A Pain In The Purbecks

In The SaddleFour of us set off from Wimborne this morning on a fifty mile bimble around Dorset.

Now 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

What Is …

What Is PoetryRemember the scene in the movie Dead Poets Society, where Mr Keating is introducing the concept of poetry to the class?

He cites from the fictional weighty tome “Understanding Poetry”, by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D. which tries to describe a formula for evaluating poetry in pseudo-scientific terms:

To fully understand poetry, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme and figures of speech, then ask two questions:

1) How artfully has the objective of the poem been rendered and

2) How important is that objective?

Question 1 rates the poem’s perfection; Question 2 rates its importance. And once these questions have been answered, determining the poem’s greatness becomes a relatively simple matter.

If the poem’s score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness.

A sonnet by Byron might score high on the vertical but only average on the horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally and vertically, yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the poem to be truly great. As you proceed through the poetry in this book, practice this rating method. As your ability to evaluate poems in this matter grows, so will, so will your enjoyment and understanding of poetry.

Of course Mr Keating tears the theory to shreds and encourages the boys to rip the whole section out of the book, an action that comes back to haunt him later in the film.

But what is poetry, what is love? Certainly it appears to have a slightly different meaning to each and every one of us.

Here are my thoughts on poetry:

What is poetry?

What is poetry?
A simple question
But I think you’ll find
That the meaning is different
To each person asked
And it’s more of a state of one’s mind

What is poetry?
A stupid question
When asked out of the blue
‘Cos the meaning is different
So what’s this thing to me
May be that thing to you

What is poetry?
A searching question
‘Cos it holds our passions and fears
It can capture just an instant
And at any time later
Remind us of joy or tears

What is poetry?
What a question

You decide …

So what is love? I don’t think I’m even going to try to quantify or qualify that one.

A More Beautiful Being

A More Beautiful BeingSelf awareness, the realisation of who, or what you really are, comes to some people with age, but for me, it came at a point in life where I was at my all time low.

Seeing my true reflection in the mirror was a long and painful process, there’s no joy in realising that you are someone you don’t really like, but it lead me to a turning point that has allowed me to change for the better.

It is said ‘that we hate in others, what we refuse to see in ourselves’ and I suddenly understood what that meant. Things that annoy us about other people, are sometimes the very things in us that annoy others. Being honest enough with ourselves, to admit our failings or less attractive traits, can be the start of a process of self improvement.

In Nichiren Buddhism we refer to that process as Human Revolution, the nurturing and growth of self improvement through the acquisition of wisdom, courage and compassion. It is achieved, over time, through a determined adherence to our practice and continued learning.

So next time, before you start criticising others, take a long, hard and honest look in that mirror, and have the courage to see the faults you are so desperate to hide from yourself.

It will be a painful process, but you will emerge on the other side, like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, a better and more beautiful being for doing it.

Room To Grow

Room To GrowWe can all be guilty of trying to hold things, or people, too close to us. This may be for a number of reasons, fear of losing them probably being the most common.

With possessions we may only cause ourselves problems, but with people, the act of holding them close, may actually have the effect of pushing them away.

We must learn to give people the room to grow, to learn, to blossom and the chance to be themselves, otherwise we may lose them forever.

Nichiren writes:

“Myoho-renge-kyo is the Buddha nature of all living beings…. The Buddha nature that all these beings possess is called by the name Myoho-renge-kyo”
(wnd, 131).

“Regarding how to manifest one’s innate Buddha nature, Nichiren explains: “When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion, the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what is meant by ‘Buddha.’ To illustrate, when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge”
(wnd, 887).

In Nichiren’s metaphor, our innate Buddha nature, whose name is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, is a bird trapped in the cage of ignorance. In other words, our deluded minds create this cage that imprisons our Buddha nature. But when we chant Nam myoho renge kyo to the Gohonzon, which expresses Nichiren’s enlightened life and the potential of all people, our dormant Buddha nature becomes activated.

The singing of the caged bird is our chanting, and the birds flying in the sky are the Buddha nature in our environment, particularly as it is expressed in the Gohonzon. Through our chanting, the Buddha nature within our lives and the Buddha nature inherent in the universe begin their dynamic interaction.

For Nichiren’s metaphor to work, however, it is necessary for the caged bird to recognize the birds in the sky as being its own kind. In other words, when we pray to the Gohonzon, rather than thinking of it as an external power or deity, we must think of it as the mirror image of our own Buddha nature. If the caged bird thinks of itself as an elephant, it is unlikely to give the slightest thought to flying.

