Twin Sails Bridge - Poole, DorsetIt’s been a weekend filled with interaction, just simple conversations with a number of people I never met before, just because they, and I, were in the right place at the right time.

Like Clive the retired SAP guru, now caring for his disabled wife, who I met while out delivering a letter that had come to my address by mistake. Or the chap from Stafford, who transports potatoes from France to the UK and who was interested in the new Twin Sails Bridge being built in Poole, while we waited for the old bridge to close. Even the couple who were walking their daughters dog in Hamworthy Park and wanted to chat about everything from being Polish immigrants 50 years ago, to how much they loved being grandparents and having time to enjoy them now they were retired.

When we interact with others with true sincerity, the other person will, more often than not, come to respect and value our own character. And this is all the more so when our actions are based on prayer.

Conversely, holding others in contempt only leads to being held in contempt ourselves. One whose life is tainted by feelings of hate towards others will come to be reviled by those they detest.

Let us open the path to mutual respect and harmonious coexistence, so as to bring an end to the vicious circle that has long been part of human destiny. This surely is a major part of our Human Revolution.

I thoroughly enjoyed my impromptu conversations, accepting these people at face value. Interactions are the spice that gives our lives flavour, so take time to talk to a stranger soon.

Know Thyself

Don't be a cog in the machineThe path to enlightenment involves a lot of learning, much of it about yourself.

Wisdom is rooted in the souls of human beings. The way to acquire it is to follow the simple advice of Socrates – ‘Know Thyself’.

This is the starting point for the establishment of a sense of human dignity, preventing the degradation of human beings into anonymous, interchangeable cogs in a machine.

The essence of true knowledge is self knowledge.

Cause And Effect

iPad2As I said yesterday, karma is all about cause and effect. We make causes and later we see the effects that result.

Now I never was very lucky in games of chance or competitions, so image my surprise and delight when I received a phone call last week informing me that I had won an iPad2 for simply completing an online survey, quite a spot of luck eh? Of course there is no such thing as luck in Buddhism, and I should have known better.

It’s not the fact that I’m typing this on said iPad2 that’s important, it’s all about the fact that I made the cause that resulted in this rather delightful effect.

I always thought I was unlucky, but in hindsight it was all to do with my attitude toward these competitions. I didn’t really believe that anyone actually won the prize on offer, so I never bothered to fill them in.

No cause, no effect. I have to say that if you are going to learn a lesson, this was the nicest way I can think of doing it.

Miracle Day

TorchwoodI’ve been watching the new series of Torchwood, Miracle Day in which the human race suddenly becomes immortal, receiving the ‘gift’ of eternal life. Now, of course this is only the latest outpouring from the fertile mind of Russell T Davies, but it does give us food for thought from a Buddhist perspective.

For millennia, Buddhists have believed in reincarnation, a form of eternal life albeit from the viewpoint of our karma. We believe that every thought, word and deed, from each lifetime, creates causes for the effects we may experience in this lifetime.

Eternal life is a pretty scary thought, growing ever older, our bodies and minds slowly deteriorating, but without the prospect of the release of death. It would be the same as having a day that goes on and on, without a night, or the chance to refresh our bodies and minds with sleep.

Death in Buddhism is the equivalent of that refreshing sleep, except that instead of being between days, it is between lifetimes. Not that Buddhists look forward to death, they simply accept it as a part of the Wheel of Life, and necessary in the process of reincarnation.

There is a sobering thought however. As karma follows us from one lifetime to the next, creating effects as we go through our lives, it leaves us with the realisation that we have an eternal responsibility. Every thought, word and deed has been, and will be, forever stored in our karmic bank balance, to be cashed in at some point, when the circumstances are right.

So if you want to know what causes you made in the past, look at the effects you are seeing now. And if you want to see the effects the future holds, look at the causes you are making now.

Eternal responsibility is both a gift and a burden. Think about how your actions today, will affect your life tomorrow, or the next day, or at some time in the future, and use your wisdom, courage and compassion to make the right causes for the effects you would wish to see.

Purity Of Mind

MirrorsNichiren said,

“If the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land.

There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds. It is the same with a Buddha and an ordinary being.

While deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished.”

We can all purify our minds, follow the path to enlightenment and strive towards Buddhahood. Get polishing those mirrors!

Problems – Our Perception

Sun RiseIt is a well known Buddhist saying that our problems are not the real problem, it is the way we perceive them that is the problem.

Don’t have problems, have a series of challenges. Challenges are just problems that we are confident that we can overcome. Our problems come and go, nothing lasts forever, so view them with an open mind, look on them as challenges and remember, you are turning poison into medicine.

Even places that have been shrouded in darkness for billions of years can be illuminated by a simple lit candle. Even a stone from the bottom of the deepest river can be used to produce fire.

