Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Thich Nhat Hanh: is Mindfulness Being Corrupted?

This piece from the Guardian is by Jo Confino...........

Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular topic among business leaders, with several key executives speaking publicly in recent months about how it helps them improve the bottom line. 

Intermix CEO Khajak Keledjian last week shared his secrets to inner peace with The Wall Street Journal. Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post, discussed mindfulness in Thrive, her new book released this week. Other business leaders who meditate include Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, CEO Marc Benioff and CEO Tony Hsieh, to name just a few. 

In a blog post last month, Huffington wrote that "there's nothing touchy-feely about increased profits. This is a tough economy. ... Stress-reduction and mindfulness don't just make us happier and healthier, they're a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one." 

But by focusing on the bottom-line benefits of mindfulness, are business leaders corrupting the core Buddhist practice? 

 Thich Nhat Hanh, the 87-year-old Zen master considered by many to be the father of mindfulness in the west, says as long as business leaders practice "true" mindfulness, it does not matter if the original intention is triggered by wanting to be more effective at work or to make bigger profits. That is because the practice will fundamentally change their perspective on life as it naturally opens hearts to greater compassion and develops the desire to end the suffering of others. 

Sitting in a lotus position on the floor of his monastery at Plum Village near Bordeaux, France, Thay tells the Guardian: "If you know how to practice mindfulness you can generate peace and joy right here, right now. And you'll appreciate that and it will change you. In the beginning, you believe that if you cannot become number one, you cannot be happy, but if you practice mindfulness you will readily release that kind of idea. We need not fear that mindfulness might become only a means and not an end because in mindfulness the means and the end are the same thing. There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.

" But Thay, as the Zen master is known to his hundreds of thousands of followers around the world, points out that if executives are in the practice for selfish reasons, then they are experiencing a mere pale shadow of mindfulness. 

Monday, 28 April 2014

NEW MOON – Monday 28th April 2014


As a beautiful flower
with a delightful fragrance is pleasing, 
so is wise and lovely speech
when matched with right action.

Dhammapada v. 52

The physical eye sees beauty on the level of form. The inner eye sees beauty on the level of spirit. The two don’t always coincide. A beautiful looking person might speak words that are devious and dishonest leading to harm. A challenging and frustrating experience might soften our hearts resulting in our renouncing hubris. Appreciating outer forms without becoming intoxicated takes skill.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Saturday, 26 April 2014

New York Haiku

In America and Canada April is National Poetry Month. As part of the event the New York
Times asked it's readers to write haiku about the city. The writers were asked to use the traditional 17 syllable form. The essence of haiku is "cutting" (kiru). This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji ("cutting word") between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.

Here are some of the one's that I like......

Strange how fast night comes:
Silence, as I pass through you,
wide awake at dark.

Beware the puddle
of indeterminate depth
that swallows boots whole       (strikes a cord after the floods here in the UK)

Homeless gentleman
White cane seeks safe street crossing
Teenage boy takes arm

Behind him a trail
of bread crumbs, popcorn and seeds.
He makes birds happy

Mistrust grips the heart.
Though we travel in large packs,
we are still alone.

Coffee by myself
The wind whispers names of friends
Yet alone I sit

Park at Winter dawn
We danced through each orange gate
Unconcealing Spring

Our eyes avoid but
If we looked we would see that
We might just be friends.

Since 2000 Great Britain has celebrated a National Poetry Month each October. This follows on from the BBC polling the nation for our favourite poem back in 1995.

Kipling's "If" won by a mile polling twice as many votes as the runner up The Lady of Shalott by erstwhile West Wight resident, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. In subsequent votes the Beeb changed the rules to stop us voting for Kipling again. If remains the Nation's and my favourite poem, so here it is........

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Friday, 18 April 2014

What Can Washington Learn From a Buddhist Monk?

I recently spotted this piece by Arthur C. Brooks in the New York Times..................

Capitalism and the Dalai Lama

In early 2013, I traveled with two colleagues to Dharamsala, India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. His Holiness has lived there since being driven from his Tibetan homeland by the Chinese government in 1959. From his outpost in the Himalayan foothills, he anchored the Tibetan government until 2011 and continues to serve as a spiritual shepherd for hundreds of millions of people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Very early one morning during the visit, I was invited to meditate with the monks. About an hour had passed when hunger pangs began, but I worked hard to ignore them. It seemed to me that such earthly concerns had no place in the superconscious atmosphere of the monastery.

Incorrect. Not a minute later, a basket of freshly baked bread made its way down the silent line, followed by a jar of peanut butter with a single knife. We ate breakfast in silence, and resumed our meditation. This, I soon learned, is the Dalai Lama in a nutshell: transcendence and pragmatism together. Higher consciousness and utter practicality rolled into one.

