Monday, October 31, 2011

Remembering my maternal grandma...

It has been a year since my first Buddhist retreat
Recently, I recalled a lesson that  Thich Nhat Nanh  taught us.

Firstly, Thich asked us to imagine what are the things that we are proud of that are inherited from our parents.
I inherited my height and mathematical mind from my dad.
I inherited (learnt) patience and kindness from my mum.
I am grateful towards my parents.

Then, he told us to think deeper about the qualities that we inherited from our grandparents.
I have never met my maternal grandfather.
I started to think about my maternal grandmother who passed away when I was 8 years old.

I started to cry when I thought of the hardship that my maternal grandmother had to go through. She single-handedly raised 4 young children in a foreign land (She came from China), as my grandfather (an alcoholic) died when my mother was young. She never remarry and learned from scratch to run her own small business. She was very thrifty (in fact, stingy towards herself), and would rather spend money on her children. She made many sacrifices to raise her 4 kids, but she passed away before she could enjoy life.

I cried as I felt that Life was unfair.
Despite making so much sacrifices and enduring so much hardship, 
she did not enjoy the fruit of her labor.
She was a very strong and determined lady. 

Then, Thich said that all our forefathers are with us now.
Look inside of ourselves.
They are inside our DNA and Genes.

I took comfort that she is living inside of me as long as my blood is flowing.
I am bringing her with me when I was traveling the world.
I just hope that I could be as strong and as resilient as her.
By living a good life, I am honoring her.

We should be grateful towards all our forefathers.
Whenever we think that we are great, 
think of the qualities that we inherited from them.

Let's be Grateful.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On Being Judgmental

HIV Ribbon
- a symbol for both drug prevention and for the fight against AIDS

A few months ago, I attended the volunteer training course for HIV/AIDS patients. One of the prerequisite of being a volunteer is that we should not be judgmental, and we should not ask sensitive question like how do you contracted the HIV virus.

A doctor shared a story about his conversation with an middle-age female volunteer (of a certain religious faith). The volunteer was commenting that the patients had to blame themselves for being promiscuous and unable to control their sexual desire. Then, the doctor asked the volunteer if she had experienced such a strong urge and sexual desire before? The volunteer said that she did not have strong sexual desire. Then, the doctor told the volunteer that she has no reason to judge them, as she does not understand what they are going through.

That's so enlightening!
Before we make any judgment on anybody, 
perhaps, we should ask ourselves if we could truly understand what that person is going through.

One New Experience Each Week - Istana

I was thinking of procrastinating the Istana visit and spending my Deepavali Holiday lazing around. May be I could visit the Istana next year. This is the exactly why I had never visited Istana - it will always be there. Then, I asked myself... what if I am not around next year?

Main Gate of Istana

City Skyline from Istana

Statue of Queen Victoria - A Remnant of the British Colonial Rule

Mr Lee Kuan Yew (First Prime Minister of Singapore) said at his wife's wake that one of the happiest moments in his life was strolling in Istana with his wife in the evenings. Indeed, Istana is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the manicured "lawn" and beautiful garden... But not everybody have the privilege to enjoy the peace and tranquility of this place without a crowd.

Newly elected President Dr Tony Tan

The main building

I love the greens and the weather was cooling.
So what's the best way to enjoy the moment?

Strolling on the green barefooted....
Feeling the softness of the ground...
Walking freely...

When I got off the green and got back to the pavement,
I overheard someone commenting
"Oh... the ground was wet and muddy..."

I was thinking
"Ah....h Singaporeans...."

A Conversation with Grandma

My Grandma (93 years old) was hospitalized recently, and I was delighted when she was felt comfortable after I massaged her legs and foot. My parents were pleasantly surprised that I would massage her legs, as that was the first time they saw me massaging legs. (Thanks to my volunteering experience with the HIV/AIDS patients, if I could massage a sick stranger’s leg, I could massage on anybody. No ego issues.)

I never had a long conversion with my Grandma, as I could hardly communicate in Hokkien, the only Chinese dialect that she speaks. She was born in China on 1918, 7 years after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, which marks the end of the 2000+ years of Imperial Rule of various Dynasties. She grew up in the tumultuous period of Modern China – Civil War, Japanese Invasion (World War II), the rise of Communism in China.

Chairman Mao
(Taken at Beijing University of Posts & Telecommunication)

She came from a good family, as she was educated and literate. It was uncommon for a girl to be educated during the feudal period of China. During the Japanese Invasion, my grandma (in her twenties) ran away from the City to do farming in rural – She sighed that it was a lot of hardship. Then I asked her about the rise of Communism, and I sense her anger towards Communism and Mao Zedong. She said that everybody was suffering – eating roots and tree barks.  She said that even if you have money, there is no food available. She said that she would be Extremely Happy to have a bowl of rice (which is a rarity).  A lot of people were starving and life was extremely difficult. It’s about survival. Shortly after that, she left China and came to Singapore.

