wesak day @ buddhist maha vihara, brickfields, kl

So there was this dude who lived in Nepal/India 2,500 years ago. He was born into a family of great power, wealth, status and respect. Like Britney Spears before she got married, he had it all.

Then year before his 30th birthday, he sneaked out of his palace in search of the Truth to suffering. For 6 years he laboured and tortured his body by not eating, beating himself etc (as was the practise that time that extreme asceticism would lead to the truth). He probably couldn’t take it anymore, drank some milk offered by a cowgirl, sat under a tree and meditated and arrived at Enlightenment.

That is why we have Wesak Day (aka Vesak Day). If I remember correctly, it wasn’t the exact date of the Gautama Buddha’s birth, but it is now celebrated as such, as well as to commemorate Him reaching Enlightenment and His death. You can say that it is also to renew your commitment and vows as a Buddhist.

Last Friday, me and Fireangel went to snoop around the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. It was established in 1895 as a place of Theravadian worship for Sinhalese from Sri Lanka in Tanah Melayu (now known as Malaysia :P ) and today you get all sorts of people — black yellow white orange brown all congregated in this place to celebrate Wesak.

It was my first Wesak away from home (and in 5 years). Ever since the management of a small town temple I used to go got their heads all swelled up from pride and feelings of self-importance, I sort of became detached. Plus the Young Buddhist Fellowship gang that I used to hang out with everyday dispersed due to personal commitments. It just isn’t fun singing Buddhist hymns at the top of your lungs with strangers who may think your behaviour way out of line. I don’t know, I’m just saying based on what I’ve heard from very reliable sources…

Anyway we got up bright and early (haha) and made our way to Brickfields. We had to park quite a distance away and got squeezed out of RM5 by those illegal ‘parking people’ who really didn’t help much. That’s daylight robbery for you.

There were lots of people walking up and down the road leading to the temple. There were lots of stalls selling flowers, books, vegetarian fare, ice cream and so on. There was even a makeshift booth for a major bank’s credit card services. There were plenty of beggars by the roadside, some healthy and some severely crippled.

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 01 entrance
At the Brickfields Maha Vihara Sanchi Gate

We made it to the main gate, also known as the Sanchi Gate. Lots of people. Lots and lots of people. Claustrophobic tendencies setting in. But for someone who generally dislikes people and hates kids, I did pretty well :P

We walked around and started snapping photos.

The Bodhi Tree

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 02 Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi Tree, aka Ficus religiosa is so named because Gautama Buddha achieved Enlightenment meditating under this tree species. Of course it isn’t the exact same one you see in the photo above — apparently the two Bodhi trees in the Maha Vihara were saplings from a 2000 year old Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka. Devotees like to clasp their hands in prayer walking around the tree, maybe because it’s sacred, or they believe the tree would bless them or something, I don’t know. Hopefully it is just a reminder of the Buddha’s enlightenment for them — damn wrong for a Buddhist to be asking for blessing from a tree.

Offerings of flowers, light and incense

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 04 more lotus candles

Flowers are offered as a reminder of impermanence. That’s one of the most important things the Buddha taught — that is to let go because sooner or later everything would come to an end. By letting go, you are freeing your mind of earthly burdens and worries and thus could see things more clearly. Of course this is not to be a form of escapism from the daily grind, monetary worries and such. I suppose it has more to do with death, the loss of a loved one, etc. The flowers bloom so beautifully today but they will wilt in a short span of time. This is a reminder that things change and you too will die. Something like that. Kind of gloomy isn’t it? Though you can take solace in this verse of a hymn (Life Never Dies) that I loved a lot:

“There is no death” all nature cries.
The rose will reappear.
Its petal will more perfect be.
After the winter drear.

Light represents wisdom, in this case the Buddha’s wisdom. It is also meant to dispel the darkness of ignorance. Reminder: burning a candle and burning a forest (those paper offering stuff) are different things. Buddhism is not Taoism, at least the one I (sort of) practise anyway.

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 19 even more joss sticks

Incense is another important offering for the Buddha’s altar. I can’t really describe its significance all too well, so I’ll just quote from a couple of sources.

