Monday, September 29, 2008

Seven Deadly Sins of Investing - Part I

An Interesting Quiz

With the current financial crisis, now is the time to start considering investing in the stock market. Before proceeding, we need to find out whether you have temperament and personality to be an Intelligent Investor. Sounds interesting? Well, take this quiz to find out. Ready? Here we go.

1. To Buy A Car
Oil prices have just gone up and your wallet has taken a huge dent. Your rickety old car is good enough for your needs even though you need to spend money servicing it frequently.

One fine day, you hop over to a car dealer just to admire the car. Immediately a car sales person pounces on you and brings you to look at a shiny brand new Toyota Altis. It appears to be reasonably price and looks gorgeous. Besides, you would be saving on repair costs on your old car. No harm rewarding yourself after working so hard, right? Besides, your year end bonus is coming up soon.

Do you buy the car?

2. An Intriguing Hobby
You have an extremely interesting hobby that you've just picked up. However, due to work and family commitments, you are unable to spend as much time on it as you would like.

Fortunately, this coming weekend, your wife and your kids have decided to go visit their grandparents leaving you free for the week. Your do not have much outstanding work in the office and you do not have any pressing engagements.

Do you spend your entire weekend on your hobby and disregard everything else?

3. A Fantastic Opportunity
You visit your relatives house and notice that they've just bought a brand new 42 inch Plasma TV. Before you can say anything, they start telling you about an investment scheme they participated in. It turns out that that they have placed their money with an offshore investment institution dabbling in oil futures. So far, they have doubled their principal in a month.

Although you remain skeptical, after much persuasion and encouragement, you invest RM5K in the scheme. To your surprise, two months later you receive a statement showing a total of RM15K in your account. You have the option to cash out at anytime. A check on the Internet reveals that the investment fund is legitimate and there are a large number of good reviews on the fund.

Do you invest more money in the Scheme?

4. Power of Attorney
You wish to purchase a property in Singapore but are unable to personally attend to all the paperwork. Your lawyer is from a medium sized legal firm which has a good reputation locally. He suggests that you delegate the paperwork to him via something called a Power of Attorney.

When you question him further, he tells you to just trust him. Further, he tells you that since you are not conversant with the law, explaining to you would be a waste of time.

Do you sign the Power of Attorney?

5. A Stolen Car
One fine day after work, you reach the car park and find that your car has been stolen. Darn it, of all days - you left your Identity Card, Passport, credit cards and ATM card in the car. Being a forgetful person, you left a password on a post-it-note in the car just in case your forgot it.

Do you scream, shout and burst into a wild tantrum before forcing yourself to calm down?

6. The Two Rivals
You and your fellow colleague are two of the brightest rising stars in your company. Both of you are highly competitive and more or less equal in skills and abilities. At this year end, only a single person was promoted. It was your colleague.

Although you feel that you contributed as much as your colleague, there was very little to differentiate between the two of you.

Do you feel continue to feel angry and upset that you were by-passed for promotion after a period of two weeks?

7. To Eat the Humble Pie
You are known as a meticulous, diligently and intelligent worker. One fine day, your *not-so-bright* colleague approaches you and remarked that there might be an error in your spreadsheet. Instinctively, you give him a piece of your mind, right there and then in front of everybody, After cooling down, the next day you review your spreadsheet.

GASP! He's right.

You want to apologize to him but you feel too proud to do so. Do you pretend as if nothing has happened and discreetly correct your error?

Where are the Answers?
The full Excel version of the quiz above with the answers has been sent via email to my subscribers. If you wish to receive it, you can subscribe to the e-mail subscription on the upper right hand corner, as follows:

Step 1 & 2:

Step 3:

Step 4:

Step 5:

If you are unable to subscribe, fret not. I will discuss each of the seven questions above on a weekly basis together with the answers, so that you understand the pre-requisites before dabbling in the stock market.

Each of the seven questions represents a facet of the Seven Deadly Sins that one should avoid, when investing in the stock market. We will discuss these Sins one by one, begining with Lust starting next week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

eLawyer Legal Blog Writing Contest 2008

The Way of the General: On Adjudication

When rulers adjudicate criminal cases and execute punishments, they worry that they may be unclear. The innocent may be punished while the guilty may be released.

