A More Beautiful Being

A More Beautiful BeingSelf awareness, the realisation of who, or what you really are, comes to some people with age, but for me, it came at a point in life where I was at my all time low.

Seeing my true reflection in the mirror was a long and painful process, there’s no joy in realising that you are someone you don’t really like, but it lead me to a turning point that has allowed me to change for the better.

It is said ‘that we hate in others, what we refuse to see in ourselves’ and I suddenly understood what that meant. Things that annoy us about other people, are sometimes the very things in us that annoy others. Being honest enough with ourselves, to admit our failings or less attractive traits, can be the start of a process of self improvement.

In Nichiren Buddhism we refer to that process as Human Revolution, the nurturing and growth of self improvement through the acquisition of wisdom, courage and compassion. It is achieved, over time, through a determined adherence to our practice and continued learning.

So next time, before you start criticising others, take a long, hard and honest look in that mirror, and have the courage to see the faults you are so desperate to hide from yourself.

It will be a painful process, but you will emerge on the other side, like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, a better and more beautiful being for doing it.

Room To Grow

Room To GrowWe can all be guilty of trying to hold things, or people, too close to us. This may be for a number of reasons, fear of losing them probably being the most common.

With possessions we may only cause ourselves problems, but with people, the act of holding them close, may actually have the effect of pushing them away.

We must learn to give people the room to grow, to learn, to blossom and the chance to be themselves, otherwise we may lose them forever.

Nichiren writes:

“Myoho-renge-kyo is the Buddha nature of all living beings…. The Buddha nature that all these beings possess is called by the name Myoho-renge-kyo”
(wnd, 131).

“Regarding how to manifest one’s innate Buddha nature, Nichiren explains: “When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion, the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what is meant by ‘Buddha.’ To illustrate, when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge”
(wnd, 887).

In Nichiren’s metaphor, our innate Buddha nature, whose name is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, is a bird trapped in the cage of ignorance. In other words, our deluded minds create this cage that imprisons our Buddha nature. But when we chant Nam myoho renge kyo to the Gohonzon, which expresses Nichiren’s enlightened life and the potential of all people, our dormant Buddha nature becomes activated.

The singing of the caged bird is our chanting, and the birds flying in the sky are the Buddha nature in our environment, particularly as it is expressed in the Gohonzon. Through our chanting, the Buddha nature within our lives and the Buddha nature inherent in the universe begin their dynamic interaction.

For Nichiren’s metaphor to work, however, it is necessary for the caged bird to recognize the birds in the sky as being its own kind. In other words, when we pray to the Gohonzon, rather than thinking of it as an external power or deity, we must think of it as the mirror image of our own Buddha nature. If the caged bird thinks of itself as an elephant, it is unlikely to give the slightest thought to flying.

Nichiren Buddhism clarifies that the teaching of the Buddha nature is a teaching of faith and practice. All people have it, but not many can believe in it. Furthermore, some of those who believe in their Buddha nature may not practice to manifest it, erroneously thinking-I’m already a Buddha, so I don’t have to do anything. One’s faith in the Buddha nature must be expressed in one’s actions to manifest it.

Those who see the universal Buddha nature of oneself and others, and work to awaken it in all people are already Buddhas, for such actions belong to none other than a Buddha. As we cultivate our inherent Buddha nature through our conviction and actions to manifest it no matter our circumstances, we begin to see it and experience it. In our everyday lives, seeing may be believing. But in the world of Buddhism, believing in the Buddha nature is the first step toward seeing it.

(from Living Buddhism – February 2005)

Be Careful What You Vote For

Scottish IconsOn the eve of one of the most important decisions the British people have made in centuries, the Scots go to the polls tomorrow to decide the future of their country.

Whilst I envy them the power to influence such an important constitutional decision, I fear that, given the huge lack of detail available, the people of Scotland will be voting with their hearts rather than their heads.

Passion is a powerful driver in such situations, but I would warn that you must be careful what you wish for. You might just get it, and then it may turn out that it wasn’t what you really wanted at all.

As a passionate Englishman, proud of my nation despite the mistakes we have made over the centuries, I would like to think that Scotland is better served within an alliance with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Having said that, it is not my decision, and I refuse to try to influence anyone’s decision.

Whatever the outcome, I pray that as intimate neighbours, we remain good friends, and can work together in the interests of both nations. I also pray that the friendly, if passionate, banter will continue and that both the Yes and the No sides will remain united as members of the Scottish nation.

We all remain transfixed by the whole process. Whether you are in or out of the Union, you have a unique opportunity to decide your own future and I wish you all the very best of luck with this historic event.

Being The Voice That Is Heard

Being The Voice That Is HeardSometimes, we may have to  summon the courage to speak out against injustice.

Nichiren Daishonin illustrated why we should do just that, most eloquently …

“To speak out without fearing others and without flinching before society—this is what the sutra means when it says, “We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way.”

It is not that one does not recall the calumny, the staves and stones that were suffered by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. It is not that one is unafraid of the world. It is just that the censure of the Lotus Sutra is even more severe.”

In other words, to speak out may cause one pain, but not to speak out will be even more painful in the fullness of time.

Connectivity Is Infinite

Connectivity Is InfiniteIn the true reality of life as viewed from the enlightened state of a Buddha, one who has broken free of all delusion, all things are equal, transcending distinctions and differences between subject and object, self and others, mind and body, the spiritual and the material.

In its true aspect, life is infinitely expansive and eternal, without beginning or end. Life is dynamic; it is wisdom and compassion; it embodies the principle of the indivisibility of life and death; it is a universal law.

The cosmos is not so big that life cannot embrace it, nor the smallest particle of matter so small that life cannot be contained within it.

Happiness Of The Heart

Happiness Of  The HeartHappiness is a matter of the heart. This is not mere spiritualism. Our hearts are precious vessels endowed with the treasure of Buddhahood.

When we strive earnestly in faith and practice to reveal our Buddhahood, we can walk along the sure and steady path to happiness and attain a state of complete fulfilment and satisfaction.

Nichiren writes: “Fortune comes from one’s heart and makes one worthy of respect.”

Just What Is Speciesism?

English Lamb, Prior To SlaughterWe’ve all heard of sexism, racism and religious discrimination, but how many of you have ever heard of speciesism? What does it even mean? The spell checker in my blog writer doesn’t know the word, it suggests specialism, which is strangely ironic. Let me explain why I want you to know.

Speciesism is the act of assigning varying rights and considerations to creatures, including ourselves, based on the species to which they belong. It is an old idea, we are told that God put animals on the Earth for the use of man, and god, we have been using, or misusing them ever since.

You will know that apart from being Buddhist, I am also vegan. I refuse to eat any product that is part of, or has come from any other living being. So no meat or fish, no milk, cheese or eggs and nothing that contains any of these either.

A little like being Buddhist in a predominantly Christian country, being vegan is definitely considered to be swimming against the tide. We are all told, right from childhood, that food from animals, lamb, beef, pork, milk, cheese, the list is endless, is good for us. In fact, when I was at junior school, I was the class milk monitor.

Sadly, we weren’t told the whole story, as you may have read in previous posts. What we were never told as children, was how cows become beef, baby sheep become lamb, pigs become pork, or how the chickens who laid our breakfast eggs where kept in disgusting conditions, and still are.

We hear about Animal Rights groups, usually when they have committed some illegal act in their quest to release animals from scientific establishments or disrupting whale or fox hunting. But they are right.

Just because we have learned to use our large brains to develop societies around which we can farm animals, doesn’t make it right. Animals, as members of the family of Earth dwelling beings, have just as much right to be here, and exist in peace, as we do.

Other people can, and have put the case far more eruditely than I possibly can in this post, so please can you take the time to watch the video Earthlings. Be aware, it is not for the faint hearted.  It will shock and quite likely disgust you, but if it makes you think about our fellow creatures and maybe change your lifestyle, even a little, as a result, it will be worth your suffering.

