Good News Cubed

Good NewsMy own experiences with Nichiren Buddhism have shown me how powerfully it can change your life.

Whether that is simply making you a happier person or helping you see situations from a different perspective, that will help you solve problems in a better way.

As with all good things, you want to tell people about it, so they can share the benefits.

So the greatest feeling, for me, is when someone actually comes straight out and asks. At that point, it’s important to offer as much, or as little as they request. Force feeding them will kill that spark as surely as piling logs onto a smouldering ember. So be enthusiastic, but be reserved as well. Let them set the pace, be there for them when they want to ask for more, and just see what happens.

Giving people a gift is a great feeling. The shining smile you see when they open it and are delighted by what they find. Giving people the way to find Nichiren Buddhism is just like that, only a million times better for both parties.

Seeking Buddhahood? – Just Add Practice

Nichiren DaishoninReligion must teach an “attitude to life.” To live a life of true human dignity is certainly difficult.

Life is change; it is continuous change. Nothing is constant. The four sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death are an eternal theme that no one can escape.

Amid harsh reality, people yearn from the depths of their beings to live with dignity and for their lives to have meaning, and they make efforts toward that end. The product of these human yearnings, these prayers, is religion. Religion was born from prayer.

What is Nichiren’s response to these prayers of human beings? What attitude toward life does he teach? The answer, in short, is the principle of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

What is needed to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime? Wisdom, Courage and Compassion and that comes from sustained, diligent practice.

Why Look Elsewhere?

HappinessYesterday evening, we went to the cinema to watch Hector and the Search for Happiness, a funny, but thought provoking film starring Simon Pegg.

Hector is a psychiatrist, working in London, his girlfriend Clara works in the marketing department of a pharmaceutical company, both are successful, but Hector isn’t happy. So he decides to take time out and conduct his own study into what makes people happy.

He travels to China, to Africa and finally to the US in search of an answer to his question, having amusing adventures along the way, only to find that his own happiness was back at home, starring him straight in the face.

As Sensei says about karma and our own happiness …

There is no need to go seeking greener fields. Dig right where you are, for there lies a seam of untold riches. Our Karma fits us like a glove, and no matter what the situation we are trying to change, we are always in exactly the right place to make the causes that will, given time, effect that change.

Karmic Recycling

Karmic RecyclingGoing back over our errors,  asking ourselves painful questions and giving honest answers is a difficult experience.

We’ve all made mistakes in life, some more serious than others, but talking them through, trying to explain why you made this decision at that point in time, makes you re-examine your own values.

Our history is set in stone, we cannot go back and make those decisions anew. But we can try to make amends, apologise for any hurt we have caused, and, above all, be honest with ourselves and others.

We can also learn from mistakes, to do anything else would be considered foolish, but sometimes those mistakes are not as obvious as we might think. If you find yourself in a repeating cycle of events over time, it is definitely worth taking a long hard look at why that appears to be happening.

Karma, the law of cause and effect, will be behind the cycle somewhere, so we need to examine the causes and change them if we are to break the merry-go-round of sadness, and move onto pastures new.

Some people fear change, but if life is just not working the way we want it to, then we have to make changes. Embrace the opportunity to make life better, examine the causes that need to change and make those changes whole-heartedly, you will not regret it once the effects, and the happiness, start coming through.

On Coping With Challenges

The State Of Mindfulness The challenges we meet in life are often seen as the negative side of our existence. We alone can decide how we deal with them, we can accept and tackle them head on, or shy away from them and hope they go away. Anyone who has tried the second path will know that it never works, so accepting challenges has to be the right way to go.

Accepting our challenges is not, initially, the most natural thing to do. It might seem easier to run away, to bury our heads, or just ignore the issues, but no good will ever come of taking that path. Taking responsibility and meeting challenges head on can be really hard. That doesn’t mean it has to be difficult, but it does mean we have to dig deep, stay strong and never ever give in.

So how should we approach the process? For me, it means looking at the challenge from all sides, and that involves keeping a calm mind and thinking clearly about all the aspects involved. Chanting allows me to calm my mind, to focus and to concentrate. This is the state of mindfulness and gives me control over my thoughts, words and deeds. For others it may be beneficial to meditate or to write down a list of all the facets of the challenge.