I really could not comprehend the challenges, fears and hardship that her generation of people experienced. Life was really fragile and difficult. We are the lucky generation that was savoring the fruit of the sacrifice made by the previous generations. We pale in comparison, and our problems (job security, relationship problems, money woes, dissatisfaction with life) are trivial in comparison.

After the conversation with Grandma, I ate my dinner that evening with gratitude.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

RIP Charmaine

Charmaine Lim (14 July 2005 - 21 Oct 2011)

On June 2009, I sent an email to all my friends asking them to help Charmaine Lim with her fight against Cancer. I also tried to use my blog to spread the word. 

Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer recently. On the other hand, I am glad that she was no longer feeling pain. I have not met her, but I have met her mum back in my Junior College days.

I just felt sad that a young life has not seen and experienced life, and had to struggle with illness for years. I guess many people have many explanations (ie. God's Will, Ripening of past lives Karma, Survival of the Fittest etc..) . I found comfort in that she had been showered with unconditional love by so many people and strangers...

That's the beautiful thing in life.
Love and Compassion.

Om Mani Padme Hum

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book: The Tao of Warren Buffett

 Below are some quotes from the Sage of Omaha - Warren Buffett.

"You can't make a good deal with a bad person"

"It is easier to stay out of trouble than it is to get out of trouble."

"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

"There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult."

"You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don't do too many things wrong."

"That which is not worth doing at all is not worth doing well." 

"We never look back. We just figure there is so much to look forward to that there is no sense thinking of what we might have done. It just doesn't make any difference. You can only live life forward.

"I'm very suspect of the person who is very good at one business - it also could be a good athlete or a good entertainer - who starts thinking they should tell the world how to behave on everything. For us to think that jus because we made a lot of money, we're going to be better at giving advice on every subject - well, that's just crazy." 

"We do not have, never have had, and never will have an opinion about where the stock market, interest rates, or business activity will be a year from now."

"Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars"


I enjoyed reading these investment books, as it is not just about investment principles and philosophies, but also life lessons and philosophies. 

Quote: "Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago"

(Taken at Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India) 

"Someone is sitting in the shade today 
because someone planted a tree a long time ago."
- Warren Buffett


Think of the things we are enjoying now:

The peace
The safety
The equality
The basic human rights
The religious freedom
The clean water
The education
The healthcare

We should learn to practice to live in Gratitude.
Many things that we are enjoying now are the results of the innovation, sacrifice, hard work, pain, war, riots, protests, illness, sadness, hardship that many human beings before us have went through .

This is the law of inter-dependency.
We are not alone, and we are dependent on each other.

And more importantly, we should be grateful towards our parents and our predecessors. 
 Remember that we are enjoying the fruits of their labour and sacrifice.
For that, we should honor them by living a good life and live in Gratitude.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Parliament Proceeding

Attended the first day of the Parliament Proceeding. In fact, a lot of people are not aware that public are allowed to watch the Parliament Proceeding.

It was a good experience to see the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers. The only challenge is that the seats are too comfortable and some of the speeches could be too draggy and so-politically correct & expected (aka boring) that you could doze off.

The only good thing about falling sick…

I fell sick last week, and it has been sometime since I felt so bad. I suspect it was food poisoning – bad Diarrhea (waking up almost every hour at night to relief myself), feeling nausea, vomited, having muscle aches all over my body, head was spinning, feeling cold and weak …

I think of the quote “pain is inevitable and suffering is optional”. The problem is that my body is in such a discomfort that I could not think properly as well. I think of death, I think of getting well soon… I also realized that this physical body that I was born with, will eventually collapse and bring me a lot of pain in the future as I grow older (assuming I don’t die young). Understanding the Impermanence of Life intellectually is good reminder, however, feeling the Impermanence of Law is, in fact, very scary.  

Well, the only good thing about falling sick is that it is a reminder of vulnerability of life. A reminder that health is wealth, it’s cliché, but it is so true.  An opportunity to feel weak and vulnerable, so that I could empathize the sufferings and fear of other people. A chance to reaffirm that simple thing in life is good enough and satisfying. A time to be appreciative of the simple joy of living.

