On My Responsibility …

Ripples In A PondAt some point during the last 24 hours, the number of visits to my blog passed the 100,000 mark, which I find amazing, but which also illustrates the burden of responsibility I have for the topics I post about.

Each topic will be, however small, a source for potential change in those who read it.

One of the principles of Nichiren Buddhism is that of the Oneness of Self and the Environment.

If you drop a pebble, no matter how small, into a pond, the ripples 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 effects 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 the higher Worlds than lower ones. The result of that is that I am better placed to create value, for myself and those around me.

My Practice has changed 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.

An All Round Better Way

Stop That Finger PointingWhen you become submerged in difficult situations, when the way forward looks bleak and less than inviting, it can be tempting to start pointing a finger at others to lay the blame at their door.

But there is an old Buddhist saying about pointing. When you point, one finger points out, away from you, towards the one you are blaming.

But look at your hand, three fingers are pointing back, at you, towards the person who is also to blame. Meaning that for each inference you point at others, three will be pointed back at you. But there is another way.

If you are honest with yourself, really, truly honest, and you examine the situation from all angles, you will almost certainly find that you are indeed responsible for making some of the causes that, in conjunction with another or others, has contributed to the outcome in which you find yourself.

Rather than trying to apportion blame, take responsibility for your own mistakes, you will find it a very cathartic experience, I know, I’ve been there. The unsurprising side effect is that it will also change the way in which others perceive you. They will recognise the Wisdom, Courage and Compassion in your new found attitude, and will respect you for all it represents.

It’s The Shortest Day

The Shortest DayToday is 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

Failure To Transmit?

Errr Hello !!!Sometimes it feels as though nobody is listening to us. No matter how important our message may be, it is falling on deaf ears, or so it seems. So maybe we speak a little louder, make our words a little more pronounced, like we are speaking to a child, nothing happens.

Actually, we may be right, maybe our message really isn’t getting across, but speaking louder, even shouting, still won’t make people listen. So what is really going on here? Well, the problem is that we are transmitting on the wrong frequency, or using the wrong type of media, or language.

Of course I am being metaphorical, we all speak within a frequency range between about 60 and 7000Hz, varying slightly person to person. But unless someone is ready to hear something in particular, they may not respond to you at all.

We have all had the experience of being in a noisy room, at a party or on a busy street where all conversation is a jumble, until someone calls out our name. We hear it, we can pick it out from all the background chatter and clatter, we are programmed to do exactly that, almost from birth.

So if you want to get a message across, say the name of the person with whom you wish to converse. Then, when they have stopped saying whatever they were saying, or doing whatever they were doing, they will be ready, and most likely willing, to listen to what you have to say.

If, having got their attention, you can deliver the message in a positive and friendly manner, there is even more chance that they will take in the content of the message. If you can actually make those contents helpful to the recipient, you really have got it cracked.

Stepping Through That Door

"Do you like Guinness? No, I've never had one”Sometimes we have an opportunity to do something different, something that takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges our courage. 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, and one of only a handful of times we ever drank together. 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 taking 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, courage and compassion at my disposal and make the most of the opportunity.

Use All Your Courage

Use All Your CourageWe all have choices to make in life. Everything from whether to take tea or coffee to the major life-changing decisions regarding money, relationships, children and careers.

Whatever the choice you have to make, make it with wisdom, courage and compassion.

If you summon your courage to challenge something, you will never regret it. It would be so sad to spend your life wishing, “If only I had a little more courage.”

Whatever the outcome, the important thing is to take a step forward on the path that you believe is right.

Do not worry too much about what others may think. It is your life. Be true to yourself.

Honestly, This Is Taking Forever

This Is Taking ForeverWhen you are waiting for something, a change, an answer, a decision, an outcome, it can be almost like the world is holding its breath.

Sometimes the World of Tranquillity can be a true blessing, a time to recover after a period of intense work for example.

Sometimes it can be be like the dying notes of a moving piece of music or the fading echoes of the most magnificent firework display.

Maybe the biggest difference between the two is whether you wish for Tranquillity or not.

If you do wish for it, Tranquillity can be the most restful of time, if not it can be like the quiet of the grave, peaceful but not something which you might actively desire.

Another Change For The Better

Another Change For The BetterOn the day that signalled more a important change than my leaving, this seemed poignant …

In 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.

Poetry In Motion

PoetryBy some strange quirk of fate (not that I believe in fate), I managed to scrape into the final of Word Makers Spoken Word Slam Final.

A bit like a verbal version of Ultimate Cage Fighting, using the power of the English language instead of physical force and aggression, there were winners and losers, those who walked away smiling and those who bowed out bruised, bleeding and reduced to tears.

In very much the same manner that music can lift your heart or sadden your soul, poetry can reach the places other forms of spoken language never can.

Now it has to be said, that amongst some hugely talented poets, some of whom are fortunate enough to make a living from their work, I was carried from the cage (metaphorically speaking) battered, bruised and bleeding. But the very fact that any of my poetry was deemed to be good enough to be compared to theirs was a huge buzz and an honour.

Damien and Macca shared the prizes, both winning gigs in the Bournemouth area.

One of my efforts went like this …

Time Lapsed

The roads were quite slick in amongst all the trees
As I flew off to work on my Japanese steed
I was feeling at one, with the bike and had fun
Round the twists and turns of the morning works run

As I happened upon the Old Windsor road
This guy in his van, with his plumbing work load
Made a crazy manoeuvre right into my track
And the Fireblade squirmed as I throttled right back

I evaded the hulk of the white Hyundai guy
Got a really close look at the whites of his eyes
Picked the bike up straight with a blip on the gas
And vented my rage at this ignorant ass

Then all turned to red, as the Peugeot behind
Followed on even though he was totally blind
In an instant I found I had run out of time
And I struck it head on, without changing my line

I was launched off the bike without slowing at all
Splintering ladders on his roof rack halted my fall
Bent knees shattered the windscreen in front of his head
Whilst the on-looking drivers all assumed I was dead

I fell from the roof as a leather-clad heap
While the pain in my guts forced me, wincing, to weep
And my breath was slow coming in a stuttering gasp
As I lay there just wondering if it might be my last

Some people surrounded me, laid on the ground
And I was slowly aware of compassionate sounds
Someone bent down close, to take a hold of my arm
Protecting my twisted prone form from more harm

The stark reality of Now flooded into my brain
And connected events with this dull growing pain
I was checked by the medic who just by sheer chance
Was detained by the traffic, whilst I lay in a trance

He pronounced me unbroken, in arm, leg or neck
Though he firmly suggested my ribs should be checked
Then the ambulance came with its lights flashing blue
And again I was checked over by one of the crew

Coppers helped me to stand and they took off my lid
They asked lots of questions and wrote down what I said
Then they took me to sit on the ambulance steps
While they questioned the driver, who stood there and wept

It is said by some folks that when one nearly dies
That a montage swims by from events of our lives
But I saw, in slow motion, just a large bonnet, red
And the two huge white eyeballs in the car drivers head

Now it’s all but a memory from way in the past
And clearly that slow breath was never my last
I went on to ride bikes and none ever were wrecked
But I’ve never forgotten that time lapsed effect

Richard Blake © 2014

Sometimes we learn more from our defeats than from our victories, last night was one of those occasions.

Perfect, Just As You Are

Flowers Of HappinessYour happiness and victory in life hinge on whether you can grasp, while you are still young, the fact that happiness lies within.

That’s why there is no need for you to compare yourselves to others but instead strive powerfully and cheerfully to develop your state of life, aiming to improve yourselves each day.

From that struggle will bloom noble flowers of mission, flowers of happiness that are yours and yours alone. Shine as you are, live true to yourselves, and advance in your own unique way.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

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