Fortunate Karma

Fortunate KarmaA shallow person will only ever have shallow relationships.

True love is not one person clinging to another, it can only be fostered between two strong people, secure in their individuality.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, wrote in his work Wind, Sand and Stars, “Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead together in the same direction”

When we are fortunate enough to find someone we can love for whom they are, and who loves us for whom we are, then we are truly fortunate. Meeting that person, amongst the throng of humanity, is surely one of the most fortunate karmic effects we can experience.

Embrace The Change

Embrace The ChangeThere are several changes afoot in the office, and a few people are finding that a way of life they have known for many, many years is coming to a rather abrupt end.

Now change can be a painful process, it can cause those who have allowed themselves to settle into a rut, and let’s be honest, it’s easy to do, to suddenly find that life has turned upside down and inside out.

Change is good. Change is the norm. Nothing lasts forever, no matter how much you wish it would. So embrace the change, look for the positives, rather than focussing on the negatives, and make your causes to promote a positive future.

Some of us are clearly doing just that. Steve is off to New Zealand with his family at the end of the month. Gordo is planning to do a bit of travelling, and I am busy getting my teaching qualifications so I can go to the Far East and teach English to the students with a Brummie accent.

At the end of the day, it’s about seeing things in a different way. Making the most of the situation rather than being consumed by the loss of a comfortable and convenient way of doing things.

All you need to do, is to see the glass half full rather than half empty. List all the things you could now be doing, rather than those you won’t be doing any more. Take responsibility for your own future and make the causes that will point you on an upward course. You know you can do it.

Go Compare

Go CompareMy trainee teacher colleagues are looking forward to a short respite from the weekly rota of lesson planning and assignment preparation.

Not that we don’t love what we are doing, but twenty weeks, non stop, would be a pretty tall order.

Although we still have plenty to get on with, and there are assignments due when we get back after Easter, we have a little time to sit back and take stock. Daisaku Ikeda has this useful advice, and it’s not just for teachers …

Do not compare yourselves to others. Be true to who you are and continue to learn with all your might. Even if you are ridiculed, even if you suffer disappointments and setbacks, continue to advance and do not be defeated.

Daisaku Ikeda

Get Out And Stay Young !!!

Nice Cycling PosterAs I pootle around on my bike, it’s easy to forget that I am in my late fifties.

I don’t feel any older than I did forty years ago, in fact, my stamina and fitness is far better now than it was then.

I admit that I have been fortunate enough to avoid serious illness, but maybe my diet and all this exercise has helped me stay well.

Daisaku Ikeda, in his daily encouragement, sees things slightly differently, but the principles are very much the same …

In the twinkling of an eye we grow old. Our physical strength wanes and we begin to suffer various aches and pains.

We practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism so that instead of sinking into feelings of sadness, loneliness and regret, we can greet old age with an inner richness and maturity as round and complete as a ripe, golden fruit of autumn.

Faith exists so that we can welcome, smiling and without regrets, an old age that is like a breath-taking sunset whose dazzling rays colour heaven and earth in majestic hues.

So if, like a few of my friends, you are thinking ‘I should really be doing more to stay fit, to look after this ageing body, but I just don’t have time … maybe tomorrow’ don’t put it off another day. It’s not all about Buddhist Practice, though I do sometimes chant, in time to my breathing, as I cycle my way to wherever.

Here in the South, we are enjoying a welcome warm, dry start to Spring, but it won’t last. The rain will be back before we know it, so get your bike out, get your running shoes on, get into those speedos (ok, maybe not), but whatever you decide to do, get out in the fresh air, stretch those legs, fill those lungs and make the causes for a longer, fitter, happier life.

SERIOUS NOTE: If you haven’t done any exercise for a while, maybe you should go and talk to your doctor before going nuts and doing some lasting damage. A little WCC goes a long way.

Inner Communication

Inner CommunicationI hear myself once again having to explain, that unlike almost every other religion, Nichiren Buddhism sees things differently.

Not that I feel I am apologising for that, just that because it is a philosophy for life and living, rather than a religion in the more generally accepted sense, the meaning and purpose of prayer are in my opinion, fundamentally different.

