Ep 26: Can fear & shame pave the way to enlightenment?

Published on Apr 21, 2023

About our guest

Low Mi Yen, a clinical psychologist and one of Malaysia’s foremost proponents of the application of psychology, mindfulness and self-compassion, for individual, couple, family, workplace and community, for more than 27 years. Pioneered Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in Malaysia since 1999, providing corporate training, coaching, crisis intervention, psychotherapy, psychological assessment, lecturing and supervision, mindfulness and self-compassion interventions in enhancing resilience.


[00:00:00] Kai Xin:

Hi, welcome to another episode of the Handful Of Leaves podcast, where we bring you practical Buddhist wisdom for a happier life.

Is ignorance bliss?

You know, in the process of wanting to be a good person or being taught to be a good person, we learn how to identify right from wrong. And we are also reminded of moral conduct and standards and thus become increasingly cautious of our own actions, sometimes fearing the consequences or you’ll feel ashamed if we were to fall short.

So wouldn’t it actually be better if we remained ignorant? We’ll be happier, right? In this episode, we will talk about how the fear of wrongdoing and shame can actually lead us to peace. I know it sounds paradoxical, which is why we have our guest today Sister Miyen and also my co-host, Cheryl, to talk about this because we know fear and shame, they are very unpleasant feelings. So how is it possible that it can result in peace?

And is it really true that these mental qualities can pave the way to enlightenment?

A lot of big questions and this episode is going to be very educational. So without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Hi. Good to see you, sister Mi Yen. I’m joined with Cheryl to chat with you today.

[00:01:20] Sis Mi Yen:

Thanks for inviting me, Kai Xin and Cheryl, to join you in this wonderful series of podcasts with interesting topics to share with your listeners. So I’m actually very happy and excited to have the chat with you today.

[00:01:34] Kai Xin:

Yeah, definitely. Today’s subject is quite interesting because we’re gonna talk about fear and shame. And there is this term in the Buddhist scripture, which is Hirīottappa. We’re gonna unpack a lot of that to see where these two words fit into our life? Because I think in a religious context, we sometimes feel like, oh, I’m not a good enough Buddhist, I did something wrong. Then there’s the sense of shame and guilt, but it can get to a point where it’s not so beneficial and I personally in the past have a lot of misconceptions about it.

 Just for our listeners, a brief background about Sis Mi Yen, who’s on this podcast with us today. She’s a clinical psychologist who spent more than 27 years helping individuals, couples, families, to teach them how to be a better person, either in a form of leadership or in a form of managing crisis as well as emotion. She also does psychotherapy.

I do wanna start off this episode with our first question. You know, in our modern world, there are a lot of distractions and vices. I would say that a lot of people would agree that it’s quite challenging to be a good person, because sometimes, people shout at you, they do certain nasty things and the tendency is, oh, I wanna fight back, or I wanna hurt another person.

So how do we actually not be triggered by all these temptations or these responses and end up hurting others? How does Hirīottappa come into the picture, and this sense of fear and shame?

[00:03:03] Sis Mi Yen:

Like you said, we are not doing justice to our topic itself, especially these two very important mental qualities in our short podcast today. So I’ll try my best to unpack as much as I can. It is a difficult practice. Today I’m speaking more as a Buddhist practitioner rather than a professional psychologist. From the Buddhist perspective, I myself, personally, find that in our Buddhist teaching, Hirī and Ottappa, these are the twin mental qualities that are present in all of us. And these mental qualities, they are associated with skillful action. At times they’re referred to as the two superheroes that protect the world or the guardians of the world.

If you Google Hirī and Ottappa you’ll see all these words popping up. These are very important mental qualities. It actually helps us to make right choices in life. How do we act? How do we speak? How do we think? Hopefully, in a helpful, healthy, and skillful way for us to uphold ourself as a human being, especially our moral conduct and of course in Buddhist practice, the importance of keeping the precepts. So, these two mental qualities are huge. I’m not sure whether you would like me to delve into the definition because sometimes the definition itself can cause a lot of misunderstanding too.

[00:04:22] Kai Xin: I see Cheryl nodding her head. We would agree that it’s good to maybe just define what exactly is Hirī and what is Ottappa in short, and then we can slowly unpack and clear some of the wrong views or misconceptions.