From this site,

When incense is lit, it fragrance fills the air. This is like the spreading of the purifying effect of wholesome conduct. So offering incense, a Buddhist not only express his veneration for the Triple Gem but also reminds himself of the practice of Good Conduct.

… and from ‘Good Questions, Good Answers’ by Venerable Dhammika,

Incense: Aromatic incense purifies the atmosphere as well as the mind. Just as its fragrance travels afar, so do good deeds extend to the benefit of all. Burning incense also embodies the transience and dissolution of phenomena.

You don’t see a single incense in the photo above, do you? I suppose they were all being used inside the main shrine, maybe because it is not financially viable to purchase incense in bulk this way, but I can tell you that this deal is rather dangerous. I was very nearly burnt by some lady who had a whole bunch of joss sticks and didn’t see where she was going.

People and other things

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 22 beggar

One of the two beggars I saw within the temple compounds (the rest were outside). I was observing him for a while; he was sitting by the steps of the main shrine, looking dejected while muttering to himself and praying a little (I think). I had wanted to take a photo of him looking up the steps to the main shrine, but there was stuff blocking my view and too many people were walking around. Also:

1) Other devotees may give me the evil eye for invading the privacy of the beggar.
2) The beggar may just suddenly stand up and hit me with his maggi in cup used as his alms bowl.

This being a holy place, the latter is more likely to happen than the former.

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 10 lighting up oil lamps

The lady above was making sure that the flames on your RM10 oil lamps do not go out..

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 11 Suanie and Fireangel

I have no idea who the n00bs above are.

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 16 portrait of Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda

We waited 2 hours for an audience with the Chief High Priest of Malaysia and Singapore Venerable Dr K Sri Dhammananda which in the end turned to naught. It was just to see him, really. I mean, what are you going to say to this guy? He has done more for Buddhism than Keanu Reeves in ‘Little Buddha’; written so many books on the logical and practical aspects of Buddhism (What Buddhists Believe, Why Worry etc) and was instrumental in preaching religious tolerance in Malaysia and beyond.

The first time I saw him was in 1996 when he gave a talk at the temple I used to attend. He is 87 years old now, quite frail in health, when we saw him as he was assisted for lunch danna (offering) we were rather shocked by how ill he looked. That’s old age for you (The First Sight). The two previous times when I saw him, he looked so serene, for reasons I can’t explain I felt peaceful just looking at him. Must be some level 25 meditation aftermath going on.

Remind me to expand the wiki stub on the venerable.

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 21 cute lad

Cute kid at the lotus fountain, used as a wishing well by many people.

Wesak Day @ Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields 2005 - 25 offering robes to monk

Devotees offering robes to a resident Sinhalese monk. One of those costs around RM100 – RM120. When our friend Chen Zhong was ordained and became Bhante Sumana, we offered him two of the robes as danna. That’s what he wore the entire year I guess :P

Why these simplistic robes? Well, Gautama Buddha is said to have worn something like that made of patched pieces of donated cloth ALL HIS LIFE. If members of the Sangha community wear something elaborate and outrageous, that wouldn’t do at all, would it? Though as Buddhism spread throughout the world, the designs and style becomes different due to the climate conditioning of the country. And of course, belonging to different sects would twist the styles a little.

As we leave the temple for lunch, we noticed a bare-footed fake monk asking for donations from one of the stall keepers. Why was he fake? How would we know? Maybe because the fact is that Buddhist monks are not supposed to go around asking people for money, regardless of the different orthodox sects. Traditionally Buddhist monks are only allowed to beg for food. However in Malaysia and most places, Buddhist monks are quite well-taken care of by the level 20 devotees who would cook for them or offer them food twice a day (because they only eat breakfast and lunch, no dinner). So if you see one of those fake monks going around dinner/clubbing places with a begging bowl, please do not contribute to their scam. More importantly, please do not think that this is typical Buddhist monks’ behaviour. They have more integrity than that.

