Before I moved to Canada in June 2000, two of my students and I went to a Vipassana Meditation Centre for a 10 days Meditation Course. During these 10 days we had to get up at 4:30 am every morning and maintain silence all day, often meditating, until 9:00pm. The Meditation Centre was beside a small hill. On the hilltop was a military barrack. After one or two hours of meditation we would have a 10-minute break where I always liked to see what the soldiers were doing. It reminded me of my 2 years of military training and how it felt.

Twenty years ago in Taiwan every young man had to undergo military training for 2 or 3 years unless you didn’t pass the physical exam. You know, when you are in military, you don’t have your personal freedom, neither mind nor body. The military made me feel suffering, but so did the first 3 days at the meditation centre. I had no personal freedom because we had to follow very strict rules. That started me asking, “Why did I come here to lose my freedom? It’s like staying in jail” But nobody forced me to come this time and I came seeking the way of freedom for my spirit.

Most people have bodily freedom and can do whatever they want but is this real freedom? When Bodhi- Dharma came from India to China he sat in a cave doing meditation for 9 years. In these 9 years I don’t think he had a free body but I believe that he had a free spirit. So what is more important? To have bodily freedom but not really enjoy your life everyday? Or to have a spirit free to appreciate and enjoy your life at every moment?”

In Taiwan many parents want their children to be a doctor, lawyer, movie star….etc.
They think these jobs can make a lot of money thereby earning the respect of their peers, family, community and society. I wonder what they want more; respect for their money, their job title or for who they are as a person? I also would like to know if the rich and famous Hollywood stars are really happy? Why do they have so much trouble with drugs and alcohol?

Why don’t people have a free spirit? Because the media and worldly concepts like “Best School…Best Job…Best Car” influence our definition of what a successful life is. Even simple things like commercials affect many people’s lives. I have heard many people say that if they had a very good job then they could buy a big house, or a very expensive car etc. But they cannot get happiness because they don’t have a free spirit and a peaceful heart.

Calm your mind down and spend some time thinking about who you are, rather than what you do. Which kind of life style do you want? Don’t be afraid to change for then you can find true happiness.

Danny Lai