Get ‘Em Out By Friday – Nothing Changes

Get Em Out By Friday - hear it hereThere is nothing better to perk up a dull and boring morning at work than listening to some rocking music. My taste in music is pretty eclectic, but this morning I have been listening to some classic Genesis tracks.

Now I can listen to Genesis till the cows come home and I have loved them since they formed back in 1967. I wore out copies of Trespass, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot on a tinny Dansette record player in the psychedelic bedroom of my teenage years, and today I was listening to Foxtrot once again.

I know the lyrics to all the old classic Genesis tracks, those of the Steve Hackett, Peter Gabrielle era, but one track really stood out today, Get ‘em out by Friday. It’s the story of unscrupulous property developers and investment scams, of people being evicted and ripped off by crooked landlords.

The lyrics and music were recorded back in August 1972, 42 years ago, but the dialogue performed shows that nothing has really changed in all that time …

John Pebble of Styx Enterprises:
“Get ‘em out by Friday!
You don’t get paid till the last one’s well on his way.
Get ‘em out by Friday!
It’s important that we keep to schedule, there must be no delay.”

Mark Hall of Styx Enterprises: (otherwise known as “The Winkler”)
“I represent a firm of gentlemen who recently purchased this
House and all the others in the road,
In the interest of humanity we’ve found a better place for you
To go, go-woh, go-woh”

Mrs. Barrow: (a tenant)
“Oh no, this I can’t believe,
Oh Mary, they’re asking us to leave.”

Mr. Pebble:
“Get ‘em out by Friday!
I’ve told you before, ‘s good many gone if we let them stay.
And if it isn’t easy,
You can squeeze a little grease and our troubles will soon run away.”

Mrs. Barrow:
“After all this time, they ask us to leave,
And I told them we could pay double the rent.
I don’t know why it seemed so funny,
Seeing as how they’d take more money.
The winkler called again, he came here this morning,
With four hundred pounds and a photograph of the place he has found.
A block of flats with central heating.
I think we’re going to find it hard.”

Mr. Pebble:
“Now we’ve got them!
I’ve always said that cash cash cash can do anything well.
Work can be rewarding
When a flash of intuition is a gift that helps you excel-sell-sell-sell.”

Mr. Hall:
“Here we are in Harlow New Town,
Did you recognise your block across the square, over there,
Sadly since last time we spoke,
We’ve found we’ve had to raise the rent again,
Just a bit.”

Mrs. Barrow:
“Oh no, this I can’t believe
Oh Mary, and we agreed to leave.”

(a passage of time)

18/9/2012 T.V. Flash on all Dial-A-Program Services:
This is an announcement from Genetic Control:
“It is my sad duty to inform you of a four foot restriction on
Humanoid height.”

Extract from conversation of Joe Ordinary in Local Puborama:
“I hear the directors of Genetic Control have been buying all the
Properties that have recently been sold, taking risks oh so bold.
It’s said now that people will be shorter in height,
They can fit twice as many in the same building site.
(they say it’s alright),
Beginning with the tenants of the town of Harlow,
In the interest of humanity, they’ve been told they must go,
Told they must go-go-go-go.”

Sir John De Pebble of United Blacksprings International:
“I think I’ve fixed a new deal
A dozen properties – we’ll buy at five and sell at thirty four,
Some are still inhabited,
It’s time to send the winkler to see them,
He’ll have to work some more.”

Memo from Satin Peter of Rock Development Ltd:
With land in your hand, you’ll be happy on earth
Then invest in the Church for your heaven.

So nothing changes, the have’s still have and the have-not’s still pay for the privilege. At the risk of being labelled an anarchist, I think we need a revolution. I’m already involved in trying to change the way money works in this country, maybe part of that should take the form of a more fair levelling of incomes.

In so many parts of the country, the children of current home owners have no chance to buy property in the towns in which they were born. It might almost be seen as a form of social engineering by the people who control the money supply.

Time for big changes me thinks.

Vivisection – A Pointless Cruelty

Why Animal Experiments Must StopAccording to Dr Vernon Coleman’s book Why Animal Experiments Must Stop, the total number of animals used it experiments around the world adds up to around 250 million each year.

