Vesak Day, also known as Buddha Day, is a sacred day to millions of Buddhists worldwide. It commemorates the day that Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and passed away. It gives us an opportunity for quiet reflection on Buddha’s teachings and the values of compassion, wisdom, and kindness.
After 2 years of muted celebrations due to the pandemic, this year’s May 15 will see practitioners gathering and celebrating it in different ways. If you are trying to plan out your Vesak Day weekend to bask in the spirit of Vesak, check out these 10 things you can do!
1. Plan your calendar for your temple-hopping!
Find an excuse to head out for the long weekend by visiting the many temples that are open. Use our directory to navigate the many online and offline activities. Who knows?
You might find yourself in the middle of a concert or peaceful chanting session.
The three-step, one-bow ceremony is an expression of devotion and serves to lessen mental defilements or build virtue as one goes through the activity. This practice, which symbolically reminds us of the difficult but rewarding journey to enlightenment, has been passed down and has evolved into the 3-Step, 1-Bow we know today.
Are you a paw-rent? This might just be for you! Following the Buddha’s Universal Love for all beings including animals, Thekchen Choling is organising their first animal blessing night event on the eve of Vesak Day! Happening on 14th May from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, there will be many fun-filled and interactive activities for you and your pet to enjoy!
In the spirit of Buddha’s compassion shown to many beings, why not give back by volunteering at a Soup kitchen? There are multiple time slots and different tasks you can choose to volunteer with Willing Hearts.
Visit nature places with your insect repellant to reconnect with nature by taking in the good vibes. Plug into the sound of nature to meditate or try one of the meditation audio guides!
We highly recommend botanic gardens, marina barrage, or a nearby park!
7. Be a Buddy to seniors
We often think that giving means the gift of money. This Vesak, we invite you to rethink the idea of generosity! Volunteer with YouthCorp SG & Healthhub to strengthen the digital literacy of our seniors by empowering them and reducing the waiting time at the polyclinics.
TLDR: Vesak Day began as a sacred festival to celebrate Buddha’s attainments and teachings, but as with all conditioned phenomena, has evolved, changed and even diluted in some parts of the world. We trace its origins, evolution and how we can skilfully partake in the upcoming Vesak Day celebrations.
9 days into May of 1999, in Yasothon, Thailand, a 120kg homemade rocket launched as part of a rocket competition sharply turned around and crashed into the ground with a deafening explosion, brutally killing 4 and wounding 11. This was a tragic conclusion to the otherwise buoyant three days of carousing and festivities that climax in a rocket-launching competition, locally known as the Bun Bang Fai, or Rocket Festival.
Shocking as the accident must have been, centuries of tradition carry a nearly inexorable momentum, and enthusiasm gingerly but surely picked up the following year.
If one so fancies, instead of spending the upcoming Vesak Day holidays visiting the temples of Singapore, or more likely catching the latest Netflix series at home, one can still witness this spectacle of jerry-built missile launches with a short budget flight and a long drive.
Pre-Buddhist fertility rites & Vesak
Although this festival owes its roots to pre-Buddhist fertility rites, its proximity to Vesak Day on the lunar calendar has led many in the region of Northeastern Thailand to associate it with the celebration of birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.
The association is visibly weak though. A modern participant of the event can expect a rowdy start of all-night performances of Mor Lam Sing, which can be best described as a folksy musical of Laotian roots, leavened with wry and increasingly bawdy humour.
This is followed the next day by a procession of traditional dancers with accompanying musicians, with decidedly consumerist influences such as electric guitars.
Everything builds up to the main act of the rocket launching competition, where rockets made by teams sponsored by local companies fire off into the clouds and are judged on apparent height and distance travelled, with extra points for exceptionally ethereal vapour trails.
All throughout the three days, one can expect to see frequent cross-dressing and great quantities of Lao Whiskey consumption, which is a neutral grain spirit with 40-per cent alcohol content.
The evolution of Vesak
Bun Bang Fai stands out as one of the more colourful and adulterated evolutionary branches of Vesak Day celebrations around the world, and it exemplifies the diversity of commemoration forms even within Southeast Asia.
