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inform us how the education at NTI has inspired them So, please allow me to end with two quotes.   First
to serve as bodhisattvas of a troubled world.  is an extract from “Go to the Limits of Your
Longing,” a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke: 
What’s your parting words of advice for us during
this Covid-19 pandemic so that we can maintain “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.  
peace and calm in our daily lives?  Just keep going. No feeling is final.” 

I wonder how many people lived in peace and calm pre- Yes, no feeling is final – Covid has taught us that no
Covid? In The Symbolic Life, Swiss psychiatrist and mutation is final and so, we cannot expect to abide
psychoanalyst, Carl Jung writes, by any form or feeling. Finally, an extract from David
Whyte’s “Coleman’s Bed”: 
 “it is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine,
not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer but man “Live in this place  
himself who is man’s greatest danger to man, for the as you were meant to and then, 
simple reason that there is no adequate protection surprised by your abilities,  
against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more become the ancestor of it all,  
devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes.”  the quiet, robust and blessed Saint  
that your future happiness  
The pandemic is reshaping how we live and work and will always remember.”
how we relate to one another. We are working from
home, schooling our children from home, and attending Take heart that you are always sowing the seeds of your
funerals from home. As restrictions ease, there is a future happiness.  Have faith in your quiet, robust, and
lot of uncertainty and anxiety building up but also blessed Buddha nature!  EH
opportunities.  It is the perfect time for us to build a
culture of care based on our intrinsic Buddha nature so
that we do not let psychic epidemics take over our lives. 


The Buddha Dharma
has no Gender

By Ven Dr Tenzin Dadon

Receiving the Outstanding Buddhist Women Venerable Tenzin Dadon (Sonam Wangmo) was born in Bhutan in 1977.
Award, Bangkok, Thailand, 2012 She became a novice nun at the age of 16 in 1993 and received her
sramaneri ordination from HH The 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in
1999. Venerable Tenzin holds a B.A. in Buddhism from Jamyang Choling
Institute, India, M.A. in Buddhist Studies from Delhi University, India
and International Buddhist College, Songkhla, Southern Thailand, and
Ph.D. in Gender and Religion from University of Malaya, Malaysia. She
has participated in many Sakyadhita International Conference for
Buddhist Women, as presenter, translator and moderator. She received
the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards on 2 March 2012 at
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, for her contribution to Buddhist
women in the Himalaya region. Benny Liow interviewed Venerable
Tenzin about her life as a Buddhist nun and her projects to help Buddhist
women, including nuns, in Bhutan and in the Himalayan region.

Puja for devotees at the Thrangu Dharma Benny: You chose to become Bhutan talking about going to India
Retreat centre, Ipoh, 2017. a nun at the young age of 16 to study in a nunnery, and I asked if
when other teenagers your age they could take me along. They then
Delivering a Dharma talk at the Selangor and would be more attracted in spoke to a Bhutanese nun leading a
Kuala Lumpur Paramita Buddhist Society, 12 movies, dating, and other worldly nunnery in North India who said I
Oct 2019 attractions. What motivated you could join them. After I made up my
to renounce at such a young age? mind, I told my parents and siblings
about my decision as I needed
Tenzin Dadon: Yes, I became a nun money to travel to India.
at the age of 16 but I was a nun from
heart since I was six or seven years Both your B.A. and M.A degrees
old. I used to tell my mom I wanted were on Buddhism, and your
to be a nun but she never allowed Ph.D. was on gender and religion.
me to. Since young I never had How did your academic study
interest in worldly matters. I prefer help you in your spiritual practice
to wear dark colored clothes like the as a Buddhist nun?
elders, visit temples and do prayers
during school holidays. I was very I have progressed much in my
happy with such activities and understanding and practice of
never thought of dating or going to Buddhism after obtaining my
the movies. When I was 16 years academic qualifications, which also
old, I heard some Zanskari nuns in helped to broaden my horizon.


Doing Pre-survey of a Nuns Retreat Centre, With this knowledge, I now have nuns but due to some regulatory
2013 the confidence to support others in restrictions by the Government
various ways, including teaching. and the onslaught of the Covid-19
Recipients of scholarship from Bhutan. Although both my degrees were on pandemic, it is now put on hold.
Buddhism, the focus was different. Nevertheless, I am helping nuns
Care for needy animals, including kittens. For my M.A. degree, I learnt about and children from underprivileged
different Buddhist traditions which families to pursue their education
Nuns from Jamyang Choling Institute, gave me a wider perspective of the with the support of fellow Dharma
Dharamsala, India, receiving free Ipads for vastness of Buddhist teachings. I friends. There are a few nuns who
their on-line study preparing for the Geshema hope that by getting a Ph.D. as a are preparing for the highest degree
exams during the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020. nun, this recognition of academic of Geshema introduced for the
achievement will inspire and spur first time for nuns in 2016. Some
Prayer for the deceased father of a friend, other nuns to have the confidence children are just starting a pre-
Kuala Lumpur 2019, with Ven Dr Karma Tashi to study and progress despite their university study and some nuns
Choeden of Malaysia gender. In the current environment, are preparing to go for long term
nuns in Bhutan mainly serve the retreat, hence I try to help them
monks or the monasteries and fulfil their dream. However, I am
are not given much opportunity still looking for sponsors for these
to study nor teach others even if good causes. Once the pandemic is
they have the qualifications and over, I hope to re-start the retreat
knowledge. So I hope to be the center for nuns and at the same
catalyst for this change of mind-set time help educate the children and
of the nuns. women in and around the village.
In terms of animal welfare, I help
My academic learning in a secular stray animals by feeding them,
university also allows me to especially if they are malnourished.
understand not just other Buddhist If they are injured or sick, I would
traditions, but other religions as take them to the vet and sometimes
well, and the real-life challenges rehome them through the help of
that we face in the world today. It is social media as we do not have
important for us to apply modern our own animal shelter. I also wish
methods to overcome the problems to educate people to be kind to
we face in society today. animals and raise an awareness of
animal welfare. By participating in
You have a deep interest in seminars and conferences, I also
animal welfare, the environment highlight the water crisis, climate
and climate change, and change, and global warming. Most
women’s rights issues, especially importantly, I hope to empower
among female monastics in the women to be educated as this is the
Himalayan region. What projects only way to rise above the problems
have you initiated to put these they face in life.
interests into action?
Can you share a bit more about
I don’t have any particular your retreat center for nuns and
projects on hand yet but I try to the type of support you need
help wherever necessary. I plan right now?
to establish a retreat center for


