Giving It Everything

Cycling HeavenFor all I know, Daisaku Ikeda may well be a keen cyclist, but whatever his interest, these thoughts sum up exactly why we push ourselves till it hurts on an all too frequent basis …

People shouldn’t hesitate to exert their all, in a way true to themselves. How can you possibly ever know how far or fast you can go if you’ve never run all-out? To give up before you’ve even tried is actually arrogance – an affront to the wondrous power of life within you and disrespectful to yourself.

There may be times when others seem enviable. But others are others, and you are you. Rather than comparing your joys and sorrows to those of others, you should aim to surpass your limits in the situation you are in right now. Those who can do this are the true victors in life.

Now who’s up for a 75km ride tonight, that’ll put me on just over 1000km for the month of June.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Avoiding The Potholes

In The SaddleFive of us set off from Whitecliff Park this morning, determined to have fun cycling a 50 mile circuit that Ben had set for us.

Cycling in a group is fun, we work for each other and try, where possible, to warn the others about the frequent and numerous potholes along the way.

If you ride a bike 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’s a record of how we did today … Click Here

Getting The Message Across

People Queueing For The Bournemouth Vegan FairThe inaugural Bournemouth Vegan Fair was held today at the Highcliff Marriot hotel in Bournemouth.

Lizzi Shaw, aka Dorset Vegan, did a magnificent job of putting the event together, and was rewarded today by a torrent of visitors, all keen to discover what veganism could offer them.

The exhibitors list read like a who’s who of proudly ethical vegan companies, organisations who put their actions ahead of their profits, service before their shareholders and ethics before anything else.

The first couple of hours saw over six hundred visitors coming into the arena. At times there was a queue as the organisers adhered to the rules of health and safety, but the sun shone and everyone was patient.

Crowds At The Inaugrual Bournemouth Vegan FairMany of the exhibitors actually ran out of products to sell within an hour of the doors opening, just a single example of the success of the event. Everyone I spoke to was glowing in their praise of Lizzi, and expressed desire to attend the event in 2015, before the dust had settled.

So success for the exhibitors, those whose products adhere to the ethics of veganism, empty boxes and full tills. Success also for Lizzi and all of us who are working so hard to get the vegan message out there. Success too for Bournemouth, which now has a long overdue Vegan fair as part of the Food Festival.

A Sudden Realisation

A Sudden ThoughtOccasionally I really surprise myself, or rather something that in all truth should be blindingly obvious, suddenly permeates my grey matter and comes as a bit of a shock.

I’ve been writing my blog for nearly four years now, and over eighty thousand people have visited it in that time, but it struck me today that the whole purpose behind it and my practice, is to help myself and others, to reach a state of enlightenment.

Sensei says this of enlightenment, or the state of Buddhahood:

If we attain the state of Buddhahood in this lifetime, that state will forever pervade our lives. Throughout the cycle of birth and death, in each new lifetime, we are endowed with good health, wealth and intelligence, along with a supportive, comfortable environment, and lead lives that overflow with good fortune. Each of us will also possess a unique mission and be born in an appropriate form to fulfil it.

Quite a powerful statement, but really, just how amazing will that be? And there was the shock, that my practice and my musings about it each day are actually helping me, and hopefully you, along the long and winding path to a most amazing goal.

Maybe I am a bit dim, ok there’s no maybe about it, and perhaps I should have realised it sooner, but I hope that my posts help others, even if it is only a simple thought that strikes a chord.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Converse One And All

Social NetworkingWe are surrounded by communication, we are all connected, to a greater or lesser degree, to almost every other human being on the planet. So when it might be nice to have a quiet moment of contemplation occasionally , we should embrace the sentiment in Sensei’s message …

The age when silence was considered an indication of wisdom is over. This is an age of the people, an age of dialogue, a time when people must share their opinions and thoroughly discuss things. To withdraw into an isolated world of quiet contemplation leads to defeat in life.

Missing Mouse

The Wheel Of LifeThe passing of my pet rat Mouse led me to think about a Buddhist poem about death, from the Buddhist viewpoint.

Though we may relinquish our body in this lifetime, we are not gone, nor will we ever be. Animals are no exception to this, they are simply closer to the start of their path than are humans.

We are all animals after all …

This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born, and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and seek.
So laugh with me, hold my hand, let us say good-bye, say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s Nice To Be Told

It's Nice To Be ToldI had the pleasure of having someone tell me they loved me today. Whilst it was very nice to hear, it did come as a bit of a shock, as I had no idea the person felt so fondly about me.

