Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends, People, and Ideas

Month: August 2016

On Impermanence: Built to Last?

Pixie

The Pyramids of Giza. From sf.co.ua

The Pyramids of Giza. From sf.co.ua

We tend to think of buildings as permanent. There is even an English phrase, “As safe as houses,” which is presupposed on their ability to withstand damage and protect their contents. But is this justified? The building next to the one I’m sitting in has just been demolished, and across the road there is a new office building which opened this year next to another demolition site. Within the block there are another three buildings that were completed within the last 5 years, all on the sites of large buildings built in the last 50 years. There is a reason why there is so much redevelopment here. A new MTR station will open later this year and the area is changing from light industrial to commercial. Similar changes are taking place in many areas across Hong Kong.

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Reflections on Quality of Life at a Buddhist Studies Conference

Raymond Lam

Attendees at the conference.

Attendees at the conference.

Last Tuesday, the Buddhistdoor team returned to Hong Kong from Vancouver after attending the 6th Annual Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation Conference at The University of British Columbia (UBC). Jessica Main, the intellectually formidable and ever-kind chair of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies and Contemporary Society, kept the conference running at an impressively smooth pace. What really struck me was how she and Ven. Tian Wen, the abbot of TLKY Canada, were so even-tempered and laid-back despite their significant responsibilities. I feel the same about Alan Kwan, Buddhistdoor’s Pure Land columnist and founding editor. He’s an easy-going Vancouverite who radiates an infectious enthusiasm and love of the city (he has plenty of experience showing visitors the best spots, from tourist favorites like Granville Island and the famous Silk Road-themed restaurant East is East to his personal favorite, a Cantonese-style cha chaan teng in Richmond).

Indeed, the whole environment felt relaxed and “chill,” despite the efficient running of seminars and lectures and a general sense of academic, no-nonsense purpose among the scholars at the conference.

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A Monkey’s Tale Retold

Steve Braff

By leoplaw on DeviantArt

By leoplaw on DeviantArt

It is said that in the ninth year of the Buddha’s ministry a quarrel arose between two parties of monks. One party consisted of experts in the disciplinary code, or the Vinaya laws; the others were experts in the Dharma, or the teachings. The Buddha tried to settle the quarrel peacefully, but finally, when his efforts failed, he left them without a word, taking only his bowl and robes, and retired to the Paileyyaka Forest.

During his time in the forest, a monkey king, ministering to the needs of the Buddha, brought him honeycomb as an offering. The Buddha first refused the gift, for living larvae were in the comb. So the monkey king brought fresh comb of which the Buddha gratefully ate. The monkey was so overcome with joy when the Buddha accepted his gift that it broke his heart. The monkey king died but was rewarded for his generosity by being granted a place in heaven.

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The Moon Has Disappeared. Now What?

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Moon-and-wolf

It’s the Mid-Autumn Festival, and the whole family has gathered to play with lanterns and gaze at the beautiful full moon. Suddenly, the Moon disappears. What happens to our family and the Earth?

The Moon is a 3,475 kilometer-wide ball of rock. How could it disappear? Let’s take a look at a few different ideas, and what the effects of each would be.

One fundamental law of physics is that matter cannot be created or destroyed, so the moon could not just cease to exist. However, matter can be converted into energy, as described by Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2. Suppose the Moon was suddenly converted into energy, in the form of radiation: radio waves, microwaves, light, x-rays and cosmic rays. That would be 6.57 x 1039 Joules, which is about the same as the Sun’s total energy output for thirty five and a half years. Everything on the side of the Earth facing the Moon would be instantly vaporised, and a shockwave of hot gasses would cook everything on the far side. The Earth would be sterilised.

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Buddhism and Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll—Part 2

Guan Her Ng

xyHe Hua Temple’s name was bestowed personally by Master Hsing Yun. The Chinese characters, “荷華,” symbolize the Netherlands and its most famous floral motif, the tulip. In addition, it also represents a lotus flower in a river. The temple’s mission is not only to give the neighborhood color and joy, but more importantly cultivate the Bodhi mind within all sentient beings in Dutch society.

Amsterdam hasn’t completely shaken off its baggage and stereotypes. We must not forget that even though there are unwholesome deeds being done by people in this area, they are sentient beings who simply desire happiness and, from the perspective of Buddhist anthropology, have the inherent capability to attain enlightenment. We need to open our arms and doors to them, but at the same time it’s not an easy task for the temple to persuade them to walk a path of self-cultivation and reflection.

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Buddhism and Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll—Part 1

Guan Her Ng

firstpost1

He Hua Temple. From Guan Her Ng

He Hua Temple, a branch of Master Hsing Yun’s influential Fo Guang Shan, stands in the heart of Amsterdam’s humble Chinatown. It also happens to be next to the infamous Red Light District. Most of the people around here are searching for good food, good leisure, and good company. You’ll find all kinds of restaurants, pubs, and bars, but as the famous warning goes, do not confuse coffee shops with cafés, as one is meant for a nice cappuccino and the other for certain unwholesome deeds. Apart from the food and beverage you will also find art galleries and traditional handicraft shops. You’ll spot many tourists from around the world along the narrow canals that have helped to protect the inner city and control the flow of water underneath Amsterdam over the centuries.

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Friendship and Identity: Who is Reuniting with Who?

Raymond Lam

The beautiful nightscape of Ho Chi Minh City.

The beautiful nightscape of Ho Chi Minh City.

December last year was a delightful conclusion to 2015 for me because my best mates and I had organized a reunion in Ho Chi Minh City. I’ve known one friend since kindergarten, the other two are more or less my best university buddies. What was perhaps most encouraging, and I daresay touching, was that despite having passed so many years apart and living our own lives (we were inseparable in the old days), the moment we got back together it was as if we had travelled back in time seven years, because our goofy personalities—sides we wouldn’t show to our parents and partners—hadn’t changed a jot. Our joy at making each other laugh hadn’t changed, either.

At the same time, though, we were unmistakably different people. We had moved on from certain interests or hobbies and taken up new interests. Some of us had lost girlfriends or partnered up with new ones. We had divergent priorities, hopes, and anxieties. We certainly all had different professional and academic paths, although we always saw this as a strength. Amidst the “continuity” and how easily we got back into the groove of 2009, when the four of us were last together, it was striking to see that we could never define ourselves as we once had.

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