Teaching Buddhism to children and parents, Maha Karuna Buddhist Society, A Talk on Animal Care and Protection Forum, Palace of the Golden

Selangor, 2018 Horses, 5 Oct 2019

For the time being, I have stopped with Venerable Dr. Karma Tashi There is a marked difference in the
collecting funds for the retreat Choedron a forthcoming book titled way the life and liberation stories are
center for the nuns. However, for “I can be Enlightened Too” about told, if written by females.
the children’s education, I need to female Buddhist masters in Tibetan
sponsor a few children to further Buddhism. Currently, we do have Can you highlight some teachings
their studies as they cannot afford many contemporary women masters from the scriptures, especially
to pay the enrolment and travel in Bhutan and Tibet or in other parts from the Tibetan canon, where
expenditures. Some nuns have of the world. In the case of female the Buddha categorically spoke
also approached me for financial masters, their stories have not been against gender discrimination,
support but I couldn’t meet their documented, and their teachings and that enlightenment can be
needs as many of my sponsors remained in oral form and known attained by both men and women?
are also affected financially by the only to local communities where
Covid-19 pandemic. If I have enough they lived. However, a few reliable A: The Buddha declared that men
funds, I would like to support the full biographies and liberation and women have equal spiritual
pre-university education of the stories (hagiographies) have been potential to attain liberation from
children, the Geshema examination translated into English, but there saṃsāra. In the same vein, race,
of the nuns sitting for it, and various are hardly any biographies of 20th caste and social standing are not to
retreat accommodations for the century illustrious female masters. be taken as barriers to pursue the
nuns doing retreats. Moreover, most of the biographies highest spiritual goal in Buddhism.
documented are of female masters According to the Buddha, spiritual
Most Buddhist teachers are from Tibet even though Tibetan progress depends on the quality
male. Are there any prominent Vajrayāna Buddhism is practiced in of one’s actions rather than traits
female Dharma masters Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mongolia and inherited at birth (Gross, 1996).
in Bhutan (or in Tibetan Buryatia. Precious little is known
Buddhism) who have strongly of female masters outside of Tibet. In Highest Yoga Tantra, even the
influenced society and culture? Almost all female personalities first step of receiving empowerment
mentioned are portrayed through is possible only on the basis of the
A: Yes, there were and there are androcentric lens, i.e. from the presence of a complete assembly of
still a significant number of female perspective of male religious male and female deities as stated by
Dharma teachers in Tibetan personalities, whereby the female HH the 14th Dalai Lama in “Survey of
Buddhism. I mentioned them in the adept is almost always portrayed the Paths of Tibetan Buddhism”. The
thesis of my second M.A. degree from as an emanation of a ḍākinī, female role is strongly emphasized
the International Buddhist College, never an ordinary woman, which in Highest Yoga Tantra. According
Thailand, titled “Soteriological contrasts with the accounts in to HH the Dalai Lama, “To despise
Androgyny and Eminent Buddhist autobiographies. There are only four a woman is a transgression of one
Women Masters in Tibetan Vajrayāna autobiographies by female masters of the root tantric vows. Also, in
Buddhism”. I am also co-authoring in Tibetan Vajrayāna Buddhism. the actual practice of meditating