*calms down*

I’ll end this post with another one of my favourite hymns. It was one of the first songs I learnt to play using the guitar (5 basic chords) and never failed to make us sing gaily during our hymns sessions. Times like these I remember Shan Chong. Wesak has never been the same without him.

Wesak Dawn

Wesak dawn has paced in softly
Tip-toed thro’ the moonlit night
Breathed the flowers and incense smoking
Laughed thro’ bars of purple light

Bids you now to waken gently
Lift your troubled eyes of sleep
Tend’ring thoughts of homage holy
cross Samsara’s Ocean deep

To the One who taught the Dhamma
Of the Noble Eightfold Way
To the Buddha, dearest sister
Lift your tender mind today!

Entire Flickr set here.

whose law is it anyway?

Good evening and welcome to Suanie News.

On the local front, Malaysians are once again stumped by the illogical series of actions following Opposition party leader Lim Kit Siang’s motion to highlight a News Straits Times published front-page report about a MP who had interfered in the seizure of illegal sawn timber from Indonesia. The MP, later identified as Mohd Said Yusof (BN-Jasin) had asked the Customs and Excise Department to “tutup sebelah mata” (“close one eye”) on the incident, for the first time publicly breaking the unspoken code of how businessmen and gomen individuals in Malaysia have been practising business for donkey years.

In an unbizare twist of events, Mohd Said admits that he is the “sole proprietor of the company [Binyu Sof Enterprise] which transported a consignment of imported logs seized by Customs last month”. Mohd Said Bin Yusof, geddit? He also attempted to justify his interference with this cute analogy,

It is like you’re driving on the highway where the speed limit is 110kph. But you drive at 150kph, and you’re stopped by the police. What would you do? You will say, “please, sir”.

Source: News Straits Times

Upon hearing the example given to aid Mohd Said’s case, pimp-extraordinaire KY of KY Speaks fame gave his comment,

“Bullshit la…”

Meanwhile, Lim Kit Siang’s motion to refer the Jasin MP to the privileges committee was supported by the Barisan Nasional (Malaysia’s ruling coalition party) Backbenchers Club chairperson, Shahrir Abdul Samad. In layman’s terms, it would have meant the implicated party (or to save my ass, ANY implicated party) would be brought to stand in front of some people who would be totally bored out of their minds listening to the wails and pleas of ‘I didn’t do it’, ‘It wasn’t me’ and ‘Okay maybe it was me but I swear that this is normal practise’. In an ideal world, the person would be found guilty and be handed to Andre the Giant for a good seeing to from behind. Then The Undertaker would give him the Tombstone. Then the bees would get him. Realistically, if the implicated party was a member of the parliament and found guilty after a 10-month period of deliberation, he would be given a ‘stern warning’ and told to write a letter of apology to the sovereign. The ruling prime minister would also give him a ‘stern warning’ and tell him, the media and the country that the person would never do it again, or else. Hypothetically if the implicated party was a normal person like you and I, he or she would be fined a moderate amount of money, spend a couple months in jail for ‘threatening a customs officer’ and be told never to do it again. I said hypothetically because in the real world, you and I will never be able to walk up to a customs officer and tell him to close an eye for excess baggage.

In a brilliant and calculated move leftover from the Mahathir iron-fist era to save their political hides, no one in Shahrir’s club would back him up in his support of the Opposition’s motion. This caused Shahrir to be onion-eyed as he rightly lamented, “I had hoped that they would because it was meant to safeguard the autonomy of Parliament and the dignity of MPs.” He then resigned his position as the chairperson of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club, you know, because he felt that it was the right thing to do. At that time.

Sharir’s resignation was accepted by the Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, which basically means that he is truly kthxbai. The Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi later said that Najib had done the ‘right thing’, which means that Sharir is gg-ed (thanks Spongefox for the reference). Mohd Nazri, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Dept. kindly pointed out that it was as good as a rule that MPs of Barisan Nasional DO NOT support any motions by the opposition. The next day newspapers screamed headlines like, “Toe the Line, says PM” and “Pak Lah cracks the whip” and similar stuff like that.