Simple Lunch.
Porridge & Cai Xin.
Simple, yet Nice.
Love it. 
The other good thing about falling sick… is losing weight. 
I lost 2kg.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book: Your Money & Your Brain

This is an interesting book about human psychology, with emphasis on decision making on money related matters. Below are some extracts, hopefully it can keep you thinking:

"Imagine that you could choose between winning $3000 for sure, on the one hand, or gamble with an 80% chance of winning $4000 and 20% chance of winning nothing. If you are like most people, you will pick the sure thing. Next, imagine that you can choose between losing $3000 for sure, or a gamble with 80% odds of losing $4000 and 20% odds of losing nothing. What would you do? In this case, people reject the sure thing and take the gamble 92% of the time."

"A test was done with Godiva chocolates, the people who had selected one piece of candy from a display of 6 were much happier with their choice than those who picked one out of an array of 30 different candies. The more choices they left on the table, the more they worried that the one they picked was not the best. Too much of a good thing creates "choice overload", releasing a swarm of potential regrets."

"A study of dozens of Olympic athletes showed that, on average, bronze medalists were happier than silver medalists. After all, the silver medalists just missed the gold, while those who won the bronze just missed earning no medal at all."

" Imagine 2 situations - In one, you buy the biggest house in a middle-class neighborhood, in the other, you buy the smallest house in a rich part of town. In both cases, you earn an upper-middle-class income and pay the same price for each house. Which Neighbourhood will you be happier in?"

The ending note on this Investment Book:---

"Doing and Being are better than Having
Having centers around purchases and possessions (quite often shortlived). Doing is about experiences and activities (ie. Gathering with friends, Traveling to new places). Being is about something larger than yourself: devoting a portion of your time and energy to an idea, a cause or a community. Having creates diminishing returns; the more accustomed you become to whatever you buy, the less happiness you get from it. The good news is that the money you spend on Doing and Being gives a much longer afterglow, as experiences burnish themselves in your memory and belonging brightens your self-esteem. In the end, living a rich life depends less on how much you own than on how much you do, what you stand for, and how fully you reach your own potential.

The best "value investment" of all is channeling your money into goals that will make your life more valuable: drawing out your innate gifts to make yourself matter to other people and to make the world around you a better place. Given the way the brain works, your happiness ultimately depends not on finding out how much you can buy but on learning how much you can be."



Saturday, October 15, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Pulau Rawa, Malaysia

Pulau Rawa main attraction is its white sandy beach, crystal clear water & proximity to Singapore. It only took us around 4 hours to arrive at the island. Within 4 hours, we were transported from a concrete jungle to an island paradise. 

I really needed this break, as I was facing a lot of unhappiness and anger at work during the week. I was grateful to spend my weekend with people who I can trust and be comfortable with. 


White Sandy Beach

Crystal Clear Water

The newly wed (PY & ZY)

We were lucky to have a sunny day! 
(It had been raining heavily and cloudy for the past few days)

So happy that we could levitate!!!

The other side of the island is a cliff.

Exploring the hilltop of the island

Enjoying the view and sunset by the cliff with friends.

Sunset from the hilltop.

Moonlit Night

3 of the guys (including myself) were playing table tennis at the resort. We were like young kids trying to win and compete... and it brought back fond memories of our teenage years playing table tennis at the void deck. Same people. Worse Skill. Different Place. And slightly Older.

One of the unexpected yet enjoyable experience was strolling along the beach, and then soaking and swimming in the water in the moonlit night. Floating on the water and observing the boundless sky. What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night.

That's Life!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lesson from Steve Jobs: One more thing

"We didn’t use words like “mindfulness practice” back then, and my only knowledge of Buddhism had come from art history classes. Yet this calling-back to consciousness, this art of checking in and course correcting, taught me something my upbringing and education had not: the importance of the “now,” the preciousness of each moment, the essential connection between process and outcome.

As Steve evolved as a leader and as a man, he honed this very practice, taking presence and mindfulness to a world-changing level. His sense of purpose and personal responsibility shone as he continued to create, shape, inspire, and exact exceptional performance in the people he led.


Today, I feel deeply grateful to share it here, offering it in hopes that maybe you’ll pick it up, make it your own. Use it to help shape your own audacious dream, something driven by hunger and foolishness and focus and purpose, because that is what Steve showed us is possible. Use it with the absolute conviction that every life and every moment matters, because we’ve seen that this can be true. Use it to expand your potential to be great – perhaps insanely so – in some way that matters to you.
And use it to remember an incomparable man who has touched so many lives in small or course-changing ways. Thank you, Steve, for teaching us the power of a moment. Thank you, Steve, for all that you’ve taught us."

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

It is one of those moments in life when you remember for a long time… what you were doing, where you were… when you heard the news. I also vividly remember those moments during 11 sept 2011 and the death of Michael Jackson.

