A Great Role Model

BuddhaThe purpose for, and the reason behind my Buddhist Practice is to bring me closer to Buddhahood, each and every day.

That is to say, to emulate, as closely as possible, the Buddha himself in the way he was able to see life and all things in a pure clarity.

Siddhārtha Gautama was a man, albeit a prince, who forsaking his life of comfort and position, went out into the world to meditate on the causes of, and ways to reduce or remove, the suffering of life.

In Nichiren Buddhism we learn about the Ten Worlds, from Hell to Buddhahood.

The Buddha state originates from the very depths of life, called the amala consciousness, meaning the fundamentally pure life force or consciousness. The function of the Buddha state is to bring out the positive side of the other nine worlds.

This principle of the Ten Worlds shows that the Buddha state is a naturally occurring condition of life in every living being. The purpose of Buddhist practice is to enable us to cause the Buddha state to appear; to have it working strongly in us.

In Nichiren Buddhism, therefore, the Buddha is not some perfect, ideal being, but is rather an ordinary person living in rhythm with the law of the universe, taking wise, courageous and compassionate action for the benefit of others, through the functioning of the nine worlds in daily life.

The more I practice, the closer I come to Buddhahood, a very positive thought for today.

Happy Birthday Dad

DadToday would have been my Dad’s 87th birthday.

This photograph of him hangs on the wall next to my desk at home, and I look at it often and remember him with great fondness and love.

He wasn’t a religious man, only going to church for weddings and the like, though he always supported my Mom in her church activities.

As a boy, I remember him as always being at work. Back then, it was quite common for people to work on Saturdays too, and as a printer, he was always busy.

My Mom was definitely his Honzon. If ever she went away for the day, she would leave him a packed lunch, an apple cut into quarters and maybe a cheese sandwich, just to make sure he ate something. He was a bit lost whenever she wasn’t around.

His one big love in life, apart from his family, was printing. Our house was always full of books and paper and print samples, and if he was ever given a book as a present, he was far more interested in who had printed it than what it was about.

In later years, he had a passion for free pistol shooting, he kept meticulous sets of figures of his scores, and used to compile the tables of scores for the club to which he belonged. He was very angry when the Government brought in stricter gun laws, and he was unable to keep his much cherished guns. He always felt that they were punishing the innocent, for the sins of the guilty.

Sadly he spent the last couple of years of his life in the World of Tranquillity. He had a heart condition that meant he didn’t have the life-energy to get out and do very much. He still read quite a lot and watched sport on TV, but he slept a lot more.

You were a great Dad, and, in your own quiet way, a great man. You were Wise, Courageous and Compassionate in so many ways, though maybe I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. I pray for you every morning and evening during Gongyo, and although I know you are back here with us somewhere, I miss you a great deal.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

The Meaning Of NMRK

Nam Myoho Renge KyoEvery day, twice a day, I chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. You see it on the headline banner of my blog and I mention it often. I thought it would be beneficial for me to revisit the meaning and I would like to share it with you. This explanation and definition comes from the Sokka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism.

[南無妙法蓮華経] Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

The ultimate Law or truth of the universe, according to Nichiren’s teaching. Nichiren first taught the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to a small group of people at Seicho-ji temple in his native province of Awa, Japan, on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in 1253. It literally means devotion to Myoho-renge-kyo. Myoho-renge-kyo is the Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra, which Nichiren regards as the sutra’s essence, and appending nam (a phonetic change of namu ) to that phrase indicates devotion to the title and essence of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren identifies it with the universal Law or principle implicit in the meaning of the sutra’s text.

The meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is explained in the opening section of The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the record of Nichiren’s lectures on the Lotus Sutra compiled by his disciple and successor, Nikko. It states that namu derives from the Sanskrit word namas and is translated as devotion, or as “dedicating one’s life.” What one should dedicate one’s life to, he says, are the Person and the Law. The Person signifies “Shakyamuni,” which means the eternal Buddha, and the Law is “the Lotus Sutra,” which means the ultimate truth, or Myoho-renge-kyo. According to Orally Transmitted Teachings, the act of devotion (namu) has two aspects: One is to devote oneself to, or fuse one’s life with, the eternal and unchanging truth; the other is that, through this fusion of one’s life with the ultimate truth, one simultaneously draws forth inexhaustible wisdom that functions in accordance with changing circumstances.