Nichiren Buddhism clarifies that the teaching of the Buddha nature is a teaching of faith and practice. All people have it, but not many can believe in it. Furthermore, some of those who believe in their Buddha nature may not practice to manifest it, erroneously thinking-I’m already a Buddha, so I don’t have to do anything. One’s faith in the Buddha nature must be expressed in one’s actions to manifest it.

Those who see the universal Buddha nature of oneself and others, and work to awaken it in all people are already Buddhas, for such actions belong to none other than a Buddha. As we cultivate our inherent Buddha nature through our conviction and actions to manifest it no matter our circumstances, we begin to see it and experience it. In our everyday lives, seeing may be believing. But in the world of Buddhism, believing in the Buddha nature is the first step toward seeing it.

(from Living Buddhism – February 2005)

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.

On Setting Our Goals

Goal SettingSet your goals with care. Whether they are big or small, work towards realising them.

You must be serious and dedicated to your goals – you will never get anywhere if you set them on a whim, or just treat them like a joke.

An earnest, dedicated spirit shines like a diamond and moves the hearts of people. That is because a brilliant flame burns within.

If we are sincere, people will understand our intentions, and our positive qualities will shine forth. It is pointless and destructive to be overly conscious about outward appearances.

As the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote,

“How may one get to know oneself?

Never by contemplation, only indeed by action

Seek to do your duty, and you will know at once how it is with you”

Goals are at the heart of our success, in fact they are the Kyo, and indeed the very basis of Kyo Chi Gyo I. Set your goals with care, and once they are set, aim for them with vigour passion and determination in equal measure.

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.

More On Mindfulness

BreatheWhen we are feeling down, or simply the challenges of everyday life are coming at us too fast, it is all too easy to concentrate on ourselves, forgetting about those around us.

To stop this happening takes mindfulness and courage, as noted by Sensei in Daily Encouragement.

Buddhism is not about leading a self-centred existence. If we do not base our lives on the Law, we are not practicing Buddhism.

The German writer Friedrich von Schiller writes, “The brave man thinks upon himself the last.”

This is analogous to the spirit of not begrudging one’s life taught in the Lotus Sutra.

This means treasuring the Law more highly than one’s life.

The Law and kosen-rufu are central.

The old adage that ‘No Man is an island’ is very true. It is our family, friends and those we meet each day in our communities, who make our lives meaningful, and it is The Law that shows us the way we are to conduct ourselves and how we should relate to them.

To help with increasing our mindfulness, consciously focus on a simple task each day. Be that taking a shower, doing the dishes, going upstairs, even breathing, anything will do, but concentrate on every aspect of your feelings, your surroundings, everything, and you will find that even the simplest task takes on a whole new meaning.

Forever Reading

Forever ReadingDaisaku Ikeda, in his book, Buddhism Day By Day, says this about the act of reading:

‘Reading is dialogue with oneself; it is self-reflection, which cultivates profound humanity. Reading is therefore essential to our development.

It expands and enriches the personality like a seed that germinates after a long time and sends forth many blossom-laden branches.

People who can say of a book ‘this changed my life’ truly understand the meaning of happiness. Reading that sparks inner revolution is desperately needed to escape drowning in the rapidly advancing information society.

Reading is more than intellectual ornamentation; it is a battle for the establishment of the self, a ceaseless challenge that keeps us young and vigorous.’

We all know which book ‘changed my life’, and I can confirm that I fully understand the meaning of the happiness that this encompasses. Books transformed civilisation in the broadest sense when they became widely available via the printing presses of William Caxton and all those who have followed.

The advent of the world wide web and the internet has simply taken that process to the Nth level. The dissemination of information, and the written word has never been so widespread. Although there are associated dangers and we must be circumspect about the source of the information we consume, there has never been an easier time to read.

During my CELTA course I read to expand my knowledge of the English language, currently I am reading to increase my understanding of psychology and the workings of the mind. Whatever we read, be it fact or fiction, it adds to the kaleidoscope of facts and emotions locked in our brains, so read and read and read again, it will never be a waste of your precious time.

On Thinking Straight

Right ThinkingOne of the many aims of Nichiren Buddhism is to smooth out the emotional highs and lows in life. through right thinking. However, one of the most difficult things to do, personally speaking, is to remain in a constant life-state when confronted by the highs and lows of life.

A Buddhist quotation says that “The Wise Man is neither elated by success nor deflated by failure”. That is not to say that you cannot be happy when you succeed, or sad when you fail, it’s about the intensity of those feelings and trying to stay nearer the mid-point.

We all find it tough at times, but I find the more I practice. the better I get at achieving equilibrium.

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