Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Changing November

It's the first day of November, 2008

How time flies! In a blink of the eye we are approaching the finishing line of 2008, the second last month of the year, and the period which humanity comes to hold on her breath and welcome the final worldwide festive - Christmas. A day where everyone would greet each other with open arms and warm embrace, wishing one another the best of the person in the coming new year, with just six days short of its arrival.

November thus makes itself almost a preparatory stage for everyone to gather and pause, to collect and reshuffle, to dispose and move on. It is almost like a universal reminder to everyone living and breathing on this planet, a gentle wake-up call, of the urgency to re-collect oneself amidst the hectic and frantic schedules of returning to one's primal objective set in the beginning of the year.

It is a simple yet straightforward push in sounding us the importance of remembering what is truly important to us - a time for our inner spiritual growth - before we are lost in the endless pursuit for career calculations and material desires.

It is with this in mind that my thoughts led me to wander to the current US Presidential election, taking place three days later on 4th November, on the soil of country which expounds and exports the practice of Democracy. It is with my belief that all genuine changes, engineered by great passion and powered by strong conviction, inevitably comes to encounter greater inertia and obstacles. The resistance to change, or adopting any of it, is inherently found in every sentient and insentient being: humans take a long while to propel out of their habitual actions, while motorcars take a longer route to come to a full halt.

Bruce Lee, the world renowned martial-arts actor, was born in the month of November. When he began his learning path on Chinese traditional martial arts he realised he was facing a thousand-year-old school of conservationism, deeply rooted and rock-solid. Contrary to his vision and belief that all humans can learn the art of martial fighting, he had encountered a tidal wave of self-censoring traditions that went against his will - complacency of schools self-absorbed in their own styles and techniques, fear of the teacher imparting the entire set of knowledge to his disciples, and the arrogance of the institutions proclaiming their own styles to be the best.

In his own words, Bruce observed impartially and sharply, "...when clans are formed, the people of a clan will hold their kind of martial art as the only truth, and do not dare to reform or improve it. Thus they are confined in their own tiny little world. Their students become machines which imitate martial art forms."

This, to Bruce, was something entirely against his dream and desire - he had hoped for all martial arts practitioners in coming together, openly sharing and unreservedly exchanging, with full honesty and clear conscience. It was a principle he had lived by, and which he wished strongly others to be of so. In his own philosophical expression, Bruce said, "I have not invented a 'new style,' composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from 'this' method or 'that' method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds." True to his lifelong pursuit Bruce had earnestly sought to 'free' the minds of all practitioners from the four walls of rigidity and dogmatism, and be truly self-empowered with the true form of martial art.

It was also in this spirit that Bruce Lee went on to learn one school of art after another, one style after another, and one technique after another. From the Southeast Asian art of Silat to Western boxing and fencing, he studied intensively and deeply. From this single-mindedly desire, and at the young age of 27, his lifelong pursuit for an integrative system, 'Jeet Kune Do' was founded. It was, in a nutshell, an art which broke down all confining walls of rigid traditions and barriers of conservative beliefs, and of which successfully integrated all styles as well as bringing all strengths together.

While many in the world revered Bruce Lee as a great martial art actor, he was in the truest sense, one who stood by his conviction and belief in tearing down the obstacles, one by one, for learning the martial arts, and pushing wide the centuries-old rusted doors in allowing every commoner in the street to enter. He had truly wanted everyone to be strong and able.

In this sense, what Bruce had done is echoed by the current US presidential candidate Barack Obama. Experiencing first-hand the death of his mother and raised by his white grandmother, rising from this humble background, he stood up for the people of America and more importantly, for all regardless of colour or religion. Cherishing the dream of inroducing genuine changes to America, he was ridiculed for being young and inexperienced, and was targeted once and again for being a threat to the survival. To those who had their minds closed and long shut off, youths who hold on to a burning heart and passionate desire are certainly threats to the already-established and deeply rooted traditions and cultures, something these people are comfortably relying on to live their lives by. They would in all aspects choose not to disturb the structures and paradigms; anyone doing so would be regarded as anti establishment and social threat.

