Integrity – a talk at the Floating Market in Thailand
(See below for video transcript)
Last night we went to this wonderful night Amphawa Floating market. It’s opens only on Fri 3pm-10pm and Sat-Sun 12pm-10pm. We rented a boat for 600 baht (cheap) and can fit twenty on the boat easily. The boat takes you on a 17 kilometer ride through the market, firefly areas and to generally enjoy the calmness of the river. Afterwards, I decided to speak on integrity… If you don’t want to rent a whole boat, then per person is 60 baht…
Amphawa Floating market is 1 hour from Bangkok with no traffic. With traffic it will take you 2 hours. It is a must visit place for anyone visiting Bangkok. Also they have chalets or houses at the edge of the river you can rent and in the morning go to make offerings to monks also. It’s a very nice place. On either side of the river is many shops, stores, restaurants, eateries, pubs, stalls and other interesting things to see and buy. I really liked the place very much.
Thailand is amazing for sure… so many things to see and do…
Amphawa Floating Market
Amphawa Floating Market is located on a canal that flows into the Mae khong River in Samut Songkhram Province, about 80 km and 1 hour drive from Bangkok Central.
The floating market only opens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 3 pm – 10 pm Friday, 12 pm – 10 pm on weekends.
There are numerous stalls, shops, restaurants, temples and resorts on both sides of the river bank from street fashion, household items, handcrafted toys, authentic Thai food and art.
The Boat ride costs 60 baht per person, and to rent a whole boat is 600 baht. It takes you on a ride to explore the market and stop at places with fireflies. The whole journey is about 17 km, you can stop the boat anytime if you want to stop to shop or to eat.
Address: Samut Songkhram province, Amphawa
Distance: 80 km from Bangkok Central
By Car: 1 Hour
By Van: Take the skytrain and get off at Victory Monument. Find the bus terminal nearby and hop on to a van going to Amphawa. Fare is around 70 baht per pax.
Make sure to tell the driver or operator that you’re getting off at Amphawa Floating Market. It will take approximately 2 hours.
Hours: 3 pm – 10 pm (Friday)
12 pm – 10 pm (Saturday and Sunday)
Directions: Come from Samut Songkhram City and drive straight through the city, you will find the junction leading to Amphawa Market with a clear sign on the junction, then turn left and go straight across a cement bridge, continue driving for about a couple kilometer, you would find Amphawa Floating Market junction on the left. The Amphawa Community located next to King Rama II Memorial Park and Wat Amphawan Chetiyaram.
Transcript of Integrity : Dharma talk at the floating market
Hi, I’m at the Amphawa Floating Market. This is the second floating market that we’ve been to. It has been a much…. There was another one that we went to that was original and that one is much smaller, and it’s quaint, and it’s nice but this one is huge, so you have to come about 2 hours from Bangkok to get over here and it’s in Amphawa. It’s a huge tourist destination and everybody will know about it. It’s a pretty commonplace to go and if you’re a tourist in Bangkok, you gotta come here, all right?
During the…On Friday, it is open 3pm to 10pm and on Saturday and Sunday it is open from 12pm to 10pm but if there is not a lot of business they close up at night around 9pm, all right? When you get to the parking lot, you walk in, there’s a whole bunch of stalls and a whole bunch of things that you can buy, lot of interesting things to see, and then when you get to the actual river, the pier area, this is where we are, the pier, there are a lot of boats to rent, you can re…you can rent a boat for about 600 baht or if you’re gonna go per person, you can go 200 per person if you’re a foreigner and 100 if you’re Thai, all right, that’s bahts. The river runs along shops and a lot of interesting little cafes and places where you can stop and eat, a lot of interesting things to see and then the boat goes one big round, takes about an hour, an hour and a half and they show you fireflies along the way. It’s a peaceful, quiet, calm kind of setting.
What is integrity? Why do you need integrity?
Anyways, today, the floating market here, I would like to talk about integrity. Integrity basically means that you honor what you promised. You honor your word. You honor your commitments. So whatever you say from your mouth you do it. Whatever you promised, you do it. Whatever you have committed to, you do it. And you know, unless it’s a life and death circumstance, then you can’t do it, or if it’s a very powerful extenuating circumstance that you can’t do it, all right. And you go and explain, and you tell, and you share and you say why you can’t do it but otherwise, you gotta get it done.
