Happy New Year – 2012

Happy New Year To Everyone

I don’t think I really need to elaborate on the title, but with the passing of 2011, I wish everyone a very healthy, happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Universal Appeal

Birthplace of stars and usHaving had a few days off has given me the opportunity to watch some amazing TV. Pick of the bunch has to be a re-run of the BBC’s Wonders of the Universe series. After it first ran, I received the book of the series as a present and it’s great to be able to read about the topics after the episode has finished.

I have my own telescope and have seen many amazing sights around the night sky, but the graphics on the program are stunning. The nebulae are some of the most beautiful objects, but are also the birth place of new stars the eventually create the building blocks of you, me and everything on Earth.

As I listened to Professor Cox explaining how all the elements are created during the death of a star, and that all the elements on Earth were create that way, it struck me that again, science is coming ever closer to the Buddhist understanding of the Universe and the Wheel of Life.

Our bodies are made of a collection of the same elements as those created in the stars, iron, carbon even a little gold, but in essence, we are all stardust. When we die, those elements are returned to the Universe and the cycle goes on.

The Universe is around 13.5 billion years old and the cycle of birth and death has been going on for much of that time. We have come from the Universe, we will go back into the Universe. Science facts for the last few years and Buddhist beliefs for more than two millennia. As I say, science is finally catching up with Buddhism.

A Clean Slate

A Clean SlateSometimes we need to wipe the slate clean, take a deep breath, and start anew. I think I am at that point, and with the New Year just around the corner, this might just be the perfect time to do so. Having new goals, new horizons and renewed vigour is just the ticket.

I know that some people fear change, are loath to relinquish all the effort put into a particular path, even if that path may not be taking them in the right direction. I am not one of those people. I embrace change in all its forms, and look forward to the freshness of a new start.

Similarly, Buddhism looks at death in same way as sleep, it is not the end of something, it is a period of rest before the beginning of something new. In the case of sleep, it is the beginning of a new day. Death, on the other hand, is the beginning of a whole new life. So I do not fear death, though I do not wish to hasten its coming.

I intend to make the most of each and every day, and when death does arrive, as it will, I will enjoy the rest before being reborn into a new and exciting experience.

Life Is Tricky

Rubiks CubeSorting out our life can be a bit like solving a Rubik’s cube, each part is like one of the faces, separate but all connected. We work to get one face, let’s say Blue sorted out. On it’s own that task is pretty easy and we complete it quite quickly. So we move on to to the Red face, again it’s pretty easy, in isolation, so we get it sorted and we feel a satisfaction in that. But then we turn the cube back to the Blue side, and it’s all messed up again, because it is connected to the Red side.

Life is like that. Every aspect of life is connected, to our family, our friends, our work, every other aspect. Just like Rubik’s cube, unless you know the rules for arranging the sides, it can be pretty impossible. The only way to get our lives sorted, is to learn the rules governing how they fit together. I say rules, but there’s nothing written down anywhere that will teach you. So it’s a case of trial and error, to some degree. Hopefully our parents teach us the ground rules, but every situation is different, so it’s necessary to modify or adapt the rules so they fit.

There are two big differences between life and Rubik’s cube. The first is that unlike the cube, life is no game, obviously, and second, life is nowhere as simple as getting six coloured faces sorted out. So whether you are playing with a Rubik’s cube, or trying to sort your life out, I wish you good fortune. Wisdom, courage and compassion in huge and equal measure will go a long way in many respects. From my point of view, the news is mixed. I’m getting better, but still learning to do both.

Consistently Inconsistent

Dark PassengerI don’t know about you, but when I say I’m going to do something, I mean it. When I decide on a course of action, I try my best to carry it out. So having had a little slide, I’m determined to focus on the goal and get back on course.

The trouble is, sometimes we don’t stick to our goals, and there are many, many reasons for that. Sometimes our Dark Passenger has a little word, introducing doubts or reasons why we should give up. Ignore him and get back on track, if you can.

There is nothing to compare with the feeling of satisfaction when we achieve our goals. In the same way, there is very little to compare with the feeling of disappointment when we let ourselves down and fail.

We all want to be happy, so be constant. You will be more successful, more content and people will know where they stand too. A win-win situation.

