Summary for Feb 2015 retreat

Retreat Dhamma Q & A


1. Q. If suffering has no value-why does it exist?

Answer:  Yes, suffering (Dukkha) is very important to life. Without difficulties and problems, we never learn to change and develop ourselves. So without unhappiness in the mind, we will never want to train the mind to find inner happiness.

Human history has gone through many phases of change in the line of evolution. From single cell microorganism, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and apes, we evolve to be homo sapiens due to the quest to end unsatisfactoriness in life.  We stopped hunter-gathering lifestyle to grow crops and domesticate animals due to unhappiness. We switch from agricultural revolution to industrial revolution due to unsatisfactoriness. From stone age, bronze age, iron age and now digital age, we try to find the way to end unhappiness. The only problem is that these material developments may not give us the real end of headache.

Luckily, our spiritual knowledge develops at the same pace of evolution of material world. We can say that without all emotional pain, there is no Buddha.  The teaching of Four Noble Truths is about unhappiness, cause of unhappiness, the end of unhappiness and how to end it.



2. Q: What part of the mind decides to be the ‘teacher’ –the ‘good guy’?

Answer: The mindfulness is the positive part of the mind. The mindfulness enables us to recognize the need to change and develop ourselves. So we can live peacefully.


3. Q: Particular thoughts come at any one time- who or what determines what thoughts are presented to us at any one time? Is it us who are seeking them – or do they pop up at random?

Answer: The mind has its ability to form thoughts by itself. Thoughts can pop up randomly at any time. When we are still alive, the mind will keep on thinking. Actually, we have survived climate changes for millions of years because we are able to think deeper, broader, further and adapt very well.

But nowadays, we face many more complicated problems, and we think a lot more than before. Eventually, we don’t know how to stop thinking. We start to be worried, stressful and anxious until we can be very sick. Unmanageable thinking process can disturb us.

According to Buddhist teachings, thinking process can be stopped momentarily by the practise of concentration and relaxation. But in Vipassana meditation, thought can be food for wisdom. Thought shows itself the nature of impermanent, unstable and not-self. So we learn to let go attachment to thoughts. And thinking becomes ‘just thinking.’






4.Q: How can you stay in the present but still plan for the future?


Answer: It depends on the strength of mindfulness. We practice breathing technique in the first part of meditation to ‘break in’ the mind. We try to train the mind to be obedient. We skilfully train the mind to come back to the present moment at any time that we want. Until then, we will be able to use this obedient mind to plan for the future or to analyse the past experience, and bring it back to the present moment successfully.

Similar to driving a car, in the beginning we thought it was impossible to drive and eat. But though years of experience, we are more skilful and can do many things at once. (But please don’t do like this man in the photo-too risky!)



5. Q: In life, often non-attachment is seen as uncaring. How can you be not attached but still be seen as caring about the outcome?
Answer: We all have responsibilities to perform otherwise the whole world will end in chaos.  The word ‘non-attachment’ doesn’t mean ‘no-caring’.
The practise of ‘letting go’ doesn’t mean letting go our duties, but the letting go of ‘Ego & Selfishness’.  We have problems in relationship at home or in working places due to our attachment to ‘I’ and ‘MINE’.

We get very upset when things go wrong, because we cling to ‘I’ and ‘MINE’.

Think of a mother caring for a child, without attachment to herself, she tries to educate the child. Sometimes the child can be very stubborn and responds to her in very rude way. The mother still keeps on forgiving and performs her duties.  This is one example of non-attachment to bad emotion and unconditional love.





To be continued after Mar 2015