[00:04:34] Sis Mi Yen:

Yes, Hirī refers to the inner conscience refraining us from doing deeds that would jeopardise our self-respect, honor and dignity as a human being. In a way it’s an inner ability to see unwholesomeness arising as shameful or wrong. This is where different terminology has been used to translate the Pali term Hirī. We have moral shame as one of the main one. But I think the English translation, moral shame is a bit tricky. I really like the ability to see unwholesomeness as shameful, our awareness of the value of human being.

Ottapa on the other hand, refers to a healthy fear of wrongdoings. I don’t want to do this unwholesome action because by doing this, I’m gonna bring harm to myself and others. That means the ability to actually reflect on consequences. As human beings, we do have responsibilities and awareness of our action, kamma and so forth. But a lot of the English words that describe ottapa, they use the word moral dread or moral fear.

I prefer to just use Hirī and Ottappa, having a clearer understanding of the actual definition. But again, it can cause a lot of misunderstanding from the English term itself.

[00:05:56] Cheryl:

Yeah, I think the words fear and shame are very intense words. It elicits a very negative reaction. In our day to day, you’re trying to avoid fear and shame. I really like how you rephrased it as the ability to see unwholesomeness as shameful. It really helps us to reflect on the actions and behaviors that are actually very dirty in nature, that’s why it’s shameful, rather than us having that shame that perhaps comes from wrong conditioning.

[00:06:21] Kai Xin:

I would like to share an example to illustrate Hirīottappa, you can correct me if I’m wrong. You mentioned that it’s something that we innately have, Hirī, a sense of shame or conscience. We know what exactly is wrong or right.

So, there was one day my mom when she was fetching my niece from preschool, she’s around four years old. She’s a little bit out of character. Very unusually quiet. And then my mom kind of noticed that something is amiss and then she found out that my niece has taken from the preschool, a Lego and then she put it in her arms. She kind of knows that she’s not supposed to do it, but she also doesn’t wanna tell. So there’s a little bit of like, okay, what if I get found out, you know? Like, will my mom scold her? Will her mother scold her? And what’s the consequences? Which kind of led her to also be not so vocal about what is wrong. She probably have taken it by accident and then only found out about it afterwards.

So I thought that’s particularly interesting because at such a young age she already knows that taking things that is not hers is not so right. So would that be an example of Hirī?

[00:07:31] Sis Mi Yen:

In a way. I think your niece has gone into another experience. The Pali word that I can recall is Kukkucca. It is actually the guilt and remorse happening. I think this is again, very, very natural. A lot of us have this frequent misunderstanding. We get Hirīottappa quite mixed up with Kukkucca, remorse. So actually Kukkucca is the feeling that arises after the bad action has been committed. So your niece has taken the Lego. It’s actually committed already, that’s why it is already Kukkucca.

Whereas, Hirī and Ottappa are actually the conflict in our mind and the feeling that arises before the bad action happens. So they are actually protective factors. Hopefully they are here to protect our minds from moral defilements or immoral action.

Thank you for bringing this example up. That’s why a lot of times in the classes on Hirīottappa, we have to discuss about Kukkucca. Cause it comes together in that sense.

[00:08:32] Kai Xin:

It’s kind of like the cartoon, you know, they have the angel and devil. So it is before to prevent us from even taking the Lego. But then after you have already committed, then that’s where the remorse comes in.

[00:08:46] Sis Mi Yen:

And the guilt comes in.

[00:08:48] Kai Xin:

That’s interesting. Could you give us some examples of real-life situation of Hirī and Ottappa?

[00:08:54] Sis Mi Yen:

Okay. Actually, all of us in a way, innately have Hirīottappa in us.

But it is still important for us to develop or practise it. For this, I actually want to bring us back to a very important reference from Ashin Buddhaghosa, a fifth-century Indian Theravāda Buddhist commentator, translator and philosopher. So, Ashin Buddhaghosa has actually highlighted eight factors that can help us to facilitate or cultivate Hirī and Ottappa. Hopefully we have these eight factors to guide us further.

First, remember we are a person of good birth. Birth is rare in our Buddhist practice. So remember that it is not worthy of a person with good birth to do unwholesome action. Remember our rare birth as a human being.

Number two. These unwholesome actions are not worthy of a mature person like me. Hopefully our maturity from our practice will also prompt us to recall that.

Third, these unwholesome actions are just unacceptable. I am a strong and courageous person. I have been practicing all our Buddhist practices, therefore I should not do this.

Fourth, these unwholesome actions are usually committed by those who are unwise. Hopefully, I have wisdom from all my Buddhist practices to guide me.

Fifth, I am a Buddhist practitioner. So I would reflect on our Buddhist doctrines, which always teach us on wholesomeness. Reflect on the dignity of the Buddha our teacher who has given us the Buddha Dhamma as the path, especially our Noble Eightfold Path. So let me keep to this. My Buddhist practice is my inheritance in this present life. So I would like to honor this for myself and also for the other people in my life because if I do something unwholesome, I’m going to hurt them.

So he described these eight beautiful factors that can help us to practice Hirī. If we can remember, just go back to the basics, the Four Noble Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path. You’ll be guided by what Ashin has actually mentioned.

He says there are another four factors. Clear understanding of the consequences will totally stop us from committing unwholesomeness. He says this, we will be afraid of doing something that we are gonna regret later, if we know this unwholesomeness is gonna be criticised, that we are gonna be punished in the present life or the future life. Very related to our core Buddhist practice. I always love contemplating and reminding myself of maintaining Hirī and Ottappa in myself. That’s how we can practice to cultivate Hirī and Ottappa. I know it’s a long explanation but we will share with our listeners all the important links.

[00:11:59] Kai Xin:

It’s good that you actually brought up the context or the different line of thoughts because then these are signposts on the kind of narrative that goes in our head. Then you recognize, oh, this is actually trying to guard my morality so that I would have no regret in the future.

In fact, I would share another anecdotal experience to kind of make this a little bit more relatable. I would say, especially the Dhamma practice, because we have the Five Precepts. So no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no intoxicant, right? The precepts itself has always been at the back of my head and has actually allowed me to avoid troubles or dangers, particularly when it comes to lying. This one is quite difficult, I would say, because white lie is also involved and sometimes you not saying anything, hiding the truth, if you’re strict about it, it’s also considered lying. Right? So that was actually a very interesting instance at work. I was in a moral dilemma. Our team has actually accidentally circulated a confidential piece of information from client A to client B, and this was by accident.

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So the moment when we found out, it was a moral dilemma because if we don’t tell, then the client won’t know that we have made this mistake. But if we do tell, our client might feel that, hey, why don’t we kind of guard their confidential information safely. There might be trust that is lost.

But then there’s also the other side, which is what if we don’t tell? Eventually our client were to find out and we knew that we should have told. So there was kind of like a little bit of ding-dong and then I kind of couldn’t sleep as well. In the end, we made the difficult decision, which is to own up to our mistake because it is our responsibility. And I think the whole concern is about, okay, will we destroy the trust? But the very fact that we are hiding the truth, there’s no transparency, there’s no trust, right? So we have to bear our consequences.

Our client actually appreciated it. What we thought would be quite a big hoo-ha didn’t unfold in the manner that we expect, we expect our clients to actually scold us. So what happened was our client was very thankful and said, okay, it was by mistake, can you let us know who are the relevant parties? And also let me check with my team, who’s part of legals and comms to see what can be done. And then for us, of course our offer is okay, whatever corrective actions you want us to take, we will go ahead and take it. But it was such a big load off all of our chests because the very fact that we are not hiding anything to me it’s about keeping the precept of honesty as well as being truthful.

Also from a leadership standpoint, it does set some form of tone, right? Like how do you own up to your mistake and say that it’s okay, we make mistakes. Be responsible for our actions. There’s so much more respect from there rather than doing it otherwise.

[00:15:01] Sis Mi Yen:

Wow. I’m so proud, you know, of what has transpired between you, your team, and the other team. And this is the amazing part, you know? Cause we human beings actually have conscience. We have the ability to recognise mistakes and we know that if we do not resolve it, it’s gonna be sticky. And it’s very interesting that we can’t go against natural emotions.

