Children Class Learning Trip to the Garden

By 慧珠

On 12 Oct 2017, I brought my 2 grandchildren to attend an outdoor activity organised by our Buddhist Centre’s Children Class facilitators. It was an outing to a vegetable and fruit garden at Ulu Pandan. The garden was conveniently situated next to an activity area where the facilitators intended for lessons to be carried out at. 

The facilitators came early in the morning to wipe the tables, sweep the floor and clean the toilet at the activity centre to ensure a clean and hygenic environment for everyone. One of them even prepared her home-grown organic sugarcane with lemongrass drink that she wanted to share with everyone!

When the children and their parents arrived, the facilitators led the children in a simple singing activity and exercise routine to warm up. After that, they brought everyone to the garden and introduced the various plants in it to us. It was a very fruitful and enjoyable experience that we enjoyed immensely. 

The following is what we learnt at the vegetable garden:

1. A banana plant can only grow a bunch of bananas in its lifetime. After harvesting the fruit, the plant is chopped down as the mother plant will die after producing a bunch of bananas. However, around the base of the roots of the banana plant are many baby banana plants that will grow into banana plants eventually. 

2. How to grow vegetables:

First, loosen the soil and create a little hole in it to place the seedling. After that, tamp the soil down to ensure that the roots make direct contact with the soil. If there are leaves on the seedling, we have to trim the leaves out or they will rot in the soil which will affect the growth of the vegetable plant.

Be very careful not to hurt the earthworms when digging holes in the soil. Gardeners have to be maintain awareness so as not to hurt other living creatures in the process of planting.

Besides providing the plant with adequate sunlight, fertiliser and water, it is very important to remove the weeds growing around the plant as the weeds will fight with the plant for sunlight, water and nutrients.  When thinking about weeding in relation to the Dharma, I feel that weeding is similar to the mental anguish we carry in our hearts. If we do not let go of the mental anguish and negative thoughts, they will suffocate the innate brightness we all have and prevent it from shining through.

3. We also learnt how to make compost from soy beans, fruit peel and vegetable scraps. After having buried them in the soil for 3 months, they will break down into fertiliser. This is 100% organic fertiliser with no chemicals. I feel that this way of fertilising is cheap and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, it is a meaningful way of doing our bit for the environment by recycling waste that could had eventually ended up in a landfill.

When we returned to the activity centre, the children played a game of treasure hunt which they thoroughly enjoyed. One of the facilitators gave out some activity sheets related to gardening for the children to complete and to apply their knowledge of what they had learnt in the garden. 

The children read an article on Buddhism and gardening. The following is a summary of the article.

  1. The author described how his step-father used to say he was stupid and useless from a very young age till he was 13 years old. As a result his self-esteemed suffered. Because he had little confidence and his self-esteem very low, he grew up to be a selfish, ignorant and arrogant person. He would steal, beat up other people and make fun of people who were suffering. When his mother or grandmother tried to teach him, he would pretend to listen when in reality, he did not accept their care and advice. As a result of all the bad seeds he was planting in the garden of his mind, it became full of weeds.
  2. After many years, he felt that he had completely lost control and unable to free himself from the kind of person he had become. All the years of cultivating bad seeds had turned him into an angry, selfish and ignorant person.
  3. He came to the feel shame and unhappiness at the pain he had caused to other people and tried to remove the weeds (bad habits) and started to plant good seeds that will reap hope, compassion and love. The author also tried to encourage others who were like him, lost in the darkness of the bad habits they had cultivated and taught how to remove the weeds so that they can change their lives for the better.
  4. The author also learnt that only constant reflection and weeding would lead to a peaceful and clear mind. He taught children the law of causality: if you plant a bad seed, you will reap bitter fruit and if you plant a good seed, the fruit you reap will be sweet and healthy. The role of reflection is to allow oneself to see the weeds in their mind and remove their accordingly. Only then will peace and brightness prevail.

After reading and reflecting on this article with the children, the  facilitators served a delicious vegetarian lunch which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. 


I feel that this learning trip was a meaningful and fruitful one. The children not only learnt about how to garden in a mindful and compassionate manner, they also related the experience to the Dharma and the law of causality of reaping what you sow. 

