Still Looking

Still LookingWe all have to find our own path to enlightenment. One person’s way may not be that of another, but we all have a path, if we take the time, and have the courage to find it.

Everyone has the right to flower, to reveal his or her full potential as human beings and to fulfil their particular mission in this world. You have this right, as does everyone else.

This is the meaning of human rights. To scorn, violate and abuse people’s human rights destroys the natural order of things.

Valuing human rights and showing respect for other people are amongst our most important tasks in life.

Steady As She Goes

Steady As She GoesThere are times when we need to be reminded of the important things in life. When distractions come along it’s all too easy to get side tracked and let our focus slip. It isn’t that we forget that our Practice is the centre of our lives, it’s just that sometimes life itself can get in the way, albeit temporarily.

When everything comes along at once, it can all be a little too much to cope with. But being reminded that our practice is the one constant that keeps us on the straight and narrow is a very good thing. When we remember that everything pivots around our honzon, that our faith is central and the very thing that makes us who we are, we can take steps to realign ourselves.

Take a frim grip of the wheel, get your ship back on your desired heading, feel the wind of change at your back and focus on the horizon. Chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, and it’s steady as she goes captain !!!

Keep On Sewing

Sew Those Hidden GemsPassing on the ideas and ideals behind Buddhist teachings is a little like sewing a hidden gem into the lining of a friends clothes.

This is the parable about the rich man, the poor man, and the hidden gem …

A poor man visits a rich friend, gets drunk, and passes out.

The rich man, who has to leave on business, gives his poor man a priceless gem, which he secretly sews into the lining of his friend’s clothes.

When the poor man comes to, he resumes his life as a vagrant, unaware of the treasure he received during his blackout.

Later, he meets the rich man again, who shows him where the gem is concealed, and the poor man realizes his wealth.

Discovering the gem, even years later, can transform a poor life into one of untold enlightened riches, so keep sewing those gems of wisdom into the people you meet in life.

The act of giving benefits both parties and you never know when you might be giving to just the right person, at the right time and place, to transform their life for the better, forever.


Light The Blue Touch Paper

BombI read with much interest today, that the Cambridge Union debating society are hosting a debate between Professor Richard Dawkins and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The topic of the debate, being held on Thursday, is “This house believes that religion has no place in the 21st Century”.

The bringing together of two such polarised views appears to be exciting the members of the society, with their president, Ben Kentish claiming that the event should be the highlight of the society’s 200-year history.

Professor Dawkins is renowned for his outspoken views on religion, coming as he does from a very firm atheist point of view. His book, The God Delusion, sets out to portray Dawkins’ views regarding faith and the position of religion in modern life.

Professor Tariq Ramadan, known as the Muslim Martin Luther, Andrew Copson, the chief executive of the British Humanist Association, and Douglas Murray, founder of the Centre for Social Cohesion, will also take part. The debate will be attended by around 1000 students and will be recorded and made available via the union website.

In all it promises to be a very open and eventful conversation, though it is difficult to see whether the motion will be defeated or passed, given such an inflammatory motion and such illustrious personalities in their fields.

I look forward to seeing the results on video.

The Fragility Of Life

Thoughts For The VictimsReading reports of the tragic fire in Brazil my thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims. Initial investigations are reporting that over two hundred clubbers have been killed following a fire that was started by fireworks set off by a band.

Apart from the obvious thoughts of it being a needless loss of life, two other things crossed my mind. The first being that although we live in a world typically cossetted in reams of health and safety measures, life is still very fragile and should never be taken for granted.

The second though is for the person, or people, who set off the fireworks. I cannot imagine, in my wildest dreams, that there was any intent to cause a fire, but regardless of that, the responsibility for two hundred deaths lies squarely at the foot of the instigators.

I wonder how many times we make a poor decision, nip out into traffic, run that amber light, take an un-necessary risk, and get away with it? Imagine, if you can, how we might feel, if as a result of that risk, we caused an incident in which someone, maybe a child, was killed.

So as we think of the victims and those mourning the loss of their loved ones, killed in the most harrowing of ways, let us also take a moment to put ourselves in the place of the people who, albeit inadvertently, caused the deaths, for they will have to live with the responsibility of their actions until the end of time.

One Step Back

One Step BackSince starting the medication prescribed by my doctor on Monday, my cough seems to have been getting better day by day. But as with many things in life, with a little progress also comes the odd setback, and so it was today.

I was looking forward to the Men’s meeting this morning. The chance to see Ken, Jack, Boots and the others after much too long an absence. But settling down to sleep last night was fraught with problems from the start.

To begin with, the communal light in the stairway of the apartments, that is supposed to turn itself off after five minutes, refused to do so and shone in persistently through the skylights above the front door and my bedroom door.

I made myself respectable, and went up and down the stairs, trying to find a switch that was either jammed, or taped in the on position. It has happened before, but usually only when someone is moving in or out of one of the other apartments. There were no signs, so I went back to bed, tried to shield my eyes and sleep.

It must have worked, because the next thing I remember was waking up with a choking coughing fit. Sitting on the edge of the bed has worked in past, but it took ages for the coughing to subside, heaven knows what the neighbours thought.

