Monthly Archives: August 2009

Ego

I remember many years ago, in one of my training, the facilitator asked what is “Ego” and my friend Ashok who is always very clever and is also a big movie buff answered that Ego is what is between the Id and the Super-Ego. He is absolutely right. What a clever answer.

Anyways, what we learned was that Ego in itself is not a bad thing, contrary to what many people believe. In fact, having an Ego is a good thing and is essential to one’s psychological health. However, it is also a double edged sword when it is left unchecked.

I learn the lesson quite young, around 16 years old. I am sure I had my lessons before that but what happened when I was 16 impacted me greatly and even until now, I can still remember the scene vividly.

It was one of our usual band practice and being one of the leaders of the band then, I am seen as a fierce a**hole. Then one fine day, after the practice, a guy whom I was quite friendly with came up to me and told me this:

“You know, HD, what is your problem? Your problem is that you always, ALWAYS, have to win an argument, no matter if it is right or wrong”.

I remember that and appreciate it until now because firstly, it takes the guy considerable guts to dare say that to my face and secondly, he cares about me enough to tell me the truth while others may be caught in the emperor’s new clothes syndrome. For that I am thankful to that guy even until now. He even came to my wedding ;-)

What he told me really made me think. Why am I so stuck up and has to be correct all the time? Isn’t it possible that I be wrong sometimes too? Should I listen to what others have to say too?

My second lesson came after I started work. It just struck me deep and I still can remember my boss’s face as he told me:

“If you don’t know, just say you don’t know”.

So I begin to think, do I really HAVE to know everything? It is just impossible, so to stick to the idea that I HAVE to know everything when I don’t, I sometimes just Bullshit. And people know it when you bullshit. Or you parrot someone else opinions or thoughts. And people will know that you are just a parrot. People just know that YOU DON’T KNOW and you PRETEND that you know.

Nothing is more damaging to one’s reputation than being found out that you are just a pretentious parrot.

So these two are really important lessons. First, you are not always right, so be humble, listen to others. Then only will you learn.

Secondly, it is impossible that you know everything. There are bound to be things that you don’t know. And when you don’t know, just be humble (really humble, not pretend to he humble), and just say you don’t know (and bloody well get to learn it and know it).

Only then can one be truly humble, because to know what you know, and to know what you don’t know, that is a great wisdom.

So stop bullshitting and start living.

p/s: Other lessons I have learned:

Most of the time:
a. You are at most only half as clever and good as you think you are.
b. When you point one finger at others, always realize that there are at least three fingers pointing at you.
c. Confidence is when you are strong and willing enough to admit defeat, to acknowledge that you are inferior but with a belief that you shall overcome them, and you overcome them and emerge better. Confidence cannot come from pretending to know all answers and pretending to be good in everything when you are not.

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Weekend Movies

I begin to watch more movies nowadays. That is probably because I have spent less time on Go now. Playing Go can sometimes be so frustrating. You invest so much time and effort in it but the results can be disappointing. And when you keep on losing, you really feel like giving up. But quitting is a bad word. Quitting is a sign of weakness. You can get away from it for a while, but you should not quit. You should not quit for the wrong reasons.

As is stated in the Book of Five Rings, the Fire Scroll under the chapter:

“To renew” applies when we are fighting with the enemy, and an entangled spirit arises where there is no possible resolution. We must abandon our efforts, think of the situation in a fresh spirit then win in the new rhythm. To renew, when we are deadlocked with the enemy, means that without changing our circumstance we change our spirit and win through a different technique.”

Anyways, here are the few movies that I thought is worth your hard-earned money that is still showing right now:

1. OVERHEARD (Hong Kong)
2. SETEM (Malay)
3. DISTRICT 9 (USA)

Hong Kong owes us a good movie. It owes us big time. OVERHEARD is one good one, although it cannot be said to be really superb. It is just a normal good movie, i.e. it is not a crap movie. The normal ingredients are there; greed, action, brotherhood, etc.