So basically, what you promised people and what you tell people you’re gonna do and what you say what you’re gonna do, and the timeline that you give that you say you’re gonna do, you gotta get it done, you gotta do it. Everybody was raised differently and everybody kind of thinks differently, but I think anywhere in the world, if you keep your promises and you keep your commitments and you keep your words of honor, I think you’ll be a person that is respected, ,anywhere you go. And I think that anywhere you go, people will believe you and trust you and you develop a powerful, nurturing kind of relationship with people. I mean what you send out is what you’re gonna attract. So if you’re gonna send out kinda of an energy that whatever you say doesn’t really matter, whatever you promise you don’t really keep, you know, and if you say something and whether you do it or not it’s up to your convenience. If that’s the kind of energy you send out, that’s the kind of energy you’re gonna get back. That’s the kind of people you’re gonna attract, that’s the kind of…that’s the kind of character you’re gonna get out of people, that people won’t take you seriously and also people won’t believe you or trust you and it’s…and it’s not worth it to go through life for people not to trust you, because when people don’t trust you, you can’t get things done. You can’t accomplish things. You can’t fulfill what you want to do because whatever you want to do, you need someone else’s help. You need people to, you need their assistance, you need their help, you need them to back you up in one way or another and if people don’t trust you they’re not gonna back you up.
Have you come across situations where people actually say they’re gonna do something and you believe it and you rely on it, and they don’t and how did it feel? Well that’s the kind of feeling we give other people if we don’t have integrity. I don’t wanna judge anyone or I don’t wanna put anyone down but I’ve come across quite a few bunch of people who didn’t live their life keeping their words and promises to others and it kinda changed at different junctures and it kinda changed in different situations and it kinda changed according to sometimes their convenience, I am sorry to say, and it’s very disappointing.
So, as an ordinary person, to deal with family, the example you give to your kids, to deal with friends, to deal with co-workers, integrity is very important. I mean kids trust us. You know our kids or kids trust us and if we tell them we’re gonna do something, we don’t, and we disappoint them. We kinda send a message to them that it’s okay to just say anything for the moment, and you don’t have to mean it, and they grow up kinda talking and acting like that and that’s not a good message to send to kids. If that’s the kind of message we send to co-workers, or to our partner or to our wives and husbands, the relationship is not gonna be based on truth. The relationship is not gonna be based on truth. The relationship is not gonna be based on honesty, and when the relationship is not based on honesty, is it a real relationship? You know, so that ‘s what we have to check out for ourselves, it’s not for me to check out but for ourselves to check out and so it’s kinda hard sometimes for people, for some people, to do what they promised, to do what they say, and it’s.. it makes people suffer. People who are around us and if we don’t have integrity, we make them suffer. We make them filled with anxiety. We make them not like us and not respect us and we make it very difficult for them to work with us and after a while they kind of shun us. After a while they kind of avoid us and we may have the best justification in the world for not fulfilling our commitments but you know if it’s once too many times, it’s once too often, they will experience the results, the karmic results, you know, the emotional results which is people shun us and people avoid us and people don’t wanna do things with us.
When we don’t have honor and we don’t have integrity, and we don’t have the commitment to fulfill our promises, eventually we’ll feel a sense of loneliness. Eventually we’ll feel a sense of sadness. Eventually we’ll feel a sense of isolation because people don’t want to be around us and people don’t want to be with us, and when they don’t want to be with us, how do we feel? We can’t blame other people. We can’t say its other people’s fault. It’s our fault. So in ordinary secular life, whether it’s with family, with friends, with co-workers, with kids, with you know, business partners, whatever it is, it is extremely important at all costs to keep our promises, keep our commitments and 100% keep to our timeline. If we do that, we will find that it’s easier to work with people. People will find that it’s easier to work with us. We’ll find that our relationships become better. We find that people start to you know…respect us and people like us, and when people respect us and like us, it’s a good feeling. Who doesn’t want to be respected and liked? Who doesn’t? And in everyday life, that type of practice of integrity is extremely important for a happy, harmonious existence.
How do you integrate integrity in Dharma? Why do we take vows?
Now, when we get into Dharma practice, when we get into tantric practice, when we get into meditational practices, integrity is the basis of all attainments. Why is that? Because in order to enter the door of Buddhism, you need to take on the Refuge vows. The Refuge vows recommend for you what to do and what not to do and in order for you to break negative habituations, in order for you to start on positive habituations. The purpose we take on the vows is to break negative habituations. The vows are not something to torture us. The vows are not something to hurt us or to bind us or to imprison us. The vows are actually something to help us transform our negative habituations to the positive and if we study the vows very well, and we study it carefully, and we check it very carefully, and we understand them, we will notice that the vows do not imprison us and when we take these vows, we are in front of the 3 jewels – the Guru-Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and we, from our heart, willingly take on the Refuge vows and every single day that we hold on to the Refuge vows, we collect the merit of whatever vows that we have taken and we create the merit to counter the negative habit related to that vow.
The Basis for taking Vows and the merits for taking vows
For example, if everyday you don’t steal, everyday you don’t steal, it’s neutral, you’re not stealing. But if you take a vow that you don’t steal, that you will never steal, that you will not steal, every single day that you exist, holding that vow and you don’t steal, you collect the merit of not stealing. The merit of not stealing is to have a very powerful personality in the future where when people listen to you, when people listen to what you say and they listen to what you have to share, it will be a very powerful impact on their minds and also when you don’t steal, in the future when you do business or you do agriculture or you do work, the work will be fulfilled more easily as a result of this merit.