Whilst it is generally thought that the testing of products or medicines on animals is a worthwhile exercise, much of the evidence, most of it suppressed by the medical research industry, shows that it is a fruitless and often misleading way to evaluate the effects on humans.

Some of the examples of testing cited in the book are truly horrific, made all the more worrying when the person doing the testing are largely funded by you and me, the taxpayers. Hundreds of millions of pounds are secured by the pharmaceutical industry from government to test vaccines and other medicines. Even larger amounts are given as grants to military projects, where the testing is often used to prove the injurious or fatal effects of chemical compounds to be employed as military weapons.

As in so many areas of life, information is ‘spun’ in order to present a sanitised account of what is really going on. Dr Coleman presents a sanitised account of twenty five actual experiments in his book. Sanitised to reduce the sickening details related to the reader. The rationale behind each experiment is not given, but it is difficult to imagine how science might be advanced by them. Here are details of but a few:

  • Researchers took fifty nine newly born golden hamster babies, and under ‘hypothermic anaesthesia’, removed the left eye of around half of them. The babies were then returned to their mothers and the results studied.
  • American researchers separated kittens from their mothers to see what effect this had. At the end of the experiment, the scientists concluded that the kittens cried more than other kittens who were left with their mothers. They also added that the crying appeared to indicate stress.
  • British research scientists surgically joined 224 individual rats to make a set of 112 ‘fake’ Siamese twins.
  • A psychologist removed the visual cortex of a monkey, blinding the creature. The animal was then kept for six years to allow behavioural studies to be conducted.

Animal tests can produce dangerously misleading information. Penicillin kills cats and guinea pigs. Aspirin also kills cats. The dangers of thalidomide only came to light after it had been prescribed to pregnant women, despite ‘rigorous animal testing’.

This scandalous cruel torture of animals cannot continue. The incredible waste of money has to stop. Please consider taking the following steps to help put an end to the vivisection industry and save millions of innocent creatures from a life (and death) of misery and pain:

  1. Refuse to blindly accept or be intimidated by the claims made by eminent sounding medical professionals. Many of them have remarkably low intelligence and even lower ethics.
  2. Join an anti-vivisection organisation in your area.
  3. Before donating to charity, ensure that they do not promote any form of testing on animals.
  4. Make your views known to your local politician, chances are that she or he is as ignorant of the facts as the general public.
  5. Try to buy products that have not been tested on animals.
  6. Make your views on vivisection known. Post on Facebook, Twitter and the other social networks. Make as much noise as possible in the name of banning animal testing.
  7. Talk to your doctor when you next see them and tell them that you are unhappy to take medicines that have been developed using animal testing. Tell them why you are opposed to the use of animals in the development of medical treatments.
  8. If you are a student, and find that your teachers expect you to perform experiments on live or dead animals, refuse to perform the experiments on the grounds that no knowledge can be gained from continually covering old ground. Good educational establishments now allow students to opt out of vivisection during their course, explain this to your tutors if they object.
  9. Be aware that it is not only the pharmaceutical industry that tests its products on animals. Many food additives are tested on animals too. Also try to buy products that are free from animal products (fur, wool, leather etc.) as these involve the testing on, or death of in other ways, animals.
  10. Focus your efforts. So many anti-vivisection groups spend more time fighting each other than they do fighting the real cause. Don’t waste your efforts, remain mindful and make the most of all your opportunities.

Remember, despite all the claims from individuals in the vivisection industry, for that is what it is, testing on animals is unbelievably barbaric and unforgivably cruel. It is worthless, inaccurate, wasteful, uninformative and dangerously misleading.

The truth is that animal experiments kill people.

Go On, Go For It !!!

Go On, Go For It !!!As I whizz around on my bike, in the lovely Dorset countryside, it seems easy for me 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 is far better now than it was then.

I know that I have been fortunate enough to avoid serious illness, but maybe all this exercise is the cause of that.

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 aging 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 chant, in time to my breathing, as I cycle my way to wherever.

Here in the UK, we are enjoying a welcome extension to the summer, but it won’t last. 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.

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 wisdom goes a long way.

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