The powerful may arrogate to themselves alone the right to speak, while the powerless may have their rights infringed upon by those who bear grudges against them.

Honesty may be distorted; those who are wronged may not get a chance to express themselves. The trustworthy may be suspected; the loyal may be attacked.

These are all perversions, problems causing disaster and violence, aberrations causing calamity and chaos.

It is pertinent to note than that even the Ancients considered the existence of just laws to be of paramount importance, in ensuring the security and stability of a nation.

With the current political climate, I am sure many of you are frustrated and have grievances with the legal system in Malaysia. Why not channel these emotions into something constructive by joining the
eLawyer Legal Blog Writing Contest 2008?

An Intriguing Contest
All lawyers, law student and bloggers are invited to partcipate in the writing competition, featuring the following ‘hot’ topics:

1. Towards an independent judiciary in Malaysia
2. Common Bar Exams: The creation of a new problem or a solution for an old one?
3. Welcome the impact of Tun Mahathir’s blog
4. Anti-party Hopping Law: Agree or Disagree?

You can choose EITHER ONE of the above topics, give your two-cents worth in not more than 1,000 words. You stand to win up to RM500 cash! Successful entries will be featured in an exclusive section on the eLawyer website. For more details on how to participate, click

Instead of complaining, why not do something about it? Here’s your chance to voice out your thoughts and opinion.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Philosophical Musings - Part X

The Roots of Wisdom

It is necessary for one to speak out, if a friend has erred. Yet, it is difficult to give constructive criticisms gently and avoid offending the other party. How then should one act? Perhaps a verse from Hong Yingming’s, The Roots of Wisdom may illuminate the right way to criticize:

On Criticizing

When attacking someone’s faults
Do not be too severe

You need to consider
How well he will weather what he hears

When teaching someone
By showing him what is noble

Soar not to sublime heights
Descend to whence he can perceive

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Buddhist Economics - Part II

We will continue with our discussion on Buddhist Economics based on E. F. Schumacher’s book, ‘Small is Beautiful’. Part I discussed about the concept of Labor. This post will discuss about mechanization of labor.

On Mechanization
From the Buddhist point of view, there are therefore two types of mechanization which must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man’s skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position of having to serve the slave.

When is a machine an Enhancer or Slave?
“The craftsman himself,” says Ananda Coomaraswamy, a man equally competent to talk about the modern West as the ancient East, “can always, if allowed to, draw the delicate distinction between the machine and the tool.

The carpet loom is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsmen’s fingers; but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human part of the work.”

Work Serves to Purify One’s Character
It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man’s work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products.

The Indian philosopher and economist J. C. Kumarappa sums the matter up as follows:

“If the nature of the work is properly appreciated and applied, it will stand in the same relation to the higher faculties as food is to the physical body. It nourishes and enlivens the higher man and urges him to produce the best he is capable of. It directs his free will along the proper course and disciplines the animal in him into progressive channels. It furnishes an excellent background for man to display his scale of values and develop his personality.

If a man has no chance of obtaining work he is in a desperate position, not simply because he lacks an income but because he lacks this nourishing and enlivening factor of disciplined work which nothing can replace.”

Conventional economic systems places primacy of producing goods at the lowest cost, without any regard of the people employed. With the advent of new technologies, thousands of workers find themselves being ruthlessly retrenched. Can you imagine the impact of retrenchment on these people’s respect, their families and communities? Surely, an economic system that places people first is more humane than one that places goods first. Any questions or comments?

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Way of the General – Part X

On Cultivation

In order to succeed in life, perseverance is necessary. The following is an ancient story about the origin of Zhuge Liang and the struggles he faced when he was young. Take it with a pinch of salt though, since it's not part of any official records nor found in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel. This story originated from
Clear Harmony.

Origins of a Legend
Zhuge Liang was the military strategist for the Han state in the Three Kingdoms period of China (220-280 A.D.). He was the most famous and ingenious military strategist in Chinese history. He was often pictured wearing a robe and holding a fan made of crane feathers.

When Zhuge Liang was 9 years old, he still was unable to speak. His family was poor and Zhuge Liang was asked by his father to herd the sheep at a nearby hill of a mountain. Up on the mountain there was a Taoist temple where an elderly Taoist with a full head of gray hair resided (A Taoist is one who studies the 'Tao' or 'Way of the Universe').

