Test 2

Please select your preferred language.






初到 Fridae?

Fridae Mobile


More About Us


« 較新的 | 較舊的 »
17 Jul 2009

Game of life

From the pursuit of sporting achievements to the pursuit of happines, Sharon Saw ponders on the sacrifices proffessional athletes make, and why the rest of us put so much effort into the things we do - be it golf, sex, and/or simply looking good.

I’m not a tennis fan. I’m so not a tennis fan that when I was invited to have tea with Roger Federer a couple of years ago, I didn’t know who he was. I’m still not very sure about the game. I didn’t understand the points system nor the lingo... 15, 30, 40, game? Advantage? Anyway, the other day, I logged onto Twitter around midnight and read that it was the fifth game in the final set of the Wimbledon Men’s’ Finals. Oh, i thought, it’s almost finished. Maybe we can catch the tail end – just a few more minutes, see who won and then we can go to sleep.


Anyway, that’s how we ended up watching the last hour or so of that epic final set. Wow. Even though I didn’t know much about tennis, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the game. Andy Roddick and Roger Federer played for four hours sixteen minutes and Federer finally won the longest fifth set in the men's Grand Slam final in history at 77 games!

As we switched off the TV, exhausted from just watching the two men slug it out, I was reminded of what H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche has said about how much effort people go into for sporting achievements. H.E. said that Olympic athletes spend years training, and while they train, they have to discipline themselves, keep to a strict diet, fixed timetable for sleeping, practising etc. They cannot go out and party, they push themselves to excel, endure being screamed at by their coaches. And they will do that for years to prepare to qualify for the Olympics. They hope to be chosen to compete. All for a gold, silver or bronze medal.

But if they should be caught drinking and driving, pushing a paparazzi around, sleeping with the wrong people, smoking something they shouldn’t have been smoking, be tested positive for the evidence of performance drugs - immediately the athlete loses everything. No more respect, no more endorsements. Often the medal is even taken away.

In the 1980s, when tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King came out (as lesbians), they lost endorsements but fortunately things have changed now – we hope. Amelie Mauresmo is a tennis champion who happens to be openly lesbian. She is practically a heroine in France and has accumulated millions in endorsements. Times do change and attitudes to homosexuality too. Yes, I’m the eternal optimist. Anyway, I digress.

In Buddhism, H.E. says that if we think deeper about it, we want more than a little medal, a little more than a paycheck, a little more than reputation. We want happiness and freedom from suffering. We want Enlightenment. So between someone who wants Enlightenment and someone who wants a gold medal – what’s the difference? Once we achieve Enlightenment, it means we no longer suffer and that forever without end, we’re enlightened and we’re able to benefit others tremendously.

“So in order to reach that state, don’t you think that our efforts must be a little bit more than an athlete? Let me be outright blunt: much more than an athlete,” says H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, in his DVD, Nothing Changes.

All that effort to be at the top of the game, what is it all for? Even for us, non-Olympiads, everything we are good at, be it golf, cruising, badminton, sex, study, our jobs, being charming, looking good etc, we have all put tremendous effort into practising it. Simply due to the effort spent on it, we become good at the activity. Why do we spend so much effort on it? Because of the returns. Usually it’s for the ego because we want to be respected, admired. At the very least, we want to feel good about ourselves and give ourselves a pat on the back. Likewise, when we are good at negative behaviours like lying, cheating, taking advantage of people, it’s because of years of practice. All this manifests in negative karma which creates the causes for more negativity.

Fortunately, some of the celebrities do contribute to charity. I know Roger Federer has a foundation which finances education for underprivileged kids and promotes sports for youths. H.E. Tsem Tulku says that charity IS good. It helps others. But normal charity – education, helping single mothers, orphans, old folks, just helps them temporarily – for a day, a month, a year and at the most, for this life.

If we can help people spiritually – i.e. change their perspectives to life, realise cause and effect etc – we can help them on a permanent basis. This they would be able to take with them from life to life. Now wouldn’t that make us feel good!

(Oh, and one last word on the Wimbledon finals - I must say it was the most fun I’ve had watching two men play with each other.)

Sharon Saw is a writer / editor at Kechara Media & Publications, which focuses on publishing the teachings of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, a high incarnate Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A selection of Buddhist and non-Buddhist related books from Kechara Publications is now available on Fridae Shop. You can follow Sharon on Twitter. This column will appear every other Friday.


1. 2009-07-18 17:00  
I do wonder if this notion of spending effort towards a spiritual life beyond our current life is one of the base contributing factors to why the world is in a current ecological mess ? Buddhism (and christianity, islam, judaism) push this notion that there is a life beyond our current mortal existence and by extension - this life is less important that this spiritual future, that we are superior (resemble the gods in appearance), we're a few steps away from divinity, and we have salvation in a world that is apart from this one.

What if we accepted completely without any reservation that this life is it, that we're part of the natural world with no magical escape route and no special significance other than being one of a whole host of different living creatures ? The only real difference being we're evolved sharper brains instead of fangs or claws.

Just some of my pondering.
修改於2009-07-18 17:01:35
2. 2009-07-20 15:30  
Utter nonsense. Christianity and Islam dont teach an afterlife, but that your either go to heaven or hell. Where you go is dependent on what kind of person you are in this life and on the 'God' that you pray to.