Our present sufferings, no matter how dark, have certainly not existed for billions of years, nor will they linger forever.

The sun will definitely rise, in fact its ascent has already begun. With determination, we can all overcome our problems, so look on them as challenges and enjoy the victory when it arrives.

Violence Solves Nothing

Anders Behring BreivikAs Norway strives to come to terms with the atrocities of the weekend, we should be very careful not to get into a ‘holier than though’ state of mind. Whilst the actions of Anders Behring Breivik are shocking and difficult to understand, we should remember that we have all been implicated in violent acts of one form or another.

Violence is wrong, no matter what name it is given. Be it liberation, peace keeping, stabilisation, whatever, it never solves the problem. It may change the situation, but it is never the solution.

Buddhism stresses the interconnectedness of all life. It is only the limited capacity of our senses that causes us to place so much stress on the separation and differences between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

Because of this interconnectedness, by using violence, we not only injure or destroy the other person, but also ourselves. Those who use violence and devalue others’ lives actually devalue and bespoil their own lives too.

Violence solves nothing, wisdom, courage and compassion are the only tools we can use to solve everything.

300 Not Out

300 Not OutThis is my 300th post on The Search For Enlightenment, quite a milestone for me, a post a day since the 30th of September 2010. So wanted to share the one thing that I feel has most changed my life in that time.

My Practice has become a major part of my life, a routine that keeps me on track and provides a constant beacon that keeps me on the path, but that’s not it.

My understanding of how life works has improved in leaps and bounds, that we are all connected with the Universe and that our actions ripple out to affect everything and everyone else, but that’s not it either.

What has changed my life most in the last 300 days is the realisation that through the laws of Karma, those of cause and effect, my life, my happiness, everything is in my own hands. It is such an empowering feeling, to take control, and to look back and see where I went right and wrong in the past, and learn from it.

Of course, with control comes responsibility, but that is one of the main principles of Nichiren Buddhism. As there are no rules, no do’s or don’ts in our practice, the effects of the causes we all make, through the thoughts, words and deeds, are our responsibility.

If you feel your life is like a leaf in the breeze, that you are being blown along by external factors or the whim of others, take time to study the laws of Karma. Take back control, take responsibility and start living your life the way you want for the very first time.

Amy – Another Sad Story

Amy WinehouseThe news that 27 year old Amy Winehouse has died today is the latest in a long list of musical stars who die too young and another member of The Forever 27 Club. Back in the days of my youth there were a number of stellar performers who also died too young. Jimi Hendix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, the list goes on and on.

But why do these amazing people lose their way, get trapped by drug addiction and drive themselves to oblivion? Is it because they find fame too much to handle, is their life out of their control, governed by the fickle fate of the rollercoaster of popularity?

Basing our lives on anything that unstable, anything over which we have no control, means that we leave ourselves open to the inevitable winds of change.

Basing our lives on something constant, unchanging, gives us back that control, or at least a greater degree of it. That is why I have based my life on Nichiren Buddhism, made it my Honzon, or anchor.

My Faith, my Practice, Nichiren Buddhism doesn’t magically remove all the problems in life, nor does it solve those problems that arrive, but having the stability that comes with basing everything on the Gohonzon does make life easier.

We are sorry to lose you Amy, you were a very bright star, and maybe the brightest stars are meant to burn out soonest.

Happiness – Pass It On

Happiness - Pass It OnThe aim of our Buddhist practice is to promote personal happiness through the path to enlightenment. By learning about the true nature of life, by acknowledging, accepting and understanding our fundamental darkness, we move ever closer to revealing our Buddha nature.

When we chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with all our heart, we achieve our Buddha state. We find that solutions to our problems are ‘revealed’, as if the universe was talking directly to us. We see situations as they really are, not necessarily as we think, or would like them to be, and through this we gradually become happier people.

As Josei Toda said, we are all here to ‘thoroughly savour the joys of life’. But if we were to practice solely for our own happiness, that would be a selfish aim. So we also pass on that happiness, partly through the principle of ‘oneness of self and the environment’, the ripple effect if you will, and partly by explaining, or teaching our practice to others.

One reason I write this blog each day, is in the hope that the people who read it will take something away with them. As Nichiren wrote ‘Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase’, basically, pass on that which makes me happy so that others may also enjoy that happiness.

The people who know me, my family, my friends and colleagues have seen the change in me since I encountered, and started practicing Nichiren Buddhism. I have an inner calm, something that was in short supply before, and I want to share the practice with others. I know there is still a long way to go, but even the longest journey starts with the first step.

I hope this strikes a chord, even if it’s in just one person. As the ripples spread across the world, the world becomes a happier, and more peaceful place. Happiness, true inner happiness is a fabulous feeling, pass it on.

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