The Children Class facilitators put in a lot of effort to look after and teach the children every Saturday. They will do their best to look for suitable teaching material like videos, stories, art work and games to teach the children good values and cultivate the seeds of Dharma. Besides that, they also prepare snacks for the children to eat during break time to ensure that the children do not go hungry. Their quiet and unselfish dedication is indeed, inspiring. My four-year-old grandchild enjoys attending the Children Dharma class and I am very grateful to the facilitators who sometimes play and teach him on a 1 to 1 basis because he is much younger than the rest of the children. I want to take this chance to express my gratitude to all the facilitators in the children class. Be with Buddha!

Failure & Success

By Jia Jia Toh

For many students, high school/university has finished for the year and results have been published. For some, the outcome may be good, and for others, the outcome may not be as we had hoped. When we do not receive the outcome we want, our emotions tend to take over and feelings of frustration, anger and sadness may arise. This is not just limited to school results, but rather, anything that could get in the way of our success and happiness can cause us to doubt our own capabilities and point blame at others.

One thing that Buddhism teaches us is to reflect on ourselves, realise where we had gone wrong, and change it. This could mean changing our habitual tendencies and self-reflecting using introspection in order to find the cause of our mistakes. This then makes the mistake valuable, as learning from where we went wrong will build the foundation for our future successes and allow us to mature as a person. Thus, our mistakes become successes as well.

As Reverend Ming-An Chen once said,

“A person who faces setbacks and failures, but lacks the ability to self-reflect, has definitely conceded total defeat to their failures. A truly successful person is able to self-reflect amidst failures and setbacks. He/she examines the causes and consequences of his/her failures and becomes more mature than before. As these setbacks and failures leave no scars in his/her heart and mind, he/she instead becomes more experienced and courageous. Most people think it is not possible, that is why few succeed.”

When faced with failures and setbacks, it can be challenging and we often find it easier to just give up, but we must remember not to fall victim to our failures and mistakes. We need to see through hardships and setbacks, and transform them into positive mindset and concepts. When we fail, we must observe ourselves. Just being able to do so is a success in itself.


“A successful person finds solutions. A failure finds excuses.” – Reverend Ming-An Chen

In order to change, we need to change our mindset. If we do not do so, our mentality, lifestyle and conduct will remain static despite our best wishes to change.

I hope this message serves as a confidence booster for anyone who feels dejected about any hardship in life.



* Becoming Wise – 80 practical words of wisdom essential to inner growth, peace and happiness in everyday life. By Reverend Ming-An Chen

* Sprouting Your Wisdom Life – 100 practical words of wisdom essential to growth, happiness and everyday life. By Reverend Ming-An Chen

A sharing

By Jia Jia Toh

The last couple of months have been rather shocking, affecting each and every one of us all around the world in different ways. While everyone across the country continues to battle COVID-19, recently in America, there has been much dispute over police brutality, racial injustice and violence against people of colour.

On 25th May 2020, a police officer in Minnesota pinned a 46 year old African-American man, George Floyd, to the ground, and pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck, eventually suffocating him. This caused fury and anger across the entire globe as people took to social media to lash out their anger and protests lit up the streets of America and Australia. These events have caused many of us to feel emotions of anger and anguish, but “How do we fight this injustice while not hating the ones who perpetuate it?” How do we fight against injustice and support our well-being at the same time?

The first step is look within at the thoughts that arise in our mind. Our mind stores many seeds (thoughts) in our store-consciousness. Feelings of hate, anger, despair or warmth are found here, and these seeds may be triggered by things we hear, see and touch in our environment. For example, if someone cuts us in line at a supermarket, the seed of anger may be activated. If you live in a country where riots are aplenty and the police pose a threat, fear may continue to grow within you. Without knowing/being aware, these seeds may continue to silently accumulate within us every day.

The second step is to notice and become aware of these emotions. We must not deny them, but accept them and let them pass. By understanding that these thoughts are nothing more than temporary feelings that arise in the moment, we can begin to cultivate positive thoughts and abstain from negative thoughts such as hatred and violence. As Reverend Ming-An Chen once said, “If our mindset is wrong and mental state unsound, the resulting actions will definitely be wrong.”

Instead of resorting to physical and verbal violence, we should reflect on our speech and action, and cultivate compassion and an open heart when faced with any negativity because a heart filled with peace and kindness is always stronger than a heart filled with hatred and violence.

Earning our big pot of gold

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 guilty of 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 live it 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 Buddhist Practitioner 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 I am more balanced when I seek my pot of gold.