Friday, July 20, 2012

The $1 Meditation

Returning home via the subway this afternoon, I notice a young lady looking at the lottery tickets in her hands. Her face clearly show the expectation of being the next lottery winner, well I can imaging it since the winning price (as least for the sole winner) is a cool S$1.6 million. Wow!!! think about all the cool stuffs this money can buy, maybe can quit that stinky job and retire early too. 

I always wonder (and is also guilty) as to why people would want to buy a lottery given the lousy odds of winner and the near sure odds of losing. If we look around us, we can easily see that people usually dislike uncertainty and perfer certainty. Be it in their lives, religion, career and insurance!!! (infamous to some people I guess) etc, that people feel comfortable knowing things for certain (i.e. no unexpected surprises). 

So it is very interesting why people would buy lottery and risk lossing their hard earn cash for certain in exchange for the uncertain result of winning the lottery. My only guess (due to my economic studies) is that the individual's utility curve (i.e. their happiness curve) is tangent to the price they pay for the lottery and the potential win-fall, such that the price to pay is small (even if it means losing 100% of the money) compared to the bigger  but uncertain "winning".

This leads to a sudden thought, I wonder if I can use the lottery as a form of meditation object. In S'pore, the minimum bet is $1 for the TOTO so this is why I call this article "The $1 Meditation" as one need to pay $1 (which is the minimum bet) first to engage in this execise. The act of buying the ticket will (I hope) create a mental condition or an interest in your mind to wise that you win the lottery, these will hopefully set off many interesting mental formation (this is where the fun begin).

In Buddhism we believe that there are 3 roots of evil (Greed, Hatred and Delusion) in life. That is why I think the lottery will be useful in the following ways:

1) Greed: Think about all the good / nice things that the sole winning price can buy. Watch the mind create all sort of funny stuff and do not interfer in this process, just watch and observe. To make it more interesting, now think about the stuff that the winning is not enough to buy e.g. a landed property etc.

2) Hatred: Think about some other people winning the sole price. Watch the mind become very critical about this person and the storyline the mind create, it will be very interesting.

3) Delusion: If one is mindful enough, one will realised that all those thoughts are just delusion of the mind but the emotion and feeling that arises are so real that one is often carry away.

If one is not mindful one will be carry away by emotion and thoughts. But if one is mindful, one will guard their mind against those thing and it is a very interesting mind execise to watch and observe. Such practice will prove useful in daily lives.

So these are just some random thoughts that arises in me and I am thinking it will be fun to try it out and watch how the mind will react, what sort of stories the mind will make up :D

Mindfulness – the door to daily self-discovery

“The Buddha calls his Dhamma ehipassiko, which means "Come and see for yourself." He invites inquirers to investigate his teaching, to examine it in the light of their own reason and intelligence, and to gain confirmation of its truth for themselves. The Dhamma is said to be paccattam veditabbo viññuhi, "to be personally understood by the wise," and this requires intelligence and sustained inquiry” (

Venerable Thubten Chodron advised us to be thankful to our enemy as they are kinder that the Buddha in teaching us the Dhamma. Ajahn Brahm advised us to take all the events that happen to us (whether good or bad) as fertilizer for our practice. Most meditation retreats I went to have a constant theme, which is to be patience with irritability of the body and mind. Those teachings contributed to a self-discovery this morning.

While boarding the bus this morning a person blocked the way toward the back of the bus, I was irritated but managed to catch my emotion before it escalated to anger. During the journey I reflected what caused those unskilful emotion, I found out that I get anger when I am in a rush so the way to avoid anger is not to rush but it is not useful since there will be external events outside my control. I searched deeper and found that while rushing, irritation arises and it is this irritation to the situation that cause me to get angry. Since irritation is an internal formation, it is a better strategy to manage the internal since I have some level of control.

The discovery was interesting since I did not notice this link before, most of what I notice is the bigger emotion (e.g. anger, hatred, lust, aversion etc), I concluded that irritation may be too subtle and I am not mindful most of the time. In meditation, we are taught to be mindful with the coarse object first (e.g. the sensation of the body) since the mind may be too subtle. I use a mind-body connection technique that allows me to notice my emotion from the reaction of my body and I can “catch” my emotion most of the time. The interesting theory is that when a person gets familiar with mindfulness they will come a time when subtle emotion or thoughts are noticeable before, during and after they arises.

I asked myself further:
1) Does an emotion lead to another emotion? If yes, what is the link?
2) Does emotions come together and feed on each other, resulting in a stronger emotional feeling / reaction?

From my experience I experienced that emotion does lead from one to another and emotion will come together and feed upon each other, at which time a person is loss in thoughts and filled with many emotion, they will likely be creating story-line of what should or should not happen to them.

I made another interesting self-discovery at this point. I was thinking about point (1) when the Chinese character for irritation appeared in my mind, and I think the Chinese ancestors is really smart. Chinese language originated as a pictorial language, that is, the symbols are like picture. The Chinese word for irritation is fan () or zao (), both of those words is made up of the fire character and (in my view) another character that can be viewed as a fluid source. (fire) (leaf), 燥 = 火(fire)+喿 (chirping of birds, i.e. Sound or noise), the ancestors might have thought that irritation will give rise to a fiery emotion. This makes me wonder if we can use languages as a way to explore the link between emotions.

Well, those are the two things I learn about my mind today. In the end the Buddha can only show the way, we have to walk the path and realised the fruits ourselves, so I invite you to ehipassiko.