Robe offering at Zilukha Nunnery, Bhutan, 28 Oct 2015

on mandala deities, the deity and attainments simply because ultimately, there is no gender in the
concerned is often female, such emptiness transcends gender realm of absolute truth. Simmer-
as Vajra Yogini or Nairatmaya”. (Gross, 1996). A Tibetan proverb Brown quotes Khenpo Tsultrim
Failure to keep the vows properly clearly illustrates this point: “In Gyatso’s spontaneous song on this
results in a root tantric downfall. the enlightened thought there is no matter:
The rationale behind this vow is male and female. In the enlightened Between ḍāka and ḍākinīs there’s a
that women symbolize wisdom and speech there is no near and far” difference
emptiness. As the great Tibetan (Gutschow, 2004: 5). The śūnyatā In how their bodies may seem in
yogi Milarepa affirmed (as cited in doctrine essentially espouses that apparent reality,
Simmer- Brown, (2002: 182): “dharma is neither male nor female”, But for Mahāmudrā, luminous clarity,
Woman is essentially wisdom, i.e. beyond all dualistic conceptions. There’s not an atom of difference in
Source of spontaneous prajñā and their essential nature.
subtle-body. In the Mahāyāna Mahasukhavati
Never consider her inferior; Vyuha Sutra, it is mentioned that in Changchub and Nyingpo assert
Strive especially to see her as the Pureland of Buddha Amitābha, that the first ever Tibetan to attain
Vajravārāhī. known as Dewachen in Tibetan, complete enlightenment was a
there is no man or woman, meaning woman, Yeshe Tsogyal.
Biernacki (2006: 192) explains that beings born in the Pureland are
that the tantric pledges are not androgynous. Dualistic notions such Guru Padmasambhava proclaimed
about worshipping supramundane as man and woman are not present to Yeshe Tsogyal that when a
female deities but rather, it is about in the Pureland of Buddha Amitābha. woman practices the path with
“venerating ordinary living women”. pure bodhicitta, her potential for
In the practice of tantra and enlightenment is greater than that
Highest Yoga Tantra such as especially in Highest Yoga Tantra, of men because she is the very
Guhyasamaja explicitly and clearly since all males and females do have embodiment of wisdom:
explains that a practitioner can the same faculty equally, there Kyema Ho!
become totally enlightened in this is no difference in their ability Yogīni seasoned in the Secret
lifetime as a female. The Mahāyāna to attain Buddhahood. So, the Mantra! The ground of Liberation
doctrine of nondualism based on Buddhist position on the question of Is this human frame, this common
Nāgārjuna’s Mādhyamaka view of discrimination between the sexes is human form —
emptiness which reasons that since that from the ultimate point of view, And here distinctions, male or
nothing exists inherently, then, even there is no distinction at all. female,
femininity, which is the basis of Have no consequence.
discrimination against women, does Although the Prajñapāramita is And yet if bodhichitta graces it,
not exist. Thus, women cannot be synonymous with the feminine A woman’s form indeed will be
disqualified from spiritual practice principle in Vajrayāna Buddhism, supreme!


According to Changchub & Nyingpo, What more needs to be done The nuns rationalize that if they
Guru Padmasambhava, in his final to overcome the gender had been empowered with the
teaching to Yeshe Tsogyal explicitly discrimination against women, knowledge and skills the monks
states that Yeshe Tsogyal gained especially nuns, in a traditional possess, then issues pertaining
enlightenment in a female body: society like the Himalayan region, to finances and misogyny would
In reply to her impassioned pleas, including Bhutan? eventually disappear. Once nuns
the Guru sings to her his final receive equal opportunities for
teaching, in the course of which A: My Ph.D. thesis revealed that spiritual development, only then
he says. In the supreme body the roles of nuns are largely can the gender barriers be broken
of a woman, you have gained gendered in a manner which denies down. Therefore, empowering the
accomplishment; nuns opportunities for personal women, especially nuns, is the only
Your mind itself is Lord; request development, empowerment and way out to overcome the gender
him for empowerment and blessing. subsequently, opportunities to be discrimination.
There is no other regent of the able to be more socially engaged.
Lotus Guru. Nuns play a minimal role in shaping Can you tell us what has been the
the cultural and religious values happiest moment in your life?
Women in Vajrayāna Buddhism are of the communities they interact
eminent in various capacities. There with because they are confined to First and foremost, I am very
is documented evidence of the doing simple prayers and are not happy that my childhood dream of
high spiritual accomplishments of yet empowered to teach, perform becoming a nun has been fulfilled.
women in all four schools of Tibetan rites and rituals which can be of I had the opportunity to go to
Buddhism. Many of these women’s maximum benefit to the laypeople. school when I was a child and after
names were not recorded in history Nuns in many nunneries are still becoming a nun, I again had the
but according to Bokar Rinpoche: denied access to systematic monastic opportunity to pursue monastic
education which is largely available study of Buddhist Philosophy,
Their rank was then equal to that to monks and have issues with basic debates, languages, and literature,
of men. They could teach, give needs. Nuns also have a low status something many can only dream of
empowerments, and accomplish all in society which is linked to their in the Himalayan region as a female.
the activities of the dharma. being traditionally denied a monastic With my studies, I am now able to
education and full ordination. It reach out to many people around
Apart from having great is largely due to such obstacles the world. I can now share my
realizations, these women played and lack of opportunities that knowledge of the Dharma through
crucial roles as teachers, founders nuns are still not fully empowered lectures, seminars and conferences
and lineage holders of special to propagate Buddhism in the on meditation, Tibetan language,
transmissions and practices as communities where they reside. counselling, and even simple yoga. I
treasure-revealers. Most of these am also happy that I am able to fulfil
women were renowned yogīnis This study also uncovered various requests for prayers, meditation, and
practicing in retreat and were not reasons for the subordination short retreat courses from devotees.
part of the monastic institution, of nuns but the primary and So, when I see that others are happy,
but there were great yogīnis who underlying contributing factor I feel happy for them too. EH
were also Buddhist nuns. These is the patriarchal monastic body
nuns all demonstrated high levels which has traditionally focused
of attainments and some even on developing men’s spiritual
attained rainbow bodies despite potential to the highest level
encountering numerous obstacles in while neglecting female Buddhist
their monastic career. practitioners, especially nuns.