Internationally, Vesak Day was formalised as an official celebration in the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka, but as with most official designations, the tradition has a history dating far before that in various Buddhist populations.
Even the etymology of Vesak defies a simple explanation. Vesak comes from the Sanskrit term Vaisakhapaurnami Puja. It is also otherwise known as “Visakkha Puja”, which is an abbreviation from the Pali term “Visakhapunnami Puja”, meaning the worship on the full moon day in the sixth month.
In Thailand, arguably one of the more devoutly Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia, it is likely that the practice was transmitted from Sri Lanka in the Sukothai Era in the 1200s.
When the Sukothai empire declined and fell under the dominion of the neighbouring Ayutthaya kingdom, Vesak celebration was further elevated into a royal and public event, with three days and three nights of official observance.
But after the besieging Burmese forces sacked the city of Ayutthaya and brought the kingdom to its knees in 1767, the sacred ceremony was similarly forgotten.
It was only half a century later, in 1817, at the behest of King Rama II of the present-day Rattanakosin kingdom, in his desire to make supreme merit, that the ceremony was restored.
How it developed in the rest of the region
While Thailand was one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to import this tradition, Vesak Day celebrations continued to find purchase in other parts of the region much later too.
Indonesia celebrated its first Waisak Day, as is locally known, in 1983. Today, it is enshrined as a national public holiday. While it is more actively observed in pockets of the population throughout the archipelago, the centrepiece happens at the Borobudur Temple at Magelang, where thousands of monks chant and meditate, before culminating in the Pindapata.
Closer to home in Malaysia and Singapore, Vesak Day was celebrated mostly by the ethnic Chinese, Thai and Sri Lankan populace. The first recorded mention of its observance was a notice in The Straits Times by jeweller B.P. de Silva, informing readers that his shop would be closed for the celebrations on 8 May 1925.
In Singapore in particular, it was only gazetted as a national holiday in 1956. The exact day of celebration was contested between the Singapore Buddhist Association, and other Buddhist groups, in particular the Buddhist Union, due to a technicality about when the full moon and lunar eclipse fell that year.
The customs of celebrations are quite varied even in Singapore and Malaysia. It ranges from the usual gathering of worshippers to meditate on the precepts, chant and make donations, to the washing of the Buddha statue, to colourful parades in Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur.
The changes over time
As we can see in this quick run-through of the history of Vesak Day, diversity and changes are an undeniable part of nature.
The celebration of Vesak Day, as a conditioned phenomenon, is subject to constant change. In some eras and geographies, it arose due to the presence of favourable conditions, persisted for some time, and inevitably decayed when the causes disappeared.
And so it goes, arising, persisting and passing away. Other than a reminder of the impermanence of all conditioned phenomena, it is also an arresting reminder that this current period when Vesak Day And Buddhism are still remembered as precious is not a given in the future.
It is not a given that the motivated ones among us can access teachings faithful to the source in the future. This reminds us that learning or listening to the Dhamma is an opportunity to be cherished with urgency.
Back to the Original spirit
And thus, given how rare and transient the favourable conditions we presently enjoy are in the long arc of history, I urge my fellow brothers and sisters to look past the rituals surrounding the Vesak Day holiday and connect with its original spirit – by recalling the inspiration and relevance of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana to our daily practice.
As the Buddha exhorted the monks, and one can imagine, all his future followers, “It may be that after I am gone that some of you will think, ‘now we have no teacher.’ But that is not how you should see it. Let the Dharma and the discipline that I have taught be your teacher. All individual things pass away. Strive on, untiringly.”
Let us honour this upcoming Vesak Day with not just material dana (charitable offerings), but also spiritual ones. Apply ourselves generously in all interactions and even in our meditations. Hopefully one day, such beneficial practices find their place in the event programme of Bun Bang Fai, alongside the rocket launches.