In the psychology of emotions in Buddhism, there are four sets of basic challenging emotions that none of us can escape. The example that you give is guilt and shame. The four challenging emotions are anger and hatred, fear and anxiety, grief or sorrow, guilt or shame. It will arise. We cannot run away from it.

And of course, the more we are able to reflect and practice Hirīottappa, hopefully it will prevent occurrence of the four sets of challenging emotions and your example is right on the dot on that. Instead of anger or hatred from your client, you know, they actually have positive emotion. They were appreciative of your honesty. So you see we are always very stuck on the negativity. But we forgot that there’s always the other positive part of emotions and actions of course. I’m so happy to hear that the situation was actually resolved. I cannot imagine that stress that you guys were having due to that.

[00:16:32] Kai Xin:

It was quite stressful. Like, will we lose a client because of that, you know, our reputation will be tarnished. And everything turned out to be alright and I think it was for the better. I thought whatever you mentioned was so true. Fear and shame, connotation is usually very negative, very intense. Ajahn Jayasāro clarified to say it’s actually wise shame and wise fear, when you use it skillfully, it actually helps you to reduce the emotions that you talk about – anxiety, restlessness and helps us be more peaceful.

[00:17:01] Sis Mi Yen:

Yes, definitely. That’s why Hirī and Ottappa are called the two superheroes or the protectors of the world. We need this as a human being in our world. It’s so scary. There are a lot of bad deeds, evilness because of the lack of Hirī and Ottappa. If we didn’t have Hirī and Ottappa, to protect us, we have to then deal with Kukkucca. It’s when the bad action has been committed, but we need to deal with the guilt, the remorse, the shame.

[00:17:33] Cheryl:

I got a question that could be quite obvious. So what would be considered a good deed or a bad deed? So, for example, in Kai Xin’s case, it’s obvious, following the five percepts. That’s examples of maintaining morality, maintaining goodness but a lot of times, what we think is bad is not really bad. For example, premarital sex. Some people would think it’s very bad, but if you dive a little bit deeper, it’s because society said so, or your parents said so. So it’s very subjective to a certain extent. How do we know what is truly considered a good deed?

[00:18:06] Sis Mi Yen:

Ah, that’s very tricky. To me, not good deeds they’re any deeds that does not fall under our practice of Five Precepts. It’s actually very deep itself. So that will definitely always guide us to perform good deeds and to abstain from bad deeds. Another Buddhist practice will be the Noble Eightfold Path. To practice the Noble Eightfold Path itself is not easy. Having the Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, that is itself will take us many lives to practise.

Based on what you have actually mentioned, that example is very frequently asked by people. So is premarital sex a sexual misconduct breaking the third precept? So I would say that it all depends on the two persons involved in the act. The element that you touch on, the cultural aspect or the religious aspect is tricky. Some religious rules is no premarital sex. So then they will view that as very negative.

But I think our third precept to abstain from sexual misconduct, it has to do with these two individuals. Are they truly clear and respectful of each other when they are in that sexual relationship? Are they both willing?

It’s very tricky on the frame of mind of the two person. If there is clarity on both sides, then it is a mutual relationship. If one person is hesitant or not comfortable and so forth, then of course, that act itself is a misconduct.

Right or wrong, the mind always wants to judge, it’s so tricky. If we wanna go deeper into the perception that arises in us, in making that judgment itself, what are many more layers behind it that make us arrive at the right or the wrong. It’s much more worthwhile to go back to actually investigate the processes, rather looking at what is right or what is wrong. It’s so subjective. But of course, living in a society there are rules set by the country, the government, of course those are hard to challenge. But in terms of moral or social rules that becomes very tricky.

My suggestion is, if we are practicing Buddhism always have that mindfulness to bring us back to investigate the processes that’s happening internally. Learn from that processes itself. So, I’m not sure whether I’ve answered you, Cheryl.

[00:20:51] Cheryl:

You helped to remind us that it’s important to understand what’s really going on internally because you cannot lie to yourself to a certain extent.

