Well That’s 2013 Done, Welcome 2014

Happy New Year - 2014It seems to be a recurring story, but for so many of people I know, with the exception of a couple of high points, 2013 has been a year of sadness, and another one that most will be happy to see the back of.

Deaths, divorces, illness and redundancy have run a tread of sadness through the year. But as we know, the challenges in life are there to help us become stronger. And those of us who have met those challenges and grown as a result, are still here to greet the New Year.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope that 2014 will be a healthy, fortunate, positive and above all peaceful one for you all.

Looking Back, To Move Forward

Looking Backwards, To Move ForwardThere are situations and challenges in life, when the almost overwhelming tendency is to look inwards, to examine repeatedly, the reasons and causes that have brought us to this point in time.

We may have certain regrets about things we did, or indeed didn’t do, but the fact of the matter is that the past is set in stone.

Of course, making sense of situations, and the events that brought them about, can be very useful if we are to avoid making repeated mistakes or errors of judgement. But a continuous process of navel gazing is never going to get us back out into the big wide world. Imagine what you would miss, if you were to sit and stare at your hands, neatly folded in your lap, every time you went on a train, a plane, or a car journey.

So whilst we must take care to learn from the lessons in life. We must also look forward to using those lessons as we move forward towards a brighter and happier future, buoyed by the knowledge that we are better prepared to meet whatever we might encounter around the next exciting corner.

One Hundred Per Cent

One Hundred Per CentThe true victors in life are those who, having endured repeated challenges and setbacks, have sent the roots of their spiritual being to such a depth, that nothing can ever shake them loose.

By practicing Nichiren Buddhism, with all our heart and mind, on a daily basis, can allow us to grow our own spiritual roots to a great depth. Whilst our practice takes us along the road to enlightenment, this is a powerful side-effect that makes us able to defeat anything that life throws at us.

Tradition Or Tragedy?

Tradition Or Tragedy?Having had a few days off, over the festive period, I’ve had the chance to watch the entire series of Whale Wars: Viking Shores about an operation to stop the slaughter of Pilot Whales in the Faroe Islands.

The annual Grind, the driving of pods of Pilot Whales inshore followed by their wholesale slaughter, adults and calves alike, has been going on for centuries. The islanders say that is a tradition, and it is their right to continue it.

It is a fact that, at present, Pilot Whales are not an endangered species, and that the whales killed each year for food, generally in the low hundreds, may not cause that to change. But is that any reason to continue such a barbaric practice?

In the face of opposition, from people like Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd organisation amongst many others, the islanders have adopted more humane practices, but the hauling of beached animals out of the water by inserting a hook into their blowhole, followed by the cutting of their spinal chord in front of their family members can never be called humane.

Traditions are something we all hold dear, in many ways they make us who we are as a nation, but surely there are some that must be allowed to fall by the wayside. In the time of the Roman empire, Christians were fed to lions for entertainment, I’m not sure that would be allowed nowadays.

The bloody scenes on the beaches of the Faroe Islands are just the public face of animal slaughter the world over. Images from slaughter houses and meat processing plants show just how barbaric eating other creatures really is.

Whilst I have given up eating all meat and dairy products, for a combination of health reasons and humane principles, and would like others to follow that path, I hope that any who get the opportunity to watch the series via Sky On Demand will lend their support to the Sea Shepherd and help put a stop to any form of whaling, wherever it may be happening, under any excuse.

Hold True To Your Beliefs

The Ungrateful ScorpionShortly after he had finished his practice, an old man opened his eyes to see a scorpion floating helplessly in the river that was flowing slowly past his feet.

As the scorpion was washed closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature.

As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand. A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.

At that moment, a passer-by saw the old man stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, stupid old man, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”

The old man turned his head. Looking into the stranger’s eyes he said calmly, “My friend, just because it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change my own nature to save”. There are times when, despite adversities, we need to hold true to our beliefs and faith, even when it may attract ridicule and criticism from others.

Just Think

LotusNo matter the situation, make sure that the last thing you say is not something, you or the person you say it to, will regret for the rest of your lives.

We’ve all been there, a disagreement or a heated moment, where we’ve said something we later regretted. Imagine if that were the last conversation we ever had with that person, it could leave a shadow hanging over you forever.

In terms of karma, it’s never going to be in the plus column either, is it?

So whatever you may be feeling, however the situation will be left, you can always find something positive, kind or caring with which to end the conversation. What’s the worst that can happen? It may be the last chance you ever have to say it, so have the Wisdom, Courage and Compassion to make it constructive.


Christmas Cheer

Christmas CheerWith families and friends gathering all over the world, to celebrate Christmas, it can be one of the loneliest days of the year for those who find themselves alone.

But rather than wallowing in that loneliness, you should set yourself a goal, and be determined, not to let the situation occur again this time next year. Make causes in the coming months to change the circumstances.

In one of his writings, renowned microbiologist René Dubos, stated. “History teaches that man without effort is sure to deteriorate; man cannot progress without effort, and man cannot be happy without effort.” This is indisputable.

You may be experiencing various hardships now, but because you continue to make efforts in the midst of those challenges, no matter how painful they are, you will definitely become happy. Effort and happiness are indivisible.

Merry Christmas One And All

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.

My deepest wish for this holiday, and for the coming year, is that we all learn to live together in peace and harmony. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in 2014, there were no more reports of war, and that governments got together to wipe out disharmony, poverty, famine and injustice. Just imagine what that would mean for mankind.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Finally, We’re On The Way Back

The Shortest DayLast Saturday was the shortest day of the year here in the UK and strangely, some may say, it’s my favourite day of the year. Why, I can hear you asking, isn’t the longest day of the year more favoured, all those lovely hours of daylight, and often sunshine too? Well it’s because today marks the nadir of the year in terms of daylight. From now on we get an extra minute or so more light each day, and that’s something to look forward to.

Daisaku Ikeda has some very wise words for these long dark days, and offers a welcome ray of hope …

“Even if today may seem to be a time of total darkness, it will not last forever. The dawn will surely come if you advance, ever forward, without being defeated.

The day will definitely come when you can look back fondly and declare, “I am savouring this happiness because I struggled back then.” It is those who know the bitterness of winter that can savour the true joy of spring.”

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Beauty Everywhere

American BeautyMaybe I’m strange, but one of my favourite films is American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. It is the story of a dysfunctional family and the interaction between them and their new neighbours. It involves Lester Burnham, played by Spacey, his wife Carolyn, played by Bening and their daughter Jane, played by Thora Birch, who befriends the boy next door, Ricky Fitts, played by Wes Bentley.

Ricky videos life, all aspects of life, and sees the beauty in everything from a dead bird to a plastic bag dancing in the wind. It’s not an easy watch. It touches on all manner of issues, from death, drugs and interpersonal problems to Nazi memorabilia, gay rights and marital infidelity, but it is beautifully acted and even more beautifully filmed.

Having watched it again, but for the first time in high definition today, it got me thinking about the sheer amount of beauty in life. Of course, much of life is ugly, but there is often an underlying beauty there too. It reminded me of a set of photos I took at Westonbirt arboretum a couple of years ago, that I reworked into a video set to music. I challenge you to watch the video and not to see just how beautiful life can be, even when the subject is autumn leaves, the dying season of the year. Watch it here.

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