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Human Life and Problems

Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda



Moral decay is already evident in our midst judging from the number of social problems, namely drug abuse, loitering, bohsia and lepak culture among youths, illicit sex etc. From a study conducted by the Youth and Sports Ministry on 5,860 youths, 71% smoke, 40% watch pornographic videos, 28% gamble, 25% consume alcohol and 14% take drugs. Eleven juveniles from various detention centres throughout the country have been identified as carriers of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which causes AIDS. Ten of them are in fact below 20 years of age.

The authorities are concerned about the juveniles being confirmed HIV carriers and are closely monitoring the situation. Initial checks showed some of the juveniles were not drug addicts but had been involved with them. The majority of the cases were discovered through counselling and voluntary medical tests.

This unhealthy trend can only be curbed with direct influence from parents. Parents should monitor the movements of their children to ensure that they are not involved in any immoral or illegal activities.

Without early monitoring and control, children can become easy prey to unhealthy influences. If this is allowed to continue, the teenagers will move on to more serious crimes. The emergence of various social problems must be addressed urgently. Hence parents must strengthen the family institution to withstand the demands of a changing society.


In law, according to our Penal Code, 'Nothing is an offence which is done by a child under 10 years of age. Further, nothing is an offence which is done by a child above 10 years of age and under 12, who had not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.'

There is a conclusive and absolute presumption in law that a child below 10 is incapable of knowing right from wrong although in truth, the child could have done the forbidden act with premeditated intention.

The second category of children, those between 10 and 12, are in a 'twilight zone' in which they are exempted from criminal responsibility unless it is proven by the prosecutor that the child was of normal mental capacity with a proven mischievous tendency.

Although a child under 10 is free to do any crime and can escape punishment, he cannot totally escape all the consequences. Although there is no punishment as such his future behaviour may be restricted. The person who instigates a child to commit a crime will be charged as the principal offender, the child being treated only as an innocent agent.

The Juvenile Court is the pivot around which revolves the machinery for the treatment of juvenile delinquents. The law relating to juveniles is embodied in the Juvenile Courts Act 1947 and Children and Young Persons Act 1947. A juvenile is defined as a person aged between 10 to below 18 years.

The Juvenile Court is not open to the public. Although newspaper reporters may attend they cannot reveal particulars that may identify the offender. If found guilty, the court does not use terms such as 'convict' or 'sentence' in relation to the offender.

The court is presided over by a first class magistrate who decides on guilt. He sits with two assessors, one of whom should be a woman if possible, to assist him on deciding the 'sentence'. Before deciding how to deal with a juvenile, the court considers the offender's general conduct, home environment, school record and medical history.

The court may admonish and discharge, grant a discharge upon the offender entering a bond to be of good behaviour to comply with such orders as may be imposed, a committal to the care of a relative or other

fit person, and order his parents or guardian to execute a bond to exercise proper care and guardianship, a probation order, an order of committal to an approved school or Henry Gurney School, for 'corrective' education, an order to pay a fine, compensation or costs.

Imprisonment may only be ordered if the offender is aged between 14 and 18 years. It is the last resort provided the delinquent cannot be suitably dealt with in any other way possible.

A child between 10 and 14 years cannot be ordered to be imprisoned for any offence. Neither can it be committed to prison in default of payment of a fine, damage or costs. Under Section 16 of the Juvenile Courts Act, a juvenile cannot be sentenced to death. However the restriction is not applicable where a juvenile is charged under Essential (Security Cases) Regulations 1975 which expressly excludes the Juvenile Courts Act. The only situation where an ordinary court may try a juvenile is when he is jointly charged with another adult or the offence carries the death penalty. Possibly, in such cases, the juvenile may be pardoned and committed to the Henry Gurney School.

Where a child below 10 years is intolerably mischievous or even otherwise needs care and protection being beyond the control of anyone, the Juvenile Court makes an order vesting the custody and protection of the child to an approved institution.

One of the most frequent measures of treatment applied by juvenile courts is probation. A juvenile delinquent is placed under the supervision of a probation offlcer whose duties are to befriend and assist him with a view to his rehabilitation. Probation is essentially social case work because it is the task of the probation officer to find regular employment for his charge and assist in his family problems whenever necessary.

The spirit behind the law relating to youngsters is that they should be treated differently from adults, that is, with compassion and understanding so that they are shown the correct path from which they strayed through no fault of their own.

The advice that could be given to families with young children is to spend quality time with them, to listen to what is going on, and what the child may be really trying to tell.


"Bohsia" and "Lepak" Culture among Youths With rapid industrialisation of the country many youths from the rural areas flock to larger cities in search of employment in factories. Girls from the rural areas in particular come in large numbers to be employed mostly in electronic factories. The lure of a care-free life in the city with their many shopping complexes, supermarkets and bright lights attract many rural youths who generally spend their leisure hours after work indulging in 'window shopping' or merely loitering around in groups in such places. Money is uppermost in their minds - some extra cash with which they could enjoy a better quality of fashionable life in the city.