The Taoist took a leisurely stroll outside the Taoist temple every day. When he ran into Zhuge Liang, he would try to tease the boy with hand signs. Zhuge Liang also enjoyed “talking” back to the Taoist with hand signs. The Taoist grew very fond of the smart and adorable Zhuge Liang. He started to treat the boy’s muteness problem. Before long, Zhuge Liang was able to speak!

Zhuge Liang was delighted when he was finally able to speak. He went up to the Taoist temple and thanked the Taoist in person. The elderly Taoist told him, “When you return home, tell your parents that I am taking you as a disciple and I will teach you to read. I will also teach you the art of astronomy, geography and the applied theories of Yin and Yang in military strategies. If your parents agree, you must come attend the school every day and you must never skip a class!”

From that day on, Zhuge Liang became the elderly Taoist’s disciple. Come rain or shine, Zhuge Liang would climb up to the mountain to receive his education. He was a very smart and diligent boy who took his study seriously. He also had a photographic memory. The Taoist never had to teach him anything twice. Naturally, the Taoist became all the more fond of him.

Eight years passed quickly and Zhuge Liang became a teenager.

No Man May Pass the Hall of Beauties
One day while Zhuge Liang was coming down the mountain as usual, he passed by a deserted nunnery located in the middle of the mountain. Suddenly there came a gusty wind, followed by a thunderstorm. Zhuge Liang had no choice but to flee to the deserted nunnery to escape the storm. There a young woman he had never met came out to meet him. She had a large pair of eyes and thin eyebrows. She was so beautiful that Zhuge Liang almost mistook her for a goddess. He was immediately attracted to the young woman.

When the storm stopped, the beautiful woman saw him off at the door and said to him with a grin, “Now that we have met each other. You are free to come by and have a cup of tea whenever you wish to take a break in your trip up or down the mountain.” As Zhuge Liang was walking out of the nunnery, he felt suspicious. “Why didn’t I notice that someone lived in this nunnery before?” he thought.

From that day on, Zhuge Liang began to frequent the nunnery. Each time the beautiful woman would entertain him with warm hospitality. She cooked him delectable meals and always encouraged him to stay longer. After dinner they would chat heartily and play chess. Compared to the Taoist temple, the nunnery appeared to be a paradise.

Thoughts about the woman often diverted his attention from his education and he began to lose interest in studying. He paid less and less attention to the Taoist’s lectures. He also became forgetful and had difficulty in learning new textbooks.

On Mindfulness
The elderly Taoist discovered his problem. One day he summoned Zhuge Liang and let out a long sigh. “It is easier to ruin a tree than grow a tree!” he said. “I have wasted many years on you!”

Zhuge Liang lowered his head in shame and said, “Master, I will never disappoint you again or waste your education!”

“I don’t believe you,” said the elderly Taoist. “I knew you are a very smart boy, so I wanted to treat your illness and give you a proper education. For the past eight years you have been very diligent in your study, so I thought it was worth the hard work of educating you. But now you are neglecting your education. No matter how smart you are, you will never get anywhere if you continue to carry on like this! You are now promising me to never disappoint me again. How can I trust your words?”

The elderly Taoist continued, “Everything has its cause.” Then he pointed at a tree wrapped up by many thick vines in the courtyard. “Look at the tree,” he said. “Why do you think the tree is half alive and is struggling in its growth?”

“The vines binding the tree are keeping it from growing!” answered Zhuge Liang.

“Precisely! This tree had a tough time growing up in this rocky mountain with little soil. But it keeps growing because it is determined to develop its roots and branches. It fears neither the heat nor the cold. However, when the vines wrap around it, it cannot grow up any taller. It is funny how ‘soft’ vines can defeat a tall, robust tree!”

Zhuge Liang was smart, so he immediately knew what his Master was referring to. He asked, “Master, you knew about my dates at the nunnery””

The elderly Taoist said, “Living near the water, a man will learn the fish’s nature. Living on the mountain, a man will learn the birds’ language. I have been observing you and your actions. How can your romantic affair escape my attention?”