SETEM is a movie by Tayangan Unggul, my dear ex-company and the movie is good not because of sentimental values but is definitely a much more intelligent movie compared to the huge bunch of crap, ahem, locally made movies out there. It reminds me of BAIK PUNYA CILOK, only better. If you would like to watch a nice Malay movie, this is a good bet.

DISTRICT 9 is worth to be watched not only one time but perhaps two or three times. It is worth watching not because it is a big budget movie but because of the meaning it carries. It occurs to me more than just a few times how it reflects our human conditions although it is supposedly a movie about “aliens”. How we as human has inside us the seed for discrimination, of creed, of race, of greed and of class distinction. But also how, inside us too, there is a seed for great compassion and equality and a sense of justice. It is a movie very worth watching.

By the way, I am tuning in to Astro’s channel 110, a tribute channel to Yasmin Ahmad. SEPET is playing now. I have watched SEPET for so many times I lost count but each time I watch it, I am amazed by it. It is such an excellent, excellent movie.

The channel is quite nicely put together but it will be so much the greater if we can have RABUN, SEPET, GUBRA, MUKHSIN, MUALLAF and TALENTIME all together. I know the complications about rights and censorship etc. but it will just be such a great dream to be able to watch her movies freely, without all unnecessary interventions, just a pure appreciation of Yasmin’s vision and interpretation of the human condition, of a Malaysian’s Malaysia. Through her films, we can really and truly see that Malaysia is a great, great country and all the propaganda to make us feel less Malaysian, all those crap that makes us hate each others guts, is just so puny, so unnecessary and above all, so stupid in comparison.

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My Problem With Buddhism

Normally, when people ask me what is my religion, I get stuck without an answer. Sometimes, to to escape, I will simply say Buddhism but the reality is that it is not the true answer. I can only say that I am more attracted to Buddhism as a practical philosophical system.

My problem with Buddhism is that I cannot accept or perhaps have not understood, if that is the better term, the concept of rebirth and Nirvana. From my previous post, I can understand that everything in this universe is a constant, nothing created, nothing destroyed. It is perhaps just a big recycling machine. So in this sense, “rebirth” as in the elements recycle itself do make sense to me.

But the rebirth as a continuous karmic existence, that I am not very sure. Also, according to Buddhism, when one achieves enlightenment, one achieves Nirvana which is a state of mind and one is no longer subject to rebirth and thus will be free from suffering. Or something like that as I understand it.

However, thinking again in terms of the Heart Sutra as in my previous post, what exactly is not reborn? If it is said that one achieves Nirvana and is not subject to the cycle of rebirth, then there must be something that is not reborn. And what is that? Your soul? In Buddhism, it is believed that the “soul” does not exist. If there is no “soul”, then what exactly is not being reborn?

I still can’t clear that hurdle. Perhaps I am still a little sparrow stuck in this world and enlightenment is still far, far away. But for what I am worth now, I cannot still get it.

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The Heart of Understanding

The Heart Sutra is not an easy piece of work to understand. I have heard this sutra since I was young and all these while, the idea behind the sutra is at best a poetry to me and at worst, meaningless rhetoric.

Consider these sentences:

“Form is not different from emptiness, emptiness is not different from form. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”

Sounds cool, ain’t it? Not only does it sound cool, it also sounds romantic.

But what exactly does it mean, I really have no real clue and no real understanding. It just felt cool, that’s all although when sometimes not so good things happens to me, I will just tell myself, “Ah…. have it is no different from not having it, so not having it is fine. Life goes on…”. Something along that line.

It is not till recently where I bought the book again, this time with commentaries by Thich Nhat Hanh that I gain some small insight into the real meaning of the Heart Sutra.

