Be The Sunshine

Be The Sunshine

Life has it’s ups and downs, as we all know. Little things can make friends and family members unhappy or even depressed, so make it your job to make them feel better.

There are so many people, so many lives on this planet, too numerous, in fact, to count.

From this great multitude, we wondrously find ourselves together with those in our families, as parents and children, as brothers and sisters, as husbands and wives.

If we do not live joyfully and cheerfully with whom we share this profound bond, what is life for?

Should the atmosphere at home be sombre, you can be the ‘sunshine’. By being a shining presence, you can cast the light of hope on your mother, father, children and indeed all of your family and friends.

Making A Splash?

Ripples Around The WorldOne of the principles of Nichiren Buddhism concerns the Oneness of Self and the Environment and how that connection affects all of us in ways we sometimes fail to grasp.

If you drop a pebble, no matter how small, into a pond, the ripples generated spread out in all directions and interact with everything in their path.

This principle states that there is a connection between the person and others around him or her. It is therefore clear that changes in our life-state, the way we relate or react to others and changes due to our Practice will affect those whose lives we interact with.

Some of these affects are very obvious. If we walk around with a happy demeanour, we find that people are more likely to be pleasant towards us. If, on the other hand, we walk around in a bad mood, with a scowl on our face, we find that people are less friendly and may try to avoid us completely.

Ok, so no rocket science there then, but there are more subtle ways in which changes can be felt. In my own case, my Practice has allowed me to stabilise my life-state, generally I am now more often in higher Worlds (see The Ten Worlds) than lower ones. The result of that is that I am better placed to create value, for myself and those around me.

I think it is also important to be aware that the ripples, whilst being generally well accepted, can also rock the boat in some circumstances. I had to smile to myself when my post from yesterday caused a great deal of ripples, with pretty much everyone I hold dear ringing, texting or mailing to ask me what the decision was about.

My Practice is changing me and those changes are affecting others. That’s why it is so important for me to ensure that as these changes take place, my Wisdom, Courage and Compassion increases too, so I can make sure the changes are all good ones.

Decisions, Decisions

The Fork In The RoadSometimes we have an opportunity to do something different, something that takes us out of our comfort zone, and challenges our courage and determination. At that point we have a choice to make. Do we grasp the opportunity with both hands, jump in with both feet, or do we tell ourselves that it’s more prudent to back away and take the safe route?

Years ago, when my Dad retired, we went to the pub together, just the two of us. Now my Dad was a really good man, he stood up for his principles and he cared for his family as all good men do. He was always risk averse, never went out on a limb, always took the prudent path.

I remember asking him that night in the pub, “Do you like Guinness Dad?” to which he replied “No, I’ve never had one”. It was funny, it was very much my Dad. He would not leave his comfort zone, even for a different beer. Now my aunt has often said that I am “Just like my father” and in some ways I am, and proud of it.

But with this opportunity, I’m going to be different, I’m going to leave my comfort zone and grasp it with both hands. I’m going to use all the wisdom I have accrued over the years and make the most of the opportunity, after all, they don’t come along every day.

Kosen Rufu – World Peace

The Palos Verdes Blue - Rare And FragileWhat is peace? The definition in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary says this:

1 : a state of tranquillity or quiet: as

a : freedom from civil disturbance
b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom <a breach of the peace>


2 :
freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions

3 : harmony in personal relations

4

a : a state or period of mutual concord between governments
b : a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity

5

—used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

at peace

: in a state of concord or tranquillity

So we can see that the word itself has many meanings, but in the context of this post, we will be talking about the fourth of those meanings, peace between governments or people of differing political or religious beliefs.

The seemingly never ending situation between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs would appear to be a perfect example of how the parties on the two sides of an argument hold such deep seated principles, that neither will concede any ground to the other. The resulting stalemate has been the cause of hundreds of deaths, yet still the conflict remains. A typical no-win, blame-each-other, under-no-circumstances-show-any-weakness type of stand-off, with the ordinary man and women in the street bearing the brunt.

Peace, it would appear from historical evidence, is not a natural state of affairs. The predominant trait of humans would seem to be to want more and more, be that power, money, land or generally any commodity you care to mention. Far from the quest for peace, governments and nations, tribes and religions, have been locked in an eternal quest to become the dominant entity since time began. That process goes on and on, and shows no sign of abating even in the modern age.

We comically call ourselves civilised people, and I suppose in the very broad sense of the word we are. But to my mind, civilised people work together to create a situation of mutual respect and harmony in which all, not just those at the top, can prosper. I don’t see a great deal of that anywhere around here. The Have’s have it all and the Have-Not’s have not a hope in hell of breaking the mould.

With all the tensions created between these Have’s and Have-Not’s, be they economic, power, religious or political, the balance between the protagonists is destroyed. Where there is imbalance there is stress, where there is stress there is a destructive force that will continue to exist until either the balance is restored or one of the sides is destroyed.