This kind of lifestyle among youths in the course of time gave rise to the popular use of the terms bohsia and lepak (Bahasa Malaysia). The word bohsia originates from Chinese Hokkien meaning 'voiceless'. How the term originated and came to be associated with loafing youths in large cities is however obscure. Its Bahasa Malaysia equivalent is lepak.

With a large proportion of these teenage youths being away from the social controls of normal rural family life, it was indeed not surprising to find some of them indulging in unwholesome activities in large cities and becoming involved in a way of life which would not normally be tolerated back in their own rural home towns. Inevitably a decline in ethics set in due to the absence of the sanctions of parents and society back in their own villages.

A stage was reached when female teenagers in small groups would place themselves as 'pick-ups' at strategic locations in shopping complexes, public buildings or street corners, only to be 'picked-up' by local youths. The girls are so naive they became easy prey to those roving romeos in super motorcycles.

One could in fact approach and strike up a casual acquaintance with any factory girl seen loitering in the vicinity of shopping complexes and the chances are that she would readily accept an invitation from such an acquaintance for a drink or snack at a restaurant and later adjourn for a walk or to a disco or any place mutually agreed upon.

Later on however, the female teenagers, having grown wiser to the scheme of things, elevate themselves to solicit acquaintance with affluent older men who would prowl around in expensive cars looking for tpick-ups' to keep them company. These men in high society would generally be lavish in entertaining the girls. The situation in the course of time however got out of hand when cases of khalwat (close proximity) were apprehended by the police, who also received complaints lodged by wives against their husbands involved in vice activities. With continued action and surveillance by the police, the bohsia and lepak problems, which at one time had occupied news headlines to a large extent, gradually faded away.

To fill the void that ensued, unscrupulous business operators took the opportunity of raking in money by opening up karaoke lounges and video arcades thereby providing ideal rendezvous facilities with subdued lighting and popular music for 'boy-meets-girl' situations. Despite government regulations, karaoke and video arcades still allow children under 18 years of age to patronise their premises and their operating hours extend up to 3.00 am or 4.00 am. Both sexes mingle freely in the dimly-lit premises and their behaviour leaves much to be desired.

Karaoke centres employ attractive young ladies as 'guest relation officers' as a front to seduce youths to indulge themselves in shows where they are encouraged to spend excessive amounts of money. In video-clip shows scantily dressed men and women move around lewdly to erotic music. One could imagine how much adverse influence it could have on a young mind. Teaching moral values in school alone will not create a healthy society. Parents too have to weed out negative elements, and the media needs also to play a positive role in this regard. Society has to nip the festering problem in the bud by disallowing the young mind to be poisoned by such lewd video shows.

There is a move by the Government to clamp down on karaoke lounges and video arcade centres as this will help to curb social ills prevalent among youths. Many such centres operate under disguise as their main activities are gambling and drug peddling. Their activities are highly computerised and, using remote control, they can quickly re-set the games when raids are carried out on the premises. This has made it difficult for the police to take action against them unless they go undercover. The Police are aware of criminal activities taking place in video, amusement and karaoke outlets.

We want to strengthen family ties and promote healthy family values. We do not want our youths to spend their leisure time and money in karaoke and video outlets as this could lead them astray. By closing video and karaoke outlets youths would be less likely to waste their time and this would encourage them to engage in wholesome activities or stay at home with their families.

In the Sigalovada Sutta the Buddha has given advice to youths not to mingle during unusual times in the streets and certain places where people can influence young people into immoral practices.


During the early 1960s, the 'hippie'subculture swept the West making a deep impact on human civilization. A typical 'hippie' was seen as a young unkempt person wearing gaudy coloured casual clothes and long hair, advocating freedom of thought and expression, and rejecting many of the conservative standards and values of society. Smoking cannabis (ganja) was their favourite form of drug abuse. Our local youths copied this lifestyle to a certain extent. Although with hindsight we can say that the hippie movement did have some positive effects, its permissiveness paved the way for the greatest scourge mankind has ever known: drug abuse.

When drugs are abused, the results can be devastating -- for the abuser, for those who care about him or her, and for society at large. Dependence on commonly abused drugs has become one of the leading public health problems. The escalating drug toll is quite unacceptable, in terms of wasted lives, destabilised families, and rising crime rates, quite apart from the high costs of funding research programmes, rehabilitation centres and specialised law-enforcement agencies. The severe harm addiction causes the human body and the difficulty of overcoming the problem are beyond doubt.

Repeated use of drugs can cause the user to become dependent on them. Physical dependence on a drug like heroin for example, is characterised by increasing tolerance to the drug - that is, the user has to take ever larger -doses in order to achieve the same degree of drug - induced euphoria, or 'high'. And this of course makes the withdrawal symptoms, (the often severe physical reactions the user may experience when denied the drug) much worse. Traditionally, drug addiction has been defined as physical dependence. Today the term drug addiction usually refers to a behavioural pattern marked by compulsive use of a drug and a preoccupation with getting it.