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Buddhism and Justice

Justice is a noble idea as it would Min Wei: Buddha preached for a all without discrimination, but only
lead to fairness and peace in this casteless society for he did not through the practice of Dhamma.
world. The Buddha in his teachings believe in lineage, class or race
over 45 years provided very clear distinctions. Therefore, he allowed In Buddha’s teachings, one often
standards for right and wrong, the admission of all castes into finds this analogy of rivers and
and of skillful and unskillful ways the Sangha so that everyone could ocean when referencing the
of engaging in the world. He also attain enlightenment through experience of joining his Order:
spoke of actions that would lead practicing the Buddha Dharma just as the great rivers such as
to harmony and true happiness without any discrimination.  Ganga, Jamuna, Aciravati, Saryu,
in the world. But did the Buddha and Mahanadi lose their name
speak about “justice” as it is now He sincerely believed that society and identity after falling into the
understood in the modern world? should accept that all human beings ocean and are recognized as just
In this issue of Eastern Horizon, we are born equal and the Sangha the ocean, so do the ones inducted
asked our three Buddhist teachers provides them equal opportunities into the Buddha’s Order shun their
for their response. for self-realization and self- caste and clan and are subsequently
fulfillment. Thus, the Buddha’s known as spiritual members of one
The Buddha rejected all forms teaching is pure and objective - sangha community.
of discrimination and unfair making no discriminations between
treatment of people in society, men and women, boys, and girls, rich What practical lessons can
and was therefore against the and poor, or the powerful and lowly. we learn and apply from the
caste system in India during Buddha’s approach to handling
his time. How did the Buddha Geshe Dadul: During the Buddha’s injustice not just in the social,
respond to the injustice of the time, people adhered strongly to but also economic and political
caste system? the caste system. The brahmins arenas in the context of our
would not touch the bodies of modern society?
Aggacitta: He did not attempt to lower-caste people, eat with them,
change the caste system politically, or use the same utensils. The Aggacitta: The notion of moral
but he redefined a Brahmin as an Buddha opposed the caste system injustice would be contrary to
arahant and disregarded caste and the notion of a “pure self” that the Buddha’s teachings based
distinctions when accepting was its basis. His opposition to on the principle of causality.
disciples into his monastic order. it is reflected in his doctrine. He According to the law of kamma,
Although respect for seniority taught that there is no pure, eternal, all moral actions will eventually
within castes as well as in general monolithic self that is separate lead to their corresponding
was the norm of the day, he from the aggregates. Additionally, results—good actions will give
created a new standard by defining all saṃsāric aggregates—no matter pleasant experiences and evil
seniority in the Saṅgha in terms of what caste people belonged to ones unpleasant experiences. So,
ordination rather than biological are 1) impermanent (anitya), 2) moral justice will always prevail
age or even spiritual attainments. unsatisfactory by nature (duḥkhatā), in the long run. If a social injustice
So, an arahant sāmaṇera must still 3) empty (śūnya) [of a separate is intentionally perpetrated, the
pay respect to a newly ordained ‘pure’ selfhood], and 4) selfless perpetrator will have to pay for it
bhikkhu without any spiritual (nairātmya). Buddha taught that eventually, whether in this life or
attainments. the actual purity or freedom from later ones. Of course, one should
misery and suffering is accessible to strive to correct any injustice, but


sometimes (or perhaps often), can best be seen by studying the and economy and to broaden our
this may not be successful due to Sangha community, which itself perspective with a more long-term
the influence of those in power. was not simply a religious body view of consequences in line with
Hence, belief in the law of kamma but instead embodied democratic this shared aspiration of us all.
will help to mitigate any feelings of principles on self-realization and
indignation or resentment. on the other side of the spectrum Some people have the perception
even some communistic elements that there is no gender equality
Knowing that renunciants are at for the greater good of the Sangha in Buddhism and females are
the mercy of the rulers, the Buddha community. regarded as second class. Do
did not interfere with politics and we have scriptural sources as
discouraged his monastic disciples The Buddha considered politics evidence that the Buddha was not
from close association with political as important, not so much for its gender bias, especially towards
leaders and government officials. intrinsic value but specifically females?
Once when asked for political advice more for its emphasis on a virtuous
by Vassakāra the chief minister Government, the duty of care Aggacitta: I’m not sure whether we
of Magadha, he replied by asking for others and environmental can say that he was gender-biased
Āyasmā Ānanda, who was standing sustainability values. It is part of based on his statements about
behind fanning him, a series of an external environment that can the nature of women at that time.
questions and commenting on facilitate or hinder an individual’s People are all products of their
his answers. Thus he indirectly self-realization; defined as spiritual environment, so the patriarchal
listed general principles to Āyasmā advancement and achievement of social system then would have
Ānanda instead of giving specific wisdom about the true nature of shaped the behaviors and mind-sets
instructions to the enquiring chief oneself and the world. Buddhist of both men and women. Moreover,
minister.1 The story of the Buddha political and economic theory is women and men are obviously
physically interfering in the near based on its unique understanding biologically different, so why should
battle between the Sakyans and of the nature of reality. their psychological and emotional
the Koliyans over the Rohiṇī River dispositions not be so? Nonetheless
comes from the commentaries and Geshe Dadul: We need to remind a well-known scriptural source
has no canonical basis. The Buddha ourselves of our fundamental of the Buddha’s high regard for
gave several discourses on good aspiration and purpose behind all womankind can be found in the
governance2 and basic financial of our human endeavors including Kosalasaṁyutta (Discourses
management for the family3 which those of our economic and political connected with the King of Kosala)4
are still applicable today. measures, i.e., just so that I, we, in which he consoled King Pasenadi
our group, or even everyone will who was disappointed when Queen
Min Wei: Far from being a be genuinely better off, in the Mallikā gave birth to a baby girl.
religious thinker, the Buddha short and/or long term. We need
was preeminently a philosopher to stay connected with this rightful Min Wei: Strictly speaking, the
and social thinker, rational aspiration, be purposeful in our Dharma has no gender biasness.
and dialectical rather than endeavors, and clear about which That is why, in the Mahayana
idealist in his basic approach. causes and conditions bring which tradition, the Buddha says: “All
His contributions in political results, not just follow our impulses sentient beings possess the Buddha
philosophy as well as in political or incomplete knowledge. This may Nature; all can become Buddhas.”
institution or establishments also require us to rethink politics