[00:21:00] Kai Xin:

And I think it’s also important to understand the purpose behind even keeping the precepts or discerning what’s right and wrong. What I find beautiful about the Buddhist teaching is everything should lead us to peace. So if we have this mental restlessness and agitation by saying, oh, but it’s a gray area. Is it right? Is it wrong? Caught up with this endless debate, then it doesn’t actually help us free ourselves from suffering. There’s this term called sīlabbata-parāmāsa, clinging to rules and rituals, or even clinging on to our views. And it’s a very subtle part of practice because sometimes we like to follow rules, especially a very Asian context, right? Like, oh, this means this, B means B, C means C, but the world isn’t so black and white.

 I think precepts is meant for us to find that peace and also live harmoniously with the society around us. Which is why in the discourses, a lot of times actually the Buddha did mention to abide by the law of the nation to not cause a disruption. As practitioners, our own responsibility is to also say, okay, if I were to do this, yes, it’s a little bit gray. Once I do this deed will I then have regret? For me, I found that to be very helpful. If it doesn’t bring peace, then perhaps I won’t venture into that path.

[00:22:19] Sis Mi Yen:

Somehow, there is this extreme category where some people have that deep, ignorance about the world, about being human. They will not be able to even have the realization, the reflection or the awareness of wholesomeness and unwholesomeness in the first place. That will be the very hard evil, really hardcore bad deeds and so forth, but to me, that’s a very small percentage.

But the bottom line is, the higher percentage of all of us have this basic ability to know what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. A lot of times because we are challenged by our greed, we want “Nevermind lah”. So I think it’s a lot more on that. In our Buddhist practice, we really understanding our greed, hatred and delusion is always with us. How do we deal with that?

For me, the Noble Eightfold Path has really unfolded for us the answer. The cultivation of the mind, the mental development, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. This is the hardest part for a lot of Buddhist, the meditative practice and effort. It’s only with that do we actually train our mind, every moment so that hopefully we do have this calmness, clarity in us that we can carry to face the world with a lot of vices and evilness and so forth, we can’t avoid that.

But hopefully with this cultivation, no matter how ugly it is out there, hopefully we can maintain that inner freedom and peace, which to me is the main Buddhist teaching or Buddhist practice. If you don’t practice Right Effort, Right Concentration, Right Mindfulness, you are not able to cultivate Hirīottappa. No way.

[00:24:10] Cheryl:

I think Hirī and Ottappa also helps to protect our long-term happiness. For example, the Fifth Precept to not intoxicate, but sometimes life is very hard. You just want to numb yourself by intoxicating.

[00:24:22] Sis Mi Yen:

The temptation, fighting greed, is very challenging for all of us in this materialistic world. Right?

[00:24:29] Kai Xin:

Yeah, I do see how mindfulness and concentration especially, can help us to have that clarity of mind to even tap into our own inner wisdom because we have many things happening around us. It’s very easy to be swayed. Like if we hang out with the wrong company, then we would think that it’s okay to indulge, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to our long-term welfare. Yeah, so also very important to hang out with wise friends in order to kind of help us stay on the path, to recalibrate. And most importantly, we have to be truthful to ourselves.

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[00:25:01] Sis Mi Yen:

Since today we’re talking about Hirīottappa, I would like to highlight that a lot of our Buddhist core teachings are all interconnected. But Hirī and Ottappa, it is placed under the Treasure Dhana Sutta. It’s two out of the seven Noble Treasures. So maybe let me just share with the listener what are the Seven Noble Treasures? We will give the link to the audience.

 So the first category is actually moral training. Under the moral training there are four treasures, four practices, the treasure of faith, Saddhā. Start with Saddhā, our faith towards Dhamma. Second one is the treasure of moral virtue, followed by the treasure of Hirī, moral shame and the treasure of Ottappa, moral fear. So these four are grouped under moral training.

And with this, comes in the next category, the meditation training. Here they have two treasures for us to practice. The treasure of learning, and I think it’s very deep. The next one is the treasure of charity or generosity. It’s very interesting that this sutta they place it under meditation training.

The last one, number seven is actually the wisdom training and this is the treasure of wisdom, paññā.

See how important is Hirī and Ottappa. It’s within these seven that Budha has actually taught all of us. Hold these as treasures in your life as human being. It’s very, very near, interconnected back to our Noble Eightfold Path.