That same duality was on display in February when the Dalai Lama joined a two-day summit at my institution, the American Enterprise Institute. At first, his visit caused confusion. Some people couldn’t imagine why he would visit us; as Vanity Fair asked in a headline, “Why Was the Dalai Lama Hanging Out with the Right-Wing American Enterprise Institute?”

There was no dissonance, though, because the Dalai Lama’s teaching defies freighted ideological labels. During our discussions, he returned over and over to two practical yet transcendent points. First, his secret to human flourishing is the development of every individual. In his own words: “Where does a happy world start? From government? No. From United Nations? No. From individual.”

But his second message made it abundantly clear that he did not advocate an every-man-for-himself economy. He insisted that while free enterprise could be a blessing, it was not guaranteed to be so. Markets are instrumental, not intrinsic, for human flourishing. As with any tool, wielding capitalism for good requires deep moral awareness. Only activities motivated by a concern for others’ well-being, he declared, could be truly “constructive.”

Tibetan Buddhists actually count wealth among the four factors in a happy life, along with worldly satisfaction, spirituality and enlightenment. Money per se is not evil. For the Dalai Lama, the key question is whether “we utilize our favorable circumstances, such as our good health or wealth, in positive ways, in helping others.” There is much for Americans to absorb here. Advocates of free enterprise must remember that the system’s moral core is neither profits nor efficiency. It is creating opportunity for individuals who need it the most.

Historically, free enterprise has done this to astonishing effect. In a remarkable paper, Maxim Pinkovskiy of M.I.T. and Xavier Sala-i-Martin of Columbia University calculate that the fraction of the world’s population living on a dollar a day — after adjusting for inflation — plummeted by 80 percent between 1970 and 2006. This is history’s greatest antipoverty achievement.

But while free enterprise keeps expanding globally, its success may be faltering in the United States. According to research from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, men in their 30s in 2004 were earning 12 percent less in real terms than their fathers’ generation at the same point in their lives. That was before the financial crisis, the Great Recession, and years of federal policies that have done a great deal for the wealthy and well-connected but little to lift up the bottom half.

The solution does not lie in the dubious “fair share” class-baiting of politicians. We need to combine an effective, reliable safety net for the poor with a hard look at modern barriers to upward mobility. That means attacking cronyism that protects the well-connected. It means lifting poor children out of ineffective schools that leave them unable to compete. It entails pruning back outmoded licensing laws that restrain low-income entrepreneurs. And it means creating real solutions — not just proposing market distortions — for people who cannot find jobs that pay enough to support their families.

In other words, Washington needs to be more like the Dalai Lama. Without abandoning principles, we need practical policies based on moral empathy. Tackling these issues may offend entrenched interests, but this is immaterial. It must be done. And temporary political discomfort pales in comparison with the suffering that vulnerable people bear every day.

At one point in our summit, I deviated from the suffering of the poor and queried the Dalai Lama about discomfort in his own life. “Your Holiness,” I asked, “what gives you suffering?” I expected something quotably profound, perhaps about the loss of his homeland. Instead, he thought for a moment, loosened his maroon robe slightly, and once again married the practical with the rhapsodic.

“Right now,” he said, “I am a little hot.”

Monday, 14 April 2014

FULL MOON – Monday 14th April 2014

Quality Being

One who refrains from causing harm 
by way of body, speech or mind, 
can be called a great being.

Dhammapada v. 391

Greatness could be defined in terms of the power we have or the possessions we own, but in the mind of the Buddha it is better determined by how people conduct themselves. This is a very practical way of assessing how trustworthy a person may be. Are they restrained in how they act and in what they say? Are they kind? We can’t tell what is happening inwardly, but we can observe the influence they have on the world around them.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Happy Hanamatsuri

Hana-Matsuri refers to the memorial service performed at temples throughout Japan to celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 8th. It is formally called Kanbutsue. On this day, small buildings decorated with flowers are made at temples and a tanjobustu (baby Buddha figurine) is placed inside. This figurine is sprinkled by worshippers using a ladle with ama-cha, which is a beverage made by soaking tealeaves in hot water Some people take this ama-cha home and drink it as holy water.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Two New Talks

We have just posted two new talks in our Audio Section, one by Rodney Smith on the "Thursday Talks" page entitled "The Flame Of Now" and another by Vicky Beeching on the "Importance of Silence" on the "Thought for the Day" page.

Rodney's talk emphasises the need to quieten the constant dialogue which creates and reinforces the form that we take to be "us". Vicky speaks of the need to escape the noise of our technology and find a space in silence.