Both Bruce and Obama suffered unfounded criticisms. For Bruce he was surrounded by leaders of the various schools, who regarded his new-found style as 'unorthodox' and against traditional foundations. For Obama, he was attacked for his racial lineage to a white grandmother. Throughout the tunnels of time, it had been evidently recorded that great persons of passion, whenever they stood up for great causes, would invite unfounded citicisms and ungrounded lies. Such are the fundamentals lurking in the lives of those who delivered the attacks, resorting to low-handed tactics and viscious, cunning devices with the sole objective of bringing these men of courage down.

Those in power fear those whom are passionate; those who control are wary of those who inspire, while those grounded on traditions detest those who speak of changes. In all ages, rulers seek to divide and hurt while genuine leaders forge to unite and heal. It has been so, and shall still so.

This post has been written over a span of three days. As I approached the end of this post, my laptop's clock rests on 3rd Nov 2008, 2310 hrs. The time has come for America, on the other side of this beautiful planet, to make a choice. Would they choose change over tradition, passion over fear, unity over division, self-reliance over hard-empowerment, and youthfulness over experience? Or would they decide on the contrary?

History shall be written today, while I believed change is already on the way.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Religious Humans & Humanised Religions

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda presented his annual Peace Proposal titled "Humanizing Religion, Creating Peace" on the founding anniversary of the Soka Gakkai International, 26th January. One can read the entire text here.

While I have not read it through thoroughly, I have certainly taken time off to read the synopsis. It is another monumental effort by Dr. Daisaku to guide the world into perceiving the fundamental element of this human platform - practising religions and their spiritual ideologies, to the correct path of acknowledging 'humans' as the rightful centrality.

Incidentally, six months later, one Buddhist priest, who is the head of several temples here in Singapore, Hongkong and Malaysia, and who is also holding executive positions for five other charities, is charged today for four counts of criminal offences, primarily involving contractual lending of large sums of money supported by purportedly falsified records.

It is a case too many, as the case of former National Kidney Foundation chairman, charged and imprisoned for fabricating false invoices for misleading the multi-million organisation and committing uncharitable acts of extravagance, still linger fresh in the minds of many ordinary Singaporeans. The common folks walking on the streets could not be more heart-wrenched, given the fact that they were the ones who forked out that very precious dollar or cent in donating to the temple for a simplest wish of wishing well for oneself and the world.

Coindentally, echoing this unfolding, dramatic episode from afar is the foreign news of the first visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Australia. Though the fervent heat of welcoming him to this land of migrated Aborigines is strong, the protests against clergical sexual abuses accompanying the cheers are equally rousing and seizing. In a single event of historical significance, both the visitation and confrontation possess unprecendented brilliance in their own rightful manner.

As this post is penned, the Venerable has been charged in court, placed on bail pending trial, while the honorable Pope, in the midst of his religious address, made an abrupt deviation from his prepared script and, on behalf of the many priests who have had abused their statuses and power in abusing their young faithful believers, many whom looked up to them with utmost respect and sincerest trust, offered his long-awaited apology to victims and their families.

It is no doubt a strange union of charity and religions at this instant that one comes to be awed by this strange coincidence. The weakness in the human hearts, for charity and toward religion, is critically magnified and amplified in these simplest two cases of mismanagement and cover-up - it is a soft-spot lied in all of our traditional beliefs and conventional logic, where we come to formulate the most-accepted perspective that a charity leader cannot do wrong, and that a religious leader cannot be fallen. It is in fact a universal, in-born desire to see that kindness will reap goodness, compassion will sow beauty, and justice will bring forth the truth.

From this silent yearning which springs from the depths of our lives since day one comes the actions of donating that very single cent to the charities, and entering and committing whole-heartedly to the religious institutions. In the endless cycles of life and death, human beings actively seek out to fulfill that unseen yet tangible, compelling inner call in doing good to others presently, while seeking out a higher order in wishing their lives to return the goodness to them in future. It is a humanistic river of conscience and consciousness running at the most fundamental level of our lives, connecting us all and relating to us in unity. It is thus of no modified or pretentious presentation in any way, but that of a genuine, outright and straightforward sentiment found in the every sincere donation when the donors brought forth their notes and cents to these organisations. They truly wish for their own, as well as others', lives to rise and shine with brilliance of happiness.

However, in both the context of history and current affairs, they have taught and shown us that it is the leaders living and breathing on this Earth whom will and shall determine the direction, and consequently the fate, of the groups and organisations they are leading. It is ultimately a question of whether the leaders themselves have fought hard against their own devilish forces of greed and lust for power, fame or status, and in furtherance whether they have allowed these forces to seep out of their bodies and slowly mutating into the organisations' organs.

SGI President Ikeda, in his latest Peace Proposal, explicitly and openly pointed out the one single most important primal point for humanity - the revolution of every aspect of our human civilisation around the one single core, which is by and large, humans. As he rightfully pointed out humanity has lost sight of this most important focus point, and in the context of religions, such loss-sightedness is even more blatant as religions, the foremost enlightened platform in the entire human world, has been degraded to be a machinery for corrupted humans to exercise, perform and achieve their own personal agendas and objectives. Humans in these religions are no longer humans; they have lost sight of their own humanity and thus their own identities as well. Instead, humans in these groups become subservience to their organisations, and in the end no longer is 'happiness' the central core of these religions anymore.

Enhancing this vile cycle is the hopelessness and hedonistic principles ravaging humanity's lands. Against this disorderly state, religions with ulterior or personal motives sprout and seize the chance in seizing humans by their thoughts and actions. They successfully created a legion of faithful followers where they would carry out activities not with the aim of achieving human happiness but chaos and suffering. What we are witnessing around the world, as of today, is a testament presented clearly by Dr. Ikeda. It is an urgent call to the whole human race in returning to our inner primal point of re-discovering our humanity. It is from here that all others matter, and all else spring from.

This post has been deferred time and again. On this morning of 08/08/08, where it is by the hands of fate and chance to be once every hundred years, I muster up my courage in facing this long-overdue post and gotten myself determined into completeing it. While the post maybe disengaged in some parts or another, I know I have connected one part of me with another, and traveled deeper into my own being into perceiving and understanding myself a little more.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Walking The Middle Path - Bridging The Gap Of East And West

I came across an article recently, when I conducted an internet seach for 'Lotus Sutra'.

It was a contributive analysis between the thousand years' old sutra, preached by Shakyamuni, and the modern-day President of Soka Gakkai International. One is able to read the full text here.

The gist of the article made comparisons and drew similarities between the sutra and the man, focusing on the expounded philosophies in the book and the conducted actions of the human, and the manifesting results that illuminate from the every change and progress brought forth by the two vehicles of philosophy and compassion.

If one is to take an extended long perspective into human history, one would be able to see that it was chaos first all around, and then dust settling and finally systems generated, either by nature or by intervened construction. This applies to both the natural and human worlds, where long before our ancestors of Homo Sapiens and/ or Erectus roamed the surface of this planet, meteorites and planetoids were bombarding the face of the Earth. It was believed that after all impacts and instability had receded the Earth began to form the inner core, then proceeding the outer. From there, oceans were formed and lands were gathered. Molecules started their own lives and replicating, evolving, magnifying and multiplying.

Human lives were as such. Long before there were civilisations, our ancestors fought with one another to keep oneself alive. Then was certainly a jungle-warfare, and a survivor to each his own. When the period of civilisations settled in, nations were built, boundaries marked and armies thus maintained. Still, wars rose from the four corners of the world, and occupations, invasions and intrusions kept human lives under an umbrella of constant chaotic sufferings. It was in the midst of this entire set of commotions that humans embarked on the journey of pondering over the most fundamental of their existence: what is one's happiness in this lifetime, and how should one obtain it?

From this primal point of human consciousness, the East and the West thus began a journey of spiritual exploration. While the history of the West was mainly represented by Judaism and Christianity, the East adopted an approach totally different from their monotheistic counterparts - they looked inward and internal, posing questions and seeking answers from where they believe is the origination of everything: their own lives. From Buddhism to Confucianism to Taoism, all are but inward-looking yet far-reaching, peace-promoting yet thought-provocating, material-sanctioning yet all-embracing.

It was against this background that the West came to develop much stronger and of a hastier pace. It was this nature - the hunger for material success and greed for wealth - that they began to build all-invading colonizing power that swept across the Southern hemisphere with ease. With the rise of the West came the humbling of the East at their mercenary mercies. It was then a development of two contrasting routes of human spiritual evolutions - the West began their immersion into the vast accumulation of wealth and materials, and the enjoyment distilled from these sources, while the East silenced herself at the sight of the onslaught of her local people and lands. These expressions signified the totally different approaches of the Eastern and Western peoples to the unfolding, never-ending secular events, and both the outlook of their forward and inward-looking attitudes toward life respectively.

As the Chinese saying goes, "物极必反", all matters in this world will come to reverse once they have reached their ends. The same can certainly be told of these developments: the West came to be caught up with a downward spiral of unending hedonism, resulting a generation of moral decadence of what the world is witnessing now. On the contrary, the East has been tied up in its own invisible yet unbreaking web of theologies and principles, hardened logics and cold calculations, which is found in the detached stances generally displayed in the Eastern cultures and traditions of 'non-invasiveness' or '-intrusiveness'. Herein lies the true cultural and mental models between the Eastern and the Western peoples.

It is in this era, where the world came to witness two world wars, and ended with two activations of atomic bombs, that SGI President Daisaku Ikeda came to bear the brunt of bridging this widening gap. With no other purpose except to see no human to suffer under the spell of continuous merry-making or lifeless preaching, he began a worldwide journey of propagating the theory of 'The Middle Way'. Based on Nichiren's teaching on the Lotus Sutra of the 'Three Truths' - Ku (空 - voidness), Ke (假 - temporal forms) and Chu (中 - middle path), Daisaku Ikeda began to teach the world that there should be no absolute reliance on either on of the two elements - invisible concepts or tangible matters. If one is to attach heavily on either one of the two, he/ she begins to lose the true identity of a human being.

The end result is either one depending too much on the physical body, and all materials around it, to derive happiness and satisfaction, or swinging to the other end of the spectrum to rely solely on practicing and implementing rigid and dogmatic self-righteous theologies. Neither one will lead one out of misery and into the realm of absolute happiness, for these the first attachment drags one into short-lived but certainly empty fulfillment, while the latter pushes one deeper in the whirlpool of anger and dissatisfaction toward society and the world-at-large by discarding every mean and end to be enlightened to one's inner immovable life-condition.

Against all odds, Daisaku Ikeda began his journey of Middle Way forty-years ago. Visiting communist countries Russia and China while paying tribute to the capitalist America, praising the beauties of the East while engaging the virtues of the West, he has taught the world, through his actions and thoughts, that what humanity needs now is not an unrestrained rush into the garden of materialism; neither is humanity requiring a set of suffocating and unbending rules. Instead she must be guided to the enlightening pinnacle of detaching from these two elements, and coming to the rightful path of walking the centre of these forces, falling to neither one and focusing back on the most important yet long-forgotten single element - the human happiness.

Thus, as he has expounded, all worldly structures and institutions mankind has ever created, be it religion, principles, morals, theologies, sciences, finances and education, are to be regarded as "merely means to achieve and obtain human happiness". Any deviation from this path will lead humanity into misery and never-ending conflicts. True to these words, one is able to justifiably witness a disintegration of objectives humanity has set in the beginning, from religions to education, where inceptively noble visions were indeed beautifully and passionately penned down by their founders.

Conclusively humanity has certainly lost the ability to not only enlighten and edcuate herself, but the very instinct of realising her amnesic disorientation in the thick woods of human constructed world. She has forgotten the most basic purpose of arriving in this world: to be truly happy, and to make this world an unshakable eden of happiness. All other objectives would be, and should be, secondary.

In a nutshell, humanity's lives is likened to the lotus flower: to choose to be born in a muddy pond, but oneself be unstained by the surrounding dirt. How to be as simple yet profound as it is perhaps humanity's greatest challenge so far, yet.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Torch of Flaming

The world has seen a whirlpool of uncertainties engulfing it in recent times.

Oil prices have risen to a historical high, the Earth's land surface temperature for March has recorded a warmest mark, with the overall (land and ocean) surface tempreatures taking a second spot in the 129-year record book, and food prices rocketing to worrying peaks.
These are issues far from us, yet affecting our very thread of senses and lives, in every single moment passed.

In the midst of all these, humans have joined in the ranks of protesting or supporting the relay of the Olympic torch, which is passed from country to country, continent to continent.

It is suppose to be a celebrative event which unites humanity for the single goal of embracing each other for the pursuit of solidarity and unity, exchange and interaction, understanding and cooperating.However, as all worldly events are, there would be some inflitration of political, social or personal emotional elements, injected by either deliberate or unintentional acts. Complications will arise and sub-episodes will unfold; as the participants of these events come to be carried away, they can no longer see that they are no further from where they have begun - the primal objective and desire have totally been lost in the forested fanaticism and incited excitement.

China has always been in this unique, if not queer, position. From the time of Qing dynasty, the last empire before the formation of the people's government, the world had seized its timely chance in correcting and educating this fragmented country. It is a stance adopted almost with the shadowy hint of a strict parent peering down and lecturing a misbehaved child.

To certain extent, China has discarded what were originally placed on her shoulders - the responsibilities of securing peace and prosperity for her common people. In between every page of China's history, countless innocent lives were lost in the abyssal tides of political instability, social upheaveals and judicial downfalls. Those were the times when bodies were trampled on and lives disposed off, in the most easy and unimaginable way. It was, in a word partially, if not fully, responsible for what had befallen on it in the later half of the dynasty - the invasion of foreign powers in the name of liberation from its own domestic unrests.

While times have progressed and tides have ebbed, memories are evidently imprinted in one's mind and impressions branded in one's heart. What China was once is still largely remembered as unchanged to many. The sins and wrongdoings of the past are brought forward onto today's soil, and before they take root and sprout, poisoning the land and polluting the air and water, the inherent sense of justice brewing in the lives of many springs up to respond to the call of fighting the evil. It is with such audacious fervency that the torch of Olympic has come to scorch the sentiments of the protesters - China is simply unqualified to host a internationally human-centred event when the human-rights records have reflected otherwise.

In the wake of the torch relay, the call for freeing Tibet has never been louder. Flamed by the Western media, the fires of anger and violence rose to a higher height. Where the torch is symbolically regarded as flame of hope and signified as the fire of passion, and the torchbearers as representatives of human solidarity, crossing borders and transcending barriers, the media have seized the opportunity in relaying a wholly different message altogether. What is supposed to be an entirely sporting event has seen political and social interests infiltrating it. The struggles of the torchbearers in passing on the torch undisturbed and unhindered are consequently and significantly shadowed by the fights between the supporters and protesters of the event.

On a hindsight, and true to reality, both parties have mistaken their abilities in shaping the world: torch-relaying can never truly establish barrier-transcendental understanding; likewise, media-flaming can neither come close to altering the political terrain of a country. In a single moment of fixated scene, these two groups of excited and agitated humans can be seen representing two totally different ideologies but sharing one single torch of passionate yet misled belief.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Breather

I used to think that I am quite good in writing; in thinking fast and penning down swift.

It was when I encountered setbacks in life that I realised everything had been surreal all the while - I had mistaken all that were generated in my mind to be what reality is. Thus I come to see myself as one who is capable of seeing things through and reading their true nature. Something I take pride in all this while.

It was when I fell and landed harshly on the ground that I began to see the other side of the whole. The side which I thought I have seen and grasped it; the side which I think I have it under my examination and analysis.

So when my life came to a standstill I for once stopped and held everything fixed. Suddenly I came to see that I am not that capable anymore; I am not that efficient anymore; and I am certainly not that correct afterall.

It was an enlightening transition. Everything that was what I thought to be would change and transform in front of my very eyes. I began to suspect that all the while I might have been living in my own illusion. Something I created out of my imbalanced mind to favour my own sore soul and perhaps soothe my inner painful being.

When all dust is settled I began to see that I might not really know who this person, who has my name, face, body and identity, living in my place and doing what I am tasked to do, anymore than I know of him before all these. Suddenly I come to see that I have been wearing a psychological mask which I had painted for myself, in covering my inner feelings up when I step out of my individual realm and into the masses. It is an effective way of dealing with my own inner negativity.

The timing of everything has its own purpose. So is everyone born into this world. When one doesn't move forward, there'll be no resistance from the wind or water. It is only when one determinedly stands up and pushes forward that obstacles come to rise and hinder him. It is the best time, in fact, to confuse his visions and cloud his paths, so as to ensure that success is not for him. For one when succeeds, there'll be victors born, and the circle of happiness would simply expand and widen, embracing those coming into contact with this winner. From there, success breeds success, and happiness gain multifolds.

These negative forces are thus present to see that humans should not be that happy afterall.

