Nothing To Be Sneezed At

Sniff, Cough, SniffSo here we are again, the weekend is upon us and there is a spring in the step of people as they leave the office for a couple of days of well earned relaxation. Some are talking of shopping expeditions, others have Christmas trees to decorate, so much excitement.

Sadly, many people, myself included, are still trying to fight off this nasty little cough and cold combination that has been doing the rounds. Not for me, the crowds of shoppers, the festooned arcades of consumerist delights.

With luck, I should be able to spend a good fifty percent of the next couple of days in bed. Plans to visit the Girls in Bristol have again been scuppered, I have no wish to spread this dreaded lurgy amongst my daughters or their families.

If it’s really cold, as they are promising it may be, I might even stay in bed to chant. I’m not sure what Nichiren would have made of horizontal daimoku, but I can’t imagine him being too worried, he was never too concerned with rules.

P For Practice

P For PracticeFor me, my Buddhist Practice is a way of life. A routine that I go through every day, Gongyo, Daimoku, even writing this blog. But routine is also another word for boring, mundane or even hum-drum, so it’s important to keep in mind why we Practice.

We Practice for several reasons …

  • To raise our life-energy levels …
  • To chant for certain outcomes …
  • To move us along the road to Buddhahood …
  • To give a stable anchor in our lives …

and there are many others, often different for every individual.

As a novice, I find that I can learn a little more each day Let’s face it, Buddhism has been around for well over two thousand years, so there’s plenty to learn about.. I can improve or seek to perfect my Practice and to maintain a more focussed attention to the subject of my chanting.

I look forward to the feeling I get during and after Gongyo. I often find that I am quite warm when I finish chanting and in a really good mood, despite any problems I am facing.

I never cease to be amazed by the effectiveness of chanting either. To start with, the word coincidence came into my mind when I saw results, but not any more. But I do get surprised by the way the Universe solves the problems with which I have asked it to help. Not always the way I expected, and often in better, more subtle ways than I could have imagined.

So my Practice is a pleasure, not a chore. It’s something I enjoy and never something I feel I have to do.

As Nichiren Daishonin said, ‘If you practice something, you must test it’s validity with the results you see’. In other words, if it doesn’t work, stop doing it.

For me, it’s working wonders and I think the World would be a better place if more people were to discover those wonders.

We Never Know

We-Never-KnowSome situations just get stuck, they just refuse to offer a resolution, be that through indecision, lack of control or reluctance to move on.

Having the patience, with a person or situation, to see things through to their conclusion takes Wisdom, Courage and Compassion:

  • The Wisdom to see that the desired path is both achievable and the correct outcome.
  • The Courage to stick to your path, despite setbacks or obstacles.
  • The Compassion to see things from another’s viewpoint, whether it agrees with yours or not.

There’s just one big problem with being patient, and that is that you never know what the outcome will be until it’s happened. Time will tell.

An Open Heart

An Open HeartSometimes we become involved in other people’s problems, whether we want to be, or not. At times like this, Wisdom, Courage and Compassion are needed, but in a slightly different way than when we have problems of our own.

We need to have the Wisdom to step back from the problem, and look at it in a dispassionate way. The Courage to determine our feelings, from that detached viewpoint and the Compassion to offer help if required, knowing that our offer may well be rejected.

We also need the Courage to just be there, with an open heart and a calm mind. Too often,  people on the periphery feel the need to state their opinions, whether that helps the person dealing with the problem or not. These opinions may well be founded on sound principles and deeply held beliefs, but in themselves they are not help, they are mere opinions.

If you find yourself in such a situation, simply be prepared to wait to be asked for your help. Showing your ability to remain detached, objective and silent, with a truly open heart, may be all the help you can offer at that time.

Keep On Keeping On

Keep On Keeping OnIf you allow the passing of time to let you forget the lofty vows of your youth, you stand to block the source of your own boundless good fortune and sever the roots of limitless prosperity for your family and loved ones as well.

Please never let this happen. Only by remaining steadfast to the vows we have made in our youth can we shine as true victors in life.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Second Class Citizens?

Bishop Katharine Jefferts SchoriAs a Buddhist, I haven’t felt able to comment on the Church of England’s continuing struggle over its position on women bishops. The question has been being debated for decades and the decision this week has left the Synod looking even more out of touch with the values of modern British society.

Looking at world religion as a whole, it is pretty clear that, as with the rest of society over the millennia, it has been controlled by a predominantly male hierarchy. In many parts of the world, that seems to be changing, with female bishops being ordained in places as far apart as Cuba and now Swaziland.

Watching the BBC’s Big Question today, appeared to show the aggression on both sides, to what would seem to be an almost impossible question. It is possible, it was shown, to interpret the Bible as supporting both sides of the argument. So one might say that both camps are right and wrong in their support of their position.

The far more worrying aspect from my perspective, from a church that purports to represent the religious nature of my beloved England, is that it appears to be populated by a disparate collection of bigots. Neither side came out of the argument with any credit, and judging by the stream of negative #bbctbq tweets, did nothing to ingratiate themselves to the mainly secular audience.

Of course, many may say that it is non of my business, how the Christian religion structures itself, and with any other than the Church of England, I would agree. But whilst the Church is part of the Establishment and has a say in how my country is run, through the bishops seats in the House of Lords, I will have my say.

The Joy Of Creation

Rainbow ColoursThere is no one lonelier or more unhappy than a person who does not know the pure joy of creating a life for himself or herself. To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge. To be human in the full sense of the word is to lead a creative life.

The struggle to create new life from within is a truly wonderful thing. There is found the brilliant wisdom that guides and directs the workings of reason; the light of insight that penetrates the farthest reaches of the universe; the undaunted will to see justice done that meets and challenges all the assaults of evil; the spirit of unbounded care that embraces all who suffer.

When these are fused with that energy of compassion that pours forth from the deepest sources of cosmic life, an ecstatic rhythm arises to colour the lives of all people.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Take It Easy

You Can Lead A Horse To WaterYou know the old adage, ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. I believe it means that you can introduce an idea to someone, but you can’t make them accept the suggestion.

So it is with Nichiren Buddhism, or in fact any religion, but let’s talk about Buddhism in this instance.

I have many friends who show an interest in my Practice. They ask lots of questions, often offer their views and sometimes will join me in Diamoku or Gongyo.

I find that the most difficult thing about this, is to feed their inquisitive nature without allowing my own enthusiasm to take over. It is so easy to appear evangelical and that can be a most unattractive trait, particularly for someone who is just taking the first tentative steps.

If you were teaching a child to swim, you wouldn’t take them to the poolside, explain a little about how to do the breast stroke and then push them into the deep end to experience it for themselves. At best, they might flounder their way back to the side, never to ask you for guidance ever again, at worst they might get into real difficulties, need rescuing and develop such a phobia, that they would never go near deep water again.

And so it can be with Buddhism. Like learning to swim, Buddhist practice can open up amazing new vistas on the world and be a life-long pleasure, but it has to be introduced gently, wisely and at the right pace for each and every individual.

To try to rush someone into Buddhism, or swimming for that matter, may be depriving that person of a life-changing journey, so show some wisdom and let them go at their own pace.

Many A True Word

Robbie Di MatteoAs a lifelong Chelsea fan, I have been rather upset (understatement of the century alert) at the debacle that has unfolded over the last forty eight hours. The manner in which Chelsea manager, and long time crowd favourite, Roberto Di Matteo was dismissed has left a very bitter taste in the mouth of many fans.

To compound the hurt, it now transpires, that the Chelsea board and Mr Abramovic, have appointed ex-Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez as a short term replacement. Now anyone who follows football will know that Red and Blue doesn’t mix well in football terms, and Chelsea and Liverpool have a long and rather angry history between the clubs.

If that were not reason enough to preclude Benitez’s appointment, there are a number of well documented statements, made by Benitez during his time at Liverpool, which suggest that he will have a rough ride during his time with the club, starting with his opening game in charge, against Premiership Champions Manchester City, this coming weekend.

I can hear the mutterings from here. What has any of this to do with Buddhism? Well let us see. As Buddhists, we are responsible for every one of our thoughts, words and deeds, and for the effects those actions may have at some point in the future.

Words are like weapons if we use them in the wrong way. They can permanently injure people and relationships. They can destroy years of trust in a single second and set friend against friend. Very much like weapons, once said, they cannot be unsaid again in an attempt to remedy any resulting damage.

So, before you are tempted to load your next salvo of hurtful words, think what the long term consequences might be. Imagine how you might feel if those same words were the last you ever said to someone. Sometimes it is better to keep your thoughts to yourself and let the angry words drift away unsaid. You can never, ever, take them back.

A Little Common Sense

The Patchwork Quilt Of PeaceI’m sure you will be as relieved as I to hear about the cease-fire that has been announced this evening between Israel and Hamas in Egypt. The Gaza situation has been a long and festering sore in the complicated puzzle that is the Middle East, so any glimmer of hope that a long term solution might be found should be welcomed.

It is sad to realise that over one hundred and fifty people have lost their lives in the recent escalation along the Israeli border. There cannot really be any excuse, on either side, for the almost total lack of dialogue over the past months and years. It almost appears that the current arrangement suits the aggressive nature of both sides.

Despite that, we should all applaud the efforts of Egypt, to bring the protagonists together in an attempt to secure this successful outcome. Working towards World Peace, or Kosen-Rufu as we call in in Nichiren Buddhism, is like making, and mending, a patchwork quilt. But like a quilt, the result can be so much greater that the sum of the parts, and is a beautiful thing to behold.

Let us chant and pray that both sides are prepared to honour their side of the agreement and that the patchwork quilt holds strong while growing ever larger and more amazing.

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