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Start over with a clean slate

[Written by Trần Đình Hoành; Translated into English by Hồ Kính Đạt]

Hi everyone,Image

‘Slate’ is a board (usually made of porcelain enamel), the surface of which is used for chalk-writing. Wiping the board to write new stuff on it is “starting over with a clean slate”. This expression is often used to refer to circumstances when someone starts his life all over again, in the same way an ex-convict who has just been released starts his life over.

‘Starting over with a clean slate’ is essential to our spiritual and psychological life, the significance of which overrides our material life.

Psychologically, to some extent we all have experienced the “obsession of guilt”. From time to time we may commit a misdeed, and that mistake may haunt us for many years to come, insofar as it may even govern our thoughts and actions in many life circumstances. People with a very strong obsession of guilt may have a psychological disorder called OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder — an obsession of guilt so strong that it compels the patient to do certain things).

Our sin, or to be more precise, our sense of guilt, oftentimes haunts and burdens us emotionally. It suffocates us, deprives us of our freedom, and stunts our growth. This is probably why children are in general more confident than adults. Children have a ‘clean slate’, while the adults’ plates are filled with faults, wrongdoings and defeats. For that reason, grown-ups are obsessed with their failures, which in turn strip them of confidence. The more mistakes they make, the more self-doubt they inflict upon themselves. The longer they live, the longer the list of failures, the greater the loss of confidence. Thus, many people become less confident as old age approaches.

A solution to this problem of “the longer you live, the more failures you have, the more self-doubting you are” is to start over with a clean slate, to erase all past defeats written on the board. This means we have to know how to let all the dead leaves of this year fall, and next year all we have are new spring leaves.

Christian theology brings “the cleaning of the slate” to the pinnacle of human thinking. Jesus Christ made atonement for the humankind through sacrificing his own life to be affixed to the cross to his death, and thereby exonerating all humans from their sins no matter how great a sin one has committed. ‘A clean slate’ is a present from Jesus to every of us. It is up to us to accept or reject the gift. And we accept Jesus’ gift by our faith in Him. (Note: Faith in Jesus doesn’t necessarily equate with “following Christianity, Protestant, Orthodox, etc.”, which is a common misconception among Christians).

When we receive the ‘clean slate’ gift from Jesus Christ, we can start over with a clean slate. This positive trait explains why Protestant culture is the most positive culture the world over (in terms of spirituality, politics, economics, etc.), because the Protestants place great emphasis on the notion of Christ being ‘born again’ – starting over with a clean slate.

For our psychological life, we need to know how to start over again with a clean slate like that. Everyday we might do a couple of foolish things, so you can count how many stupid things we will have done after a year! By the next 20, 30 years, we will have already lost count of our wrongdoings and mistakes. If we don’t know how to ‘clean the slate’, we will be put into despair by our list of foolish deeds.

How can we have a clean slate at the start of each day?

If you are a Christian, you can sincerely apologize to God every night, and you can start fresh the next morning with a clean slate.

But what if you are not a Christian? What can erase the slate for us every night then?

Ladies and Gentlemen, we can practice to the highest degree the Buddhist teaching of ‘non-attachment’. If you unwittingly said something wrong, and if you need to apologize and rectify your wrongdoing, then do it! Regardless of whether you’ve got a chance to say sorry, what was said was said, and it has vanished into thin air, and has become a puff of cloud of the past; there is no reason ‘to be attached’ to it, so that it keeps on bothering you. Take a minute to repent, and then move on to live here and now, without attachment to the past. That’s the way the Zen masters clean their slate. Non-attchment! Don’t be attached to your own mistakes.

All the actions of yesterday are but memories. Let memories fly into the sky of reminiscence. There is no need to harbor them.

Each day we do something stupid. They are the yellow leaves. Let them fall freely, and don’t hang on to them, so that we can start a new day with a pure and new slate.
Don’t carry on your shoulder the baggage of mistakes made in the past.

A new day, a new sun, a new pure heart.

Wish you a pure day!

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The original Vietnamese version can be found here:

http://dotchuoinon.com/2011/11/30/bắt-dầu-lại-với-tấm-bảng-sạch/

Love Others

[Written by Trần Đình Hoành; Translated into English by Hồ Kính Đạt]

Hi everyone,

Speaking of love, we oftentimes think of it as a one-sided action. We lend someone a helping hand, give someone a present and want nothing in return. It is true! However, the outcome of a humane deed is always reciprocal – that is, the recipient is happy, but it is also the giver who derives joy from performing such an action. Therefore, the truth is that when we give, we get something in return instantly.

"Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on someone without getting some on yourself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The nature of positive action is like that – the gratification you get from spending a hundred dollars on a shirt cannot be compared to the satisfaction derived from giving a beggar just a few bucks. Positive action generates positive energy that keeps us in a constant state of peacefulness, cheerfulness and healthiness.

Besides, loving people helps us to be more sensitive to others’ needs, thus makes us a better leader. The greater love you have for others, the more heightened sensitivity you will develop for yourself, and so will your leadership skills.

When we love others, naturally we bring some positive energy to the people around us. A laughter, a greeting nod, a question about the other’s well-being, an admiring look…  these things give people so much positive energy without losing any energy from our part, but quite on the contrary, we receive a bountiful supply of positive energy in our heart. This is the wonder of positive energy – you can give as much as you want without worrying about exhausting your resource, not to mention that you are also on the receiving end while doing this.

(Negative energy doesn’t have this power – you can feel exhausted after a quarrel with just one person. You channel your negative energy to argue with the other person, thus draining all the energy from you. Furthermore, you can be the victim of negative energy so powerful to the extent that it can suffocate you and be a hindrance to your activities.)

Therefore, when it comes to our view about the people around us, a humane and loving outlook can be a great boon to our body, our spirit and our wisdom. This is the art of successful living, not merely the business of nuns and monks.

Wish you all a day replete with compassion!

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The original Vietnamese version can be found here: http://dotchuoinon.com/2011/08/10/yeu-mọi-người/

Teaching Positive Thinking

[Written by Trần Đình Hoành; Translated into English by Hồ Kính Đạt] 

Perhaps you have been a regular reader of the theme “positive thinking”, but have you ever played the part of a teacher on this topic? Did it ever occur to you that the best way to learn is to teach others?

Teaching is the best way to learn.

When I was young I used to help my classmates by explaining to them again the concepts they were having a trouble understanding, and I would usually do that should any friend need help. There were times when I wasn’t entirely clear about the things I learned, but it was my responsibility to master the concepts in order to explain to my friends that obliged me to review the lessons, which in turn gave me a better grasp of them. The best way to learn is to teach, the best way to be a student is to be a teacher.

It’s child’s play to explain to someone about half a glass, determination, patience, about channeling thoughts and energy into achieving one’s goal … about loving oneself, loving others, honesty, humility … about the law of attraction … about anger management, getting over depression, eschewal of pomposity, cultivation of fearlessness … and tranquility of the soul …

Of course you shouldn’t teach others concepts you don’t even practice yourself, because this is sheer deception. (However, there are many courses on “positive thinking” that are nothing short of a scam circulating on the market, especially in the United States. All “the teacher” needs to do is to go through the lessons in advance and repeat them in class even though he himself never put his teaching into practice. I used to be a student of such classes. Judging from the lecturing style and body language of the speaker, it was quite easy for me to assert that he was hired by the company to review and then robotically recite the materials, rather than share from his own experience.)

One point worth noting is that there are a lot of people who from birth to death are not given any lessons on how to cultivate a positive outlook on life.

We tend to commiserate with those who have since childhood been deprived of the opportunity to learn to read and write, learn mathematics or literature, etc., but do we pity those who didn’t have a chance to learn how to think positively, those who leave it to anything else but themselves to dictate the kind of people they become? There’s a myriad of people out there who are convinced that character is something immutable, but unaware that the mind and way of thinking can be trained in order for us to grow to be more perceptive, shrewder and stronger. It is sad and pitiful that such a delusion in one way or another influences the progress of any given nation and the advancement of mankind.

Hence, we as learners of positive thinking should strive to promulgate it to as many people as we can, because not only is it love by means of actions, it’s also a solicitous help for life through actions.

To summarize, below are a few important points that we should pay attention to:

  1. Teaching is the best way to learn.
  2. You don’t need to be a real teacher to teach. A sophomore is adequately well-equipped to teach a freshman, or if your friend and you are both freshmen, you can be the teacher if you’re quicker on the uptake.
  3. In order to teach others a theory, you need to also put it to practice yourself. Do not lie!
  4. There’s a myriad of people out there who’re deprived of the chance to learn “positive thinking”, enlighten them!

Have fun being a teacher!

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The Vietnamese version can be found here: http://dotchuoinon.com/2011/06/09/dạy-tư-duy-tich-cực/