Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Buddhist Reponse to the Peshawar Massacre

I wondered whether or not to respond to the mass slaughter of children in Peshwar and indeed how to without engendering even more reactivity but then I listened to Vishvapani's Thought for the day on the BBC this morning. He said it so much better than I could so here is what he had to say............

Of all the horrors we’ve seen in the international conflict with radical Islam, Wednesday’s massacre at the army school in Peshawar must be among the most ghastly. When defenceless women and children are targeted on this scale, we’ve reached a new level of barbarism.

How did we get here? Without detracting from the attack’s distinctive horror, it stems from a spiral of violence and escalating conflict. When did it all start: the Pakistani army’s campaign against the Taliban? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? 9/11? The legacy of occupation and empire that stretches back over centuries? The causes are endless: perhaps that’s the nature of conflicts. And the solutions are doubtful. The Pakistani army may be victorious, but at what cost, and with what consequences? Perhaps this war will spread, or merge into the region’s other conflicts; or perhaps the barbarism will just continue to escalate.

Reflecting on the conflicts of his own time, the Buddha alighted on a singular term for what he observed: proliferation. Causes multiply into diverse effects, especially when ideology and beliefs magnify them. He made sense of this by noting the parallel with what happens in our minds: one irritable thought begets another, which becomes a compelling narrative about what’s happening; and, soon enough, we act.

This psychological approach led the Buddha to locate the ultimate causes of war and conflict in the minds of individual human beings. We’ll do anything to banish unpleasant feelings and put things right when we feel they’re wrong, even if that leads us to act in ways we’d otherwise condemn. That’s how otherwise decent people come to justify the use of torture. 

In the Buddhist view, nothing good can result when we’re driven by hatred, anger and the desire for revenge. Blood will have blood. This doesn’t mean that force should never be used or that wars are never justified; but it’s a strong caution to check the impulse to act out of anger, to note the moral distortion that rigid ideology can bring, and to allow space for other wiser responses that come when we put anger aside. 

Proliferation ends, the Buddha suggested, when we learn to tolerate pain, rather than reacting to it, and when patience and forgiveness give us the mental space to act with love. For me, that’s the ultimate challenge of the barbarity in Pakistan. The world is good at creating warmongers. Peacemakers have to make themselves.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Doing Without an Army

I'm not a huge fan of Facebook or indeed social media in general but I will concede that it's a way of keeping track of what old friends are up to. Having, over the years, reconnected with old classmates at school reunions I was interested in a posting by one friend on the subject of not having an army.

Graham, who is a Quaker, wrote, "Just discovered that on 1st December 1948 Costa Rica abolished its military! What a great thing! And when I researched it further I found there are 21 countries that have done the same thing. Lietchenstein abolished its army in 1869 because it was too expensive. If one can do, so can all! Imagine the good that could be done in the world with all the money we spend on armed forces!"

In fact fifteen countries have no armed forces:-

Andorra
Costa Rica
Grenada
Kiribati
Liechtenstein
Marshall Islands
Federated States of Micronesia
Nauru
Palau
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Samoa
Solomon Islands
Tuvalu
Vatican City

While six nations have no standing army, but do have limited military forces. They are:-

Haiti
Iceland
Mauritius
Monaco
Panama
Vanuatu

Saturday, 6 December 2014

FULL MOON – Saturday 6th December, 2014

Overwhelm 

If you perform an evil act, 
then do not repeat it. 
Avoid finding pleasure in its memory. 
The aftermath of evil-doing is painful.

Dhammapada v.117

Overwhelm is what happens when we lose touch with our refuge: we become absorbed in the activity of the mind and lose perspective. Our refuge is well developed mindfulness, embodied mindfulness, tried and tested through sitting, standing, walking and lying down. If a foundation of right mindfulness is not firmly established, habits tend to take hold; habits like the mind dwelling unskilfully in the past. If we make a mistake, practice means holding the memory in awareness just long enough to learn what we need to learn, then dropping it, letting go and beginning again. The momentum of negative emotions swamps us usually when mindfulness is not strong. Consciously, regularly, redetermining our commitment to our refuge is one way of protecting ourselves from overwhelm.