Throughout the night I got a succession of interruptions, though nothing as bad as the first, but by morning I was feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. Chanting didn’t help either, each time I tried, another coughing fit ensued, so I ended Gongyo in a silent mental chant.

I know we have to expect setbacks on our journey back to health and fitness, but it is rather disappointing that it happens to have coincided with the weekend, and particularly the meeting. I will chant for more progress and to ensure that I am hail and hearty in good time for the next.

Death Rocks

Wilko JohnsonThe sad news that Wilko Johnson, rock legend and member of iconic bands such as Dr Feelgood and Ian Drury and the Blockheads, has terminal pancreatic cancer, was tempered slightly by the news that the star describes himself as suddenly feeling ‘vividly alive’ when he was told the news by cancer specialists.

In a refreshingly open interview on Radio 4’s Front Row, he explains that following the diagnosis, he visited a specialist who told him he had nine or ten months to live, maybe a year if he underwent a course of chemotherapy.

Declining the chemo, Wilko immediately embarked on what might be the ultimate farewell tour. As he says, he won’t be singing ‘My Way’ for the next five years. He also explained that although the news was a shock, he has not cried about it, as he had often done over the loss of his wife through cancer, eight years ago.

I would like to think that I too would have the resilience and courage, given my belief in reincarnation and karma, to make the very best of each and every remaining minute. I guess the proof of that particular pudding will be something I get to test at some point, though I’m in no hurry.

It seems that the trend for people to need a sharp shock before they make those life-changing decisions is understandable, Wilko’s comment that we all need something like this to ‘knock a bit of sense into our heads’ seems to confirm that.

One comment really did hit home, particularly after my recent reticence to take my own ailments, minor though they appear to be to the doctor. Wilko said of his condition, “I noticed the symptoms a few months ago – there was this lump in my stomach. I treated it by ignoring it and hoping it would go away.”

Now there is a lesson for us all in that.

Persistent Little Blighter

Poison Into MedicineDespite having the best antibiotics money can buy, and upping the chanting to levels barely covered by the latest health and safety directives, this flippin’ cough is hanging on in a most tenacious manner.

I think the mere fact we are taking a pill, or drinking some potion, fools our body into feeling better, the placebo effect if you will. But the illusion never lasts and making the causes and seeing the effects  are not necessarily so closely connected. We already know that causes made in past lives are still having effects in this, so I hope the medicine works a bit quicker than that.

But despite the fact that I am still feeling less than tickety-boo, I know that I am making the right causes to see the effect I desire. So now it is a matter of trusting in the doctor, trusting in my practice, and being patient, as opposed to being a patient. Sadly it seems that although the drugs are working on the cough, they are not doing much for my jokes, but you had already worked that bit out for yourselves.

Praise Is Not A Bad Thing

A Truly Wise Man - click for the full size imageI was surprised at work today, when one of our philatelic experts pulled me up short for heaping praise upon her. In my mind, she had done a terrific job identifying a particularly rare and valuable Liberian stamp, and had emailed a client with details, and more importantly, an elusive image.

Having emailed her, I was surprised to receive a reply saying

“Hang on…..I thought we were supposed to treat praise and blame the same….i.e. ignore :-)”

She is a really lovely lady and we have spoken about Buddhism on a number of occasions, but I felt I had to explain that praise, like money, is not a problem. It is the love of praise or money that causes the trouble, the root of all evil, some might say.

I illustrated the principle by sending her the quotation from one of Nichiren’s many letters to his disciple Shojo Kingo in which he says

“Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline.”

The eight winds are those conditions that, although impossible to avoid in life, may prevent a person from travelling along the path to enlightenment. People are often swayed either by their attachment to prosperity, honour, praise, and pleasure (collectively known as “four favourites” or “four favourable winds”), or by their aversion to decline, disgrace, censure, and suffering (“four dislikes” or “four adverse winds”).

So we can see that the winds themselves are not the only challenge. In fact, it is our response to the challenges, whether we are carried away by the winds, or not, that shows us how far along out own path to enlightenment we have actually come. We see that praise itself is not a bad thing, it can benefit the receiver as well as the giver, but it is the attachment to that praise that leads to problems.

On The Up – A Little

Healing Chakras - click here for the full size imageHaving successfully navigated the doctors appointment yesterday, with the simple prognosis of a chest infection, I was looking around to see how Buddhism concerns itself with illness and healing of that illness. Those nice people at the SGI had this to say …

Buddhism teaches that illness is one of the four sufferings which cannot be completely avoided in life, whether directly or through the experiences of close family or friends.

Buddhism takes a holistic approach to the treatment of sickness, stressing both the importance of finding the best and most appropriate medical treatment and care, and also that using our Buddhist practice will enable us to summon the energy and courage needed to fight our illness.

Often facing illness can lead us to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the profound principles of Buddhism, and we find that it is possible to create something valuable out of the experience.

As Nichiren wrote:

“Life is the most precious of all treasures. Even one extra day of life is worth more than ten million ryo of gold.”

So the healing process can itself be a good case of turning poison into medicine, and the combination of chanting and modern medicine seems to be doing the trick.

Namaste ~ Anupadin

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