Peace, by which I mean a lasting mutual agreement, can only be achieved and maintained by seeking out this balance. Whilst there are any aggrieved feelings by either party, the peace is in jeopardy, although it may be that it can be maintained temporarily by one side or the other accepting the imbalance. The situation will not last however, the destructive forces will always come to the fore eventually.

The primary goal of Nichiren Buddhists, Kosen-Rufu, or World Peace will only come about when the process of Human Revolution is complete. This involves the entire population of the planet learning the ways of happiness and hence finding a universal peace. As SGI president Daisaku Ikeda put it …

“Just like a cloth, kosen-rufu is woven from vertical and horizontal threads. The vertical threads represent the passing of Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching from mentor to disciple, parent to child, senior to junior. The horizontal threads represent the impartial spread of this teaching, transcending national borders, social classes and all other distinctions. Simply put, kosen-rufu is the movement to communicate the ultimate way to happiness—to communicate the highest principle of peace to people of all classes and nations through the correct philosophy and teaching of Nichiren”

If did seem for a while in 2011, that there was as seed change happening, starting with the Arab Spring. it really did feel as though the marvellous quote from Daisaku Ikeda,

“A great resolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of an entire society and further, will cause a change in the destiny of humankind.”

was actually about to come to fruition. But the forces of evil, otherwise known as the greedy bastards who govern most countries, were not going to let their power slip so easily.

Every day we hear about further atrocities and conflicts. The on-going conflict in Egypt brings scenes of death and violence onto our TV screens every evening of late.

Not wishing in any way to end this post on a down-beat note, but it is clear that Peace is a very fragile and elusive thing. Like the Palos Verdes Blue it is very rarely seen, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or that, given the right environment, it won’t flourish and cease to be so rare.

Let us have faith in Kosen-Rufu, or whatever you wish to call it, remove this underlying current of greed and violence and make the world a happy and peaceful place for once.

Namaste ~ Anupadin

Thinking Straight

Right-ThinkingOne of the many aims of Nichiren Buddhism is to smooth out the emotional highs and lows in life. through right thinking. However, one of the most difficult things to do, personally speaking, is to remain in a constant life-state when confronted by the highs and lows of life.

A Buddhist quotation says that “The Wise Man is neither elated by success nor deflated by failure”. That is not to say that you cannot be happy when you succeed, or sad when you fail, it’s about the intensity of those feelings and trying to stay nearer the mid-point.

I find it tough at times, but the more I practice. the better I’m getting at achieving an equilibrium.

A Change For The Better

Human Revolution - Change For The BetterIn today’s world where global issues are so important, many people feel a sense of powerlessness and resignation; a feeling that no individual’s efforts can change the way things are.

But the Buddhist viewpoint is that the world should be seen from the perspective of the individual, and that the human life contains the entire universe.

That is why changing our own lives one by one will bring a change in our family, our community, and the society in which we live. It will change the age we live in, our history, and indeed all aspects of our world.

If we look for the true causes of war, we see that it is essentially caused by the human mind. War stems from the desire to control and conquer others, to have power, and from hatred and antipathy. Such is a human being in the grip of the negative force of life. World peace starts with the inner transformation of the individual, and the struggle to elevate our state of life, and free ourselves from the domination of the negative force of life.

A single sunflower contains the seeds for more than a thousand new plants. Similarly, when one brave person stands up for peace, his or her resolve spreads out into the environment in thousands of ways. Courage always brings a response. One person’s human revolution can therefore eventually change the destiny of the entire human race.

The Spirit of Human Revolution

In his writing On Attaining Buddhahood, Nichiren Daishonin conveys the basic spirit of human revolution: “You must never think that any of the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Shakyamuni’s lifetime or any of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three existences are outside yourself. Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death in the least unless you perceive the true nature of your own life.” [WND p3]

We could summarise the spirit of this teaching as being, “It’s not up to others; nor can I blame anyone else. I have to change myself first.” It is a viewpoint which says, everything in life is part of our own training; it is for our benefit and development. Human revolution takes place right now, in the situation we find ourselves at this moment.

World peace starts with this inner transformation of the individual. And yes it is a struggle to develop and elevate our state of life but human revolution is the foundation for world peace and also for individual peace and happiness. It is at the heart of our Buddhist practise. It is about changing our heart and drawing out our humanity.

It is the most amazing feeling as you discover that if the cause of your suffering is within the realms of your own life then you and only you can change that aspect of your life. This is the most freeing feeling. This is human revolution and the door to your Buddhahood.

Human revolution brings into play all the principles and processes that make up the Buddhist teachings of life. Learning to be able to live our lives on the basis of correct teachings is part of our human revolution. The process is a transformation of the heart.