Grabbing A Bargain?

Selling OutNearly everyone I know has been rushing out to the Boxing Day sales today, determined to grab that ‘must have’ bargain. But is it a ‘must have’, is it even a ‘bargain’, is it, really?

All over Christmas, at every commercial break, we get bombarded with ‘Bargain Offers’ for buy now, pay later ‘Must Haves’ … Rubbish.

Happiness stems from who you are, and not from what you own. That nice new iPad2 or iPhone 4s that you have been showing off, will very soon be yesterdays toy, and the next big ‘must have’ thing will come along to take its place.

Look around you, see how much you really have, family, friends and all manner of comforts in life. You don’t need that ‘must have’ gizmo, and if it really were such a ‘bargain’, why would the company be selling it at that price? Because they are just ripping you off by a little less than before.

Retail therapy is only therapy for the companies selling the goods. Tell me, honestly, that you have never been out, bought a ‘bargain’, and regretted it, maybe even before you got home. Think before you spend that hard earned cash, think even harder before you pay with your credit card or take a loan. Do you really need it?

A Buddhist Christmas

OogwayI thought it was an interesting choice of film to show on Christmas day, the story of a zero to hero Panda, through the application of Buddhist principles.

DreamWork’s Kung Fu Panda on TV today, not for the first time I have to admit, was a great lesson in humility, wisdom, trust and self confidence. If you haven’t seen the film it is, on the face of it, a kids cartoon, lots of action, lots of fun.

At a deeper level, it tells the story of the underdog, Po the Panda, who is chosen as the Dragon Warrior against the odds. Nobody believes that Oogway the Turtle has made the right decision, that he was chosen  by chance, even though Oogway explains that there is no such thing as chance.

Even Po is convinced that he has been chosen by mistake, and cannot believe that he is the Dragon Warrior. He is slandered by everyone, even Shifu, who is charged with training Po in the ways of Kung Fu. The other pupils of Shifu, Tigress, Monkey, Crane, Viper and Mantis also look down on Po, though they slowly come to see that his determination is to be admired.

After Oogway passes on, having asked Shifu to believe in Po and following a lot of learning, Po has to meet his nemesis Tai Lung to save the valley.

Lots of Buddhist principles are woven through the film, a good watch and a fun way to learn.

Seasonal Greetings

Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas to all my Christian readers, may you all have a wonderfully peaceful day.

To all other denominations, enjoy the holiday and be nice to one another.

2011 has been an amazing year. The Arab Spring has resulted in the people of several former despotic countries taking back control of their own lands. My wish for 2012 is that the process continues, that there is a levelling of wealth throughout all the capitalist countries, and a general move towards peace throughout the world.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

PC Gone Mad?

The following is an email from the boss to his staff …

From: The Boss
Sent: 23 December 2011 16:59
To: The Motley IT Crew
Subject:Merry mas

Dear Staff,

Before you all go your separate ways and eat too much …

Political CorrectnessBest wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all.

Additionally, … I hope you have a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year of 2012, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions have helped make our society great, without regard to the race, creed, colour, religious, or sexual preferences of the wishes.

(Disclaimer: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wishee or others, and no responsibility for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the holiday spirit.)

Of course this is a joke, but you can just imagine it being the ways things will go in this world of politically correct madness. As a Buddhist, Christmas has lost much of its meaning, certainly in religious terms. It seems to be more and more of a marketing exercise each year. Still, all is not lost if people at least find it a good reason to be nice to each other for a whole day. The pity being, that they can’t find a reason to be nice to each other for the other 364 days of the year.

Music As It Should Be

Starry NightHaving spent the day being forced to listen to Radio 1, it was a wonderful relief to listen to some proper music, music the way it should be played, watching the Don MacLean Songbook on Sky Arts. I had forgotten just how much I loved the lyrics to his song Vincent.

In my teens, I used to play Vincent on my old Echo six string, and the words are wonderful:

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colours on the snowy linen land

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflecting Vincent’s eyes of China blue
Colours changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hands

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you Vincent
This world was never meant for one as
beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget
Like the strangers that you’ve met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
A silver thorn on a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

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