With Metta, Bhikkhu Munindo

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Zen "In Our Time"

Some of you may have heard Melvyn Bragg's Radio 4 program, "In Our Time" this morning in which the subject discussed was Zen Buddhism. If you did you will have learnt precious little about Zen or indeed Buddhism!


The whole program was a bit of a mishmash not helped by the fact that Bragg was obviously suffering from a ferocious cold. The guests, Tim Barrett, Emeritus Professor in the Department of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London, Lucia Dolce, Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism at SOAS, University of London and Eric Greene, Lecturer in East Asian Religions at the University of Bristol failed to get over some key points. The most central one being the nature of Zen meditation, Zazen. Constantly reiterating that it meant "just" sitting was singularly uninformative so I'm quoting from the "Rules for Meditation" from the Soto Zen tradition...........

You should meditate in a quiet room, eat and drink moderately, cut all ties, give up everything, think of neither good nor evil, consider neither right nor wrong. Control mind function, will, consciousness, memory, perception and under- standing; you must not strive thus to become Buddha. Cling to neither sitting nor lying down. When meditating, do not wear tight clothing. Rest the left hand in the palm of the right hand with the thumbs touching lightly; sit upright, leaning neither to left nor right, backwards nor forwards. The ears must be in line with the shoulders and the nose in line with the navel; the tongue must be held lightly against the back of the top teeth with the lips and teeth closed. Keep the eyes open, breathe in quickly, settle the body comfortably and breathe out sharply. Sway the body left and right then sit steadily, neither trying to think nor trying not to think; just sitting, with no deliberate thought, is the important aspect of serene reflection meditation.

As you can see there is a little more to it than "just sitting" but as always I'll let you listen and decide for yourselves.................



I have also placed this on the Miscellaneous page of our Audio section where you can download it.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Buddhist monks attended a mass alms-offering ceremony in Bangkok's shopping district on Sunday.

According to organisers over 10,000 Buddhist monks from 323 temples attended the event.


Food and funding received from the event was given to monks in the four southern provinces of Thailand.


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Buddha, The Unwanted Visitor

While I was trawling the net for a suitable picture to use in the previous post I came across this one by chance...........................


Visiting the hosting page, a photo blog by Marwan Tahtah, I found the story of how six years ago film director Silvio Tabet had imported the statue of the Buddha and had erected it on his own private land, high up in Baskinta in the mountains of the Metn, northeast of Beirut.

As you can see this does not seem to have gone down well with the locals in this Lebanese Christian area. The statue is about 100 meters away from the historic Mar Youssef Church and the world’s tallest lit cross which attracts believers and tourists from around the world.

Friday, 21 November 2014

NEW MOON - Friday 21st November 2014

Loneliness

Having found no companion
who has travelled at least as far as ourselves,
it is better to go alone than to accompany those 
who remain irresolute. 

Dhammapada v. 61

Until we have looked closely into the actual experience of loneliness, this painful feeling always appears as an enemy, showing us up as a failure. From the perspective of unawareness this life-denying sensation seems only to indicate how far we have gone wrong. From the perspective of wise reflection however, this very same experience lights up the direction we need to go if we want freedom. Suffering is a message; it is not an indictment against us. The feeling of loneliness is like a narrow doorway that we must go through to be free of the confines of the prison of self obsession. It is for paying attention to, not for running away from.

With Metta, Bhikkhu Munindo

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Thich Nhat Hahn Gravely Ill

Plum Village, November 12, 2014

To all Plum Village Practice Centers,
To all Practice Centers and Sanghas World Wide,
To our Dear Beloved Friends,

With a deep mindful breath we announce to the world the news that yesterday, the 11th of November 2014 Thay, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, experienced a severe brain hemorrhage. Thay is receiving 24 hour intensive care from specialist doctors, nurses and from his monastic disciples.

At present, Thay is still very responsive and shows every indication of being aware of the presence of those around him. He is able to move his feet, hands and eyes. There are signs that a full recovery may be possible.

For the last two months, Thay’s health had already been fragile due to his advance age. He was hospitalized in Bordeaux on the 1st of November. He was gaining strength day by day until this sudden and unexpected change in his condition.