So it’s all interconnected. The moral training is gonna be connected to our wisdom training. And it’s gonna be connected to our Samādhi training, the mental cultivation training. The Eightfold Path is also three categories. It’s similar with the seven treasures.

But the one I really like is the first treasure, saddhā, faith. We should ask ourselves, you know, how deep is our faith towards the Buddha Dhamma, so how deeply or strongly, we understand the Four Noble Truths, the Three Defilements, the Noble Eightfold Path and of course the Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, the mental cultivation, the meditative practice. All these core itself takes many lives to practice. But go back to that again and again. I think this is so complementary how they positioned the Hirī and Ottappa, very systematic.

Our Buddha, our Buddhist suttas are very systematic. It’s very interesting how they categorize it. But if you actually are able to look at the matching of the categories then you find that the practice are actually very flowing. Like these seven treasures, to me, it’s so flowing like the Noble Eightfold Path.

[00:27:53] Kai Xin:

Thank you for sharing. I have a curious question. You mentioned learning and charity is under the meditation training. Can you elaborate more on that?

[00:28:03] Sis Mi Yen:

Okay. Disclaimer, I may not understand the Treasure Dhana Sutta well. So please the listeners forgive me if I’m not clear or misquoting, but based on my reading and my understanding why the treasure of learning and the treasure of charity is under meditation training.

I think learning is very clear because in meditation training the learning of the mind system especially, if you do not have this ability, passion, to actually want to learn, then meditation training will become very difficult. So the attitude in learning is very important for meditation training.

 Charity is very interesting. If we actually hold this treasure of charity in our life, which means that we are a generous person, a giving person, and also know how to receive at the same time, we are a very balanced person. This balance is also very important in our meditation practice.

If we always have that greed and all that stinginess and that holding back, which is the direct opposite of the treasure of charity, you can imagine the state of your mind, very constricted. Right? Versus the generosity, that openness in your practice, which is definitely very important for the meditation training, the quality of the mind. So the practice of generosity itself, you know, it’s just not like, donate, donate, donate. It’s a very meaningful and detailed process of what’s going through your mind, right? That readiness, that openness, that happiness in giving. Sometimes we give, but it comes with, “Aiya, I should have given so much…”. When you go into the processes, corrupted already right?

[00:29:53] Kai Xin:

Haven’t really let go and renounced. Actually, speaking of meditation, just wanna circle back and tie it to Hirīottappa.

I do know some people might say, Hey, you know, I don’t wanna get too deep into this Dhamma practice, because then it kind of makes me feel very uptight. Like in the past, you know, ignorance is bliss, right? I don’t know all these Five Precepts. I don’t meditate. You know, I can still enjoy life in a different way and fleeting happiness, that’s just part of life.

So they kind of restrict themselves from entering the Dhamma practice in a too deep manner. What are your thoughts on that? Do you feel like there’s a need to recalibrate the view in order to serve them while they’re still practising without, I don’t know, compromising their happiness?

[00:30:36] Sis Mi Yen:

That’s a very tough question, Kai Xin. I think I’m gonna approach it this way. If the individual truly is happy, peaceful, blissful with whatever they are practicing or living with. It is fine. But if it’s ignorant bliss or more of a denial kind of situation, No lah, I don’t want to practise Five Precepts, you know, it’s very restricting and things like that. If it is more towards that, they will help to deal with a lot of those challenging emotions that is gonna arise. A lot of times, people have to discover the hard way.

After they encounter the difficulties, then only they will actually appreciate, you know, what Buddha has taught us. If as we are sharing or talking, some people say, “Aiya, all these are not gonna be helpful for me”, my approach is always, yeah, it’s okay. As long as you are actually doing fine, you’re okay. But then, when they encounter challenges, if they come to us, that’s when, hopefully we have the skillfulness, to impart our Buddhist practices or teaching to them subtly. You know, that’s where we are not gonna talk about Hirī and Ottappa because I think it’s already Kukkucca a lot of times.

But we gonna help them to look at their emotion of guilt, remorse, shame. What are you gonna do with it? What can you do with it? And whether our Buddhist practices then can help them to deal with it. So that’s an easy way to convince them to practice. Yeah, nobody’s going to go for meditation retreat if they’re doing fine, I tell you.

