I attended Google’s Jolly Good Fellow Tan Chade Meng’s talk on ‘Why Buddhism For Me’ last week and walked away with the same reasons, well articulated by him.
Buddhism in my early years, like him, involved idol worship, prayers for 4D numbers, safe delivery, recovery of lost items and passing exams at the Waterloo Street Kuan Yin temple. My late sister-in-law sweared by its effectiveness of that temple and that somehow influenced me. The irony was that she died a Christian from cancer at age 37, which proved to me that one can never pray to the divine for anything. Buddhism also involved chanting which didn’t make sense to Meng, nor to me at then.
Chade Meng was looking to religion to relieve his misery, and Christianity was attractive, with its organized structure, social services and networking. However, he has three problems with it.
1. You can’t question the religion. And if you do have questions, you need to accept whatever answers given and not probe, for that calls into question your faith.
I can’t too accept that.
2. For not accepting Christ, you’re deemed a sinner and assigned to hell. He asked, what happens to all those tribes in some undiscovered remote areas who do not know about Christianity? Are they sinners by fault of ignorance?
I ask, what about the people before Christ was born? Before 1 BC ?
If I am sinned by such default, so be it as long as my conscience is clear. As Ajahn Brahm says, life on earth for some people, Christians or otherwise, can be hell too.
3) Chade Meng also questioned why an all loving, all powerful and all forgiving God allows so much suffering on earth. Good question.
To these problems, he found a solution in Buddhism, a way of life rather than a religion to him.
His discovery of Buddhism is unusual, as it wasn’t through learning of the Dharma, but through mindfulness, very much like me.
I was introduced to Ajahn Brahm in 2007 and what he said struck a chord – my first introduction to mindfulness:
When is the most important time? Now!
Who is the most important person? The person you are with now.
Mindfulness, through these three steps, was the way out of misery for him.
Samadhi – breathing in and out
Vippassana – breathing with awareness
Metta – loving kindness meditation
Each of these steps requires only 6 seconds each and could be repeated to extend the meditation.
Through these three steps, he became calmer, less of an ‘ass hole’ – for how could one be miserable when one is practicing loving kindness. He also became more creative. Through the success of his experience, he took these to the skeptical engineers in Google and was so successful he wrote the book Search Inside Yourself.
Here I am, trying hard to practise mindfulness and wavering through it. However, I am clear this too is the path for me.
Thanks, Chade Meng.