As with all the deity based religions, prayer is a conduit of communication, a method for getting a message, or request heard. However, in Buddhism, prayer is a communication to the inner self, rather than to an external being, and in that respect, it is more about focussing the conscious and sub-conscious on a task or topic at hand.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is an integral part of our daily practice. We say, or think, as three of the prayers are silent, four prayers during Gongyo and these are they:

First Prayer – for the appreciation of life’s protective forces:

I offer appreciation to the Shoten Zenjin, the functions in life and in the environment that serve to protect us, and pray that these protective powers may further be strengthened and enhanced through my practice of the Law.

Second Prayer – for the appreciation for the Gohonzon:

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin.

I offer sincere gratitude to Nichimoku Shonin.

Third Prayer – for the attainment of kosen-rufu:

I pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu is fulfilled, and that the Soka Gakkai International develops eternally in this endeavour.

I offer my most sincere gratitude to the three founding presidents – Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda – for their eternal example of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law.

Fourth Prayer – personal prayers and prayers for the deceased:

I pray to bring forth Buddhahood from within my life, change my karma and to fulfil my wishes in the present and the future.

* Prayers for specific outcomes are brought to mind here.

I pray for my deceased relatives and for all those who have passed away, particularly for these individuals:

* Here we bring to mind the names of those we particularly wish to remember

I pray for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity.

I think you can see that the prayers are mainly intended to bring to mind the subjects they contain, rather than being any form of communication with a third party. They focus the mind on the desired effect, and are intended to remind us that we need to make the causes ourselves, for the effects we wish to see.

We remember the dedication and sacrifices that the founding presidents have made in order to keep the faith alive and the efforts they have made in promoting the religion in the past decades. I feel it is important to mention that although the third prayer mentions the development of the Soka Gakkai International, it is more important that the aim of the SGI to promote peace for all on earth, rather than the organisation itself, is the desired outcome.

Personally, during the forth prayer, where we bring to mind specific outcomes, I remind myself of personal goals, self-improvement, human revolution and the like, as well as thinking of others who are struggling with challenges such as ill health, difficult situations and so on.

By bring these things into my consciousness means that I can focus on ways I may resolve my own challenges, or help others resolve theirs. There is no concept of me asking any third party to intervene in the outcome, the responsibility for that is all my own.

In that respect, I find Nichiren Buddhism to be a very empowering philosophy. I am taking responsibility for the events occurring in my life, myself. Whilst this puts the onus squarely on my own shoulders, it also gives me control, rather than handing it to any third party  whatsoever.

Far from being an all-knowing, all-seeing deity, I am, like you, a simple human being. So I make mistakes in the decisions and thoughts, words and deeds I perform each and every day. Because I take full responsibility for all those mistakes, I am free to learn from them, rather than ask forgiveness for them.

Prayers form a large part in that learning process. By purposefully bringing these erroneous issues into my consciousness, I am able to analyse, evaluate and modify my thinking. By doing this as part of my daily regime, I am forced to constantly confront my failings, and that improves my chances to improve and to increase the scope of  my enlightened nature.

So I hope you can see the contrast between Buddhist prayers and those of other theistic religions. Far from being a form of communication between the person praying and his or her god, it is communication between me and my consciousness. Furthermore, because I accept responsibility for everything that happens in my life, I am forced to search for the causes of the effects I am experiencing, rather than asking ‘why is this happening to me?’.

I am tempted to suggest that Nichiren Buddhists do not actually pray at all, in the accepted definition of that word. But although the intended recipient of our prayers could not be more different, the intention behind those prayers can be seen to be very much the same.

The Only Way Is Up

Harry PotterAs we discussed in previous posts, we can use our problems to make us stronger, by turning the poison of challenges into the medicine of learning and success.

Nichiren Daishonin said that ‘from sickness arises the mind that seeks the way’ meaning that when we are in Hell, we are in exactly the right place to find our way out of the situation that is causing our grief. The darker the Hell, the greater the motivation can be to take action to improve the situation.

We can all relate to this in one way or another. Imagine a situation or problem, that you allowed to go from bad to worse before you took action to put it right.

Let’s use a perfect example of this. J.K. Rowling, of whom I am sure you have heard, the author of the Harry Potter books, was almost destitute when she started to write the first book, and maybe it was that dire position that gave her the life-force she needed to make a start. Her success took her from being on welfare to being a millionaire within five years.