Beyond following the many celebrations in Singapore and Malaysia, you can read super interesting stories of the Buddha from Buddhist scholar Sylvia Bay or check out a monk’s heavy research in demystifying the enlightened teacher, the Buddha. If you aren’t the reader type, join our 30-day meditation challenge to kick start your peaceful journey that Buddha set out 2,600 years back.
Observe impermanence and unsatisfactoriness in even the most sacred of rituals, for they are also conditioned phenomenon
Look past the myriad forms of Vesak Day celebrations and connect with its original spirit – that of recalling the Dhamma and applying it in our lives tirelessly
More than any other public holiday, make a concerted effort to practise generously this coming Vesak Day
TLDR: Having a set of goals to work towards gives us a sense of direction in life. Our society prizes this go-get-it attitude as a self-improvement hack; many of us strive for this mindset. However, there could be a risk of doing something just for the sake of it and we may end up beating ourselves for getting lost in the pursuit of excellence.
Many of us have been conditioned to chase something, consciously or unconsciously. We race with others to prove our worth, ever since birth – to be the first to crawl/walk/run, the top rank in class, the one to get into a famous university, the first to be office management level, the one who found ‘the one’ and have family……The list continues.
The neverending chase has been fuelled by the comparison trap we adopt from our parents, society and ourselves.
Have we ever pondered what is the source of our chasing mindset?
I was so used to the chase that I rushed from one achievement to another, not sparing time to truly soak in whatever I was doing and its outcome. After landing my first job as an accountant, I quickly enrolled on a professional certified course.
Upon completion, I thought, ‘what’s next?’. Before long, I was looking to register for a postgraduate degree.
I must admit those learnings were not in vain. I gained something out of them – both technical skills and soft skills like time-management, relational skills, self-organisation. These skills have been helpful to me in my personal and professional life. But whether or not I could use the effort on a more targeted outcome, that’s another question altogether.
To outsiders, I may look like someone with a thirst for knowledge (or paper certificate, for that matter).
Little did I know this chase was masked as self-improvement; there would always be a better thing to go for next if I don’t consciously define the outcome that I want to achieve.
This deceptive ‘self-improvement’ is not limited only to the worldly chase – I realised that I wanted to keep improving myself spiritually too. While spiritual advancement may be a sensible goal, my underlying intention was warped, at least initially.
I kept myself immersed in spiritual talks one after another. I sat meditating even when the heart refused to – just to prove that I, too, can evolve in my spiritual practice.
This spiritual chase resulted in resistance between the mind and the heart, not to mention the sense of dejection when I didn’t see the improvement I expected. Definitely not a fun experience!
The source of my chasing mindset was a sense of lacking self-worth. I wanted to prove myself a deserving human being by reaching the level that is deemed ‘good enough’. And we know that ‘good enough’ is a subjective measurement and may not serve as a good gauge.
Comparing myself today with who I was 3 years ago, for example, I can honestly say I have grown into a different and (hopefully) a better, more mature person. This is probably a better use of the comparison mind for improvement measurement.
Be kind to ourselves and others
I chanced upon an apt Dhamma talk by Venerable Ajahn Brahm on how we often hold on to ‘I need to be better’ thoughts just because everyone else thinks or expects so. Ajahn Brahm further taught that this ‘I’m not good enough’ mindset is neither kind nor helpful to ourselves.
Of course, we need to carefully distinguish between accepting ourselves with kindness and not growing out of unconstructive habits.
There could be a risk of not improving the mind under the false pretence of self-acceptance. Learn to be at peace with what we already have, then improvement would flow naturally.
Many of us may be performing good deeds and consciously express kindness to others. Doing so not only keeps the mind at peace but also elicits joy during and after the act. I identify with this definition of living a blessed life in the spirit of Mangala Sutta, when I can share and contribute what I have with others. However, with the chasing mentality, I might have forgotten about the one person who would benefit from such good deeds as well – myself.
How many times do we speak harsh words inside our head when we act less than ‘perfect’?
‘Why did you do that silly thing?’
‘How could you forget about that important event?’
‘What is wrong with you?’
