Is there anything wrong with dogma?

The danger of reading something and literally sticking to it dogmatically.

Here is something I read in the book The Awakened One – A Life of the Buddha where the Buddha replied to Upaka who was asking who his teacher was.

“I have transcended all existence and become omniscient. My insight is unobstructed, and I am liberated from all desire. I have achieved this on my own, without a teacher. Because I alone in the world am completely enlightened, I myself am the worlds teacher…”

As I come upon this paragraph, I remembered some people in some dharma groups quoting and citing that the Buddha did not have a guru, and so they also do not need one. At this point I felt they are hugely egotistical to compare the self to the Universal Sage.

Please don’t get me wrong. It is noble to emulate the Buddha but ignoble to behave like one is already.

There is no substitute for a good and qualified dharma teacher who has learned from teachers before him tracing back the the Universal Sage.

As indeed the Buddha said, “I myself am the world’s teacher.” We are now 2600 years later from Buddha’s statement. Why do some think they don’t need a teacher because the Buddha did not have one?

Did the Buddha not say he is our teacher. So how do we learn from the Buddha if not from a qualified guru? Some will say, from books – but who wrote those books? Who can give us a better insight into the Buddha’s words?


But we must know how to find one and follow steadfastedly.…

Keng Tan's photo.
Keng Tan's photo.

The Many Faces of Anger


Here is a rather long passage that my Guru shared with his students some 10 odd years ago. It was extracted from a book “Good Life Good Death by Gelek Rinpoche”. It is very powerful and merit a good read and contemplation.

Anger takes different forms. It sneaks up upon us. First comes impatience, then irritation, a tantrum, anger, and finally hatred. There is anger that seethes, anger that freezes, anger that shakes you, and anger that bursts into rage. And then there is anger at ourselves – what we call self-hatred.

Self-hatred takes time to develop. It doesn’t just pop up. At first, it’s a dissatisfaction. Often it starts because someone planted the idea in our minds at an early age or because some desire was not fulfilled-whatever that desire may be, involving pleasure or money or a goal, however unrealistic. We work ourselves as hard as we can to fulfill that demand or reach that goal. People take two jobs. three jobs, do all kind of things. They work more, eat and sleep less, there’s no rest for body or mind, all because of a desire we impose on ourselves. We often aren’t even sure where it came from or why we’re pursuing it.

When we work hard and still cannot fulfill our dreams, we begin to develop a dislike for ourselves. We see nothing but faults. We view the fact that we could not fulfill our desires as a failure. Then we say, “That’s me, a failure.” The unfulfilled desire becomes stronger, and the sense of failure becomes stronger, so we see ourselves as incapable. We don’t like to see ourselves as a failure, so the dislike becomes stronger until it turns into anger. The anger grows until it becomes hatred. We actually begin harming ourselves.

If you are angry at yourself, that anger can surface as a dissatisfaction with life in general. Then someone begin to latch onto the spiritual to justify their sense of failure. You tell yourself you don’t care about material success. But deep down, anger and self-hatred make you think you’re spiritually well off even though you’re not. You say that material things aren’t important when the reality is you failed at material life and don’t want to admit it. So you act as though you don’t need anything, pretend to be happy about things, and pretend to be a saint. That is another typical face of anger that people don’t recognize. It will only trap you further into negativity. It will give you an excuse to drop out of life, provide a cocoon to hide in, instead of facing your problems.

“Never mind” plays the same trick. When you are talking to someone and hit a sensitive subject, they try to hide if you get too close to home. They get upset, they don’t want to show their anger, or they don’t realize they’re angry, so they say “never mind”, and try to avoid talking about it. Whether you realize it or not, it’s a symptom of anger.

Some people hide the rough edge of anger: They put on a smooth face, maybe even showing a caring and loving face, hiding their real feelings any way they can so as not to think they are giving another person pain. But really, it’s a kind of violence. For example; “I didn’t lose my temper. I kept my cool, and he got angry.” Then they take pleasure in the fact that the other person is getting angrier. That’s a case of strong anger, only wearing another face.

Repression may not look like anger, because you can’t see the desire to harm so easily, but it may harm the individual more because it’s hiding in storage. When you repress anger, you hold back and don’t explode, but you internalize your anger. You eat or you don’t eat. You start taking out your frustration on anyone – a clerk in a store, a cashier at the gas station – instead of the person you’re really angry at. Sometimes, repression can take the form of self-affirmation. You may think, “Okay, I’m going to work hard, teach him a lesson, and be the most famous person in the world.” That is also anger. It may look positive but, from a karmic point of view, it might not be.

A lot of traditions encourage repression but it can create may problems. It only buys time, delay wrong action. It may in fact contribute to building anger, and make for even greater repercussions. Rebellion is often the result of repression…\to be continued…

Perhaps one of the most important aspects in Buddhist – IMPERMANENCE





A lay disciple asked Geshe Potawa which Dharma Practice was the most important if one had to choose only one. The Geshe replied:

If you want to use a single Dharma practice, to meditate on impermanence is the most important.

At first meditation on death and impermanence makes you take up the Dharma; in the middle it conduces to positive practice; in the end it helps you realise the sameness of all phenomena.

At first meditation on impermanence makes you cut your ties with things with the things of this life; in the middle it conduces to your casting off all clinging to samsara; in the end it helps you take up the path of nirvana.

At first meditation on impermanence makes you develop faith; in the middle it conduces to diligence in your practice; in the end it helps you give birth to wisdom.

At first meditation on impermanence, until you are fully convinced, makes you search for the Dharma; in the middle it conduces to practice; in the end it helps you attain the ultimate goal.

At first meditation on impermanence, until you are fully convinced, makes you practise with a diligence which protects you like armour; in the middle it conduces to your practising with diligence in action; in the end it helps you practise with a diligence that is insatiable.

And Padampa Sangye (a famous Indian siddha 11th-12th century) says:

At first, to be fully convinced of impermanence makes you take up the Dharma; in the middle it whips up your intelligence; in the end it brings you to the radiant dharmakaya.

Unless you feel this sincere conviction in the principle of impermanence, any teaching you might think you have received and put into practice will just make you more and more impervious to the Dharma. He also said:

I never see a single Tibetan practitioner who thinks about dying;
Nor have I seen anyone live forever!
Judging by their relish for amassing wealth once they don the yellow robe, I wonder-
Are they going to pay off Death in food and money?
Seeing the way they collect the best of valuables, I wonder-
Are they going to hand out bribes in hell?
Ha-ha! To see those Tibetan practitioners makes me laugh!
The most learned are the proudest,
The best meditators pile up provisions and riches,
The solitary hermits engross themselves in trivial pursuits,
The renunciates of home and country know no shame.
Those people are immune to the Dharma!
They revel in wrong-doing.
The can see others dying but have not understood that they themselves are also going to die.
That is their first mistake.

Meditation on impermanence is therefore the prelude that opens the way to all practices of Dharma.

(Extracted from Words of my Perfect Teacher)

Man-Made Social Rules

thinkWhen is it right to go to the lavatory but not the toilet or when it is right to sit on the sofa in the drawing room but not to sit on the settee in the lounge…These are some of the man-made social rules that are ‘drawn-up’ to divide people – Disgusting…Oops, watch what you wear too – you can be easily judged by what you wear….brown shoes? suits? whatever – mind boggling indeed…

I see no difference at all – only one with a deluded mind would have you believe everthing they believe. In the same way, I see no social difference in the 3 yanas of dharma training but many would disagree with me…