Drug abuse has been rated as one of the world's greatest enemies. Society has ascribed the cause of this scourge to the moral degradation of our youths who have strayed from their normal family home environment to be enticed by influences outside the home. Many use drugs as a means to escape from unhappy home situations. Parents who are too busy to attend to the social and spiritual needs of their adolescent children often neglect them to the extent of driving them to seek solace in drug addiction. The lack of proper parental guidance and supervision and the low regard for values of life, such as morality and spirituality has to a large extent contributed to this negative state of affairs. Many addicts began with no intention whatsoever of becoming addicted but they were sadly mistaken when they became enslaved to the habit.

It is significant to note that drug trafficking has even surpassed international oil trading as a money spinner and is second only to the arms trade. The lucrative trade in drugs has made its distribution widespread and caused serious socio-economic problems in both developed and developing nations. Drug traffickers are in fact known to be using complex corporate structures and dealing in intricate business transactions involving banks, trust companies, financial institutions and real estate firms.

Drug abusers invariably progress on to hard drugs and 'mainliners' live under the perpetual threat of an overdose. The common habit of sharing needles to 'fix' or inject drugs into one's body system by hard-core 'mainliners' is one of the principal causes of the spread of AIDS now threatening the country, which will be discussed in detail in the next section.

The Government is currently spending millions of dollars on various drug rehabilitation programmes as the ever growing problem of drug abuse by our youths is increasing to alarming proportions.

It is significant to note that infants born to heroin-addicted mothers also become addicts. Because the mother's heroin intoxication can penetrate the placenta barrier (the buffer between her bloodstream and that of the foetus) and pass directly on to the unborn child, doctors try to find out beforehand if a mother is on heroin (many would not admit it) so that the child can be treated and handled as an addict from the moment it is born. If a doctor is unaware of the mother's addiction problem, the new born baby may go into an immediate and life-threatening withdrawal state. This can include breathing problems, convulsions and trembling.

According to reports a vast majority (98.8 %) of addicts are men, with more than 80 % of them aged between 20 and 39 years. More than 41 % of addicts caught the habit because of peer pressure, 36.8 % were seeking pleasure on their own initiative while 15.6 % took drugs out of curiosity. Others became addicted to overcome mental stress (4.6 %), as a result of medical treatment (1%), by accident (0.4 %) and 0.1% as a sexual stimulant.

How can parents tell if their children in the adolescent age group (12 to 21 years) are on drugs? Millions of parents are quite rightly concerned about this problem and worry about the appeal of drugs to youngsters. What they are obviously concerned about is illicit drug use. Your suspicions that one of your children is involved in drug-taking may be aroused by an unexpected change in his or her behaviour patterns. He or she may appear confused, have slurred speech, become aggressive, paranoid or depressed, suffer weight loss, display red eyes, drowsiness, reveal declining performance at school etc. If faced with irrefutable evidence, it is best not to over dramatise the situation but to get the help of trained counsellors who will best know how to handle the situation. The worst action would be to deny that the problem exists.

One of the best ways to help your child avoid drugs is to set a responsible pattern at home - do not abuse potentially addictive products, such as alcohol or tobacco, yourself. If you find that your child is involved, do not confront him while he is affected. Instead approach him later and try to discuss the problem and any underlying adolescent difficulties that may relate to it.

There are two major aims to bear in mind: to keep on good terms with the child, who will often be the only person able to tell you what is going on, and to establish some firm facts about the drug used - whether smoked, swallowed, injected or inhaled, also how long and how often it has been taken. You should then consult-your family doctor, who will advise you on the most sensible policy to adopt. If the situation is serious your doctor may refer you to a rehabilitation centre or to a hospital.


AIDS ( Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome ) is now the most deadly of all sexually transmitted diseases. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which attacks and weakens the body's immune system so that it can no longer fight off infections normally controlled with ease. A person with AIDS is not likely to survive,

although it is not the actual AIDS virus which kills him. The cause of death may be any of the wide variety of organisms that can enter the body and, finding little resistance, multiply wildly. The victim is thus subject to a variety of rare illnesses normally found only in a relatively mild form if they do occur, in people with a normal immune system.

People who have AIDS die from a secondary disease. The two illnesses most commonly identified in AIDS patients are pneumonia and a rare form of skin cancer, as a result of the breakdown of the body's immune system.

Once the virus enters the body, it is targeted to attack the immune system of the human body. The AIDS virus is carried in the body fluids, particularly blood and semen, of people who suffer the disease. Persons so infected can transfer the virus to their sexual partners or spread it by contaminated blood during transfusions. An AIDS infected mother can transmit the deadly virus to her child, during or shortly after birth.

The AIDS virus also circulates in the blood of its victims. This is almost certainly why intravenous drug users and haemophiliacs are in the higher-risk group. Intravenous drug users often share needles, and a needle used by an AIDS carrier can transmit the needle used to anyone who uses the same needle. Since many people donate blood to blood banks, it is possible that AIDS contaminated blood might be given to a haemophiliac, and indeed some people have been infected by this way. It is almost impossible, of course, to get AIDS by donating blood, since the needles used for the procedure are sterile and are discarded after each use.

The inherent danger of the deadly disease is that AIDS antibodies, which indicate infection, only appear in the blood a few weeks, and sometimes a few months after the person has been infected. The incubation period however, varies greatly and can be quite long, perhaps as long as five years. Hence it is not possible to detect infection immediately after exposure. With no known cure or vaccine so far, AIDS prevention is indeed most vital.

The following symptoms occur in AIDS: swollen lymph nodes, recurring fevers, night sweats, sudden unexplainable weight loss, fatigue, diarrhoea, purplish skin lesions and unusual infections.

The results of several investigations into the spread of AIDS indicate that people living in the same house, sharing eating utensils, or being exposed to sneezes from an infected person do not become infected with AIDS virus. Nor is it possible to be infected from swimming pools, handshaking or sharing toilet seats. The only known routes of infection are sexual contact and exposure to contaminated needles or blood.

Nearly half a million people around the world are officially reported to have AIDS. This is just a third of the estimated total of eleven million people carrying the potentially lethal virus HIV.

The global total of carriers is estimated to be 446,681 spread over 163 countries. In our country alone, the known number of HIV carriers has reached more than 2,500 and 31 of the 37 AIDS victims have died. By the year 2000, it is estimated that more than 60,000 infants will have AIDS, and 120,000 children will become orphans!

There has been a 440% increase in HIV /AIDS cases over the last five years. Data compiled by UNAIDS prove the gravity of our situation.

The country's AIDS strategy is a plan on AIDS prevention that is based on proper morals. The plan will 'go back to the basics', that is, religion, cultural and traditional values, as today's teens are indulging in activities their forefathers would never have dreamt of doing in their day. The danger of sexual misconduct is explained in the teaching of the Buddha.


Tobacco smoking covers a wide range of nicotine - laden products and includes cigarettes, cigars and pipe smoking. Of the above mentioned categories, cigarette smoking is the most prevalent. It has been established statistically that nicotine addiction usually starts among the young, and smokers are usually hooked to the habit by the time they become adults. 'Catch 'em young, and you have 'em for life' seems to be the corporate strategy of the tobacco industry.

Right now, Malaysia seems to be in a tobacco 'cloud-nine' oblivion. Our sports events, youth rock concerts, film shows and trendy holiday programmes are sponsored by tobacco companies. They advertise themselves on TV, radio and in the print media in a very subtle way by promoting products and services totally unrelated to their trade. Although their esteemed end product -- the all-important cigarette, appears nowhere in sight, the message and logo they want to put across to the public nevertheless ring loud and clear. Despite public criticism, our authorities continue to allow such brand names and logo promotions as well as free distribution of cigarette samplesat rock concerts.

Whatever has happened to our laws on anti-smoking, and who are enforcing them? Are they to be observed only within the vicinity of hospitals, the courts, gas stations and certain public buildings? Even the Congress passed Bills recently defining nicotine as an addictive substance. Now that the vast US market is rapidly being closed to tobacco companies, we can expect a more aggressive and well-planned campaign upon the youth in Third World countries. Malaysia, an economic success story, is certain to be a 'prime target'. Are we ready for this onslaught upon our youngsters in this country? This pandering to cigarette traders must come to an end. Or else, are we admitting that U.S President Clinton cares more for his American youngsters than we care for ours.

Malaysia as a responsible nation should unite to protect the health of our next generation. Government agencies, the corporate sector and local Non-Government Organisations (NGO's) should work together on a single policy to thwart the insidious strategy of the international cigarette companies. The authorities should lay down singleminded policies and detailed plans to curb smoking among youths. Cigarette companies are required by law to print a warning notice on all cigarette cartons about the dangers relating to smoking but, as could be expected, this usually appears in almost microscopic print, merely to conform with official policy.

Cigarette smoking is one of the contributory causes of heart disease which is already a major killer in this country and its medical and social costs are growing each year. We cannot afford to allow the tobacco habit to destroy the health of our younger generation; hence we must act now, and as one society.

There is no such thing as a 'safe' cigarette. Low-tar, low nicotine cigarettes, according to manufacturers' tests, provide some risk reduction as far as contracting lung cancer and heart disease is concerned. These tests, however, are performed on smoking machines and not on human beings. In addition, switching to a low nicotine brand is not a reliable alternative to quitting, especially for those who increase the number of cigarettes they smoke to maintain former nicotine levels.

Even though you do not inhale when smoking, you are still holding the smoke in your mouth and thus increase the risks of developing oral cancer. In addition, you may be inhaling some smoke without being aware of it, and you are breathing in glycoprotein ( a tobacco ingredient that may cause some damage to the blood vessels) both during the time you are actually smoking each cigarette and for a while afterwards.

If you can stop smoking instantly, and find that you don't experience an intense craving for tobacco or such signs of withdrawal as nervousness and headaches, then you would not be classified as addicted. But the chances are that you probably would not be able to give up without feeling some symptoms, in which case you would be described, and accurately so, as addicted.

It is never too late to stop smoking, even after 25 years. Quitting offers both short and long-term benefits. You will soon notice some changes once you have given up smoking. You will be able to taste food better and breathe more efficiently and your 'smoker's cough' will clear up. Although your lungs will never return to the state they were in before you took up smoking, some of the damage may clear up. The good news, of course, is that if you quit smoking your lungs will cease deteriorating further.