Orally Transmitted Teachings further states: “We may also note that the nam of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a Sanskrit word, while Myoho-renge-kyo are Chinese words. Sanskrit and Chinese join in a single moment to form Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. If we express the title [of the Lotus Sutra] in Sanskrit, it will be Saddharma-pundarika-sutra. This is Myoho-renge-kyo. Sad (a phonetic change of sat ) means myo, or wonderful. Dharma means ho, Law or phenomena. Pundarika means renge, or lotus blossom. Sutra means kyo, or sutra. The nine Chinese characters [that represent the Sanskrit title] are the Buddha bodies of the nine honoured ones. This expresses the idea that the nine worlds are none other than the Buddha world.”

Myo stands for the Dharma nature, or enlightenment, while ho represents darkness, or ignorance. Together as myoho, they express the idea that ignorance and the Dharma nature are a single entity, or one in essence. Renge stands for the two elements of cause and effect. Cause and effect are also a single entity.”

Kyo represents the words and voices of all living beings. A commentary says, ‘The voice carries out the work of the Buddha, and it is called kyo.’ Kyo may also be defined as that which is constant and unchanging in the three existences of past, present, and future. The Dharma realm is myoho, the wonderful Law; the Dharma realm is renge, the lotus blossom; the Dharma realm is kyo, the sutra.”

As Nichiren states, namu derives from Sanskrit, and Myoho-renge-kyo comes from Chinese. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is, therefore, not simply a Japanese phrase, but a Japanese reading of a Sanskrit and Chinese phrase. In this sense, it contains aspects of the languages of three countries in which Mahayana Buddhism spread. According to Nichiren’s treatise The Entity of the Mystic Law, Nan-yüeh and T’ient’ai of China and Dengyoof Japan recited the invocation meaning devotion to the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as their private practice, but they did not spread this practice to others.

In On the Three Great Secret Laws, Nichiren states that the daimoku Nichiren chants today in the Latter Day of the Law is different from that of the previous ages—the daimoku T’ient’ai and others chanted in the Former Day and Middle Day of the Law—because the practice of daimoku in the Latter Day of the Law involves chanting it oneself and teaching others to do so as well. Nichiren not only established the invocation (daimoku) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo but embodied it as a mandala, making it the object of devotion called Gohonzon. In Reply to Kyo’o, he states, “I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart. The Buddha’s will is the Lotus Sutra, but the soul of Nichiren is nothing other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (412).

Chant If You Want To Go Faster

Life is a rollercoasterLife is a rollercoaster at the best of times, so the ups and downs shouldn’t be a surprise. But just like a real rollercoaster, they can still make you scream at times.

Like finding you have a flat back bike tyre, just when you were planning to take yourself out for a quiet evening ride.

In this case I needed my puncture repair kit and a couple of tyre levers, but generally when I am looking for answers, or need to know the path I need to take, I chant, as you might expect. Often the answers come quite quickly, so the fact that this particular question is taking it’s time about offering up a solution must mean that I need to focus more and Chant, Chant, Chant.

The important thing to remember, is that only you can provide the answers to your questions, no one else can decide for you. Only your heart holds the key to unlock the path you must take, and only Nam Myoho Renge Kyo can turn that key.

How It Looks From Here

The Pole In The RiverWe all have a mental view of where we are going in life, what we would like our future to look like, a set of challenges that we must face if we are to achieve our goal. Each day, maybe even each second of each day, that view changes, usually just a little, sometimes quite a lot.

In a way, we can look at this from the view of a swimmer who is trying to swim against the flow of a river or a tide. He or she can swim at a constant pace, from their own viewpoint, a set number of strokes per minute, but their progress, from the viewpoint of an observer on the bank or the shore may be anything but constant.

It all depends on the strength of the current. If the current is flowing slower than the swimmer, the swimmer moves forward, if it is flowing faster than the swimmer, the swimmer moves backwards. Unsurprisingly, if the two are the same, the swimmer stays in exactly the same place.

Now we know that rivers and tides change, hourly, daily, in fact all the time. In order for the swimmer to know how fast to swim in order to make his or her desired progress they need to have a constant unchanging point on which to focus, a pole in the river, or a landmark on the shore, a point against which they can measure that progress.

Our situation in life changes in a similar way, so when we are striving towards our goals, we may think we are ‘swimming’ fast enough, think that we are making progress, when in fact, from another viewpoint, we are going nowhere, or even going backwards.