He paused for a moment before telling his disciple with a stern look. “Let me tell you the truth about the beautiful woman. She is not a human being. She is a divine crane in heaven. She was kicked out of the heavenly palace as a punishment after she stole and ate the Queen of Heaven’s peaches. She came to the human realm and assumed the appearance of a beautiful woman. She is a depraved divine crane that knows only to seek pleasure. You have been beguiled by her appearance, but you have wasted more than your time. If you allow yourself to lose your will, you will become a loser! Moreover, if you refuse to comply with her wishes, she will hurt you eventually.”

It was not until then that Zhuge Liang realised the severity of his escapade. He anxiously asked his Master for a solution.

The elderly Taoist said, “The divine crane has a habit of returning to her original form at midnight and flying up to the heavenly river for a bath. While she is away from the nunnery, you will enter her room and burn her robe. She stole the robe from the Heavenly Palace. Without the robe, she can no longer assume the shape of a beautiful woman.”

Zhuge Liang promised to follow his Master’s instructions. Before he took off, his Master handed him a cane with the carving of a dragon’s head on the top. He told Zhuge Ling, “When the divine crane finds there is a fire in the nunnery, she will fly down from the heavenly river right away. She will realise that you have burned her robe and will attack you. When that happens, you must hit her with the cane! It is important that you remember and do what I have told you!”

At midnight, Zhuge Liang went to the nunnery quietly. He opened the woman’s room only to find her robe on the bed. He immediately set the robe on fire.

While the divine crane was bathing in the heavenly river, she felt a sudden heartache. She checked the direction of the nunnery and saw it was on fire. She immediately flied down and saw it was Zhuge Liang who had set her robe on fire. She came at Zhuge Liang and tried to attack his eyes with her beak. Zhuge Liang had quick reflexes. He raised the cane and knocked the divine crane down to the ground. Then he grabbed the crane by her tail. The divine crane struggled and was able to escape, but she lost her tail features to Zhuge Liang.

She became a crane with a bald tail. She was embarrassed by her looks, so she stopped bathing in the heavenly river. She dared not enter the Heavenly Palace to steal another robe either, so she had no choice but to remain in the human realm forever and live among ordinary cranes.

In order to remind himself of this lesson, Zhuge Liang kept the tail feathers of the crane.

Blossoming of the Mind’s Eye
From that day on, Zhuge Liang became even more diligent. He would memorise everything his Master taught him and every textbook. He truly absorbed what he had learnt and was able to apply it freely. Another year passed. On the very day he had burned the divine crane’s robe a year ago, the elderly Taoist told him with a big smile, “My disciple, you have been studying under my tutelage for nine years. I have taught you everything you need to learn and you have learnt every textbook here. There is an idiom, ‘Master takes you through the entrance, and it is up to you to practise cultivation.’ You are now 18 years old. It is time for you to leave your home and develop your career!”

When Zhuge Liang heard that he had completed his education, he begged his Master for more. “Master! The more I learn, the more humble I feel. I feel there is more I need to learn from you!”

“True education comes from real life. You must learn to apply your knowledge to life and design different solutions for different situations! For example, you have learnt an important lesson from the dates with the divine crane that one must not be tempted by lust or emotion. This is a practical lesson from a life experience. With that in mind, you must not be confused by this illusionary surface of the world. Take great caution in everything you do. You must see everything in its true form. This is my farewell advice to you! I will be leaving you today.”

“Master, where are you going?” Zhuge Liang asked in astonishment. “Where can I find you or visit you from now on?”

“I will wander around the world and will not settle down again.”

Suddenly Zhuge Liang found hot tears filling his eyes. He said to his Master, “Master! Before you leave, you must give me an opportunity to kowtow to you and thank you for giving me the education!”

Next Zhuge Liang kowtowed to his Master. When he got up, the Taoist had disappeared.

The Taoist left him with a robe with the print of the Eight Diagrams. Zhuge Liang thought of his Master regularly; therefore, he often wore his robe with the print of the Eight Diagrams because it gave him the feeling that his Master was right beside him.

Zhuge Liang never forgot his Master’s advice, especially his parting advice. He made a feather fan out of the divine crane’s tail feathers to remind himself to take great caution for the rest of his life. This is the story behind the famous feather fan that Zhuge Liang carried.

