Life Changes With Time

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Just when you think life is going along smoothly, something, or somebody comes along and upsets the apple cart. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, sometimes, it is exactly what you need to get you out of that rut you feel so comfortable following.

If 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 last few years, than anything else has done in the past sixty.

There is a letter from Nichiren Daishonin to the wife of the late Matsuno, which describes how unlikely, and how 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 long last.

On Following The Path

Following The PathBuddhism comes down to practice. This means making a personal determination and steadfastly taking action to accomplish it, no matter what obstacles may arise.

If we aren’t striving to open a way forward, what we are doing cannot be called Buddhist practice.

We will only enter the path to Buddhahood by making tireless effort based on the same determination as the Buddha.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

On Remaining Strong

The Reflected MoonSome days we are strong, some days not so strong. Remaining strong requires understanding our faith, Nichiren explains …

When water is clear, the moon is reflected. When the wind blows, the trees shake. Our minds are like the water.

Faith that is weak is like muddy water, while faith that is brave is like clear water. Understand that the trees are like principles, and the wind that shakes them is like the recitation of the sutra.

                                                   ~ Nichiren

On Cultivating A State Of Mind

The Lotus SutraWe only have to watch the news on TV, listen to the radio, or even simply talk to the people around us, to be aware of the challenges and sadness that can accompany the process of living our daily lives.

Buddhism has at it’s very core, the ultimate goal of removing suffering and promoting a state of happiness in all those with whom it comes in contact. Many may think that this is an unachievable target, and that those who strive towards it are deluded.

But the principles and method for attaining such a state are encompassed by teachings contained in The Lotus Sutra. That is not to say that there is any magic bullet or instant fix to alleviate our suffering, but striving to do so is surely a task worth undertaking.

Daisaku Ikeda summarised it thus:

What is true joy in life?

This is a difficult question – and one that has occupied a great many thinkers and philosophers.

Joy can quickly give way to suffering. Joy is short and suffering long.

Also what passes for joy in society is superficial. It cannot compare with the joy derived from the Mystic Law.

The key then lies in cultivating a state of mind where we can declare without reservation that life is a joy.

This is the purpose of our Buddhist Practice.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

A Gem Of An Idea

Sew Those Hidden GemsPassing on the ideas and ideals behind Buddhist teachings is a little like sewing a hidden gem into the lining of a friends clothes.

This is the parable about the rich man, the poor man, and the hidden gem …

A poor man visits a rich friend, gets drunk, and passes out.

The rich man, who has to leave on business, gives his poor man a priceless gem, which he secretly sews into the lining of his friend’s clothes.

When the poor man comes to, he resumes his life as a vagrant, unaware of the treasure he received during his blackout.

Later, he meets the rich man again, who shows him where the gem is concealed, and the poor man realizes his wealth.

Discovering the gem, even years later, can transform a poor life into one of untold enlightened riches, so keep sewing those gems of wisdom into the people you meet in life.

The act of giving benefits both parties and you never know when you might be giving to just the right person, at the right time and place, to transform their life for the better, forever.


On Individual Pride

Cherry Blossom

Pride can be a double edged sword. We should take pride in our achievements and our proper conduct, but we must take care that our pride does not turn into false vanity.

As Sensei observed …

Wildflowers are neither vain nor haughty, neither jealous nor servile.

Living in accord with their unique mission, characterizing the Buddhist principle of the equality of cherry, peach, plum, and damson blossoms, they neither envy other flowers nor belittle themselves.

They take pride in their individuality, knowing that each is a flower with a bloom like no other. Even the prettiest and most delicate wildflowers are by no means weak. They may seem fragile, but they are strong, unperturbed by rain or wind.

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.

All In Good Time

You Can Lead A Horse To WaterYou’ve probably heard the old adage, ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’.

I believe it means that you can introduce an idea to someone, but you can’t make them accept the suggestion.

So it is with Nichiren Buddhism, or in fact vegetarianism or veganism, but let’s focus on Buddhism in this instance.

I have many friends who show an interest in my Practice. They ask lots of questions, often offer their views and sometimes will join me in Daimoku or Gongyo.

I find that the most difficult thing about this, is to feed their inquisitive nature without allowing my own enthusiasm to take over. It is so easy to appear evangelical and that can be a most unattractive trait, particularly for someone who is just taking the first tentative steps.

If you were teaching a child to swim, you wouldn’t take them to the poolside, explain a little about how to do the breast stroke and then push them into the deep end to experience it for themselves. At best, they might flounder their way back to the side, never to ask you for guidance ever again, at worst they might get into real difficulties, need rescuing and develop such a phobia, that they would never go near deep water again.

And so it can be with Buddhism. Like learning to swim, Buddhist practice can open up amazing new vistas on the world and be a life-long pleasure, but it has to be introduced gently, wisely and at the right pace for each and every individual.

To try to rush someone into Buddhism, or swimming for that matter, may be depriving that person of a life-changing journey, so show some wisdom and let them go at their own pace.

Individual Pride

Cherry BlossomWildflowers are neither vain nor haughty, neither jealous nor servile.

Living in accord with their unique mission, characterizing the Buddhist principle of the equality of cherry, peach, plum, and damson blossoms, they neither envy other flowers nor belittle themselves.

They take pride in their individuality, knowing that each is a flower with a bloom like no other. Even the prettiest and most delicate wildflowers are by no means weak. They may seem fragile, but they are strong, unperturbed by rain or wind.

Buddhism In Life

Buddhism In Life

Buddhism does not ask “What religion does this person follow?” but “What is this person’s state of life?”

Buddhism exists to enable all people to cultivate and manifest the world of Buddhahood in their lives.

Society is a realm of discrimination and distinctions, but Buddhism transcends all superficial differences and focuses directly on life.

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