So what can we use as our ‘pole in the river’, our landmark by which we can measure our progress? Something that is constant, no matter what else changes around us. The answer, for me at least, is my practice. It is unchanging, it is strong and resilient and is always in the same place, no matter what else may be going on around me.

My practice gives me a great view of my progress. No matter what the challenge, when I chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, my perspective on things is focussed on a wider view of the situation rather than just my own viewpoint. So I know whether I am ‘swimming’ fast enough to reach my goal, or whether I need to put in more effort to achieve my aims.

Utopia In My Back Yard

Hamworthy SunsetThe beautiful weather continues, and combined with the Bank holiday, it’s brought all the tourists down to Dorset this weekend. Hamworthy Park was heaving in the sunshine today, families having picnics on the grass, children making sandcastles on the beach and paddling in the sea, and everyone having fun.

Seeing all these people, and the shouting and laughter, is a big contrast from the quiet of Moriconium Quay. I seem to spend a lot of time on my own, and although I’m fine with that, I do find it very different from when I go into town or out when there are a lot of people about.

It’s been so warm here today, and although I’ve had the doors and windows open, it was too hot in the lounge this evening. So as the sun was setting, and the temperature dropping, I decided to go out for a stroll, in an attempt to cool down a little. There were still a few people about. A bunch of guys out for an evening bike ride and a couple walking their dog, but it was much quieter than it had been earlier.

By the time I got to the park I was almost alone, the hoards had gone and because there was little or no wind, the waves were lapping gently on the deserted beach. Looking out towards Studland, there was a beautiful crescent moon rising into a soft sunset. The contrast between the backlit jetty and the peach coloured sky was stunning.

The Lumps And Bumps

Lumps and BumpsIf you ride a bicycle on UK roads, you’ll know how lovely it can be to find yourself on a stretch of nice smooth new tarmac. The lumps and bumps of our older repaired roads really can rattle your bones, so the new surface is a real treat.

Life is like that too. It’s the lumps and bumps of everyday life that make you realise just how comfortable the smooth untroubled times are. But without the rough times, we would never recognise the comparison and enjoy the easier times all the more.

We all know that as we move through life, it is impossible to stay on the smooth untroubled path. The bumpy times are a simple fact, just as they are out on the road. So when they come along, just be determined, hold on tight, keep pedalling and look forward to the smoother times ahead.

Here are a couple of photos from my ride today …

MuddefordBranksome Chine Beach

Get It Sorted

Rubik's CubeSorting out our life can be a bit like solving a Rubik’s cube, each aspect 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 just like that. Every aspect of life is connected, to our family, our friends, our work. 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 often 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.

That Warm Feeling

Heaven And HellA man was offered the chance to visit Heaven and Hell. Upon entering Hell he was greeted by the sight of an infinitely long room filled with tables laden with the finest of foods, meat, fruit, wine and all manner of delicacies. But around the tables sat groups of starving people, crying out in their hunger. He realised that each person was holding a spoon, but the spoons were so long that they were unable to feed themselves.

He then went to Heaven and was surprised to see exactly the same scene. The same room was filled with the same tables, covered with the same food. But this time, around the tables sat groups of well fed, happy people. They too were holding spoons, the same length as those poor souls in Hell. The difference was that these people were feeding each other and so could eat as much as their hearts desired.

Here on Earth, that might just be the difference between our own personal Heaven or Hell. Helping others, in Buddhism, also helps us, indirectly, through the accumulation of positive karma. But whether you are Buddhist or not, helping others is the best way to make life so much happier and better for everyone, and compassion to our fellow man can give us all a wonderfully warm feeling.

3rd Party Fire And Distress

A Broken 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. I have needed to have the Wisdom to step back from the problem, and look at it in a dispassionate way.

The Courage to determine my feelings, from that detached viewpoint and the Compassion to offer help if required, knowing that your offer may well be rejected. 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 problem or not. These opinions may well be founded on sound principles and deeply held beliefs, but they are not help, they are just opinions.

If you find yourself in such a situation, you must be prepared to wait to be asked for your help. Staying detached, objective and silent, may be all the help you can offer at that time. Time is a great healer, often the only healing medium we have, so be prepared to extend your Wisdom, Courage and Compassion over the long term.

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