1 Vassakāra Sutta (AN 7.22) 4 SN 3.16
2 Mahāhaṃsajātaka (KN 15.534), Kūṭadanta Sutta

(DN 5) Cakkavatti Sutta (DN 26)
3 Siṅgāla Sutta (DN 31), Parābhava Sutta (Sn 1.6)


In the teachings of the Buddha, One might wonder why then it the root tantric precepts, equally
women have as much right to took so long for him to formally binding for its male and female
enlightenment as men. Indeed, it admit women into his Order and, practitioners, a specific precept to
is not because whether you are had them agree to additional avoid disparaging women on the
woman or a man that determines guidelines and precepts over those ground of their gender.
your attainment of enlightenment. of men when he did admit them?
No matter who you are, if you follow One could understand that the Also, while bhikṣuṇīs are governed
the teachings of the Buddha and Buddha would know what is best by more precepts, they are for
practice them, you can become for women and their protection in their protection. Because women
enlightened. that particular social milieu. That were more prone to being
the larger society needed more victimized or bullied than men,
In Buddhism, differences in convincing evidence demonstrated Buddha established precepts that
gender have no impediment to the by the women themselves about prevent women from encountering
attainment of the highest perfection. their capabilities for the society to dangerous situations. He also
Referring to the Noble Eightfold more easily let go of the long-held expressed his vision for the fourfold
Path, the Buddha compares it to belief about women’s inferiority assembly, bhikṣuṇīs and upāsikās
a chariot and observes: “And be it and inability. This strategic planning and their male counterparts, to
woman, be it man for whom. Such by Buddha is widely reflected in the exist and flourish and said that
chariot does wait by that same way he taught different topics even these four saṅghas harmoniously
car into Nirvana’s presence shall doctrinally. He reveals bigger and practicing the Buddhadharma will
they come.” Therefore, women fuller truths in progressive ways as make his teachings last a long time
are regarded as equally capable of presented to disciples with more in this world.
enlightenment as men are. refined intellects, or with more
informed trust in the teacher. Buddha always wanted his saṅgha
Geshe Dadul: As someone who One may sense a similar strategy to move at pace with the sensibility
fully embodied compassion, being employed in his handling of and sensitivity of cultural attitudes
there was no reason for, nor were the question of the status of women of the time. Since modern societies,
there any anecdotal incidents of in his sangha. Although everyone as well as the United Nations,
Buddha harboring any gender bias has equal potential to attain stress the importance of gender
against anyone, much less women. Buddhahood, the Sūtrayāna and equality and respect for women, we
Historical writings, such as that of even the three lower tantras state Buddhists must do so as well in all
the 17th century Tibetan historian that one has to have a male body in ways possible.
and spiritual master Taranath’s the final preceding lives to attain
record of the life events of the Buddhahood. But then, in the highest Some Buddhists take to the
Buddha, reveal that long before the yoga tantra, the final system of his streets to demonstrate against
Buddha had female members into teachings representative of Buddha’s war, acts of cruelty against certain
his Sangha Order, he had stated actual intent, not only both genders ethnic communities, as well as
both in public teachings as well to are equally capable of attaining full engage in high-profile protests
individuals, including Maha Pajapati awakening but are also equally able and activism campaigns opposing
Gotami, that women were equally to do so in any body irrespective of massive development projects
able to attain liberation and become gender. Additionally, in his highest which threaten widespread
arhats and fully awakened buddhas. yoga tantra circle of teachings, ecological destruction. How can
Besides, His teachings on Buddha Buddha particularly emphasizes one engage in such activities
nature and universal compassion restoring dignity and respect for in a mindful way based on
reflected this principle all along. women, and thus institutes, among fundamental Buddhist precepts
of non-harming and kindness?