So what happens is that when you don’t steal, and you promise or you take a vow not stealing according to Refuge vows, then every single day you live, you will collect the merit of not stealing as opposed to if you don’t have a vow and if you don’t steal it is just neutral, just totally neutral, nothing happens. For example, a baby doesn’t steal. A baby doesn’t take, a baby doesn’t rob, a baby is not able to but the baby doesn’t collect the merit of not stealing. Similarly if you take the vow of not lying, and everyday you don’t lie, you collect the merit of not lying as opposed if you don’t have the vow and you don’t lie. So, on that basis, you can relate that to all the vows and the vows are taken by the power of the object, the subject and the motivation, object being the 3 jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the subject being oneself, being of sound mind, understanding the power of the vows and the motivation is to attain the highest enlightenment for all sentient beings, to bring the most benefit for all sentient beings, to bring the most relief to all sentient beings. In order to accomplish that, we need to become a fully enlightened Buddha. In order to become a fully enlightened Buddha and all the stages that we need to achieve to become a fully enlightened Buddha, then one must be able to start somewhere and that somewhere is holding the vows.
The Importance of Holding Vows
The Refuge vows came from Lord Buddha. It isn’t something made up. Then on top of the Refuge vows, you have, on the basis of the Refuge vows, you have the monk vows, the nun vows. On top…on the basis of the Refuge vows, you have the Bodhisattva vows. On the basis of the Refuge vows, you have the Tantric vows. So in order to take monk vows or nun vows, you must have the Refuge vows. Without the Refuge vows, you cannot have any other vows because the Refuge vows are the basis, all right? So, the Refuge vows teach you to control your body, speech and mind at a certain level, then when you take the Bodhisattva vows, it teaches you to generate altruism to another level. Then, when you take on the Tantric vows, you have the vows of transforming your perception of the world around you to another level, to that of enlightenment, okay.
So therefore, when you take the Refuge vows, it is to help you change your ordinary habituations from negative to positive. When you take your Bodhisattva vows, it helps you to refrain from actions and take on actions that generate altruistic motivation and thought and activity and when you take the Tantric vows, the vows help you to change your ordinary perception. So when you take the Tantric vows, it helps you to change your ordinary perception to a tantric or higher perception of the world around you. So in other words, it grants you full enlightenment.
So the three sets of vows are Refuge, Bodhisattva and Tantric. Ordinary vows, again I repeat, because there was a lot of noise just now, ordinary vows is to transform our ordinary habituations of body, speech and mind, to train up for the next step. The Bodhisattva vows are to help us to attain altruistic action, altruistic motivation, altruistic thinking, bodhicitta. Then the next set of vows is higher vows as tantric vows, which teaches us to view the world around us in a extraordinary way, in a clear, concise and very purified manner to help us attain emptiness, to help us attain full enlightenment.
So the Tantric vows, which are vital to become a Buddha, the Bodhisattva vows which are vital to become a Buddha and the Refuge vows which are vital to become a Buddha, if those are not taken, you cannot become a Buddha. If you do not take those vows, whatever yidam or meditational practices you do will not bear fruit quickly to become an enlightened being. So without those vows, can you make offerings? Sure you can. Without those vows, can you meditate and recite mantras and do sutras and study? Sure you can, but with those vows, by the power of those vows, the result is multiplied, the merits are multiplied, its swiftness and the quickness is multiplied. For example, if you want to catch a thief, if you catch a thief with the uniform of a policeman on or with no uniform on, it would be quicker with the uniform. Just as a hypothetical kind of example.
So like that, when you have your vows, whatever action you do it is multiplied, it is quickened, and the results are quickened on the basis of those vows. Remember, these vows originated from Buddha himself, so therefore there could be nothing but benefit from these vows. Once we take these vows, we have to honor them. We can go online and search the Refuge vows, the Bodhisattva vows and the Tantric vows. We can learn from them, we can memorize them, we should recite them daily or weekly until we are familiar and we should familiarize ourselves with those vows until it becomes second nature and it will become second nature because it is just re-habituation.