He started his commentary rather simply. He said that the paper that I am looking at now is not paper but is really cloud. Why is it cloud while it is obviously paper? Is that guy trying to pull some tricks and tries to be mysterious and vague? You see, one way to make people think you are greater than them is to say something that is very vague but very grand sounding. By doing so, you give an impression of greatness because your mind is so advanced, normal mortals can’t understand what you are saying. Better still, start to create your own vocabulary. Now, you will be immortal, maybe like Hegel.

What he was trying to put through is something not new, especially in this age of science and technology. What he merely said was that because of clouds, we have rain, because of rain, we have trees, because of trees, we have paper. And the cycle goes on and on and on. The form changes but it is actually the same thing. This is not nuclear science. I think anyone who has some education will understand this, no? In science class, the teacher taught us that energy cannot be created and cannot be destroyed. It merely changed from one form to another. Not too hard to understand that I think.

So it goes on to ask, “empty”, empty of what? When we say something is empty, it has to be empty of something, no? When we say the cup is empty, it is empty of water, perhaps, but it is not empty of air. It still contains air. So when we say form is emptiness, emptiness is form, then it has to be empty of something. It is not just pure talk and BS, spoken to impress.

So it is empty of what?

He goes on to explain the sutra, and the answer is it is empty of itself. What does it mean by it is empty of itself? That means that something cannot exist by itself alone, it’s existence contains the existence of other things (recall the paper-cloud analogy) and thus because it cannot exist by itself independent of other things, therefore it is empty of itself. In short, it has no “self”.

So then one goes on to ask, hey if you say that I have no self, that I am not myself, then who the hell is the person typing away at the keyboard now or reading this blog now? It has to be something right?

Wow, this is going to be tough but there is actually an answer to it and it is right there in the book. If I continue here, it will be a very long post.

Suffice to say that the sutra is getting clearer to me now thanks to Thich Nhat Hanh. If you are interested in it, please do get it. The beauty is that there is are logical answers and there is no forcing to believe based on blind faith. And if you still can’t get to understand it? Well, fine. Just simply that when you eat, be mindful that you are eating. When you work, be mindful that you are working. And just be a good person, mindful of what he is doing. And in that, lies the dharma in its simplest and most original form.

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Tora-san Again

In TORA-SAN’S DREAM COME TRUE (“Otoko wa tsurai yo: Torajiro yumemakura”), the 10th installment out of 48 in the movie series, the longest movie series in the world, we see again Tora-san’s exploits and we get to see more of him, what he is made of, what kind of person he is.

Oh damn, Tora-san is really an annoying guy, isn’t he? On his return to his hometown, he saw and heard nothing except for scorns of what an idiot he is. One memorable scene was when his sister, Sakura, saw him sneaking back into the house and the group comprising his uncle, aunt and the printing press boss began to put up an act saying how good Tora-san is and how much they missed him. They even pretended to cry. And then the uncle asks Sakura to say something and she said, well he has a warm heart. And the rest of the gang said oh yeah, he has a warm heart. But what they didn’t know perhaps is that Sakura really meant what she said.

Sakura is really a beautiful person, not only beautiful physically but she is beautiful as a person. Almost flawless and is the complete opposite of Tora-san. Anyways, as usual, Tora-san wanted to leave after feeling that he is not wanted but then met a beautiful old friend (Chiyo) and then decided to stay instead.

In the course of the movie, we again saw Tora-san’s clumsiness and all his flaws. But then we get a glimpse of his inner core when he tried to set up the marriage between the professor and Chiyo (whom, we think, he loves) and when Chiyo told him that she loves him and not the professor, he was dumbstruck, and he sort of rejected her. And then in another scene, we saw how he left his good friend (again) saying that he is no good for him and ask him to find a better path and don’t be like him.

So we see a Tora-san that is a completely simple minded person, who loves and talks and tramps and is annoying as hell but is also capable of self-awareness, love and desires goodness for other people, even though he himself suffers.

The Tora-san series is a wonderful series of movies, isn’t it?

If anyone wants to buy me a present, look no further than here: Tora-San 40th Anniversary Set

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