Transforming the Self, Living the Teachings

When we commit our lives to chanting we embark on a journey of self-discovery and challenge. By taking responsibility for our feelings and emotions, especially those we most dislike, we come to realise we have the ability to transform our lives from within. As we broaden our experiences of chanting daimoku we get experiences of our environment reflecting the transformation of our inner lives. This could be in our family relationships, at work or in other aspects of life.

It is usually within one of these arenas that we find life can be difficult or cause us to suffer. As we continue chanting, the more we start to see our lives very differently. At first this process may seem a little uncomfortable because it is quite unique and new to us. We may or may not like what we see. Perhaps we realise we have set attitudes or opinions about others or various issues that make us suffer. It may seem that others have a problem with us. This can draw out all sorts of feelings and emotions that can make us uneasy, or uncomfortable.

Getting this kind of reaction does not mean that chanting is not working or that it is working in a negative way. On the contrary you are actually in the process of transforming exactly that which has always led you to suffer in that particular area of your life. Your chanting is illuminating an area of your life that needs to change for your own happiness. The realisation that this opinion or attitude stems from our own lives and not from others opinions of us, leads us to uncover the Buddha nature inherent in our lives. The quickest way to transform these feelings or attitude is to keep chanting until you realise the cause of these uncomfortable feelings.

However, it may be that is exactly when you find it the most difficult time to chant. You are on the brink of changing a part of your life that always stops you from progressing or being happy. It will probably feel like walking up a hill backwards. At such times obstacles and devils arise. You will probably be able to justify why it is more beneficial to watch TV than do gongyo or chant or tell a friend about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or study some of Nichiren Daishonin`s writings. But this is exactly the time to do these things in order to break through and win over something that has always held you back. This is the time to muster a fighting spirit and to be courageous.

In his book Seven Paths to Peace, Daisaku Ikeda talks about human revolution in terms of self-mastery. Simply put, this means winning control over oneself, overcoming the small self that is dominated by narrow self-interest and awakening to the larger self that works for the good of all humanity. From this standpoint a major obstacle to developing ourselves is to pursue a way of life bound by our small ego or self. Expanding from the lesser self to the greater self is the path of human revolution.

Through our practice of introducing others to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, and through efforts to share Buddhism with others, we ourselves grow immensely, we can carry out our human revolution, and transform our karma. Therefore by guiding another individual towards happiness, we also guide ourselves towards happiness. The act of introducing others to Buddhism, which enables us to profoundly benefit both ourselves and others, is the formula of hope for humanity.

At a time when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood, or at a time when a person is at a turning point in doing their human revolution, the negative aspect of life will always appear in some form. This is an unavoidable fact of life! Nichiren Daishonin assures us of this and asks us to transmit it as an axiom or principle of faith so that it is understood by all those who practise.

Taken from the SGI-UK study notes, this encapsulates the meaning of Human Revolution. It beautifully explains the way that self discipline through practice makes us examine our own thoughts and deeds and promotes an inner change by increasing our self awareness.

Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (at least) twice a day, every day may seem a mindless practice, but it enables us to devote our whole lives to changing for the better.

The Dead Centre Of Town

Keynsham Cemetery - BristolYou get a very different viewpoint from the saddle of a bicycle, and you tend to have a little more time to take in your surroundings, than whilst driving. We have all seen our local cemeteries, but on my recent travels, they seemed to be a regular, if not constant reminder of our eternal state of impermanence.

Haycombe Cemetery - BathBuddhism looks at death in a similar way to sleep, it is not the end of something, it is a period of rest before the beginning of something new.

Upton Cemetery - PooleIn 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 have no great desire to hasten its coming.

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

Keynsham Cemetery - Dead End

It would appear however, from the signs above, that the local authority in Keynsham do not share the Buddhist belief in The Wheel of Life, the cycle of birth, death and re-birth.

Dead-end? I don’t think so.

Changes Over Time

Nam Myoho Renge KyoIf you research Buddhism, you will find, as with Christianity, that there are many schools or sects, believing much the same basic principles, but with their own embellishments or focus.

When I first became a Buddhist, I was rather naive about the different schools and followed the Kadampa tradition practiced at the Shantideva Buddhist centre in Maidenhead, later moving to Reading.

Kadampa Buddhism focuses on the teachings of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and the centre of the practice is concentrated on clearing the mind through meditation. The cause of much unhappiness and suffering is due to desirous attachment to property, people or situations, according to Kelsang Gyatso. The way to remove suffering is therefore to break the links of desirous attachment and accept the principle of impermanence.

This is all very well in an eastern third world country, where possessions are few, life is lived at a different pace and everyone, or at least the majority, hold the same beliefs. Here in the west, where Judaeo Christianity is the predominant religion, Kadampa Buddhism only works if you can remove yourself from the mainstream society and immerse yourself in study within one of their centres.