I am really sad. I certainly have never felt so sad when other rich tycoons or businessman died.  Steve Jobs had many labels – Visionary, Leader, Creative Genius, Innovator, Tycoon, and most importantly, an Inspiration. His life is an inspiration. His speeches were inspiring (esp. the commencement speech at Stanford University on 2005).

Below are some of the quotes that I would always remember:

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart….

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Quoting from Wildmild Buddhist Meditation:
Steve Jobs, who was a Buddhist, talked eloquently about how an awareness of impermanence enriched his life.

Even the greatest innovator and visionary of our time does not escape the Law of Impermanence. (And Steve understood it). Nobody or Anything has ever escaped this Universal Law. Rather than being sad about it, be aware of the Impermanence, use it as a strength and reminder to live the best possible life. 

“Screenshot of Apple Website using my IPhone”
This is my way of remembering Steve Jobs.

Thank you Steve. 
May you rest in peace.
May you seek refuge in Buddha.

Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely
- Buddha

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


In the movie Dumb and Dumber, Jim Carrey's Character, Lloyd, asks the love of his what his chances are of making her love him, too. 

"Not good," replies Mary Swanson.
"Not good like one out of a hundred?" asks Lloyd haltingly.
Mary answers, "I'd say more like one out of a million."
Exclaims Lloyd; "So you're telling me there's a chance? YEAH!"


Now, that's Optimism.


"Pain is inevitable, 
Suffering is optional
- Buddhist Saying

Save the World's Saddest Dolphins

A Dialogue session with the 72 years old Ric O'barry (the activist featured in the Academy Award Winning Documentary - The Cove) and Louis Ng (founder of ACRES) on Captive Dolphins and the struggle to get Resort World Sentosa to release the Wild Dolphins.

For anybody are supporting the capturing of the Wild Dolphins, please watch the documentary - The Cove. I watched the movie and it is hard to understand why Human Beings are capable of such brutality. 

I was asking myself:
"Why am I here in the dialogue session on a Tuesday evening?" 
"Why do I bother to support the cause?"
"Why are so many people around me supporting the cause?"
"Why do Ric & Louis bother to spend so much time and effort on this cause?"

Then Ric said something like 
"We get into a campaign because it is the right thing to do. Not to win."

Because it is the right thing to do. 
Sometimes, we could not just sit back and do nothing.
Both Ric and Louis are amazing people devoting their lives to worthy causes. Respect!

We assume that we are the greatest species. We have the brain to outsmart and dominate every animal on this earth. Some people even told me that their God created animals for us to eat! (That really infuriates me!!!) Who give us the right to exploit the animals? Are you fine with another person enslaving you just because the other person is more powerful? 

FAQs on captive dolphins:

Ric is absolutely right and very wise to say this:
"The key to solving all our environmental problems is to control our desires."

Sunday, October 02, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - City Harvest Church

Last week, I visited one of the most successful charismatic churches in Singapore - City Harvest Church. I wanted to understand the success of City Harvest Church and its founding pastor - Kong Hee, who is currently under investigation by Singapore Police for misuse of church fund.  

Mobilizing the whole church to bless a Chinese national (successful businessman) who is on a mission to evangelize the Christian Faith in China.

The whole service felt like a rock concert, with a lot of young people. The whole setup was very impressive - playing inspirational music, great vocalists, great live band and good atmosphere. It is not surprising that it is a popular church. 

There were moments when the pastor Kong Hee was speaking in tongues, and it caused the whole church into a frenzy where everybody started to speak in tongues. There was a group energy flowing around the church, and people were getting excited, energized and more passionate. In another words, people are getting emotional. It is the same feeling as those political rallies which I attended. I believe there is a collective energy in big congregation of people to rally, influence, brainwash people in a highly emotionally charged environment. In fact, this is the BEST way to influence people is when they are highly emotional and less rational. 

The pastor and speakers are like motivational speakers - selling hope and optimism that something great will happen if you believe, accept and trust God. They featured successful people, sharing stories of ordinary folks  devoting selflessly to serve their God, sharing story of born-again Christian whom was saved by God during their darkest moment in life. And one of the best selling techniques of all time: To show an example of a previous skeptics who had great success in life and pledges his life towards God and Church, and using words like "Dreams are realized". After that, a group prayer with vigor and energy filled the hall.

Pastor Kong Kee is very smart to select a verse from the Bible ("arise and build") to talk about fund raising for the church. He also shared news about highly successful people supporting the cause. I quote him "If you are building God house, you are building your own house."

Overall, I am very impressed with the church's ability to engage people. I am happy that I achieved my objective of understanding the success of this Charismatic Church. At the same time, I am quite uncomfortable with the whole approach. I guess this is not my cup of tea, and I am not convinced.