HowThisWorks.suanie.net — if you are a Barisan Nasional MP, you cannot agree with anything motioned by any opposition members. If someone motions to lift death sentence in Malaysia, it is your responsibility to point out how the fear of the rope would make potential druggists and vendors to think twice before they use the white powder, and to appreciate how cotton-clouds-fragile life is. If someone is brave enough to want to make Samy Vellu pay all the citizens of Malaysia a sum of money as a sincere apology for the sorry state of our roads and highways and all the incidents that followed his position as the Works Minister, you must vehemently oppose (and bear the brunt of the rakyat’s anger). An acquaintance with overworked imagination quipped, “If the opposition says condolence to Tun Ghabar Baba’s family, you must oppose, nooo cannnnottt no condolences!!!“. A little off the mark (since it’s not a motion to be tabled) but the general idea is there.

Meanwhile the KBSR/KBSM education system continues to churn out Malaysians who study by rote and not made to think for themselves.

The drama continues. Popcorn-laden Malaysians await with breath that is bated.

Entertainment News:

We have a special request from a reader to spread the following news:

Dylan wrote:

Amir Muhammad’s documentary, THE LAST COMMUNIST, has been banned in Malaysia after being approved by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board to screen uncut (and being approved by Singapore’s censors to play uncut). It was even screened (by special request) for the Special Branch unit of the Malaysian police force. But a campaign by a conservative paper (Bloody Berita Harian) to generate a phony public outcry over the film seems to have resulted in the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs banning the film throughout Malaysia (it was supposed to open on 3 screens). Read the detail in his blog here.

It is the superior minds’ understanding that Berita Harian is not and does not represent the public. Perhaps we should get Lim Kit Siang to table a motion for a R&D cente to implement a totalitarian method so that the rakyat could be injected with a serum that would make them worship the grounds the gomen floats on. Actual Yes (Wo)Men. Trouble No More. We are awaiting Raja Azmi to appear on national television for her piece of mind on this issue. Raja Azmi as you well know, is the critically-acclaimed writer of the epic movies ‘Black Widow’ and ‘Cinta 200 Ela’ and producer for the former. She is also a virtuous Muslim wife who would never hear of her husband stepping into the kitchen. A role model like no other. We should be so grateful.

Technology — TM Net has made it to the illustrious Wikipedia.org. Check out TM Net’s wiki listing here. Quote, “Most of the phone operators or customer service officers employed by TMnet aren’t computer literate.” Unquote.

Sports — There is no sports. Alex Yoong is a sick twisted figment of our imaginations. If we are lucky.

Weather — rainy, sunny, rainy, sunny, rainy, sunny, rainy, sunny.

Sources: News Straits Times, go browse the archives or search for dumb political moves ‘Jasin’ or ‘Shahrir’ or whatever you feel is relevant. Also, Jeff Ooi and Teresa Kok.

two ships and paint

Half Man Half Biscuit: Heyyyyyy did you see the news about those two ships that collided?

Suanie: No…. what happened?

Half Man Half Biscuit: Well, one was carrying red paint…

Half Man Half Biscuit: The other blue…

Half Man Half Biscuit: Apparently the survivors were marooned…

Suanie: …………………

Being someone who is wrapped up in her own little (great) world, I didn’t google for more information. Unlike some of my friends…. :P

Just went through my Friendster for a bit, found out that one of my primary schoolmates got hitched. Others are in new relationships. And how their faces have changed. I could hardly recognise some of the girls. I have known these girls my whole life, starting from kindergarten to primary and secondary school. I’ve been through dark blue to light blue pinafores with them, curly pigtails and short hair, playing ‘SNAP’ to listening to Michael Learns to Rock and assorted 90s boybands. Okay this is a bit sick, but I had the fleeting thoughts of, “now they are having sex” [insert various imagination], then “would they or would they not wait till marriage to have sex” to “I wonder what birth control methods they use…”

It is something like knowing your younger siblings getting some, or your parents still at it. While I do know how babies are made, it’s still a freakish thing, you know? Sometimes knowledge isn’t king.

Purgeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee……………………

Other news: I got this e-mail the other day:

Hi Suanie,

I have a predicament and am hoping that perhaps u or your pals may be able to help me out.

I have 2 GREASE the Musical Tickets for 21 May 2006 @RM200 ea. I can’t go and wish to sell them off at RM350 for both tickets.

Please contact me before 12 May 2006 as I would be out of the country. Thanks.

John.

I don’t know if he would want his e-mail to be published here, but if you want the deal hit me with an e-mail and I’ll forward you his phone number. Details for Grease the Musical here.

Regards from your happy perky information helpdesk,
Suanie

jiwang malam sabtu

It’s Saturday night. I am not feeling well (long story due to the fucked-upness of my doomed bodily functions). I am at home. I am feeling jiwang. I am listening to Ella’s Sembilu, one of my favourite Malay jiwang songs that to me, captured the essence of Malay 90′s movies. I am also chatting with my housemate, who lives down the stairs from me via MSN.

According to Erna, the sembilu means bamboo shards. If you get scratched by it, you’ll hurt. Bad. The movie of the same title has something to do with Awie and Erra Fazira wearing high school uniforms. I loved Awie. He’s graduated to beating up dudes at the Asian Heritage Row, but that’s Awie for you. His rugged looks and behaviour matches his reputation.

Because I am a loser who stays at home on Saturday nights, I’ll attempt to translate Ella’s Sembilu to English.

Kelam malam sepi melamar kerinduan
(Late at night, loneliness invites … missing you?)
Tak terpadam ingatanku terhadapmu
(my memories of you have not diminished)
Dan pada siapa harus ku adukan
(and to whom should I approach/confront/complain to?)
Resah ini kian menghimpit perasaan
(this anxiety is crowding my emotions)

Dan seandainya kasihmu mekar bagai dulu
(and if your love was to bloom like it did before)
Pasti tidak aku terbelenggu begini
(for sure I wouldn’t be this entangled)
Bukan salah aku retak semua ini
(it’s not my fault that all this [love affair] is shattered)
Berpunca darimu bertikam lidah
([our troubles] began from your sharp words)
Lalu punah
(hence broken)

Tak dapat ku bayangkan
(I could not have imagined)
Tuturmu bagai sembilu
(your words are like bamboo shards)
Mencakar hati ini
(scratching this heart)
Tanpa simpati di hati
(without sympathy in your heart)
Ingin rasanya
(I feel like)
Ku laungkan rasa kecewa
(screaming out my disappointment)

Kekasih lupakan sejarah
(lovers forget their past)
Cinta kita baja dulu
(our love was like fertiliser in the past)
Di manakah kau campakkan
(where have you thrown)
Cintaku yang pernah kau sanjungi
(my love that you once held high)

Oh mengapa
(oh why)
Semua ini berlaku
(is all this happening)
Sedangkan aku sedikit pun tak pernah curang
(when I have never been unfaithful)
Terhadapmu
(towards you)

Hmmmm… quite jiwang right? Especially with the guitars and Ella’s wailing… and the original context of the words… some words in Malay just cannot be translated to English… oh you think you can do better? DO IT.

p/s: maklumlah gua punya penguasaan BM kian merosot…

p/ss: can I get a job writing the subtitles for our esteemed VCD/DVD pirates?

all your car crashes are belong to the ldp

(Last post on the the LDP for a long time, I promise, unless some fucktard *really* screws things up)

I maintain irregular hours. It’s just my thing. I still do but at least now I do not freak out like I did the first few months when I moved into my current dwelling.

Things went quite well for the first couple of weeks, most probably due to the fact that I kept normal sleeping hours for a while and passed out like a log. Then the first time in this house that I was awake at around 2 something a.m., I heard this:

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECHHHHHHHHHHHH — BOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHHHHH — BAMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!

Surely it must be an accident, I thought. Though I could not see any crashed cars from my window, I suppose it must have happened a kilometre or something away, and left it at that.

Two nights later I heard it again:

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECHHHHHHHHHHHH — BOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHHHHH — BAMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!