But really, you know, people who really encounter problems and then they meet people that can share with them the Dhamma in the right condition, right timing, then they will hopefully attempt and appreciate it.

And there are also people who goes into all our Buddhist practices, but they will still have a lot of hindrances. In meditation practice, the five hindrances itself is great. You can imagine it is a lifelong learning to even face all these hindrances.

So I would say that if people are in denial, we continue to be a good person, a good friend or a good colleague, to be there to support them when they need it. That’s where our generosity in helping will be helpful at that point.

[00:33:02] Kai Xin:

Thanks for that. I think that’s very wise and it also allows people to navigate based on their own capacity and we don’t become like a precept or a Dhamma police cause it can then be another situation where we feel that we are more superior and people are more inferior and they should do things a certain way, which is not helpful for our practice as well. So there’s a lot of inner search and inner calibration that we have to do. This very nicely wraps up our session, in a nice tone.

So today we have talked about quite a lot of things. Starting with what exactly is Hirīottappa and how it’s commonly misunderstood as Kukkucca. So the first one is having wise fear and shame before we commit a wrong deed. So that’s gonna protect us from even going down the wrong path or a path that we might end up feeling guilt and feeling remorseful, which is Kukkucca.

And then you also shared about the importance of keeping precepts and really there’s no real right and wrong. We have to understand our thought processes. It’s really about the interaction between people, right? When we have the precept, whether it’s between you and your partner, or you and society.

[00:34:08] Sis Mi Yen:

You and yourself.

[00:34:10] Kai Xin:

Yes, definitely. So it’s all intertwined and we ultimately have to see how peaceful we are when we are embodying all these qualities or trying to be an upright person. Also, you talked about the noble treasures, moral training meditation training, as well as wisdom training. We’re gonna put resources in the show notes for our listeners who want to find out more about each of these treasures.

Yeah, I think at the end of the day it’s about being truthful and honest. Innately, we already know what is beneficial. We just need that mental clarity and stillness to tap into our inner wisdom, sometimes, be the support to our friends around us without forcing, and sometimes also lean on others to guide us on the right path. So, thank you very much, Sister Mi Yen.

 Any last advice for our listeners before we say goodbye?

[00:35:02] Sis Mi Yen:

I would say maybe start with the treasure of faith and really maintain the treasure of learning, if I would pick two out of the seven. I’d like to thank Kai Xin and Cheryl for inviting me to share this difficult topic.

I hope we are able to shed some light through all our definition and dialogue and so forth. Nevertheless, I wish everyone a fruitful path in our cultivation. I’d definitely place mental cultivation, meditation, as the path that hopefully all of us will continue to stay on. So naturally, thank you to both of you for having this session with me. And we’d like to thank all the listeners. Especially when they click on our podcasts and listen to us. We thank them for spending time with us.

[00:35:56] Kai Xin:

Thank you so much.

[00:35:57] Cheryl:

Thank you Sis. Mi Yen.

[00:35:58] Kai Xin:

Thanks for tuning in till the end. That’s a very insightful sharing. And if you’ll like to look at some more resources about the topic, you can go to our transcript or the show notes. We have placed some links there. And ultimately, if you’ve benefited from this podcast, it would really help us if you can give us a five-star review and share it with a friend.

And till the next episode, may you stay happy and wise.


Discourses on the topic of Hiri & Otappa:
Kaṇha Sutta, AN 2.7
Sukka Sutta, AN 2.8
Cariya Sutta, AN 2.9

Hiri & Ottappa – The Guardians of the World are two of the seven Noble Treasures –
Treasure Dhana Sutta (AN 7:5, AN 7:6)

Quick learning on Hiri & Otappa:

Step-by-step learning


Remorse & guilt = feelings that arise after bad action is committed
Kukkucca often discussed together with uddhacca (restlessness), both uddhacca-kukkucca is
the 4th of the 5 hindrances in our meditation practice. Refer to the full text of “The Five
Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest” by Nyanaponika Thera

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Editor and transcriber of this episode: Tee Ke Hui

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