If a genius like Zhuge Liang could be led astray, what about mere mortals such as us? One should be doubly vigilant in one’s affairs to avoid being led astray. Any comments?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Philosophical Musings - Part IX

The Roots of Wisdom

Whilst studying, one should focus fully to the task at hand and seek to understand the material being taught. If one does not learn things in the right spirit, such knowledge merely superficial and useless!

What is the point of learning things half heartedly and memorizing things without understanding? Such knowledge is worst than none at all! Here is what Hong Yingming has to say about studying!

Doing Things in the Right Spirit

For the person who would study
It is necessary to collect one’s spirit
And to apply oneself in earnest

But if in cultivating virtue
There remains any idea of merit or fame
Learning will invariably amount to nothing

And if in reading books
There is a tendency towards recitation and stylishness
Surely, there will be nothing in the depths of the heart!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buddhist Economics – Part I

An Overview

Let us expand the scope of our ideas on
Financial Intelligence to a larger scale. How would a financially intelligent economic system work? I believe that the answer lies with Buddhist Economics. The term ‘Buddhist Economics’ was first coined by E. F. Schumacher in his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ which was ranked among the 100 most influential book published after World War II. In this series of posts, we will examine and discuss the core ideas in his book.

On Labor
‘Right Livelihood’ is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics.

There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour. Now, the modern economist has been brought up to consider ‘labour’ or work as little more than a necessary evil.

Employer’s View
From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it can not be eliminated altogether, say, by automation.

Employee’s View
From the point of view of the workman, it is a "disutility"; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice.

Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment.

The consequences of these attitudes both in theory and in practice are, of course, extremely far-reaching. If the ideal with regard to work is to get rid of it, every method that ‘reduces the work load’ is a good thing.

The most potent method, short of automation, is the so-called ‘division of labour’ and the classical example is the pin factory eulogised in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialization, which mankind has practiced from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs.

Buddhist View on Work
The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold:
1. To give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties;
2. To enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and
3. To bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless.

To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence.

Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.

I believe that most of us feel our working lives are drudgery and dull beyond disbelief. Why should that be the case? Has it ever occurred to you that our conventional economic system might be somewhat flawed and unsustainable? The following link is a notable example of this: Toyota Workers Finding Job Stressful. Any questions or comments are most welcome.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Financial Intelligence – Part XII

The Quest for the Truth

Inspired by Falling Stones and Damien’s Site's philosophical musings, today’s post on Financial Intelligence is more introspective in nature, discussing the quest to understand the meaning of life and the role financial intelligence plays in it. Sounds interesting? Well, please read on.

A Sense of Dissatisfaction
Amidst the humdrum and busy-ness of daily life, I perform the same old cyclical routine. Attend to the basic needs of the body by eating and sleeping. Interspersed with this is the necessity to work to earn enough money to meet my needs. The feeling of dissatisfaction is muted with the incessant drone of entertainment from the idiot box. Over and over, the cycle of life repeats itself. Is this all there is to life?

The Matrix: Neo’s Dilemma
In the movie the Matrix, Morpheus (named after the Greek God of Dreams and Sleep) offers Neo two pills.

The red pill will answer the question ‘What is the Matrix?’ (by removing him from it) and the blue pill simply for life to carry on as before. As Neo reaches for the red pill Morpheus warns Neo ‘Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.’

The Blue Pill: Ignorance is Bliss!
‘I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?’ remarked

The blue pill symbolizes a capitulation to the system. One accepts unquestioningly our role in life and do what we are told. By ‘fitting in’, one remains in one’s comfort zone. Questioning the status quo carries the danger of ostracism, possibly persecution.

The Red Pill: The Search for the Elusive Truth
The red pill is represents a murky abyss clothed in Darkness. From afar, there are tantalizing glimpses of the shimmering Truth. Taking the red pill means having the courage and faith to step into the abyss in the hope of finding the Truth. In order to answer this question, one must gamble one’s whole life in search for the Truth. You must ask yourself ‘Is it worth the Risk?’

On Opposite Ends
The capitalist system permeating our lives can be both an aid or a barrier to the search for the Truth. For those that are wealthy, the hubris of wealth may tighten their bonds of suffering. The greater the wealth they have, the graver the insecurity of losing it. And those that are tottering on the precipice of poverty, life are about the daily struggle for survival. There is no time for philosophical ponderings.