Aggacitta: From the kammic Geshe Dadul: One should approach Aggacitta: Ideally they should
perspective, as long as one is circumstances from a place of have more awareness of the
abiding by the 5 precepts and the genuine compassion and care, situation, try to live an ecologically
law of the land and one’s intentions without harmful intent towards any sustainable lifestyle and encourage
are wholesome, e.g. genuinely group or party, while remaining their followers to do likewise. By
accompanied by non-harming open to let the outward expression walking their talk, they are teaching
and kindness, then such social of one’s activity take whatever by precept and example and they
engagement is alright. However form is most appropriate to the would not be unduly criticised for
one also needs to carefully consider situation. Always check that the hypocrisy. E.g. they could try to
the possible repercussions of such motivation behind the action is only
actions for one’s own safety and to serve and benefit all concerned, ● reduce the usage of plastic
life advancement as well as those of without bias. Don’t get fixated products, starting with single use
one’s loved ones. Will the negative into a group mentality, rather plastics
consequences be worth the time always be principle-driven and
and effort expended? compassion-guided. Remember, ● pick up non-biodegradable trash
at the prātimokṣa practice level, during their morning or evening
Min Wei: Some people will assume Buddha goes to the extent of walks
that compassion and kindness advocating the so-called Four
would never win against war, Dharmas of Śramaṇas, viz., not ● conserve vegetation
injustice, violence etc. However, returning insult for insult, hatred ● use more green products, e.g.
from a Buddhist perspective, any for hatred, blow for blow, and
meaningful protest for peace slander for slander, while at the bamboo toothbrushes
must be carried out in accordance advanced bodhisattva level, the ● use Ecosia as a default search
with the practices of mindfulness, same Buddha teaches how there
compassion, and kindness. might be occasions when engaging engine in their web browser.
Mindfulness as a practice will in the first seven ‘non-virtues’ of
help us to understand what true body and speech, may even be Min Wei: The topic of climate change
happiness is - one which is not permissible, if it benefitted. It is the or global warming has widely
dependent on objects of craving initial motivation and the state of been discussed by many leaders
like power, wealth and sensual mind that sustains the actions in throughout the world. We need to
pleasures but is obtained through the moment that ultimately matters wake up and realize that the Earth is
understanding and compassion. and rules. However, the latter is not our mother as well as our home.
something initial practitioners can
Anger is never a solution but would pull off naturally. It requires earnest Without doubt, overdevelopment
only bring about suffering; which is training and persistent endeavor. is one of the key factors causing
why the Buddha says conquer anger climate change. With regards to
with non-anger. Conquer evil with Climate change is a critical this, the Buddhist teachings of the
virtuousness. Conquer spitefulness problem for the world today. Noble Eightfold Path can guide us
with kindness. Therefore, non- What should Buddhist leaders as to navigate this unprecedented
violence is more effective and and practitioners, out of era of human and environmental
serve as a powerful tool in the fight kindness and compassion for suffering. The Buddha advised his
against war and injustice rather future generations, do to ensure disciples to follow this Path to avoid
than using violent means or resort ecological sustainability instead the extremes of sensual pleasures.
to acts of cruelty. of creating conditions for future The Noble Eightfold Path are Right
human suffering? View and Right Intention (wisdom),
Right Speech, Right Action and
Right Livelihood (ethics), and
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and
Right Concentration (cultivation or


Right View and Right Intention to propagate his profound Dhamma From the Mahayana perspective,
represents wisdom that will lead us of liberation because there were Bodhisattvas are beings devoted to
to good and moral conduct. Then still some beings with a little dust both individual transformation and
there are three elements under covering their eyes and who could collective liberation from suffering;
moral conduct of Right Speech, therefore be similarly awakened. who has vowed to guide the world
Right Action, and Right Livelihood. with compassion and wisdom
There are also three elements for Although the Buddha started his towards liberation as well as to
the development of wisdom through missionary career by propagating carry out their vows to benefit all
the purification of the mind, i.e. the sublime Dhamma of liberation beings. Therefore, the Mahayana
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and to renunciants and potential Buddhist goal of liberation
Right Concentration are. renunciants, he soon had to adopt includes both personal and social
Geshe Dadul: I think it is high time a more worldly approach as his transformation.
for everyone, especially spiritual lay followers increased. Knowing
leaders and practitioners of all the limitations of the household Geshe Dadul: Broadly speaking,
religions, to become well versed life for the practice of liberation, Buddha taught two vehicles of
in the fields of climate and other he realistically taught another practice, that of prātimokṣayana
related secular sciences that have set of teachings oriented towards and bodhisattvayana. The former
immense practical impact on the mundane peace, harmony, morality, is for those pursuing personal
quality of life on the planet we success and prosperity. While the liberation and the latter for those
share. They could then be influential essential teachings for renunciants inclined to work for full awakening
players who could also bring the are oriented towards total liberation for the sake of others. In either
angle of long-term common good in this very life, those for the laity case, the actual form of practice
of the global community to bear on are oriented towards making involves cultivating oneself to
those decisions. merits and faring on well in amsara. rise to the task at hand. The latter
Nonetheless this second set of vehicle involves cultivating the ten
The general perception of teachings is not the summum bonum far-reaching practices of generosity,
Buddhist practice is that it of Buddhist practice, but is just a ethics, patience, etc., all geared
involves personal liberation from fringe benefit resulting from the towards benefitting others here
suffering. But one of the defining appearance of a sammāsambuddha and now while pursuing them to a
characteristics of engaged whose primary goal is to help state of complete self-competence,
Buddhism is its shift in focus sentient beings liberate themselves perfection. Ideally, what the latter
from individual suffering and from all forms of suffering. vehicle purports to achieve is
individual liberation to structural nothing short of what engaged
forms of suffering and collective Min Wei: Engaged Buddhism is Buddhism movement envisions and
liberation. Do you see this as about liberation of suffering for aspires to achieve. The question
a departure from the original oneself and others, in contrast to is how practically competent
aim of the Buddha, or is this the primary doctrines of Buddhism one is, besides the aspiration, in
an expression of the Buddha’s which focuses mainly on self- working for society in the present
compassion for society? liberation. Both personal liberation situation. For the bodhisattvas, out
and collective liberation are not of the three trainings, the training
Aggacitta: I would say it certainly a deviation from the viewpoint of morality itself has three sub-
is a departure from the original of Buddhist practice because the divisions, 1. the ethical conduct of
aim of the Buddha. Evidence for original intention of Buddhism is refraining from negative actions, 2.
this can be found in the account of to liberate all sentient beings from the ethical conduct of cultivating
the newly awakened Buddha being samsara. virtue, and 3. the ethical conduct
encouraged by Brahma Sahampati of [specifically] benefiting sentient


beings. In this way, serving others countries led by upright leaders not something to be expected to
in an engaged way is built into the with genuine concern for their naturally occur in an individual’s
ethical conduct for bodhisattvas citizens flourished in peace and mind by sheer association with
and thus can be embraced by others prosperity. This clearly testifies such teachings, or by being in
similarly inclined. to the folly of corruption rooted the company of practitioners,
in greed and selfishness and to unless one purposefully and
The principle of non-violence is the fruits of morality, love and regularly takes them to heart. At
central to Buddhist teachings, compassion. times, affiliation with a particular
but in certain countries where religion by whatever means, or
Buddhism has been the dominant Min Wei: As a matter of fact, even becoming knowledgeable in
religion, we read of the military there is no problem regarding the the Dharma may only serve to fuel
and sometimes monastics religion or the teachings itself as and enhance afflictions such as in-
stirring up hostility and even all these conflicts and violence are group biases or arrogance when
violence towards other faiths and due to human issues. According to the understandings stop short of
ethnic minorities. Their hard line Buddhism, the origin of conflict or integrating with one’s mind and
is causing increasing concern. violence amongst us comes from taming it. After all, society is made
How do we explain why centuries our own desire, greed, hatred and up of individuals.
of Buddhist teachings of love, attachment. Only loving kindness
compassion, and mindfulness and understanding can solve our Written by Geshe Dadul Namgyal
have not filtered into the social problems and conflicts. The source and edited by Martha Leslie Baker.
culture of these countries? of problems basically stems from
the lack of understanding and Venerable
Aggacitta: Whatever they call selfishness. Āyasmā
themselves—Buddhists, Christians, Aggacitta is the
Hindus, Muslims, Atheists; or However, the Buddha gave us many founder of the
whatever occupations they teachings which are conducive to Sāsanārakkha
profess—politicians, armed forces, our happiness in this world and Buddhist
monks, religious leaders, social hereafter. These teachings include Sanctuary (SBS) in Taiping, Perak,
activists—all humans are subject the four immeasurables which a Pāli scholar and a meditation
to the three unwholesome roots of are loving kindness, compassion, teacher.
greed, hate and delusion. Until and empathetic joy, and equanimity.
unless these mental defilements are The aim of learning Buddhism is to Geshe Dadul
understood and tamed, the world overcome our desires, hatred and Namgyal
will always be in turmoil as humans ignorance until we attain realization is a Geshe
sway under their influence. and enlightenment - not to increase Lharampa and
or accumulate more wealth, seek senior resident
Nowadays this issue is exacerbated out more pleasure, higher position, teacher at
by the ubiquitous influence of greater power or to chase for honor. Drepung Loseling Monastery in
social media that can quickly and Atlanta, Georgia, USA
drastically erode the established Thus, we should really put the
social and cultural norms of a teachings into practice, stop fueling Ven. Min Wei is a teacher of
society. anger and hatred. Instead, we e-learning at the International
should start cultivating the seed of Buddhist College (IBC) and
History has repeatedly shown compassion and understanding. an independent translator of
us that empires fell when their Geshe Dadul: The practice of love, Buddhism. EH
ruling elites slid into corruption compassion, mindfulness, etc. is
and neglect of their citizens, while


Book Review

By Benny Liow Woon Khin

Monks in Motion Buddhism and Modernity
across the South China Sea, by Jack Meng Tat
Chia. (New York: Oxford University Press,
2020. pp 275.) Hardcover

As the title of the book indicates, this is a study disciples. Today Chuk Mor is recognized as the father of
of three Buddhist monks in Southeast Asia: Chuk Chinese Buddhism in Malaysia.
Mor (1913-2002), Yen Pei (1917-1996), and Ashin
Jinarakkhita (1923-2002). While most books on Chuk Mor was an influential writer. His writings,
Buddhism in Southeast Asia have focussed on published in newspapers, magazines and books helped
Theravada Buddhism in countries such as Burma, many people to practice the correct form of Buddhism
Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, Jack Chia’s pioneering and discard their superstitious beliefs. His lectures
work featured the maritime countries of Southeast touched upon the issue of religious orthodoxy based
Asia – Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia - where the on the Buddhist scriptures. He aimed to correct the
main Buddhist tradition is Mahayana. superstitions and misguided understanding of Buddhist
beliefs and practices in the minds of most Malaysians
The opening chapter explored the histories of Chinese during the period.
Buddhist migration, settlement, integration, and
networks in the 20th century. The author made a For instance, he set up the Triple Wisdom Hall in
connection between Buddhist communities in China Penang in 1965 where besides the usual temple
and Southeast Asia; hence, he coined the term “South activities, he organized a Dharma Study Centre, Free
China Sea Buddhism”. Secondly, he explored the role Sunday School, and Youth Group. He wanted Buddhists
of Chinese diasporic monks in the making of Buddhist to take refuge in the Triple Gem to be considered a true
modernism in Maritime Southeast Asia, and three of follower of the Buddha. Thus, he pointed out that all
them are featured in this study – Chuk Mor in Malaysia, Buddhists must undergo the refuge taking ceremony
Yen Pei in Singapore, and Jinarakkhita in Indonesia. at least once in their life time. He also wanted to unite
all Chinese-speaking Mahayana temples, organisations,
The author explained Chuk Mor’s transnational life Sangha and laymen into a national body through the
and career, starting with his education in China and Malaysian Buddhist Association (established in 1959)
association with Venerable Tai Xu where he was deeply where he served as its President for 12 years.
influenced by his ideas of Human Life Buddhism.
Chuk Mor then became a strong advocate for Tai Xu’s However, as Jack Chia explained, Buddhism was
call to reform Buddhism for the modern world. Thus, really not in decline in Malaysia but what Chuk Mor
when Chuk Mor arrived in Malaysia in 1954, he spent did with his reforms was to displace the existing
the next 50 years reforming Chinese Buddhism in the forms of Buddhism in post-colonial Malaysia with his
country. He was also a close associate of Master Yin interpretation of Human Life Buddhism.
Shun, another strong advocate of Humanistic Buddhism.
When Chuk Mor passed away in 2002, he left behind Venerable Yen Pei, originally from China, was a
127 monastic disciples and more than 50,000 lay respected scholar-monk and social activist in Singapore.