In Buddhism, you aspire to become enlightened. Whethr you achieve it in this lifetime (iaw. Nichiren Shoshu) or the next (iaw. ZEN, Hinayana) or sometime in the future depends on the respective buddhist teaching. However, there is no such thing as an afterlife of yourself in Buddhism, just a next appearance. This cld be as human or as animal or as a plant, but it wont be yourself. There is also no god that decides where you go and what you will be.
3. 2009-07-20 18:21  
Utter nonsense is hardly respectful or polite as required for these forums, so I'll ignore that. Please keep that in mind when replying to others.

I didn't suggest the ego or self continues as it now so I'm not sure where you're drawing that conclusion from, this is why I used the term 'spiritual future' in reference to the general concepts I mentioned which are common to these religions. I kept that general and non specific. Of course I'm no expert in these religions but I don't think my general understanding is wrong.

What grabbed my attention was this notion that 'spiritual' help is better than 'normal charity'. I take the opposite opinion, I think 'normal charity' is far nobler than spiritual activities. I see these spiritual ideas rooted in many views that I think are harmful for humankind and the natural world.

This can lead to extreme cases like Teresa of Calcutta who in a press conference responded to the question "Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?" with the response: "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people." This became manifest in low standards (and even denial) of medical care as the focus was spiritual salvation rather than physical.

This is venturing into Christianity and a little off topic but I'm mentioning it as an example of putting supposed spiritual welfare before physical.
4. 2009-07-20 19:46  
Ok ok, don't start crying lil boy... its always mesmerisinghow the whites always cry foul when their utterances are being criticised, while it is them that love to look down on others and create the mess in the first place...

Your understanding of religion is somewhat garbled to say the least and you throw them all in one pot to somehow arrive at a statement...

If you look at the original and basic teaching of Buddhism, you will find that both spiritual guidance and charitable actions co-exist. In addition, Budhism attempts to show a proper and mostly different way as far as behaviour is concerned, so that one can improve one's situation and/or life condition.

Extreme situations as in Christianity or Islam are hardly possible in Buddhism, unless you depart from the basic teachings. Admittedly, there are buddhists sects or sects that claim to be buddhist or neo-buddhist, which depart quite substantially from Buddhist heritage and could lead to such extremism...
5. 2009-07-24 11:32  
I think religion becomes a tool for contention when we draw lines. And as human beings, we can't help it but draw lines because it makes things easier for us. That too, is why we stereotype.

As an athlete, I take my martial art seriously. To me, my chosen sport is Buddhist in nature. I did not and do not continue my sport because of ego, of that medal. I believe it is too simplistic, stereotypical and narrow for someone to even say, we do it because of that medal. Especially if that someone has never attempted a commitment to a sporting discipline.

My studies in Buddhism teaches me that everything is here and now. "when you eat, eat. When you drink, drink. When you sit, sit." There is nothing that says, my practice is better than your practice. Or my practice is rooted in the spiritual while yours is not.

Everything is sacred. Every act done with the right attitude is sacred. Eating, drinking, sitting is sacred if my mind is present in that moment of doing and breathing.

Being in the moment is also about being in this world, this life, this karma. I treaure my life here but I am not attached to it. I meditate and hope to transcend samsara but I am not attached to it. I believe we are led to different things at different points in our lives, in different lifetimes. I do not believe in striving for that spiritual world if I am not prepared for it, if I still have unfinished karma that needs me here.

Sports is about that. Sports is about being in that moment. If we lose that concentration in the moment. We lose the match. When I climb into the ring, I do not hear anything outside the ring. I do not see anyone outside the ring. I am only living in that moment in the ring. It is a state of mind called 'The Flow' or 'The Zone'. Psychologists and scientists have studied that and that state of mind is similar to that of a person in deep meditation. In training, we are cultivating that state of mind. We repeat movement after movement thousands of times so that our bodies can move on its own accord. There is no attachment to the technique, the skill. There is no consciousness. That is why when you watch from the outside as an non-practitioner, it looks extreme.

To understand people who are doing sports and who have done it in accordance with (not to) their practice as a Buddhist, here are some links.

1. http://shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1434&Itemid=244
2. http://www.curvemag.com/Curve-Magazine/April-2008/Fighting-Words/

And I don't think mith was not speaking as a white boy. Why should we dismiss what he said about Buddhism and christianity because he is white in his photo? People have been many things in different incarnations. Skin colour and ethnicity does not make anyone less or more of a Buddhist. Buddhism is not the perogative of the East.

I agree that this teaching is very christian. As an ex-christian, this is exactly the teaching that was taught. That's why they evangelise and give out those tracts. Charity they do is so they can convert people. Cos investment in the spiritual is better than investment in this world.

I appreciate Sharon sharing her personal thoughts here as a gay Buddhist. But I am not sure I am ready for this space to be a place where the teachings of one teacher is being expounded.
6. 2009-07-24 13:54  
That was a beautiful sharing Jules.

And thanks mith for bringing up the point about 'spiritual' help vs. 'normal charity'. I would never donate to charities who promote any particular religious ideology and/or distribute religious literature alongside food packs; and in particular World Vision which has a Christian-only hiring policy.
8. 2009-07-28 18:17  
Yes I enjoyed Jules' contribution very much too.



This article was recently read by



Now ALL members can view unlimited profiles!


View this page in a different language:



 ILGA Asia - Fridae partner for LGBT rights in Asia IGLHRC - Fridae Partner for LGBT rights in Asia