The mindfulness cure (for Thailand's political division)

by Sanitsuda Ekachai, The Bangkok Post, Sept 12, 2008

Bangkok, Thailand -- Take a deep breath. Watch it leave the nostrils. Watch it come back in. Feel the sensation. See the difference. Watch the constant change. Try do it for at least 10 minutes to let the calm set in.

Indeed, we need to instil our inner calm more than ever to prevent ourselves from getting carried away in the emotional rollercoaster of our dangerously unpredictable politics.

As the nation sinks deeper into political divisiveness, we also need to build inner strength that will help pull us out of the quagmire of hatred and violence.

We Thais like to claim that we are peace-loving Buddhists. Yet, we've blown it many times before with violent clashes and crackdowns in previous political crises. Whether or not we fail again this time around, depends very much on how Buddhist we really are.

Forget our political leadership that has no sense of shame. Forget money politics, authoritarian bureaucracy, destructive development policies, and the unjust social structures that perpetuate oppression and suffering on the ground.

Not that they are not important. On the contrary.

Those are the sources of conflict rooted in our society's inequality and moral breakdown. They are also powerful forces ready to destroy anyone in their way. That is why we need to be well-equipped mentally for the challenge.

Samak Sundaravej (current caretaker Prime Minister) or not, new general elections or not, we will certainly slide into the same political instability again, if the root causes of injustice are not fixed. To fix them without being overwhelmed by anger and greed of the moment, however, we need to build within ourselves a deep reservoir of calm.

We need an insight that all things - including ourselves, our perceived enemies and our imperfect world - are under the same laws of interconnectedness and change. That we are under the same cycle of samsara of birth, old age, illness and death.

More importantly, we need to learn the art of letting go. Not only of status and possessions, but also of our beliefs and the false sense of self or ego.

Otherwise, in our quest for change, we will be lost in greed, anger, hatred and a sense of moral superiority - which have turned countless ideologues into fascists.

As Buddhists, the first step towards cultivating calm and insight is by returning to ourselves, our breath.

By mindfully observing our breathing and change in body sensation, we will realise by ourselves the power of our own thoughts; how mild feelings can spiral out of control into strong and violent emotions when we let ourselves get swept away in the stream of thoughts that are rooted in past resentment and fear for the future.

We will also find how illusive our thoughts are; how they change from one matter to another by themselves without any logical sequence; and how they stop so suddenly when our awareness catches them.

It is the same with emotions. Watch them mindfully to see how they arise, subside and pass away. Watch them flare up again when triggered by thoughts or words loaded by values, prejudices, hopes and fears, only to pass away again.

Like all things, emotions do not last. They change when conditions change. Such is the law of impermanence.

Such insight miraculously fills us with hope and loving kindness. Through experiencing the constant flux of change within, we know for certain that there is no such thing as a dead end. All is subject to change. And we can influence the change and steer clear of hurting others by being mindful of our thoughts, our words and our actions.

The current political crisis boils down to a clash of burning anger, greed and hatred. The structural inequality and injustice that sustains it also boils down to greed, anger and attachment to ego, from not knowing that nothing lasts.

If we are true Buddhists, if we want real change through peace, we must open our hearts, welcome differences and change with loving kindness.

Start with mindfulness.

Start with ourselves.

Take a deep breath.

Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor (Outlook), Bangkok Post.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: