Do You Know What You Are Eating?

Factory FarmingAs a vegan, I don’t eat any meat, fish or dairy products, and for a good reasons.

First and foremost, I don’t feel that I have the right to eat our fellow earthlings. Secondly, it is well documented that animals suffer all manner of cruelty and hardship as they are reared for slaughter. And thirdly, there is little or no documentation or meaningful labelling of the meat, fish or dairy products consumed by those who are not vegan.

If a stranger came up to you in the street, and offered you something to eat, would to accept it? Of course not, you don’t know the person, you don’t know the contents or safety of the item they are offering. So why do you eat products offered by shops and supermarkets?

What we need is a deal more courage and wisdom in our eating habits. The courage to ask more questions and to demand real answers, and the wisdom to see that behind the attractive slogans and packaging, there is a litany of deceit and misinformation.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you will believe the BBC … read more

Keeping It Real

RipplesIt appears that there are now over six hundred people following my blog, so I need to continue to think carefully about the things I post.

Each topic will be, however small, a source for potential change in those who read it.

One of the principles of Nichiren Buddhism is that of the Oneness of Self and the Environment.

If you drop a pebble, no matter how small, into a pond, the ripples spread out in all directions and interact with everything in their path.

This principle states that there is a connection between the person and others around him or her. It is therefore clear that changes in our life-state, the way we relate or react to others and changes due to our Practice will affect those whose lives we interact with.

Some of these affects are very obvious. If we walk around with a happy demeanour, we find that people are more likely to be pleasant towards us. If, on the other hand, we walk around in a bad mood, with a scowl on our face, we find that people are less friendly and may try to avoid us completely.

Ok, so no rocket science there then, but there are more subtle ways in which changes can be felt. In my own case, my Practice has allowed me to stabilise my life-state, generally I am now more often in the higher Worlds than lower ones. The result of that is that I am better placed to create value, for myself and those around me.

My Practice has changed me and those changes are affecting others. That’s why it is so important for me to ensure that as these changes take place, my Wisdom, Courage and Compassion increases too, so I can make sure the changes are all good ones.

Tragic Tuesday

Memories and pipe dreams - maybe?The holiday is well and truly over and the crew are suffering. A week of not having to be anywhere at any time is a true luxury, but one to which one can quickly become accustomed.

Like a fool, I made the huge mistake, last night, of looking  at narrowboats for sale online, knowing full well that now was not the time. Sadly I found several that fitted the bill, beautiful, well equipped and (relatively) cheap.

So today I am busy getting my mind back into ‘sensible mode’ and dealing with the problems that every day life brings. Though I have to admit that I keep drifting back to last week, and an afternoon spent in the Cotton Arms in Wrenbury with Richard, a retired IT professional, now living full time on narrowboat Sarah Pay with his Welsh Collie Megan.

We all set ourselves goals and we are all guilty of looking over the fence to the greener fields, but we must use Wisdom when we navigate through these mental flights of fancy.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, at least for now, I have to concentrate on performing the role for which I am paid. The holiday is gone, albeit that the memories are still fresh in the mind. To make changes we must make causes, and to make causes we need to use our wisdom and courage. We will see, time will tell … again.

So Chilled

Bridge 43 on the Llangollen CanalThe holiday is over, the boat returned to its rightful owner intact and in good order and the crew are both back at work.

A week afloat, in beautiful countryside and always at walking pace or below is enough to slow even the most frantic heart rate. Of course there were a couple of issues, the most memorable being the deluge we encountered whilst trying to moor Kingfisher at Hurleston junction.

The rain was coming down by the bucketful and mooring spaces were at a premium, so the stress levels were raised just a little. To say it was wet would be an understatement. Everything, and I mean everything, was soaked through.

But these tiny bumps in the road we call life, are just opportunities to learn and improve, and although it was reported by First Officer Fogg, that I did use a few expletives at times, the task was accomplished and everything was dry, or drying, by the following morning.

So now I’m back in the office. Apart from the odd sensation of land sickness, where perfectly solid buildings appear to sway like a narrowboat, giving everyone the impression that one is a little intoxicated, it’s life as usual.

Whether life as usual is a good thing or not, is open to conjecture. Whether life as usual will remain life as usual was discussed on several occasions during the week afloat, so maybe watch this space for further developments.

Being Limitless

Being LimitlessWhen we are open and engaged, we experience the greater self. When we are closed off, we are exhibiting our lesser self.

The lesser self is a deluded condition, whilst our greater self is synonymous with our Buddha nature.

To live for the greater self means to recognise the universal principle behind all things and, being awaked in this way, rise above the suffering caused by the awareness of impermanence. A belief in something eternal is needed to enhance our quality of life.

By believing that this world is the be-all and end-all of existence, we will miss out, we will not live a truly profound life. When our viewpoint expands beyond the boundaries of our present existence to include the entire, eternal universe, we can finally live deeply fulfilling lives, unconstrained by our own limited experience.

Make A Splash

Make A SplashOne of the principles of Nichiren Buddhism concerns the Oneness of Self and the Environment and how that connection affects all of us in ways we sometimes fail to grasp.

If you drop a pebble, no matter how small, into a pond, the ripples generated spread out in all directions and interact with everything in their path.

This principle states that there is a connection between the person and others around him or her. It is therefore clear that changes in our life-state, the way we relate or react to others and changes due to our Practice will affect those whose lives we interact with.

Some of these effects are very obvious. If we walk around with a happy demeanour, we find that people are more likely to be pleasant towards us. If, on the other hand, we walk around in a bad mood, with a scowl on our face, we find that people are less friendly and may try to avoid us completely.

Ok, so no rocket science there then, but there are more subtle ways in which changes can be felt. In my own case, my Practice has allowed me to stabilise my life-state, generally I am now more often in higher Worlds (see The Ten Worlds) than lower ones. The result of that is that I am better placed to create value, for myself and those around me.

My Practice has changed me and those changes are affecting others. That’s why it is so important for me to ensure that as these changes take place, my Wisdom, Courage and Compassion increases too, so I can make sure the changes are all good ones.

Be That Drop Of Sunshine

Be The Sunshine

Life has it’s ups and downs, as we all know. Little things can make friends and family members unhappy or even depressed, so make it your job to make them feel better.

There are so many people, so many lives on this planet, too numerous, in fact, to count.

From this great multitude, we wondrously find ourselves together with those in our families, as parents and children, as brothers and sisters, as husbands and wives.

If we do not live joyfully and cheerfully with whom we share this profound bond, what is life for?

Should the atmosphere at home be sombre, you can be that drop of ‘sunshine’. By being a shining presence, you can cast the light of hope on your mother, father, children and indeed all of your family and friends.

Exploring NMRK

Exploring NMRKAfter the initial question “do you chant?” we are then asked “what do you chant?” followed closely by “how long do you chant?” and almost certainly “what does it mean?”.

After a little practice, no pun intended, most people can master the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but explaining why we chant it, and what it means may take a little longer.

Here is how the SGI website describes the meaning of the individual parts …

Nichiren Daishonin established the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the way to awaken one’s Buddha nature and tap into the deepest levels of our existence, on which our own lives and that of the universe are one. He first taught the invocation of the phrase to a small group at Seicho-ji temple in Awa province, Japan, on April 28, 1253.

Myoho-renge-kyo is the name of the Lotus Sutra in Japanese pronunciation of classical Chinese characters, and so the literal meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra.” As the following explanation shows, there are deeper levels of meaning attached to each element of the phrase.

Nam

Nam derives from the Sanskrit word namu, meaning “to devote oneself.” Nichiren established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a means to enable all people to put their lives in harmony or rhythm with the law of life, or Dharma. In the original Sanskrit, namu indicates the elements of action and attitude, and refers therefore to the correct action one needs to take and the attitude one needs to develop in order to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Myoho

Myoho literally means the Mystic Law–the underlying truth or principle which governs the mysterious workings of the universe and our life from moment to moment. Myo refers to the very essence of life, which is “invisible” and beyond intellectual understanding. This essence always expresses itself in a tangible form (ho) that can be apprehended by the senses. Phenomena (ho) are changeable, but pervading all such phenomena is a constant reality known as myo. Myo also means to open, to revive, and to be fully endowed with the qualities we need to develop our lives.

Renge

Renge means lotus flower. The lotus blooms and produces seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. The circumstances and quality of our individual lives are determined by the causes and effects, both good and bad, that we accumulate (through our thoughts, words and actions) at each moment. This is called our “karma.” The law of cause and effect affirms that we each have personal responsibility for our own destiny. We create our destiny and we have the power to change it. The most powerful positive cause we can make is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; the effect of Buddhahood is simultaneously created in the depths of our life and will definitely manifest in time.

The lotus flower grows and blooms in a muddy pond, and yet remains pristine and free from any defilement, symbolizing the emergence of Buddhahood from within the life of an ordinary person in the midst of the struggles of day-to-day existence.

Kyo

Kyo literally means sutra, the voice or teaching of a Buddha. In this sense, it also means sound, rhythm or vibration. In a broad sense, kyo conveys the concept that all things in the universe are a manifestation of the Mystic Law.

Further explanation of the meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can be found here.

Enjoy that brief spell of sunshine …

Enjoy that brief spell of sunshine on an otherwise rainy dayEvery day we have highs and lows, wins and losses, good things happen, bad things happen, every single day.

Problems are an everyday reality, they are part of life and ignoring them will never make them go away.

So focus on what’s good, what’s going right, enjoy that brief spell of sunshine on an otherwise rainy day.

Smile, laugh when you can, and always focus on the positives.

Make the most of every minute, you will never have the opportunity to use that minute again, so don’t waste it.

Make causes today, to make tomorrow better and never give in to the inevitable resistance that you feel when you are nearing your goal.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, never fear the truth, use the Wisdom, Courage and Compassion, we all possess, to help others to be positive, it will increase your own life-energy as you encourage them to increase theirs.

Positive, Always Positive

Positive, Always PositiveWe must never underestimate the power the mind has over our bodies.

If we can remain positive, with high life-energy and in one of the higher worlds, not only will our bodies respond positively, but also those around us will feel more positive too.

If we allow negativity to creep in the battle will be all the harder, and we will find that we do not inspire those who need our support to try that little bit harder to support themselves.

The Nichiren phrase for this connection between our body and mind is Shikishin-Funi. Two, but not two, not two, but two, meaning that they are separate, but cannot function alone.

[色心不二] (Jpn shikishin-funi )

Also, non-duality of body and mind. The principle that the two seemingly distinct phenomena of body, or the physical aspect of life, and mind, or its spiritual aspect, are essentially non-dual, being two integral phases of a single reality. One of the ten onenesses formulated by Miao-lo (711-782) in his Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra.” In the Japanese term shikishin-funi, shiki means that which has form and colour, or physical existence, while shin means that which has neither form nor colour, or spiritual existence, such as the mind, heart, and soul. Funi is an abbreviation of nini-funi, which indicates “two (in phenomena) but not two (in essence).” This means that the material and the spiritual are two separate classes of phenomena, but non-dual and indivisible in essence, because they are both aspects of the same reality. In the above annotations, Miao-lo states that, from the viewpoints of the whole and its components, life at a single moment is the whole, while body and mind are its components. Neither body nor mind is a separate entity; there is not one without the other. They are inseparable components of life. In the Lotus Sutra, the principle of the ten factors of life represents the oneness of body and mind. The ten factors are listed in the “Expedient Means” (second) chapter of the sutra, where it states that the true aspect of all phenomena consists of “appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect, and their consistency from beginning to end.” On “The Profound Meaning” states: “Appearance exists only in what is material; nature exists only in what is spiritual. Entity, power, influence, and relation in principle combine both the material and the spiritual. Internal cause and latent effect are purely spiritual; manifest effect exists only in what is material.” The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings reads, “[Concerning the term dedication of one's life ] ‘dedication’ refers to the element of physical form as it pertains to us, while ‘life’ refers to the element of mind as it pertains to us. But the ultimate teaching tells us that form and mind are not two.” – Taken from the SGI Dictionary of Buddhism

Not exactly easy to understand, but essential for us to prosper in these difficult times. By being positive, we give out positive energy to those around us. Whether we are in a difficult situation in our life, looking for a job, trying to make ends meet financially or just trying to grin and bear it in the face of seemingly unending bad news, being positive is the only way to win through.

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