Okay… this is a bit weird… takkan the same thing happen at the same time with the same sound from the same distance? There’s no way someone could really be that unlucky — besides I’d checked a good stretch of the LDP and did not find any debris. Nope, nothing in the newspapers either.

Two nights after that, same thing.

By this time I was well and truly crept out. I am Chinese, right? Thus I’ve been exposed to all sorts of Chinese ghost stories and movies enough to fear the thought of some ghost who’d died in an accident along the very stretch of road reenacting its miserable death. People ‘going’ when it wasn’t their time (or they felt like it wasn’t their time), mercilessly killed innocents and all that, you know? I thought back to some seriously creepy situations I’d been in when living in a semi-wooden house in Muar; of course I was unable to sleep a wink that night. The next day I called my mom asking her to go to a temple and pray for my… erm spiritual well-being or something. I am not really *that* superstitious or religious, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Over the next few months I kind of got used to the screech–boosh–bams. In the beginning I would switch the main light off, switch my night light on, jumped into bed with my blanket up to my neck. Then it happened again one night and I was too preoccupied with something to be bothered about it, and from then on I’d just mutter a quick prayer for the ‘poor soul’ and get back to whatever I was doing.

Then I spoke to a few people about this, and a journalist told me that car accidents are frequent on the LDP — it just doesn’t get much, if any coverage in the newspapers BECAUSE IT IS SO FREAKING COMMON. Plus, due to the nearness of our place to the highway, it wouldn’t be surprising that the accidents I’d heard occurred a good distance away.

Phew. But I didn’t really believe him until I witnessed the aftermath of a screech–boosh-bam, very visible from my window. Similar accidents followed; if I were an ambulance-chasing reporter, I wouldn’t even have to leave my house. The worst crash I heard was a triple overturn that left the car in quite a bad shape (duh). The funniest was when a group of college kids, still with the big ‘P’ sign attached on the car lost control and crashed into the fence that divides the highway and residential area. The driver also managed to cause grievous emotional harm to one of our neighbours who (still) parks his golden Merz by the fence by denting the front part a little. I really do not understand because, a) it is a straight road where he crashed it, and b) the Merz did them no harm, just sitting there golden and pretty so why oh why?!? Hehehe I could not look at my neighbour for days without wanting to laugh. He really loved that car.

Anyway for those who have no blinking idea of what the LDP is, here is a GIF visual courtesy of Litrack.

A rough map of the LDP

It’s half of the 40 km highway built at the cost of RM130 million, and I live somewhere within the black-circled area.

I wouldn’t even be writing this if it weren’t for the fact that a rather terrible crash occurred a couple of hours ago (and two nights ago, but it wasn’t as ‘big’ as this latest one). It was loud enough to make CT (along with two other neighbours) come out to have a look. A car (or two? I couldn’t see) had crashed into the divider, it was quite smashed up, lots of people stopped and got out of their cars to help/kaypoh, there was an ambulance with its sirens on because inconsiderate people wanting to get lucky numbers or to just gawk were holding up the traffic, two police cars… rather serious actually. I feel quite sorry for Litrack.

So, I have a few things to say:

1) You should be more careful on the LDP. The black-circled area is almost a death trap if you are one of those who think that you could ‘fly’ because there isn’t any traffic in the middle of the night. Remember — I can hear you crash.

2) Friends of tow truck operators wanting to ‘help’ you at a very high cost are pests that you should not even have to be bothered with. Always keep a couple numbers of some more reliable tow truck dudes with you — maybe your own friend or your own friend’s friend used him in the past; you never know when you’re going to need it.

3) If you hold up traffic (which MAY include an ambulance a bit behind you) to take down the misfortunate car’s plate number, buy a lottery ticket using the number and win yourself some moolah, you are going straight to hell. I don’t care what anyone else says.

4) Be nice to Kancil drivers. This is not really relevant, but I thought I’d just put it in for Jaime’s sake.

Safe driving tips from me eh? Heheheh that’s a bit rich but you know, whatever works.

Added:
Check these forum theads from Lowyat.net and Zerotohundred.com out.