Those vows are not saying you’re a bad person. Those vows are not saying you’re an evil person. Those vows are saying you need to think and go in this direction to achieve full enlightenment. So, if you have practiced integrity in your daily life, you kept your promises, then holding on to vows will be very simple. If normally you don’t hold on to integrity, then holding the vows will be difficult and if we break these vows, or if we have an infraction on these vows, it does create negative merit. If we hold the vows and it creates positive merit at a quicker speed, then by breaking the vows, you collect demerit at a quicker speed and more powerful. I mean, it’s obvious, you know if you’re gonna go on a speedboat, if you’re gonna go really quick, if you have an accident, it’s gonna be a more severe accident as opposed to a rowboat that’s not going very fast. So, when you take the vows, you shouldn’t be afraid of vows and think “ Well, these vows can make me go to the 3 lower realms or it’s gonna collect a lot of negative karma”, what’s making you collect a lot of negative karma is not the vows. What’s collecting negative karma is you not having integrity. You not training yourself to hold the vows and to familiarize and to transform your habituations. Whether you have the vows or not will not determine if you go to the 3 lower realms. Your action’s motivated and your motivations is what creates the causes for the 3 lower realms.
So, whatever actions you are doing is the causes for you to go to the 3 lower realms, higher or lower. That’s up to you. The vows do not make you go to the 3 lower realms. You make yourselves go to the 3 lower realms. So if you wish to engage in Yamantaka, Vajrayogini, Cittamani Tara, Vajrakilaya, Avalokitesvara, Manjushri, if you wish to engage in Tara, Kalachakra, Guhyasamaja, Heruka, Hevajra, how to say…. any of the tantric practices that is expedient in becoming attained, then all those practices and all those initiations you must take vows. Don’t simply go for an initiation and think that “Oh, I don’t have to hold on to my vows. I can just take the initiation and recite the mantras.” According to His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, all attainments arise from your vows and your words of honor. That’s why Vajrasattva’s practice is very important, that we need to do Vajrasattva’s practice every single day if we have tantric commitments. Why? It stops and purifies the broken vows and occasionally and due to past habituations, we will break our vows sometimes, that I mean, we’re normal human beings, but it should lessen over time, all right.
Once you take the vows, you don’t become perfect but once you take the vows, you strive towards perfection. When you take the vows, you don’t become perfect, but you strive towards perfection. So therefore, it’s very important that we, if we wish to accomplish higher meditations, higher practices, higher accomplishments, higher results in Buddhism, it is on the basis of our vows. It is on the 100% basis on the vows. If we don’t hold our vows, and we break our vows, we cannot gain the results that we wish to attain through a particular practice. If we wish to become a monk and because we take on the vows of a monk, if we throw our vows to the wind and we have no deference or no respect towards our vows, and we break our vows, then the results of becoming a monk will not be fulfilled, will not be fulfilled.
How can we wear tantric clothes, or wear spiritual clothes but not hold the vows of the clothes that we are wearing, that the clothes represent. So therefore, if we wish to have any higher attainments and higher results, we need to hold the vows. Without the vows, taking initiations will not bring results. Taking initiations and not holding the vows will not bring results. In fact, taking initiations and not holding the vows, it will generate even more demerit. So, we shouldn’t think that it’s a smorgasbord of initiations, this lama is giving that initiation, this lama is giving this ritual, this lama is giving that kind of practice and I should run to get all of it and just take any vows inordinately and arbitrarily, and as and when I like, you know, it doesn’t matter. No, it does matter. It does matter. If you take your practice seriously, you get serious results. So therefore, holding the vows are the roots of spiritual attainments and in tantra according to the Buddha Vajradhara, holding the vows and words of honor are the roots of us gaining higher attainments, higher realizations, higher abilities to benefit others and the very reason we hold our vows is out of compassion for others. When we have compassion for others, we hold our vows. When we hold our vows, we gain experience, we gain results from our meditation, we gain special abilities to be of more service to others. So holding our vows is out of compassion for others, so holding vows arises from the simple, secular practice of integrity. If we have integrity, then other people respect us. If other people respect us, we can do more for them. We can accomplish more with them. We can do much more for others if we have integrity.
So therefore, I think without having to take higher initiations and higher practices we should start today with what? We should start today immediately with having integrity. If we are a person with integrity, then it’s okay. If we are a person in the past we have slipped all the time on our promises and commitments, we gotta start today. We gotta change today. Having integrity gives us peace of mind. Having integrity gives people around us peace of mind. Having integrity makes people like us and respect us and it’s easier for us to get along with our friends. Having integrity attracts people of the same quality and the same characters who can either accomplish more works with you or just be good friends. Having integrity and friends with integrity is real friendship. Having a partner or a wife or husband that you have integrity with, you share integrity, it’s a real relationship, it’s a real joining of good people and having integrity is a great example to our children and they grow up to be people with integrity.
So today, in the beautiful floating market here, in Amphawa, I wanted to give you a little talk on integrity with all the wonderful people walking by and the boats and the river and some of the stores open. Nice people, nice boats, nice rivers happening outside, nice scene for you, but I do sincerely hope everybody will practice integrity and keeping your promise because it is really 100% the correct route to go, whether you’re spiritual or not and if you want to go to higher spiritual practices and results, integrity is the key. Thank you and good night.
Transcribed by Joey Wong
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