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 All About Your Viewpoint

The Blind Men and The ElephantWe all see things in very different ways, mainly because we tend to be restricted by our own viewpoint.

The Buddha used to tell an amusing parable about six blind men and an elephant to explain how the differing views are come by.

Each man has a different idea of what the elephant is, each being able to touch a different part of the animal.

This poem, by John Godfrey Saxe, sums up the scene and explains the moral behind the tale …

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

John Godfrey Saxe ( 1816-1887)

Life, What’s That All About?

Man's Search For Meaning - Viktor FranklWe have all asked ourselves this question, maybe once or twice, maybe a thousand times, but the answer to the question turns out to be so simple, so eloquent, so meaningful, when it is asked from a position of total hopelessness.

Taken from Man’s Search For Meaning (p.113), by the late Dr Viktor E. Frankl, this is the most sensible and acceptable explanation of the age old question, ‘what is the meaning of life?’ I have ever read. It is a question we should all ask ourselves on a regular basis, for as you will see, there is no one single answer.

”I doubt whether a doctor [we] can answer this question in general terms. For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour.

What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.

To put the question in general terms would be comparable to the question posed to a chess champion: “Tell me, Master, what is the best move in the world?” There simply is no such thing as the best or even a good move apart from a particular situation in a game and the particular personality of one’s opponent.

The same holds for human existence. One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfilment.

Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it. As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

This short explanation, taking less than a page in the book, encapsulates an answer to which I can relate.

The book itself covers Dr Frankl’s own struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. It has tragic as well as surprisingly humorous passages, but reading it will leave you forever changed and, I believe, better for the experience.

On Endless Possibilities

This Hubble photo is of a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula.

The challenges of daily life require us to makes choices or decisions.

When we are open and engaged, we experience the greater self.

When we are closed off, we are exhibiting our lesser self.

The lesser self is a deluded condition, whilst our greater self is synonymous with our Buddha nature.

To live for the greater self means to recognise the universal principle behind all things and, being awaked in this way, rise above the suffering caused by the awareness of impermanence. A belief in something eternal is needed to enhance our quality of life.

By believing that this world is the be-all and end-all of existence, we will miss out, we will not live a truly profound life. When our viewpoint expands beyond the boundaries of our present existence to include the entire, eternal universe, we can finally live deeply fulfilling lives.

On Taking A Step Back

Criticising OthersIt is very easy to be critical of others, particularly when they are out of earshot. It is, however, valuable to also look for their strengths, as you gain nothing by only criticising others imperfections.

In fact, it is helpful to take a step back, even for a moment, each day, and try to consider the feelings and positive qualities of those of whom you are critical.

Buddhahood Included

Buddhahood IncludedSo often, and I am as guilty as anyone, we want everything to happen now.

Our modern frantic way of life, clever marketing and the advertising bombardment we all endure, have left us all lacking a little patience.

We are encouraged to spend before we can afford it and to make unrealistic demands on ourselves and others.

So next time you are stuck behind the nervous learner driver at a busy junction, queuing at the check-in desk or tempted to have a go at that overworked shop assistant, just see things from the others viewpoint and stay cool, calm and collected.

Not only will it make your wait much more pleasant, but your calmness will transmit to those around you and help them relax too. They may even surprise you by being grateful or by going the extra mile to help.

Remember, everyone has a little Buddhahood within them, help them to let it shine through.

The Root Of Mindfulness

The Root Of MindfulnessIt may seem perfectly acceptable to put ourselves and our own wishes first, to simply follow the dictates of our emotions and cravings, but the truth is that there is very little that is more unreliable than our own mind.

Life doesn’t always run like clockwork and things will not necessarily turn out as we hope or plan. Consequently, Nichiren frequently stressed: “You should become the master of your mind, not let your mind master you.”

We must not allow ourselves to be ruled by a self-centred mind. Rather, we have to discipline our mind and gain mastery over it. So often these days we are confronted by the ‘mind over matter’ attitude … ‘I don’t mind and you don’t matter’.

Always try to see a situation from the others perspective. You may find that the view from their side of the table is rather different than your own, and it may well illuminate facets that you had overlooked.

A View From The Other Side

A View From The Other SideMy dear old friend Billy Brown had a favourite saying, ‘that everyone had the right to his opinion’. He was generally joking, but sometimes he meant it.

My view is somewhat different. I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion, whether it agrees with mine, or not.

Seeing things from another’s viewpoint is a critical part of being able to meet that person half way in any situation. That then gives us the ability to resolve, or at least come to terms with any potential point of conflict in a positive and constructive way.

If someone stands by their beliefs, even when doing so might run the risk of causing hurt in some manner, those beliefs must be respected. To do anything else would be to concur with Billy’s idea, and that, I am afraid, is not a recipe for peace, love or understanding.

Walking In Another Person’s Shoes

Another Person's ShoesThere is an old saying, that before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticise them, you have a pair of their shoes, and you are a mile away 🙂

But seriously, it is easy to see the faults in another when you are only seeing things from your point of view.

There is a wise Buddhist saying that says ‘we hate in others, what we refuse to see in ourselves’. Before you start picking on someone for their faults, make sure that you don’t have the same faults yourself.

Seeing the other persons viewpoint takes wisdom, courage and compassion, particularly in the heat of the moment. But taking a few seconds to allow yourself to become mindful, and then trying to reach a balanced view will do no harm, and may help resolve the issue once and for all.

On Being Grateful

On Being GratefulWe all have the ability to feel sorry for ourselves. Sometimes it seems we have problem after problem, and think the world is against us.

But we can all take a step back and look at our situation compared to others, and be honest enough to see that there are other people in much worse circumstances.

In Buddhist terms, the effects in our lives are the product of the causes we make along our way, it’s called Karma. Whilst it is difficult sometimes, to reconcile ourselves with the fact that we have, in some way caused our own problems, it is important to remember that we are not being punished.

So when you have had enough of your troubles, and are ready to throw in the towel, just take time to look around and realise that there is always someone worse off somewhere.

Be grateful for what you have, and concentrate on making causes for the effects you need to improve the situation. To do anything else is to lack Courage and Wisdom and that doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself.

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