I probably would not say such things to my close friends or even strangers, so why do I say them to myself? Am I unworthy of the same kindness I have so freely and joyfully shared with others?
Nowadays, I decide to contemplate my pursuits with an objective mind, even if it seems like an improvement on the surface:
‘Does this course/workshop feel aligned with the heart or is there another reason why I want to join?’
‘Do I feel joyful in learning or is it another medal on my chest to show the world?’
Suffering arises when we don’t get what we want and when we get what we don’t want
I recently read separate teaching from Venerable Ajahn Chah1 on “wanting with right understanding”. The teaching explained that desire towards and away from something can arise from us as worldly beings. I find resonance to this gentle outlook towards self and am aware that setting goals can start off my self-improvement actions – but blindly chasing and grasping the desire tightly is not right either. Instead, taking action accompanied by gradual and reflective practice would be more helpful.
For example, I started this article with the intention to write about chasing struggles. It has developed into deeper contemplation of my underlying beliefs and expanded thoughts that I am sharing now.
Trying to be mindful of my wanting and not-wanting, I do my best at the moment and allow the outcome to unfold.
I realise that telling myself to let go of expectation, is an expectation by itself – another debacle to untangle!
Rather, it is much more peaceful to put in my best effort for the situation; watch the result arise and take the next step from there.
When a learning experience concludes as expected or not, I try to take time to settle down and truly embrace the event. When another learning opportunity comes, I will then be able to jump in wholeheartedly. Even if I failed, I could learn from it. Failure is just another piece of feedback! With this outlook, I hopefully lessen the suffering created for myself.
I conclude that having a goal is necessary, especially for myself and many others who are just entering the ‘real’ life of the professional and social world.
Clarity of true motivation is essential as we take on the path, paired with conscious kindness towards ourselves when the comparison mind takes a negative turn. The next time I look at others and start to put them on the pedestal with an unreasonable expectation of myself, I will remind myself: ‘remember how far you have gone’ and ‘we all have our own path to take’.
He shares more about why this initiative is one close to his heart and how it is transforming a little known part of Singapore’s Buddhist Landscape: Monastics who live alone.
If you could summarise what ASDFL (Aranya Sangha Dana Fellowship Limited)does in one line what would it be?
ASDFL is a ground-up initiative that provides social welfare services to community-based Sangha so that they can age in place and continue their spiritual cultivation.
Why was there a need to set up ASDFL? Aren’t there many temples out there with accommodation?
Actually what took us so long? This is long overdue! Community-based monastics in Singapore have always been around and just like Singapore’s ageing population, many of them are now elderly and retired from their duties. Compared to lay elderly, our ageing monastics have added needs that secular social services are not equipped to support.
Most of the time we assume that they must belong to a temple or Buddhist organisation and all their basic needs are taken care of, i.e. accommodation, financial, medical, and meals.
The truth of the matter is that there are not many temples with accommodation for monastics outside their lineages.
Monastics have different focuses in practices and take up different roles such as conducting prayers, teaching Dharma, doing community work, etc. Given such diversities, it is not always practical to live under one roof or to stay in temples.
ASDFL was set up in the middle of the pandemic, did covid have a part to play in accelerating this idea? How so?
Yes, the idea for setting up ASDFL from our co-founders appeared a couple of years before COVID-19 and groundwork started in late 2019.
However, in early 2020, Covid-19 amplified all the areas of concern for our community-based monastics, like accommodation, chronic illnesses, and social isolation.
Because of the pandemic, a handful of them who have been living overseas for a long time had to abruptly be relocated back to Singapore and were displaced. They had no roof over their heads with little/no social network in Singapore to depend on.
What does a typical week look like at ASDFL?
As the care manager, most of my work time is spent meeting up with Aranyas (monastics) to follow up and work on their needs, working on their care plan, and responding to unforeseeable situations. We run a helpline from Tuesdays to Fridays in which an Aranya can Whatsapp or call to request our assistance.
The exciting part of our work is that no one week is the same as the other; every day is a different day.
On Monday, I respond to missed calls and requests made over the weekend. I then brief our medical kappiyas (helpers) on their upcoming duties this week and remind the respective Aranya of their respective medical appointments.
Tuesdays are our secretariat days where our administrator and volunteers do weekly accounting and periodic phone calls to Aranyas on our name list to update them on our upcoming events or check in on them.
Subsequently, we hold operational meetings to forecast the next week’s work schedule, i.e. medical appointments to fulfil, home visits to conduct, volunteer visits and deliveries of dana items to schedule.
With over 60 volunteers from all walks of life (Doctors, lawyers, retirees), what do you think attracts them to ASDFL?
I believe our volunteers have one thing in common; we all treasure the rare opportunity with BuddhaDhamma. When we hear that many Buddhist monastics are staying in the community and are in need of support, we want to show up with gratitude.
To show up and play our part, to serve and protect them in any possible way.
What motivated you to work at ASDFL as a full-time staff? When did you start the journey?
In 2019, ASDFL Co-founder Venerable Chuan Yu and Director Sister Chingwi, shared about the challenges that community-based monastics faced and the glaring service gaps for them.
Instead of lamenting about the lack of a support system, I thought the best way to contribute is to be part of the solution, to help create the support that is needed.
So with whatever past work experiences I had in the social service sector and the Buddhist community, I volunteered to be involved in the setting up of ASDFL.
What is a key highlight in your work? Any story made you say ‘Damn, all the hard work is worth it?’
A key highlight in my work is to journey with Sangha who is in distress, undergoing a challenging situation and gradually overcoming it and returning to a stable situation.
One of the most unforgettable moments for me involves intervention work with an Aranya who had one of her legs amputated due to infection.
When we first met her in the hospital ward, she was worn out, tired and at a loss for what to do after the operation. As she lives alone with no caregiver, we became an important pillar of support both physically and emotionally.
After twelve months of care management, regular medical follow-ups, occupational therapy, and weekly volunteer visits to provide her with emotional support, she finally reached a milestone!
For the first time since she became wheelchair-bound, she was able to stand up on her own, using the prosthetic leg and walking frame, walk out of her HDB main door into the common corridor, lean over the ledge wall and look across the basketball court.
This moment was truly unforgettable for me and our volunteers.
What is one little interesting but unknown fact about interacting with senior monastics?
An elderly monastic may appear very formal, stern and solemn. However, time will prove you otherwise!
They are one of the warmest and most generous people when it comes to sharing their knowledge of the Dharma and their journey as Buddhist monastics.
Each of their life stories is an inspiration and a reminder that human life is precious. Knowing this, we should strive towards enlightenment.
What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?
One of the greatest challenges for me is my gender.
I am the only caseworker and I am a male. More than half of the Aranyas that we serve are female and they do not have an option to speak to a female caseworker if they wish to.
Hence they may feel less comfortable sharing more about their needs and worries with me. It is also inappropriate for me to visit a female Aranya alone (Monastics are not supposed to be in isolation with a member of the opposite sex).
Luckily I’m able to tap into our pool of female ASDFL volunteers. Some are social workers by profession to come in and provide casework support!
What were some key Dhamma lessons you took away in your time at ASDFL?
I learnt that as long as we are humans and still living in Samsara we are all subjected to causes and conditions, we are subjected to suffering and dissatisfaction. In spite of these sufferings, we can always strive to be better persons and to be compassionate towards others.
What would you say to fellow Buddhists working in the social service or undergrads deciding whether to enter the social service space?
I would like to share the following verse with them:
Sentient beings are numberless. We vow to save them all.
Delusions are endless. We vow to cut through them all.
The teachings are infinite. We vow to learn them all.
The Buddha Way is inconceivable. We vow to attain it.
After I stepped into social service as a young caseworker in the mental health field, I finally have a deeper connection with these verses that I’ve been chanting for years!
I continue to chant it daily, to remind me of my aspiration to serve all sentient beings, with no retreat (不退心) and to serve with no regrets.
What are your future hopes for ASDFL?