By chanting, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, we can raise our life-energy and that changes our life-state, making us feel better and more able to think rationally about the problems we need to solve.

So next time you are down, so down there is no way up, remember that you are in the perfect place to completely transform your life.

Gone, But Not Forgiven

Wolfie SmithThe news, this morning, that Maria Miller had finally taken the hint and resigned from her position as Culture Secretary was good news indeed.

In keeping with many other public servants who have abused their positions of privilege, she incurred the wrath of the public and media alike for her insincere apology in regard of the scandal surrounding her MP’s expenses.

She has resigned, but did she jump, or was she pushed? Even David Cameron, who prides himself on supporting his colleagues, could not have been comfortable with her actions, or lack thereof.

Amongst a stream of bleating excuses, she has finally gone because, as she said, the controversy “has become a distraction from the vital work this government is doing”. Never mind the controversy, you stole over £45,000 from the people of this country Miller.

So she has gone, albeit until her Parliamentary cronies feel the smoke has cleared and they can reintroduce her to their elite little club. Isn’t it about time the whole picture surrounding MPs was flipped on its head? They are supposed to be representing us, the electorate, in the mother of Parliament, not making as much money out of the role as they possibly can. Gone but not forgiven.

The MPs expenses scandal has really changed nothing. There must be an independent body to oversee all monies given to MPs, and one comprising a representative cross section of the UK society, not a bunch of toffee nosed knobs.

As Citizen Wolfie Smith, of the Tooting Popular Front used to say … “Power to the People”

Happiness, What Is Happiness?

Happiness, What Is Happiness?What do we mean by happiness? There may be as many answers to that as there are stars in the night sky, everyone has their own idea of what makes them happy, and equally what doesn’t.

Maybe it is the love of a partner, being part of a family, the pay cheque at the end of the month or that new car you had always promised yourself. Whatever your idea of happiness, we all crave more of it.

We can probably agree that it is all too often a transitory state, punctuated by periods where we are unhappy, or at least a bit glum. So what would you give to have more of this illusive life-state, and how can you go about achieving a happier life?

Well speaking personally, I can almost guarantee happiness from my Buddhist practice. That might sound a little trite or even rather far-fetched, but for me it is true. My practice helps me see life from all angles, the ups and downs, from my view-point and from that of others, and it ‘smoothes’ out the emotional bumps we encounter each and every day.

The idea at the very core of Buddhism is the removal of suffering, and that in itself helps us to be happier. Seeing the beauty in nature, the best facets of another’s personality, the joy in helping others, happiness is there for us all, all of the time and all around us. Living a life that is more concerned with others than ourselves, giving more than we take, and so on, will also bring feelings of happiness. All we have to do is look out for it.

Living in a society that is more concerned about what we own, than who we really are, we all struggle to put those ideas into action. We hear about people earning ridiculous sums, whilst providing little by way of return, and wonder how they can live with the guilt. If society valued the good in people more than the goods of people, the world would be a much fairer, happier place.

Whatever flavour your own happiness comes in, I wish you more of it, now and in the future. And when it arrives, please make sure that you share it around. That way you will find it grows and grows, and that it lasts just that little bit longer.

Honesty – Always The Best Policy

Maria MillerWhen you find yourself in a situation where you have to decide what happens next, you must be completely honest, with everyone concerned, including yourself, no matter how painful that process may be.

And yes, this is aimed directly at you Maria Miller.

For Every Winner …

For Every Winner ...Today it was Oxford in the University Boat Race, yesterday it was the 25-1 Pineau de Re in the Aintree Grand National.

Winners in their own fields, but what about the losers? For every winner in an event, there must be at least one loser, right? Wrong !!!

Daisaku Ikeda had this to say:

“Strength is Happiness. Strength is itself victory. In weakness and cowardice there is no happiness. When you wage a struggle, you might win or you might lose. But regardless of the short-term outcome, the very fact of your continuing to struggle is proof of your victory as a human being.”

So going home with the shiny prize isn’t the only way you can win, again President Ikeda has pearls of Wisdom …

“It is not how you compare to others that is important, but rather how you compare to who you were yesterday. If you’ve advanced even one step, then you’ve achieved something great.”

So whether you’ve had good day or not, you can look at things in several ways, and still come out of it as a winner.

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