Before heart surgery doctors may ask whether the patient used to smoke or not. If the answer is 'yes', they will delay the operation to clean the lungs of 'tar' accumulated in the lungs of the smoker.

Many smokers do gain weight when they quit. But the good news is that these people gain an average of only two to three kilograms. Should you want to avoid weight gain, make quitting smoking your first priority. Remember the enormous health benefits of quitting smoking, and do not allow your worries about gaining weight to get in the way. You can work on reducing weight after quitting smoking, as a second priority.

The question often asked is: 'Can the smoke from other people's cigarettes harm me?' Yes, it can. The scientific evidence concerning the dangerous effects of passive smoking (inhaling the smoke of others) on people who live with or work near smokers is growing rapidly. Scientists have found a significantly higher incidence of respiratory diseases among children whose parents smoke. Other studies have shown passive smoking can cause decreased airway function in otherwise healthy adults and children. It has been reported that the harmful constituents of inhaling cigarette smoke are found in passive smoke, sometimes even to a greater extent than in inhaled smoke, and that non-smokers do indeed draw these dangerous elements into their lungs when they breathe in the smoke of others.


Alcoholism is a chronic illness which manifests itself as a disorder of behaviour. It is characterised by the repeated drinking of alcoholic beverages, to an extent that exceeds customary social customs.

The term 'alcoholic' is hard to define exactly since people have different reactions to alcohol and the way they use it. It usually takes 10 to 15 years of drinking five or more drinks a day (less for women) for a person to develop what might be called the full alcohol syndrome -- that is, a state of physical dependence with serious damage to health and social relationships. In essence, alcoholism is not measured by the amount of alcohol consumed but rather by the way a person uses alcohol to deal with life's problems, and its effects on one's physical well-being.

Chronic alcohol abuse can damage all vital organs in the body. To begin with, it can damage the muscle cells of the heart and lead to heart failure and death. As alcohol is broken down in the liver, whose chief function is to neutralise and remove certain toxic compounds, this organ is the most vulnerable to alcohol's harmful affects.

Alcoholism can cause the liver to enlarge, become inflamed, and eventually develop the often fatal scarring called cirrhosis. One of alcohol's most damaging effects is on the brain. Abuse may lead to brain damage and mental disorders.

Alcohol taken in the early months of pregnancy can damage the heart of an unborn baby. Pregnant women who drink run the risk of causing a variety of abnormalities to develop in their unborn children (foetal alcohol syndrome).

Tolerance to alcohol means that the body chemistry has gradually adjusted to the presence of the beverage. As a result, it takes more of the substance to achieve the same response. This is why a person who drinks only rarely may become drunk just on a glass of wine. Tolerance, in fact, is one of the two key signs of dependence on alcohol. The other is the development of withdrawal symptoms when the user stops taking alcoholic drinks. The ability to drink a lot depends on several factors, such as the drinker's weight and chemistry, his physical and mental state, the length of time he has been drinking and the amount of food he has in his stomach while drinking.

Certain organisations, as part of their social gatherings, encourage their youths to participate in beer-drinking contests with offers of attractive prizes to the winners. Such organisations in doing so are unwittingly initiating innocent youths, many of whom have never taken any form of alcoholic drink, into the growing ranks of alcoholics, which eventually will lead to all sorts of social and domestic problems to their families and the community in general.

Could a person die from drinking too much at one time? Although rare, such deaths do occur, usually as the result of drinking contests. This is because during such events as much as a large tumbler or more of alcoholic beverage may be consumed at one go. Such a massive quantity of alcohol can depress the respiratory system and, in combination with vomiting, lead to death by suffocation. In addition, it can reduce the body's production of glucose and cause a coma. Alcohol also can reduce the pain threshold and weaken the blood's clotting capacities.

The last of the Five Precepts in Buddhism advocates total abstinence from the consumption of intoxicants. The strict observance by Buddhists of this precept is extremely important for the well-being of one's mental and physical health, as disregard for the precept itself undermines the value of all the other precepts.

In winding up cocktail parties and drink sessions, the common habit among guests and patrons of having the extra 'one for the road' should be discouraged at all costs. Government's current 'don't drink and drive' policy is indeed commendable and should be strictly adhered to for the safety of all road users.

Pubs have mushroomed all over towns and are luring our youths to indulge in the drinking habit. Certain undesirable shows are known to take place in pubs and discos contrary to the licences issued to such establishments exposing them to the risk of the premises being raided by the Police.

For persons in the lower rungs of the social scale, toddy provides the much needed solace for them to relax. Quite a number of them however imbibe the brew in excess, and as a result become drunk and boisterous thus creating domestic violence at home. Many from the low income group also indulge in drinking samsu distilled from rice. But what worries the authorities is the consumption of cheap illicit samsu (distilled under most unhygienic conditions) by unwary drinkers, leading to many cases of deaths that had occurred arising from drinking such toxic brews.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-help group of dedicated volunteers who help alcohol abusers to break their habits and offer therapy where necessary. They offer their services round the clock and can be contacted by telephone.


The word 'generation' is popularly used as a measure of time, and usually represents about a span of 30 years, the period which man requires to attain maturity, and the age at which, as a general rule, the first child is born. The intervening wide gap between one or more generations is often generally referred to as the generation gap.

As could be expected, persons from different generations differ considerably in their ways of thinking, attitudes, life styles and values and hence do not see eye to eye with each other on most matters. Due to the disparity in the ages, the elderly group tend to hold set views which run contrary to the way of thinking of the younger generation. Differences of opinion will arise and this will lead to misunderstanding within the family.

Age old traditions, outmoded customs and sectarian attitudes of the elders often come in conflict with the aspirations of the youths. The younger generation of youths are made to stand critically at cross-roads at such a great moment in their inexperienced young lives. They are quite naturally averse to interference from elders and unyielding to patronising moods.

Some elderly people cannot tolerate the modern ideas and ways of living of the younger generation. They expect their children to follow the same age-old customs and traditions of their forefathers. Instead of adopting such an attitude, they should allow the children to move with the times if such activities are harmless and beneficial to progress. Elders should call to mind how their own parents had objected to certain popular modes of behaviour prevalent at the time when they were young. For example, in the '60s it was considered shocking for young people to imitate the Beatles and the hippies. Those young people have grown up and are in turn shocked by their own children's imitation of 'punk' and 'grunge'.

These differences in perception between the conservative parents and the younger generation is a common source of conflict within families of today. This does not mean that parents should hesitate to counsel and guide their children if they have gone astray due to some erroneous values.

But when correcting them, they should observe the principle that prevention is better than punishment. Parents should also explain to their children why they disapprove or approve of certain values. We know that what we call 'Asian Values' are good, but only if they are relevant to modern needs and can be adapted to suit the present situation.

A lack of proper understanding between parents and their children is actually causing them to distance themselves from each other. There should be more room provided for the children to grow and to engage themselves in better communication with their parents.

The following impassioned plea by a teenager seeking his parents' understanding of his problems, as narrated by the youngster, would be typical in many families today.

'I have been with my parents for nearly 20 years now. I love them, but I do have problems with them. There are misunderstandings between the three of us, and the problems seem to be increasing.

These problems stem from my actions which my parents do not understand. They do not seem to understand the reasons behind what I say and do. I have tried to correct and smoothen out the ruffles between us, but to no avail.

My parents were always there for me when I was young, or whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on. So I did not mind them telling me what to do and I thought they were the greatest people on earth.

My view of things eventually began to differ from theirs, but I kept quiet since I feared retribution from them. The problems began when I was old enough to voice my opinions.

Now, I talk back to my parents, not because I want to rebel against them but because I can think for myself. I don't claim to know everything my parents know, but I can look out for myself. I will ask for help when I need it, but whether I want to heed their advice is a different matter.

My parents still see me as a child, one who needs constant supervision. I appreciate that my parents look after me, but they should give me some room and not smother me. They never hear what I say and then they tell me that I do not understand them.

They also encroach on my personal freedom as they do not understand me. Since they always watch me, I do not get any freedom to see my friends or do the things I want to do.

My parents always question my motives, but they never listen to my reasons because they never want to talk with me. Naturally, I turn to my friends and this surprises my parents.

I don't want to hurt my parents by not listening to them, but it works both ways. How can I take advice from them when they do not bother to find out the true facts? I am young, but how will I ever learn if I am not given the chance.

The problems I am experiencing originate from my parents and me. They just command me and do not give me a chance to ask them questions. In such an intolerable and stifling home situation, who then is to blame if I have to seek solace outside home with shady companions and indulge myself in negative activities? Do I have an option?

My parents could understand me better if only they took the time to speak with me and see my point of view. My parents and I must work together to solve this problem for the sake of a better home environment.'

The appearance of a generation in the 1950s which had become incomprehensible to its elders now looks far less mysterious than it did at that time of great changes in world civilization. Then, the talk was all of 'generation gap', a new phenomenon. Young people did not pass directly from school into lifelong work, and often manual labour, but had leisure, money and time to spend on themselves. A whole culture grew around them.

The inability of the old to understand the young, the belief by the young that youth will last for ever, their resistance to accept mortality -- these things exist in all human societies at all times.

The generation gap, with its dramas, its heroes and its stubbornnes has become far more complex and complicated. It is now accepted as normal in the West that most people have little social contact with anyone but their own age groups. The initially benign, or at least apparently harmless, element in the fostering of differences between the generations now threatens to turn into something far darker and more menacing. The 'gap', as it is, is widening to a point of becoming a 'chasm'.

A major problem confronting many rich Western societies - Germany; the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, Spain, among them is that their populations have failed to replenish themselves, so that the numbers of old people are fast becoming a burden today.

Part of the promotion of a detached, self-conscious younger generation in the 1950s and 1960s represented a contempt for the old, at the very least, a discarding of wisdom, a rejection of experience, a degradation of traditional relationships between young and old.

These fostered misunderstandings, barriers between young and old, will eventually create deeper conflicts in the future. Indeed outrages by children against the old are already a serious issue in many parts of the world. Such incidents, will certainly increase with time, because of the aged, kept alive by technological miracles, by super drugs, by all the apparatus which permit life expectancy to increase. Quality of life however does not improve with the increase of population, and that's where the problem lies.