Financial Intelligence
We, who are on the middle road are fortunate indeed. We have a choice:

For those of us intent on taking the Blue Pill, Financial Intelligence will alleviate our daily troubles and burdens in Life. We have more time to spend chasing meaningful pursuits and dreams. Without the worries of debts and poverty, a small measure of happiness can be obtained.

And what about the courageous ones like Neo willing to take the red pill? It is only when you are financial independent, can you begin to undertake the task to search for the Truth. If you are struggling financially, can you have the audacity to begin your sojourn for the Truth?

Financial Intelligence forms the foundations and very basis for the quest for the Truth. For those struggling with questions on the meaning of life, may I kindly suggest putting them aside first? It may be wiser to first consider your financial IQ by taking my quizzes
here and here. Any questions or comments?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Philosophical Musings - Part VIII

The Roots of Wisdom

What do you seek in this world?

Is it fame and wealth that you crave for?
Or is Happiness you seek?
Ah, the folly of False Desires!

People cherish that, which they do not need
Whilst abandoning that, which they should treasure
If so, how can they be Joyful?
If so, how can they know the Peace of Mind?

Stay a while, o’ wanderer
And listen to a verse from the Roots of Wisdom:

Peace of Mind

Men know the happiness of Fame and Position
They do not know that Obscurity and Lack of Position
Is Happiness of the Highest Truth!

Men know of the affliction of Hunger and Cold
They do not know that the Perpetual Insecurity
Of the Rich is an affliction more excessive still!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Financial Intelligence – Part XI

On Miserliness

Thus far, this series of posts on Financial Intelligence has extolled the virtues of being frugal. Yet, there must be a balance in all things and one must not be frugal to the point of being miserly.

In his book Buddhist Economics
, Ven. P. A. Payutto cautions against the dangers on being overly miserly. The information below is extracted from Chapter 4 of his book.

What are the Three Evils Associated with Wealth?
Obtaining wealth in immoral ways and using it to harmful ends are two evils associated with wealth. A third is hoarding wealth -- refusing to either share one's wealth or put it to good use.

Tale of A Scrooge

In this story, the Buddha recounts the evils of miserliness:

At one time, King Pasenadi of Kosala visited the Buddha. The King told the Buddha that a rich old miser had recently died leaving no heir to his huge fortune, and the King had gone to oversee the transfer of the miser's wealth into the kingdom's treasury.

King Pasenadi described the amount of wealth he had to haul away: eight million gold coins, not to mention the silver ones, which were innumerable. And, he said, when the old miser was alive he had lived on broken rice and vinegar, dressed in three coarse cloths sewn together, used a broken-down chariot for transport and shaded himself with a sunshade made of leaves.

The Buddha remarked:

Foolish Use of Wealth
‘That is how it is, Your Majesty. The foolish man, obtaining fine requisites, supports neither himself nor his dependents, his father and mother, wife and children, his servants and employees, his friends and associates, in comfort.

He does not make offerings, which are of great fruit, and which are conducive to mental well-being, happiness and heaven, to religious mendicants.

That wealth unconsumed and unused by him is confiscated by Kings, stolen by thieves, burnt by fire, swept aside by floods, or inherited by unfavored relatives.

His wealth, accumulated and not used, disappears to no purpose. His wealth is like a forest pool, clear, cool and fresh, with good approaches and shady setting, in a forest of ogres. No-one can drink, bathe in or make use of that water.

The evil person, obtaining wealth, neither uses it nor lets others use it, like a forest pool in a haunted forest -- the water cannot be drunk and nobody dares to use it.’

Wise Use of Wealth
‘As for the wise man, having obtained fine requisites, he supports himself, his mother and father, his wife and children, his servants and employees, and his friends and associates comfortably, sufficiently.

He makes offerings, which are of great fruit, and which are conducive to mental well-being, happiness and heaven, to religious mendicants.

The wealth that he has so rightly used is not confiscated by Kings, thieves cannot steal it, fire cannot burn it, floods cannot carry it away, unfavored relatives cannot appropriate it.

