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Volume 6 no 3

From The Editor

The Culture of Buddhism is Bliss Culture

I remember in 1989 when the Venerable Master Shen-Kai was in Singapore to deliver a two-day Dharma talk entitled Human Bliss Culture, a member of the audience asked why contrary to the title, the Venerable did not say anything about Bliss Culture. The Venerable replied that the culture of Buddhism is Bliss Culture.

Why is this so? It is because all humanity seeks happiness and bliss, and the teachings of the Buddha tell us exactly how to find them. They are complete in that they explain the ways in which all phenomena in nature operate and then follow up by teaching us how to make the natural phenomena work for us. Venerable Shen-Kai cited the following example. A child placed a cup at the edge of the table, oblivious to the danger of it shattering should it drop. On seeing that, an adult advised to move it closer to the centre of the table, thereby eliminating the risk of breakage. The child is ignorant but it is within the adult’s wisdom to anticipate its consequence. The action of the adult is like the Buddha whose teachings alert people to the undesirable consequences of their negative actions. In this way we part from suffering. Because all actions have consequences, the Buddha also advises us to perform positive actions because they shall have positive effects. In this way we attain happiness and bliss.

If we take a step back and examine the events that had occurred in our life, then perhaps for some events we may sigh in regret, “If only I knew...” Not knowing is ignorance. Ignorance makes us grasp when it is better to let go. This metaphor will tell us why grasping and bliss do not go together. In the Kalahari deserts, tribesmen use salt to trap monkeys. They lay a trail of salt leading to a jar with an opening just big enough for a monkey’s hand to squeeze in. The jar contains salt. The monkey picks its way to the jar. Unwittingly, it squeezes its hand into the jar and grabs a handful. With a clenched fist, it now cannot withdraw its hand from the jar and entraps itself. The monkey panics and tries to pull its hand out in frenzy, yet it is ignorant that freedom lies in a simple action of releasing the salt from its hand. Don’t human beings sometimes behave in the same manner – grasping when they should let go? Perhaps we will be mindful to think of this metaphor when it hurts and ponder if there is something that we should be letting go of.

Ignorance is like stains that mask the real thing. Layers upon layers, they are stubborn and difficult to remove. Cultivation in Buddhism seeks to eradicate ignorance. Once the stains begin to break down and the wisdom begins to manifest, we become clear about positive and negative actions. Many good things will happen to us. That is why the culture of Buddhism is Bliss Culture.

Cultivation is a lifetime endeavour. May the contents of this issue help to brighten your path to happiness and bliss.

Be with Buddha.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre