Thursday, June 30, 2016

TRAVEL | The Virtue of Being Good, From a Buddhist Perspective

In every backpacking trip I do, I always bump into people who are wiser and has more experience than I do. It is enlightening to listen to their stories and learn from them. Today, I am writing about my discussion with Cory, a buddhist from the US and currently based in China.

Points to Ponder

• The more aware you are of your consciousness, the less likely you can commit unwholesome thoughts.

• The purity of intention defines the degree of your karmic retribution.

• A man and a devil was walking down the road when they saw a guy picking up a note. The man told the devil, "hey look, he found the truth." Of which the devil replied, "Ok, let him organize it."

• Fear is only in the mind and only exists if you decide to give it a form.

The Virtue of Being Good

When religion is confined to rituals and rites, where do we find ourselves in terms of doing good? Is it enough that these rituals and rites are followed and practiced? Does it necessarily mean that we are good people when we are faithful to these rituals and practices? But what really is the end goal for believing in such "organized" religions?

I find it interesting to share with you the concept of "intentions" when we discuss the subject of being a good person. It goes beyond the traditions of organized religions[1] which will be discussed further in this article.

How does one become a good person, is probably one question too trivial to ask. In essence, it is easy to be a good person. But the real question is, when are good deeds considered good? We all have questions on whether what we are doing now in this lifetime is enough?

When you commit a good act in order to impress people and say that you are indeed a man of virtue, does that suffice to consider you good? When you try to avoid doing actions that could be harmful to you, but might potentially benefit others, does that make you a good person?

The answer lies with the nature of intention. Deep down, we know that there is a reason why we are doing things. And depending on the nature of our intention, we can determine if our actions are considered good.

The nature of intention also determine our karmic retribution. It is not enough that we do something good, for the sake of doing good. The intention has to be pure in order to receive positive karma.

Otherwise, karmic retribution will kick in. And by that, it will determine what your next life will be, and which realm you will be delegated/relegated to. On the subject of rebirth, it is important to note that man is a being is in constant struggle and trapped in the vicious life cycle of death and rebirth. This will only stop if nirvana has been achieved, which is quite a feat.

Somehow, our present situation is defined by our past. Good karma will give allow a person to be in a comfortable realm, which may or may not be blessed with material wealth, good health, family, friends, etc. Bad karma will bestow suffering to the person in the form of illness, physical deformity, suffering and ultimately being reborn into a lower form of being.

In the middle of this struggle, man reaches a level of consciousness. With experience and maturity, a higher consciousness can be attained which will allow a man to discern what indeed defines a good act, considering that there are grey areas in the scheme of things.


If a person causes harm in order to save something, how does Karma work on this? Again we go to the subject of intentions. I believe that so long as the intention is pure, although results may be catastrophic, karma will be positive.

You as a Concept

Although the past may influence your karmic present, it is important to note that we as human beings do not exist and not bound to conform to socially structured beliefs. Our body is nothing but a mix of different organ system, and this is not who we are. Our names are arbitrarily given to us by our parents and do not in any sense define who we are. Thus, our actions may be considered as unique and not shadowed by our past actions. If we do something now, then it was made out of a unique instance and has never been done yet.

Another example is a car. A car is not a car, but metals and rubber pieced together. We decided to call it a car. But I can call it "ves" if I wanted to, only it was not the agreed term and concept. Remove the agreement and everything loses its prescribed meaning.

So in essence, man is like an empty room; just total and complete darkness. Soon as the lights are switched, furniture assembled, interior designed, locks placed- the empty room has already become a room of struggle.


Intentions may be pure, but as human beings we are limited as to what we can do for ourselves and others. So the intentions will have to be weighed in against your capacity as a human being. For example, you can give one homeless man food. But you cannot feed a whole community because your resources are limited. Despite the fact that you cannot act on your pure intentions to end hunger, you have worked your best on one homeless man and this in turn will have positive karma.

Now why is the subject of intention, important?

This is because as human beings, I want to reiterate that we are reincarnated (if there's such a thing) because there is a purpose. And that every second that we breathe is part of a larger plan weaved by the Universe to maintain order.  And that for every action that we do, there are always consequences to ensure that the balance is leveled.

This is also important because it will affect the outcome of our life. Negative intentions tend to open up doors to more negative thoughts. Think of it as a domino effect. You push one block of negative thought and the rest are likely to be affected. So in essence, if negative intentions are minimized (if not halted) then life will be more peaceful.

Take relationships as an example. The more negative intentions are mixed into the couples' dynamics, the more likely it will fail. For more information on relationship counseling, please see this link, dedicated to couples and relationships.

The only challenge with this is that you have to make sure that you make a conscious effort to block the impure intentions, so you keep the rest of evil thoughts from coming in.

Meditation and Retreat

In order to find a deeper consciousness, it is advised to practice meditation. This can be done through self meditation or with the help of a meditation expert in a retreat house. Typically, you have to wake up at 4am to practice body awareness coupled with the vow of silence. This is a time to assess yourself and understand more about your physical body as well as achieve a higher sense of consciousness.

[1] Organized religion is defined as social organizations with structured practices and rituals which are followed by its members and passed down from generation to generation.

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