The wealth rightly used by him is put to use, it does not disappear in vain. His wealth is like a forest pool not far from a village or town, with cool, clear, fresh water, good approaches and shady setting. People can freely drink of that water, carry it away, bathe in it, or use it as they please.

The wise man, obtaining wealth, both uses it and puts it to use. Such a person is exemplary, he supports his relatives and is blameless. He attains to heaven.’

‘Your Majesty, those people who, having obtained vast wealth, are not intoxicated by it, are not led into heedlessness and reckless indulgence which endangers others, are very rare in this world.

Those who, having obtained much wealth, are intoxicated by it, led into heedlessness and reckless indulgence which endangers others, are truly of far greater number.’

Monday, September 8, 2008

Speed Reading – Part VIII

Analytical Reading: Classification Stage (Part 1 of 4)

We are currently at the Analytical Reading stage of Speed Reading. For a bird's eye view of Analytical Reading, please click here.

Understanding the Importance of Classification

You must know what kind of book you are reading. Preferably, before you start reading. There are different approaches required depending on the book you are reading. This is particularly important when you are reading nonfictional expository works.

What are nonfictional expository works?
An expository book is one that conveys primarily, ‘knowledge’. Any books that consist primarily of opinions, theories, hypotheses or speculation conveys knowledge and is classified as an expository work

Why do we need to classify these works?
It is important as each category is instructive in a particular way. For example, the problems dealt by a book on physics and one on morals are not the same. The methods an author may employ in solving a problem in physics will differ vastly from one attempting to answer moral dilemmas. As a skillful reader, your method in reading expository works must vary depending on the type of book you are reading.

What are the different categories of nonfictional expository works?
1. Practical Books;
2. Imaginative Literature;
3. Stories, Plays and Poems;
4. History;
5. Science and Mathematics;
6. Philosophy; and
7. Social Science.

How do I classify a book before reading?
Use inspectional reading to classify the book you are reading. This can be performed by reading:
1. The Title;
2. Subtitle;
3. Table of Contents;
4. Preface by the Author;
5. Index; and
6. Publisher’s Blurb.

For more information about Inspectional Reading, please refer to the following:
1. Inspectional Reading: Systematic Skimming
2. Inspectional Reading: Superficial Reading

We have completed the Part 1 of 4 of the Classification Stage in Analytical Reading. Next, we will look at what we can learn from the Title of a Book. Any questions or comments?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Philosophical Musings - Part VII

The Roots of Wisdom

In the past, I used to rage over petty things. Yet, once the flame of anger subsides, I realize the foolishness of being embroiled over inconsequential things. For I know now, after reading the verse on Inconsequential Things, that life is a precious gift, not to be wasted by arguments and petty conflicts.

When you are overcome by anger, perhaps you too, should consider the following verse from the Roots of Wisdom?

Inconsequential Things

Within the light of the flint’s spark
They fight over ‘long’ and compete over ‘short’
Yet how much time can there be?

Above the horns of the tiny snail
They compare their losses and argue about gains
Yet how big can the world be?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Financial Intelligence – Part X

Balanced Livelihood

Today, the Guru instructing us on Financial Intelligence will be none other than Lord Buddha. It may be useful to listen to the Vyagghapajja Sutta, where Lord Buddha instructs rich householders how to preserve and increase their prosperity and how to avoid loss of wealth.

In a town named Kakkarapatta, Vyagghapajja had approached Lord Buddha to requested advice on how maintain a balanced livelihood. Lord Buddha replied thus:

What is Balanced Livelihood?
A householder knowing his income and expenses leads a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that thus his income will stand in excess of his expenses, but not his expenses in excess of his income.

Just as the goldsmith or an apprentice of his, knows, on holding up a balance, that by so much it has dipped down, by so much it has tilted up; even so a householder, knowing his income and expenses leads a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that thus his income will stand in excess of his expenses, but not his expenses in excess of his income.

If a householder with little income were to lead an extravagant life, there would be those who say:

'This person enjoys his property like one who eats apples obtained by shaking the apple tree. Many fruits fall from the apple tree, only a few are eaten whilst a large number are wasted.'

If a householder with a large income were to lead a wretched life, there would be those who say:

'This person will die like a starveling.'

Four Sources of Wealth Destruction
The wealth thus amassed has four sources of destruction:
(i) Debauchery,
(ii) Drunkenness,
(iii) Gambling,
(iv) Friendship, companionship and intimacy with evil-doers.