I also felt that the worship of gods within the temple was wrong. Shakyamuni was a man, he never proclaimed to be, or to be connected with, any deity. So where did all these gods spring from. I believe they are the manifestation of the metaphorical gods of The Lotus Sutra, made real by man’s need for a focus of worship. Not for me, this went against my atheist beliefs and lost the focus of the practice in my eyes.

Over time I drifted away from the practice, and it was only when I was suffering because of the breakdown of my marriage, that I sought Buddhism once again. This time, I was lucky, or fortunate as we would say in Buddhism (no such thing as luck), to find Jason Jarrett’s podcasts, and through that, William Woollard’s The Reluctant Buddhist and Eddy Canfor-Dumas’ The Buddha, Geoff and Me.

Immediately, the sense that my own life would be put back in my own hands, that belief was in the self and one’s ability to achieve Buddhahood in this lifetime, struck a chord. At last, a Practice that worked with real life, that answered questions instead of posing several more. A Practice that has helped me more over the best part of a year, than any other practice has done in the past fifty years.

I wish I had been as fortunate as Ken, Jayne, William, Eddy and so many, many others, who found Nichiren Buddhism ten, fifteen, twenty or more years ago. My life would have been completely transformed, and I believe, entirely for the better.

There is a letter from Nichiren Daishonin to the wife of the late Matsuno, which describes how unlikely, and difficult it is to meet the Practice in a lifetime, it is well worth reading and explains just how lucky I have been to find my faith at last.

Be Grateful For What You Have

Be GratefulWe all have the ability to feel sorry for ourselves. Sometimes it seems we have problem after problem, and think the world is against us. But we can all take a step back and look at our situation compared to others, and be honest enough to see that there are other people in much worse circumstances.

In Buddhist terms, the effects in our lives are caused by the causes we make along our way, it’s called Karma. Whilst it is difficult sometimes, to reconcile ourselves with the fact that we have, in some way caused our own problems, it is important to remember that we are not being punished.

So when you have had enough of your troubles, and are ready to throw in the towel, just take time to look around and realise that there is always someone worse off somewhere.

Be grateful for what you have, and concentrate on making causes for the effects you need to improve the situation. To do anything else is to lack Courage and Wisdom and that doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself.

Home Again, Home Again …

Home Again, Home Again ...You know there feeling, you’ve got a closer look at a possible problem, and the closer you look, the more nerve wracking the challenge becomes. So it was with my ride back to Poole today. Having done the journey hundreds of times in the car, I got an ‘up close and personal’ look at all the hills on my way up to Bristol on Friday, so I knew what was now in store for me on my way home.

I had wondered about taking a slightly different route back, going via Salisbury instead of Shaftsbury and Blandford Forum. But upon reflection, that seemed a bit like cheating. I had enjoyed flying down the hills on the way there, so I would repay the ‘debt’ by cycling up them on the way back.

The more I thought about the route, the more I seemed to focus on the difficult sections on the ride ahead. But with my confidence buoyed by the ride on Friday I said my goodbyes to Hannah and Stanley and set off just before 8:00am.

The morning air was rather fresh, particularly on the downhill stretches, but the Bristol area is anything but flat, and soon I was nicely warmed by some pretty steep inclines into Keynesham. The ride through Saltford was busy but easy, then I came to Pennyquick Hill, leading up to Haycombe Cemetery.

Although it has a cycle path, the surface is rough and loose in places, and as Rob had mentioned, it is really rather steep. But I dug in, concentrated on the next meter, then the next, then the one after that, and pretty soon I was at the top.

Haycombe CemetryThe ride down the other side is a real treat, but then you hit Whiteway Road, and in trying to negotiate a grotty surface I lost all my momentum. The walk up to the cemetery, to a point where I could safely get myself going again was a real disappointment.

But, blowing my own trumpet a bit here, that was the only time I walked with the bike. Some of the hills on the A350 were really tough, but I was determined and my legs were working well. Even Midford Hill and the twisty lane through Kingsettle Wood leading into Shaftsbury were conquered.

Shaftsbury Bus StopEntering Shaftsbury I decided I deserved a short rest, so I made use of the bus stop I had sat in on the outward journey. A few swigs of isotonic drink, to replenish the salts I had lost, a post on Facebook to let people know I was still OK, then an Orange energy sachet, a couple more swigs to wash it down and I was off again.

Apart from a short shower at Blandford Forum, which was actually rather refreshing, the rest of the journey was rather uneventful. Anyone seeing me ride through Upton and into Hamworthy must have thought that I was some escaped lunatic, the grin on my face was from ear to ear.

The trip had taken me just over five and a quarter hours, three quarters of an hour less than Friday and although I am nicely tired, I am non the worse for the experience. Another example of defeating the doubts that The Dark Passenger puts in my head, and maybe another step further along the path.

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