He spent well over 30 years building a Buddhist Unlike Venerable Chuk Mor and Venerable Yen Pei
community in post-colonial Singapore; first as abbot who were both born in China, Ashin Jinarakkhita was
of Leng Foong Bodhi Institute (1964-1979), and as a born in Indonesia. He is best depicted as an ethnic
social activist and founding chairman of the Singapore Chinese monk, dressed in a Theravada saffron robe and
Buddhist Welfare Services (1980-1996). His monastic wearing a beard in the Chinese Mahayana style. He was
education, which he acquired from several prominent instrumental in the revival of Buddhism in Indonesia.
Buddhist learning centers in China greatly influenced
his subsequent religious ministry in Singapore where He realized that Buddhism had to adapt to Indonesian
he migrated in 1964. He played a pivotal role in the culture to survive, otherwise it would remain a foreign
development of Chinese Buddhism in Singapore. religion. In 1965, after a coup attempt, Buddhist
organizations had to comply with the first principle
Yen Pei’s approach to Buddhism was heavily influenced of the Indonesian state ideology - Pancasila- the belief
by Master Yin Shun who promoted Humanistic in one supreme God. All organizations that doubted
Buddhism. He believed that one should strive to follow or denied the existence of God were outlawed. As this
the example set by Sakyamuni Buddha, by practicing the posed a problem for Buddhism which doesn’t have God
Dharma and achieving Buddhahood in the human realm. as its central belief, Jinarakkhita presented Nibbana
as the Theravada “God”, and Adi-Buddha, the primeval
Although most Singaporeans claim to be Buddhists, Buddha of the region’s previous Mantrayana Buddhism,
Venerable Yen Pei realized that they had little as the Mahayana “God”. According to Jinarakkhita, the
knowledge and understanding of basic Buddhist concept of Adi Buddha was found in the 10th century
teachings. He encountered the same problem as Javanese Buddhist text Sang Hyang Kamhayanikan.
Venerable Chuk Mor in Malaysia. Most Singaporeans
who consider themselves Buddhists only knew the Besides forming the first Indonesian Buddhist lay
ritualistic aspects of Buddhism such as lighting of organisation, Persaudaraan Upasaka Upasika Indonesia
joss sticks or chanting. He realized that the temples (PUUI), he also initiated Perbudi where both Theravada
needed to be restructured so that Buddhism could be and Mahayana monastics were united. Subsequently, he
taught properly. Among his many initiatives, he invited formed the Sangha Agung Indonesia, a community of
prominent Buddhist monks from all over the world to monastics from the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana
deliver lectures on Buddhism, especially on Humanistic traditions. His movement came to be called Buddhayana.
Buddhism and how local people could relate to the It promoted non-sectarian doctrines and practices to be
Buddha’s teachings in their daily lives. in line with the national discourse of the Government’s
“unity in diversity”. In this way, he tried to make
Besides educating Singaporeans on Buddhist teachings, Buddhism in Indonesia less Chinese to ensure its survival
Venerable Yen Pei also realized that the country’s rapid as a minority religion in a predominant Muslim nation.
economic growth had led to inequalities in society. As
such, he began to promote welfare services to help In his Conclusion, the author explained that Buddhist
those of lower socioeconomic status. It was easy for him modernism, as exemplified by the three monks in this
to be both a scholar monk as well as a social activist. study, was shaped by a combination of transnational
This is also an aspect of Humanistic Buddhism which circulations and local circumstance. He explained
emphasizes kindness and compassion for others. Other how Buddhist modernism in these three countries
areas he was remembered for were his social welfare incorporated notions of orthodoxy from the ideas of the
programs on filial responsibility, organ donation, and Buddhist reform movement in China and Taiwan and
drug abuse rehabilitation. His welfare and community from the concerns of modern nation states. All three
programs were well endorsed by the Government. monks in this study played a stabilizing role in a rapidly
changing socio-political environment. EH

Courtesy Visit of Deputy Minister
of National Unity to YBAM

Date: 20.10.2021 Time: 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM Venue: YBAM AT

Eow Shiang Yen explaining to the Deputy Minister of National Dialogue session with the Deputy Minister after the
Unity Wan Ahmad Fayhsal (left) about the development of briefing.
Buddhism in Malaysia.

Yong Kuei Yoong (right) and Ch’ng Kok Sheng (left) having a The deputy minister having a tour of YBAM Head office.
discussion with Wan Ahmad Fayhsal.

Wan Ahmad Fayhsal (left) receiving a souvenir from YBAM representatives in a photo session with
Yong Kuei Yoong. the Deputy Minister.

Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia Y Unites more than 270 Buddhist organisations
B representing both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions throughout Malaysia A
M Provides guidance to students to establish Buddhist societies
in schools, colleges and universities

Conducts regular training courses on Buddhist teachings,
missionary techniques and leadership building

Arranges lectures on Buddhism by both local
and visiting foreign Buddhist scholars and teachers

Assists in conducting the annual Malaysian Buddhist Examination

Organises various welfare, cultural and education activities
for the benefit of the Buddhist community at local, state and national levels

Publishes Eastern Horizon, Buddhist Digest, Berita YBAM and
other Buddhist books and pamphlets in English, Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia

Makes representation to the authorities on matters
related to the Buddhist Community

Be a part of us.

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