, in a blink of an eye, I have taken refuge in Jen Chen Buddhism for seven years.

 

Speaking of which, it is truly a shame as I had only completely kicked away the bad habit of buying lottery within this year. I saved up the sum of money which I would have spent buying lottery and Toto, dividing a portion to contribute towards the Buddhist Centre and helping those in need. Although these amounts are small, yet after giving I felt joyous and this happinessexceeds that of winning lottery or Toto.

One day, I had a chat with my mother and she revealed that she had stopped buying lottery for a period of time. The reason was that she kept buying until she gave up as she had lost a lot of money.

 

My mother is over sixty years old this year and in her lifetime she won the top prize in lottery a few times. The highest record sum she won was twenty thousand dollars, the least amount would be a few thousand dollars but her capital to buy lottery was also not a small sum. Nowadays, she often complains that she has no money as the loss outweighs the gain.

 

My husband also tells me not to buy lottery anymore, he has saved quite a sum and his pockets have become more abundant.

I am very happy that my husband and I are able to change our habit: From buying of lottery and Toto to performing many virtuous deeds. Our lives and family has since become more blissful.