The whole process can be thrown into turmoil by our fundamental darkness. That little voice in our heads that tells us the challenge is too hard, that we cannot overcome it, and that giving up is the easy path. We must listen to that voice because it is part of us, but we must then rationalise the alternatives and be determined to take the right path, not simply the easiest path.

When you overcome a challenge, the feelings of elation are immense. When we give into a challenge, the feelings of defeat are equally immense, but terribly damaging. Gaining your first win will be the hardest. Once you know the winning feeling, you will never again want to feel defeat again.

So try different coping strategies, be that chanting, meditation, list building or whatever works for you. Be sure that overcoming challenges will make you a stronger and more confident person, and that each win will make the next challenge easier to overcome. In time, you will lose the fear of challenges, and although you may not exactly look forward to the next one, you will be more prepared to meet and overcome it when it arrives.

Through Different Eyes

Through Different EyesDo you remember the day you mastered the art of riding a bicycle? Of course you do. For me, it was the culmination of a rather lengthy, and very frustrating process, and but for the perseverance  of my father, I might never have learned at all.

I just couldn’t seem to get it. It looked so simple, but the harder I tried, the worse I got. Then suddenly it clicked, I had it nailed, and from that day on I have been able to ride a bike.

Ok, so it’s no huge revelation, but I think learning about Buddhism is a bit like learning to ride a bike.

As you learn, about The Oneness of Self and the Universe, about Karma, about Life-Energy or The Ten Worlds, you also learn to see yourself, life and the Universe in a different way. And just in the way that having learned to ride a bicycle, you never unlearn the skill, once you learn to see the world through different eyes, you never unlearn that either.

Deep in my heart, I know that I am different for having Buddhism at the centre of my life. Some people have noticed that change, others ask what has changed and how I know that it’s a real change, not just a fad, or ‘a phase I’m going through’.

Well as I say, once you see the world differently, you just can’t un-see it that way. It’s a wonderful change, and I’m very confident, not to say delighted, that it’s a permanent change.

Wiping The Slate Clean

An Exciting New Path

A new job, a new career or a new relationship, all call for a bit of a spring clean of our mental attitude and emotional baggage from previous experiences.

Sometimes we need to wipe the slate clean, take a deep breath, and start anew.

Having new goals, new horizons and renewed vigour is just the ticket.

I know that some people fear change, are loath to relinquish all the effort put into a particular path, even if that path may be taking them in the wrong direction. I am not one of those people, I embrace change, but you may have trouble letting go of the past.

Setting sail on a new adventure, try to make it your intention to make the most of each and every day, and when change does arrive, enjoy the excitement of being reborn into a new and exciting experience.

The Seeds Of Change

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 single individual’s effort 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.

Steering The Right Course

Steering The Right CourseWith a friend about to start his holiday working as a member of a racing yacht crew I thought this was rather apt …

There are external influences that push and pull on the direction of our lives.

Our role as skipper is to deal with the challenges that those influences bring, whilst trying to maintain the direction in which we want our lives to go.

The similarity to sailing is most evident when you compare the way a yacht has to sail across the wind, in a direction as close to, but rarely directly towards, the desired goal. So there has to be a degree of compromise in order to make progress towards that goal.

Life is exactly the same. It is pretty rare to find, that the influences on our lives, push or pull us directly towards our goals. The old adage of ‘two steps forward and one step back’ is often very accurate. A little progress in the right direction is often followed by a period of consolidation, during which we may even find that we have slipped back a little.

It is good to remember that, as illustrated in The Buddha, Geoff and Me, resistance is not only inevitable, and a measure of our progress, but is essential for some processes to work at all.

Transform Thyself

TransformationThe human being is not, as some people seem to believe, a simple frail wretch at the mercy of fate.

Shakyamuni insisted that to transform oneself now is to change the future on a vast scale.

The Western impression that Buddhism is all about meditation is alien to the spirit of Shakyamuni.

The goal of Nichiren Buddhism is neither to escape from reality nor to tread a path of passive acceptance. It is to live strongly, proactively, in such a way as to refine one’s own life and reform society through a constant exchange between the outside world and the individual’s inner world.

The transformation, of self and society, will come about through the process of Human Revolution. Not the waving of placards, although that sometimes happens, but the deep seated change of the ideals and morals of society, all around the world.

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