Just as in the case of a great tank with four inlets and outlets, if a man should close the inlets and open the outlets and there should be no adequate rainfall, decrease of water is to be expected in that tank, and not an increase; even so there are four sources for the destruction of amassed wealth — debauchery, drunkenness, gambling, and friendship, companionship and intimacy with evil-doers.

Four Sources of Wealth Creation
There are four sources for the increase of amassed wealth:
(i) Abstinence from debauchery,
(ii) Abstinence from drunkenness,
(iii) Non-indulgence in gambling,
(iv) Friendship, companionship and intimacy with the good.

Just as in the case of a great tank with four inlets and four outlets, if a person were to open the inlets and close the outlets, and there should also be adequate rainfall, an increase in water is certainly to be expected in that tank and not a decrease, even so these four conditions are the sources of increase of amassed wealth.

It would be useful to reflect and benefit from Lord Buddha’s wisdom on maintaining a Balanced Livelihood, free from the worries of poverty and debt. Any questions or comments?

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Way of the General - Part IX

Instruction and Direction

A policy of instruction and direction means those above educate those below, not saying anything that is unlawful and not doing anything that is immoral, for what is done by those above is observed by those below.

To indulge oneself yet instruct others is contrary to proper government; to correct oneself and then teach others is in accord with proper government. Therefore true leaders first rectify themselves and only after that do they promulgate their directives. If they are not upright themselves, their directives will not be followed, resulting in disorder.

Therefore the Way of leadership puts education and direction before punishment. To send people to war without education is tantamount to throwing them away.

The Imperial Prime Minister of Han, Cao Cao was one of the greatest men of his time. He managed to wrest control over all of Northern China against all odds. It was not by accident, that he commanded the respect and obedience of his army and the populace in general. The following incident illustrates his qualities as a leader.

Be You Ever So High, The Law is Above You
It was the year AD198. With the Han Empire in its’ dying throes, rebellious warlords rose like serpents daring to strike at the Imperial Throne. One such rebel was Zhang Xiu.

The Imperial Prime Minister, Cao Cao himself, led an army to crush the rebellion. It was summer and as his army passed through a wheat region, and the grain was ready for harvesting but the peasants had fled for fear, and the corn was uncut.

Cao Cao sent proclamations to all villages and towns:

‘I am sent on the expedition by command of the Emperor to capture a rebel and save the people. I cannot avoid moving in the harvest season; but if anyone trample down the corn, he shall be put to death. Military law is strict without exception, and the people need fear no damage.’

The people were very pleased and lined the road, wishing success to the expedition. When the soldiers passed wheat fields, they dismounted and pushed aside the stalks so that none were trampled down.

One day, when Cao Cao was riding through the fields, a dove suddenly got up, startling the horse so that it swerved into the standing grain, and a large patch was trampled down. Cao Cao at once called the Provost Marshal and bade him decree the sentence for the crime of trampling down corn.

‘How can I deal with your crime?’ asked the Provost Marshal.

‘I made the rule, and I have broken it. Can I otherwise satisfy public opinion?’

Cao Cao laid hold of the sword by his side and made to take his own life. All hastened to prevent him.

Guo Jia said, ‘In ancient days, the days of the Spring and Autumn history, the laws were not applied to those of the most important. You are the supreme leader of a mighty army and must not wound yourself.’

Cao Cao pondered for a long time. At last he said, ‘Since there exists the reason just quoted, I may perhaps escape the death penalty.’

Then with his sword he cut off his hair and threw it on the ground, saying, ‘I cut off the hair as touching the head.’

Then he sent messengers to exhibit the hair throughout the whole army, saying, ‘The Prime Minister, having trodden down some corn, ought to have lost his head by the terms of the order; now here is his hair cut off as an attack on the head.’

This deed was a stimulus to discipline all through the army so that not a person dared be disobedient.

It is only through actions alone that a leader can seek to inspire his followers. Leaders of low morals often practice the proverb ‘Do as I say, not as I do!’ If they do not walk the talk, why then should they be surprised if their followers rebel against their leadership?

  © Blogger template 'Minimalist G' by 2008

Back to TOP