After nine months of hectic work-study schedule, including some life-changing episodes, I have finally be able to take a rest from everything and slow all matters down. It is a short breather that I have wanted quite desperately. For all things there must be speed and strength, while at other times there must be gentleness and calmness.

In the coming time I shall gather myself and review all that I have done so far, and where I have arrived at presently. It is in fact the best time for me to rest and re-energise for the next period and stage of my life. While waiting the outcome of my academic study, which will determine the next course of my actions, I shall pick up all loose ends and start afresh.

The rain of March has not been receding; it has in fact gather strength and has been washing and clearing the heat of the tropical sun lately. It is certainly timely for one to embrace this heat and light and embark on a new journey, internally and outwardly, mentally and physically.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

16th February 2008

Benazir Bhutto had died in the ending of 2007, while an ex-President of a 225-million citenzry with 17,000 islands archipelago, Suharto, entered the realm of latent state in the early of this year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wedded his high-profiled girlfriend, while the Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd made a historic apology to the Aborigines, which all took place this month.

Against this media-spotlight frenzy, Kenya experienced one of the worst internal, politically-linked post-eletction civil violence since her 1963 independence, which saw more than a thousand killed with another 300,000 displaced from homes. The United States was rocked yet again by another campus shooting which saw seven dead, while rebel gunmen fired shots at East Timor's President and Prime Minister, which left the former, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Jose Ramos-Horta critically wounded. All these, and more, unfolding and receding in the sphere of the sub-prime crisis, looming overhead on the world's financial front and engulfing every field of every corner of our modern societies.

By festive moods, the few days of a brand new lunar year have passed, while Valentine's Day has come and go in a blink of an eye. The world has entered the mid February of this four-years-once leap year.

What have I done, I asked, that see me deservedly proud of myself, in this fresh two months of a brand new year. Have I forgotten the resolutions I have set for myself, during the transition of 2007 and 2008? Have I misplaced the letter of determination I have sent to my Mentor in the beginning of January, which carried with it my promise to him, and to myself? Or have I let go of the ropes of discipline, which I chose to restraint myself, when I embarked on the path of my acedemic pursuit? What have I exactly done so far?

In the daily chores and exchanges of living my life, I have overlooked the importance of watching the watch, or reading the clock. Time, as many know, has no absolute unit. It all depends on the specific individual, whom if he or she is keen and sensitive, time is flowing and pulsating at a dynamic pace; if he/ she is lazed and dazed, time certainly flows slower, and more meaningless thus.

It is therefore our own perception of space and time that shapes and determines how and what should we do in the span of this limited amount of time given to us. It is from here that we come to decide which path we should take, and which to avoid, in leading us to a place which we called 'destiny'. It is purely of our own makings, or breakings, that see us to our pre-conceived land.

Nichiren, a 13th century buddhist priest, was born on this day -16th Febraury, in the year 1222. His family was in the fishing business, which was considered a low-ranking job by social status. Armed with the shining identity of a commoner, Nichiren went on to leave behind a huge volume of hand-written letters and theses, transforming the land of Japan from one devastated with human sufferings and natural disasters to one of peace and tranquility, as well as restoring the confused minds and corrupted hearts of the people to one with wisdom and compassion.

It is with such an awe for this eternally brilliant determination to not only survive and succeed in fulfilling one's dreams, or missions for that matter, that I come to view this day. It is again a fresh start from within my life, and one which I am penning it down as reminder.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

22 days

22 days have passed since I penned down the first post of this year.

In this span of three weeks and one day, I have certainly experienced a trying struggle of keeping my head lowered and burrowed in the piles of reference sources to complete my overdue academic assignment, as well as coping with the physical outbreak of stress-related symptoms.

It is a period I will never forget.

Incidentally, while swimming through these events in a painfully slow speed, I have kept my head under the emotional breaking point. It certainly had allowed me to observe myself from a detached dimension that I had not been overwhelmed by the flooding mental pressures, which often led me to an outbreak of mental frustration and subsequently defeated over-stretched state.

What had caused me to feel as such? I believe it is the recovered faith I have picked up, in myself, in my faith's practice, in my object of faith's worship. It is ultimately a tranquil sense of inner peace and crystal-light strength that allows me to fall back on, in the face of meeting my external work and study schedules as well as my internal fluctuating turbulent thoughts.

Around this time, I had also another realisation with regard to this seemingly undetectable yet tangible change - I had felt a genuine, concrete sense of relief from the emotional baggage I had carried from last year when I posted the letter coupled with a photo to my Mentor Ikeda Sensei. The letter was sent out on 5th Jan, and I presumed it would reach him three to five days later. It was around that time that I began feeling a sense of gratitude and peace springing forth from within me. I almost instantly knew that my Mentor had offered his prayer for me.

Till this day, I could still travel back in time, in me, and locate that clear, unstained spring of compassionate embrace.

It was also with this realisation and clarity that I embarked on completing the second assignment of my second academic module. To read a matter or issue distant from us is probably never good a choice; to write something that is distant, yet bringing it forth and establishing a link between it and the world takes on a much more difficult and strenuous level - one has to suppress any alternate, intruding thoughts and keep focus on attempting to understand what has this world incorporated for it to become as such.

The pursuit of knowledge and life's wisdom certainly has not been an easy one.

With the submission of the assignment, and a reply from the lecturer that no penalty was administered for my five-day delay, I managed to lower the pressing force that has been dwelling in my chest for weeks.

Coupled with this positive outcome, I prepare myself for the final third assignment of one of the two modules - Nuclear (Non)-Proliferation. It is something I have wrote to Sensei, promising to him that I would do my best in introducing his thoughts and ideals, through my academic work, to my University, which I believe I do owe a living gratitude toward. It is the best I can return to my alma mater, as a student of life.

As the night falls and the moon brilliantly shining, I set forth for the final thrust of this academic finale.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2nd January 2008

The weather has suddenly turned cooling. It was still heat and sunny before the conclusion of 2007, but once the turn of the year has come, the weather has been milder and softer. Could there be a link between the collected inner temporal calmness and gratitude of humanity, and the outer reflection and projection of the environment? I certainly do not have an answer for it.

New Year's day. It is a day which I have never lost sight of, not only because it returns as a forceful reminder that I am still alive, and living in this world with a cause, it also generates interest in me in observing how people would come to welcome it. The live telecast of the counting down for 2008 at New York Times Square, flashed across my TV screen, showed happy faces of thousands, all gasping in breath as the New Year Eve Ball made its descent by every second ticked. As it finally descended to the back of '2008', the figure lighted up, churning sparks of flash lights and euphoria into the air. Many kissed and more hugged, with even a man on his knee and a ring in his hand. The bride-to-be could not contain her joyful tears any longer.

The world has once more been revived by her annual renewal of calender life.

It is at this point that I would always reflect upon myself: while I can certainly be part of this gigantic throng of happy people, counting down and making merry of this joyous occasion, what has gone in me that allow me to live through the year with a directed sense of clarity? Would I again be lost in the whirlpool of my own weaknesses, and shaping the surrounding, to eventually lead me to where I have promised to depart? Would it again be a 'full circle' and got me into problems which I am suppose to discard? Would I again be committing mistakes and errors that I have resolutely set to dispose, on the eve of this new year's day? My mind wonders as the clock ticks continuously. Time waits for no man.

It is also with such a thought circling in me that I welcomed January the 2nd. It is the birthday of my Mentor, Ikeda Sensei. While the first day of each newly arrived year belongs to the world, including every sentient and non-sentient beings, I deem it fit to see that the second day belongs to humanity. It is a day where humankind would feel joyous in welcoming it, for this day witnessed the arrival of a great human being.

Incidentally, the excitement brought on by celebrating the New Year's Day would seem short-lived and unsettling. After the party and songs, everyone returns to his/ her own usual social and family settings. The celebration of the birthday of a great human, on the other hand, brings on calmness and resolution: it brings forth one's determination to want to be that person, the courage to live that person's dreams, and the conviction to re-ignite that person's unwavering committment to a noble cause, what it may be.

It is, by and large, a celebration of echoing one's own inner fortress of strength and courage with that great human's. It is a celebration of life.

When all dust are settled and the world returns to her norms, what we have will only be the same economic, social, political and envrionmental conditions as the year before. What will be different will be the hearts and souls of those who have gathered a gushing of human spirits and strengths determined to making this brand new year a different one from the last. Perhaps it is here that lies the true meaning of celebrating a new year's day. It is from within that we ought to begin, and end with.