I look forward to ASDFL becoming a strong pillar of support for all the community-based Buddhist monastics in Singapore, to let them know that they are not alone.
I look forward to ASDFL growing in terms of organisational and clinical capability so that we can provide the relevant support for our community-based monastics in the long haul.
How can readers help ASDFL?
If you want to know more about our work, find us on Facebook, like and share.
If you resonate with what we do and want to be involved, join us as a volunteer!
If you see a community-based Buddhist monastic living in your neighbourhood, tell them about ASDFL, and pass them our ASDFL Helpline 8341 9636, so that if they need our assistance, they can give us a call.
ASDFL (Aranya Sangha Dana Fellowship Limited) has a network of over 60 community-based Buddhist monastics and they operate a helpline for community-based Buddhist monastics requiring assistance. ASDFL organises 10 annual events consisting of opportunities for laypersons to make offerings to the Community-based Sangha and closed-door activities specially catered to the biological, emotional and spiritual needs of our Buddhist monastics.
Known as the ‘lost generation‘, starting poly life can be both exciting and nerve-biting with so many things to choose from. Now that most CCA fiestas have cooled down, you can find different quiet spaces for you to grow and take a pause.
Find fellow friends that value peace and balance in all the chaos of the fast pace poly life in these 5 groups!
Here’s a handy guide to upcoming events that have been organised just for you!
Know someone who might benefit? Share this link with them:)
Join SPBS Friendship with Freshies 27 Apr 4-6 pm on Zoom
Weekly Activities: Wednesday 4-6 pm
Zoom link will be sent via iChat email for those who have signed up as a member of SPBS
TLDR: Internships are valuable opportunities for one to learn and grow. Every internship is different and there’s no need to compare. As great platforms for networking, internships can allow us to be bold and to speak out.
Internships have now become a rite of passage for university students. Lessons are learnt. White hair appears. Overtime (OT) drags. I was part of a challenging yet exciting project as an intern. Here’s what I did and my 3 takeaways.
During my internship, I worked for and with a group of solopreneurs – people who set up and run a business on their own- who were commissioned by the Chinese government to organize and host a regional China-ASEAN Startup competition.
This competition aims to bring aspiring startups and established businesses across Southeast Asia (ASEAN) into the hub of Nanning.
Being a politics and international affairs geek, I was excited to be a part of this project!
This competition is one of the subsidiary events of the high-profile China-ASEAN EXPO, where state leaders of both regions regularly attend. This attachment was not your typical corporate internship. With my unique experience, I learnt not to compare with my fellow schoolmates.
1. Comparison is the thief of joy
It’s our human nature to compare. At times, comparisons encourage healthy competition and push us to improve. However, we must be careful of envy’s trap.
When I was in my polytechnic days, I used to envy friends who secured internships with internationally renowned firms. I was dejected, demoralized and desperate when my applications were rejected.
I felt that opportunities were only reserved for the rich, bright and powerful.
Little was I aware that I was a victim of the “three poisons” (Anger, Greed & Ignorance) and experienced Dukkha (Suffering). This cycle of anguish formed from Taṇhā (Craving) as I desired to conform to stereotypes and to be accepted as a contributing member of society. Thankfully, this mindset was all but in the past.
As I aged and gained wisdom from the Dhamma, I realised that interning with big firms does not necessarily mean that they are the right firms for us.
These firms may mass employ undergraduates and drive more competition. However, interns may get less opportunity to learn and shine as the same ‘workload’ gets diluted with many other interns.
Coupled with high expectations and added pressure, internships with these firms may not always be the thriving spot for some. I gleaned this insight from my friend’s experiences with global corporations.
Everyone learns at different speeds. In large firms, interns are often put together in a graduate program and expected to be on the same learning curve.
I used to be a slow learner and appreciate colleagues giving me the time and space to find my feet. Working in a small group for my internship with the startup competition project, I could take adequate time to learn the ropes. With more confidence, I contributed more to the project. I had greater exposure and was able to learn more.
Every internship is different and each internship brings something different to the table. No one size fits all.