It is not difficult to anticipate just what forms of vengeful retaliation will occur when the young realise that they are expected to look after the 'surplus' population of those they regard as useless, the discarded, the illadapted, unproductive and the infirm. These are burdens society is increasingly reluctant to shoulder. One can imagine, therefore the arguments in favour of euthanasia gaining ground and the practice being increasingly accepted.

The problem of demography which once focused upon too many babies in the Third World, is likely to shift to those who refuse to die particularly in the developed world. Already the old say they have lived too long. They may have to be helped to remove themselves to make way for the next generation.May the Old and Young bridge the gap in the cause of Love and Understanding.


It is not necessary to have personal experience in certain things to understand whether they are good or bad. Here is a an analogy for you to understand this situation. A shoal of fishes come across an obstruction in the water with an unusually small opening. It is actually a trap laid by a fisherman to catch the fish.

Some fish want to go inside the fence and see what it is, but the more experienced fish advise them not to do so because it must be a dangerous trap. The young fish asks, 'How do we know whether it is dangerous or not? We must go in and see, only then can we understand what it is.' So some of them go in and get caught in the trap.

We must be prepared to accept the advice given by wise men like the Buddha who is enlightened. Of course the Buddha himself has said that we must not accept his teachings blindly. At the same time we can listen to some wise ones or other religious teachers. This is simply because their experience is more advanced than our limited knowledge regarding our worldly lives.

Parents usually advise their children to do certain things and not others. By neglecting the advice given by the elders, young people do many things according to their own way of thinking. Eventually when they get into trouble, they remember the elders and religious teachers and seek their help and sometimes even ask the religious teachers to pray for them.

Only then do they remember religion and seek some blessing and guidance. But they do not think the main purpose of a religion is to help us to follow certain noble principles to avoid many of our problems before they confront us. Early religious education trains the mind to cultivate the universal principles which support our way of life to live peacefully.


Man by nature is gifted with intelligence. From childhood to adolescence his perception of life would be one of youthful vigour with lofty ideals and aspirations. As he reaches manhood, the age of reason dawns on him, and with his mature outlook, he soon realises that his utopian ideals held by him during his youth would have to be cast aside, and that he would have to perceive life afresh in its true perspective. With advancing age, and with mellowed outlook in life, he finds he has to change and adjust his lifestyle accordingly. Even his lofty ambitions in life held eminently by him in his younger days, will eventually have to come to terms with the realities of change. Such is the inevitable life cycle affecting Man and his ambitions.

'When I was young I set out to change the world.

When I grew older I perceived that this was too ambitious, so I set out to change my state.

This too, I realised as I grew older, was too ambitious, so I set out to change my town.

When I realised that I could not do even this, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man I know that I should have started by changing myself.

If I had started with myself, maybe then I would have succeeded in changing my family, the town, or even the state and who knows, maybe the world.'

The most intelligent man and the real stupid man both do not agree to change the mind. (Confucius)


Through the academic knowledge that people gain without personal experience, some young people think they can solve all their problems. Science can provide the material things to solve our problems, but it cannot help us to solve many of our life's problems. There is no substitute for wise people who have experienced the world. Think about this saying, ' When I was 18, I thought what a fool my father was. Now that I am 28, I am surprised how much the old man has learned in 10 years!.

Actually, it is not the father who has learned, rather it is the youth who has learned to see things in a mature way.

More than two thousand years ago the Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tze and many other religious teachers gave us wonderful advice. This advice can never become out-of-date being based on truth and will remain fresh forever. It is impossible to overcome our human problems by ignoring the ancient wisdom. This wisdom is to develop human dignity, understanding, peace and happiness.


As parents age, it is inevitable that their bodies will gradually weaken and deteriorate in a variety of ways, making them increasingly susceptible to physical illnesses that can affect every organ in their system. As the realisation grows that there is no escape, the aging individual must try to find some way to come to terms with the disturbing new reality.

Filial piety is an important factor in caring for the aged in our traditional Asian society. As Asians it has long been the norm for us to accommodate and nurse the aged parents in our own homes as far as possible.

Do children owe any legal liability to care for old and disabled parents? Unfortunately the answer is 'No'. Parents simply have to depend on the goodwill of their children. Although we are proud about our values, and cultural heritage, unfortunately the number of elderly citizens with no savings and abandoned by their families is growing in Asia. The problem for us to consider is whether our values, including filial devotion and reciprocal love for children are being eroded because of a breakdown in traditional family relations and a changed economic and demographic profile.

Cramped flats and squatter houses are not places which are conducive to the accommodation of aged parents. There have been numerous cases in which old people have been neglected by their children or their relatives. This is a sad situation where good values and traditions are no longer practiced.

Welfare homes and their environment for the most part are also not places which are conducive to the accommodation of aged parents. Of all living alternatives, placement in an Old Folks Home is without doubt the most sensitive issue often provoking guilt through self accusations of ingratitude, lack of devotion or filial piety and abandonment.

A nursing home, although somewhat expensive, offers the most satisfactory alternative. Each person must decide for himself and understand that there are no perfect choices. While long term institutionalization is a painful issue, it is essential to provide appropriate care for a debilitated parent.

Placement in a nursing facility does not mean 'putting your aged parent away', or at least it shouldn't. Family involvement remains essential for proper care, from the first step of choosing the facility, to maintaining an ongoing relationship with the staff, to regularly visiting the parent and involving him or her in family matters. They need cheering up and to know that there are people who really care for them.

Certain irresponsible persons with ill or aged parents get them admitted into third class wards of hospitals, leaving false addresses and just disappear from the scene. This indeed is a most cruel way of disposing of one's own aged parents.

A caring attitude as well as concern for the aged parents must prevail if the older generation is not to be adversely affected by the rapid socio-economic changes of urbanisation and industrialisation. It has to be realised that the aged are more affected by these changes and the degradation of moral values in society. It should also encompass the responsible manner in which the elderly are treated, cared for, respected and honoured.

This aspect of caring for the aged parents requires collective responsibility. It will also instil respect for the elderly as there is no better institution to care for the aged parents other than the family itself.

In many discourses the Buddha has advised children to pay special attention to father and mother. There is an old adage which says: 'Take good care of your parents for you will never know how much you miss them when they are gone.


Gambling is the wagering of money or other-valuables on the outcome of a game, race, contest or other event. Although few societies in general have ever wholly approved of gambling, none has been able to eradicate it.

The hope of making quick money easily is what gives gambling its appeal. If the appeal of gambling is winning money, the thrill of it is in the risk that the wager may be lost. For many people gambling become an addiction.

The games most closely associated with gambling involve a heavy element of chance. Whereas poker, for instance, requires skill to play well, the outcome of the game is determined primarily by the distribution of the cards. Many casino games, such as roulette are dictated solely by chance. Betting on the outcome of sporting events, especially on horse racing, or on a lottery is perhaps the most widespread legal form of gambling, and in many countries, governments have created systems to funnel through legal channels the vast amounts wagered, retaining a certain proportion for their own use. Football pools are popular particularly in the West.

Gambling is not confined to any economic or social stratum. Many housewives are known to be compulsive gamblers who often neglect their family obligations and their children when they become so engrossed in the vicious gambling habit. They even gamble away their market provision money and become easy prey to loan sharks who are ever ready to come to the 'rescue' of such unfortunate women. Compulsive women gamblers are prepared even to go the extent of compromising their modesty to these human vultures in order to redeem their losses. Compulsive gambling is recognised as a sickness, and such organisations as Gamblers Anonymous exist for the purpose of helping individuals suffering from the problem.

Illegal gambling constitutes one of the largest 'businesses' in existence, and its 'gross' has been estimated to exceed that of its legal counterpart. Gambling can become the cause of the downfall of a person if he or she is addicted to it says the Buddha.


Many who become addicted to gambling and liquor also become indebted in order to sustain their gambling and drinking habits and in so doing easily fall into the clutches of unscrupulous money lenders and loan sharks.

Money lenders often charge a high rate of interest on loans borrowed by debtors. Although the amount of loan advanced is low, their modus operandi is to make the borrower sign for a larger amount, as a form of security, In case of default by the borrower, the money lender will invariably sue the borrower through court proceedings, tendering the borrower's signed document for the larger amount as the basis of their claim.

Licensed money lenders and loan sharks are the bane of helpless alcoholics and gamblers as they often exploit the inherent human weakness of their victims. 'A drunkard's mouth dries up his pocket' - so the adage goes.

Even people in an affluent society resort to money lenders as a means of alleviating themselves from tight financial situations. Valuable properties and lands are sometimes mortgaged to these money lenders as a form of collateral in order to secure a loan for a business venture. Should the borrowers default, these unscrupulous money lenders will have no qualms whatsoever in resorting to court action to foreclose their claims. The law provides for the seizure of the debtor's property to pay the sum owed, plus the legal costs incurred. One who is not indebted to anybody experiences happiness in this life time says the Buddha.

Many heavily indebted businessmen, finding themselves insolvent, have no other option than to declare themselves bankrupt.


Human problems are complicated and entangled in various ways. From our birth up to our last breath, numerous problems confront us. It is impossible for any human being to exist without facing some sort of problems. The Buddha has advised us to understand the nature of our problems if we want to live peacefully. He has also advised us to ponder on the purpose of our existence and try to find out why we are not satisfied with our lives and the world. If we can understand this situation, there will be no reason for us to suffer from undue fear, disappointments and frustrations.

The Buddha's approach to the problems of human suffering is essentially empirical and experimental and not speculative and metaphysical.

There is no short cut for us to get rid of our problems. We must cultivate our way of life to discover the cause of the problems that we are facing. We must understand that there is no existence without any friction. If we want to be really free, we must examine our problems by reducing our egoism through understanding why these problems make life miserable.

We all like to lead very happy, contented and peaceful lives but how many of us can really experience such happiness? We are willing to do anything in everyway possible to gain satisfaction but it is very difficult to experience true satisfaction.


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updated: 15-11-2001