When I tell you that it was a young man, one of my Saudi students, and that he told me he wants me to become a Muslim because he loves me and wants me to go to Heaven, you now get the full picture.

Loving, and being loved is really great isn’t it? There is little to compare with the feeling one gets from being part of a loving relationship, but there are two types of love, unconditional and conditional.

Unconditional love is about giving without limits, about being happy for the happiness of others. Conditional love, on the other hand, can be painful for both parties. Elements of jealousy, or the need to be loved in order to love, can lead the way to a painful end of the relationship.

Buddhism defines love as an action. It is that force that motivates people to become better, to improve themselves in order to reach eternity and happiness. Love brings out the best in people, as when they love, the target is not themselves but the beloved one. This wish to serve the other is a reflection of an innate knowledge that everyone is connected through the same principle, and therefore, it is an illusion to believe that one can achieve true happiness while those around haven’t attained it . So, love is the action that makes people forego their own ego and concentrate their efforts on the other in a search for fulfilment.

Personally, I have been criticised for suggesting that, if my partner would be happier with someone else, I would not stand in their path. That feeling, I believe, shows that I love them unconditionally and, arguably, more than someone who wants to control or confine them. It does not mean that I want them to go, just that I want them to be happy, and that my happiness is found through their happiness.

Achieving unconditional love is hard. So many people feel that they need to be loved to be happy. In fact, the most happiness comes from loving another, and the need to be loved is often a sign of insecurity. Loving unconditionally requires a totally unselfish attitude to the other. Being happy when they are happy, being happy for them when they succeed, rather than feeling jealous of their success. Keeping those negative feelings in check requires constant effort, but the happiness gained from so doing is unbounded.

So take a look at your motives next time you tell that special someone that you love them. Will you still love them if that love is not reciprocated? Are you happy for them when they find pleasure in something that is of no interest to you? Would you sacrifice the relationship if that added to their happiness? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you are not loving unconditionally.

It is not the end of things if you are not, there is always time to change. Loving everyone, in the broadest sense of the word, is a very rewarding way to lead your life. Being concerned for the happiness of someone who clearly has no time for you is tough. Going the extra mile to ensure that the happiness of another at the expense of yourself is not necessarily a natural thing to do, but the rewards for doing so are great indeed.

So next time you say ‘I love you’ to someone, try mentally tagging on ‘no matter what’ to that phrase and see how that makes you feel inside. If you can honestly say that it makes no difference to you saying it, then you have reached the state of unconditional love and that will reward you every time you say it.

Gohonzon Central

The GohonzonHaving my Practice at the very core of my life, as my Honzon, as my anchor, is a very liberating state of affairs. As the focus of that Practice is my Gohonzon, making it the absolute centre and the pivot, around which my whole life revolves.

Of course, the centre of many people’s lives are their partners, their children, their families and that is perfectly acceptable, but does mean that their anchor is not fixed, it is ever changing. These changes can be a major source of unhappiness. How often have we seen the elderly couple, totally devoted to each other, that when one of them dies, the other goes soon after.

Having Buddhism and my Practice as my Honzon doesn’t mean that my family or friends mean any less to me, but it does mean that as situations change, as problems arise, my anchor remains firm and I can cope with those challenges all the better.

Maybe that’s not for everyone and it does take a conscious effort to make the change. But for me the effort is repaid many, many times over by the feeling of constancy and stability in my life. As with many things in life, that constancy also affects others in a positive way, ripples of stability benefitting everyone around me.

Remain 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.

Whatever The Challenge, Start It Now !!!

Defeat Your Dark PassengerChallenges we set ourselves can be easy, or they can be hard. Generally speaking, the challenges that are worth setting, take us well out of our comfort zone. So what is the secret of success in such a situation?

Whatever the challenge, it’s easy to put off till tomorrow, that which you should start today, and to give in today, promising that you will put things right tomorrow. Feelings like that are normal. It is our Fundamental Darkness talking us into wrong thoughts and deeds. The only weapon we have against it, and we all have those thoughts, is our determination to succeed. By imagining that our Dark Passenger,  as I prefer to call it, is actually something outside ourselves, we can mentally argue our case and, through determination, change our actions.

Success is sweet, failure is bitter and the only difference between the two is determination. Any goal, no matter how large or how small, is only unattainable if you lack the determination to go on. No cause is lost until you decide that it is lost. So ignore, or better still defeat your Fundamental Darkness, have confidence in yourself, be determined, and never, ever give up. In that way, you will always be a winner, will achieve your goals, and be forever tasting that sweet taste of success.

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