Some questions to ponder for those finding internships: Prestige or growth? Short-term or long-term? The questions help us recognize that no path is the same and it’s in our power to chart our path. Instead of comparing our internship experiences, we can focus on our learning journey and choose a firm with a culture that we stand to gain the most from.
2. Linkages – Our network is our net worth
The best part of an internship is the opportunity to network and establish links. Internships are not merely for us to gain exposure to the working world.
As cliché as it sounds, our potential net worth is indeed determined by our network.
Internships present a valuable opportunity to speak to industry experts, high net-worth individuals, business leaders, and even government officials.
I like having choices. An internship opens as many doors as possible. We never know which door will be open. For those of us considering a career switch, we could potentially chance upon someone in your desired industry during networking events.
For instance, my interest is to become a sinologist and this internship presented me with the opportunity to network with key Chinese government officials and intermediaries. Pushing boundaries, and seizing networking opportunities led to me meeting personnel from Alibaba Group, Chulalongkorn University, Startup founders among many others.
How do we network?
Start with weak ties such as old friends in industries you are keen on or seniors from previous internships or acquaintances from networking events.
We’d be surprised how many people say yes to small favours to connect with us. For the brave, you can try lunchclub.com (https://lunchclub.com/) which connects you to different like-minded people looking to network.
Networking helps expand’s one connection and creates potential opportunities to open more doors. However, it requires stepping out of the comfort zone which I know some may be fearful of. This brings me to the next lesson.
3. Understanding Fear
Buddhism teaches us that all beings feel fear and anxiety. It’s normal to feel a sense of apprehension about joining a new firm or saying hi to strangers in networking sessions.
Often, our nervousness, anxiety and fear engulf us, making us meek out. Having faith in our potential to learn and grow counters that fear with gradual confidence. Confidence is crucial even as an intern! There are benefits to honing our confidence.
Being open and ready to speak out conveys our knowledge of your material. As an intern, speaking out establishes clear boundaries to co-workers and signals to others that we are not easy pushovers.
By speaking up, we learn more and gain respect for being humble at learning. Internships are all about learning so it is alright to make mistakes. Be bold and optimistic rather than submit to the corporate hierarchical order.
Here, I am not endorsing interns step over authority!
Rather, I believe we learn a whole lot more by speaking out (whenever necessary) since we stand to lose more opportunities to ask questions by staying quiet.
During my internship, I liaised with an external firm for creating marketing collateral. The firm assured us that the final product would align with our expectations. I suspected that the firm inferred our instructions differently and might produce something that’s below expectations and might cause delays.
Recollecting the Buddha’s teaching of Ehipassiko – come and see for yourself or simply to investigate – overcame my fear of speaking out. True enough, upon further probing, my suspicions were proven true as there was indeed some misunderstanding.
Beyond practising mindfulness we must also investigate before jumping to any conclusion. By doing so, we would not just seek the truth but also insulate ourselves from false accusations.
It’s also crucial to be firm and speak up if we have any concerns. In normal circumstances, as an intern, I have limited right to speak out against leading marketing experts for an area where I have got no experience in.
However, by knowing the project’s needs, in this case, the direction where the competition should be headed, I had the duty to manage these external stakeholders.
The purpose of an internship is for you to learn. Thus, it’s important to step out of the comfort zone, be bold, not be fearful of making mistakes and always be ready to speak out.
Through these lessons, I have grown to be a much happier and confident person. By not comparing, I was able to block out negative externalities and focus my time and energy on what matters. Doing so, I gained confidence and was able to expand my connections and overcome fear.
These are my 3 takeaways from my experience as an intern. I hope this advice would provide you with some useful insights to gaining confidence and overcoming fear.
Comparison is the thief of joy: Understand which internship path helps you to reach your learning goals
Build that networking muscles by reaching out to old friends in exciting industries or seniors from previous internships. Getting the first ‘hello’ is probably the hardest but most fulfilling step!
Know that dear friend fear. Countering it with knowledge, courage, and mindfulness can slowly decrease its grip on us