Sunday, 28 February 2016

Look Who's NOT Supporting Trump!

Picture taken at an election rally for Ted Cruz who is Donald Trumps main rival for the Republican nomination to stand for the American presidency.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Buddha by Karen Armstrong

I receive a daily email from which is a brief excerpt or quote that they view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and hopefully have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

Today's piece is about the Buddha. (We already have the quoted book in our Sangha library and I can Thoroughly recommend it).

Today's selection -- from Buddha by Karen Armstrong. After practicing the asceticism of the holy men of his time and reflecting on a formative 'Nirvana' moment he had years before under a rose-apple tree, Siddhartha Gotama, the Buddha rejects pure asceticism for a middle way:

"Since he had left home six years before, Gotama had been fighting his human nature and crushing its every impulse. He had come to distrust any kind of pleasure. But, he now asked himself, why should he be afraid of the type of joy he had experienced on that long-ago afternoon? That pure delight had had nothing to do with greedy craving or sensual desire. Some joyful experiences could actually lead to an abandonment of egotism and to the achievement of an exalted yogic state. ...

Aesthetic Buddha

Buddha of the middle way

"He had, of course, already been behaving along these lines by observing the 'five prohibition's' which had forbidden such 'unhelpful' (akusala) activities as violence, lying, stealing, intoxication, and sex. But now, he realized, this was not enough. He must cultivate the positive attitudes that were the opposite of these five restraints. Later, he would say that a person seeking enlightenment must be 'energetic, resolute and persevering' in pursuing those 'helpful,' 'wholesome' or 'skillful' (kusala) states that would promote spiritual health. Ahimsa (harmlessness) could only take one part of the way; instead of simply avoiding violence, an aspirant must behave gently and kindly to everything and everyone; he must cultivate thoughts of loving-kindness to counter any incipient feelings of ill will. It was very important not to tell lies, but it was also crucial to engage in 'right talk' and make sure that whatever you said was worth saying: 'reasoned, accurate, clear and beneficial.' Besides refraining from stealing, a bhikkhu should positively rejoice in taking whatever alms he was given, expressing no personal preference, and should take delight in possessing the bare minimum. The yogins had always maintained that avoiding the five prohibitions would lead to 'infinite happiness,' but by deliberately cultivating these positive states of mind, such exstasis could surely be redoubled. Once this 'skillful' behavior became so habitual that it was second nature, the aspirant, Gotama believed, would 'feel within himself a pure joy,' similar to if not identical with the bliss that he had felt as a boy under the rose-apple tree. ...

"Gotama was developing what he called a 'Middle Way,' which shunned physical and emotional self-indulgence on the one hand, and extreme asceticism (which could be just as destructive) on the other."

Monday, 22 February 2016

FULL MOON - Purification

Gradually, gradually, 
a moment at a time, 
the wise remove their own impurities 
as a goldsmith removes the dross. 

 Dhammapada 239

Purifying gold, until it is completely free from dross, requires tremendous heat, takes a considerable amount of time and calls for great patience. The Buddha praised modesty as a supportive virtue on the spiritual journey, because he knew that when we get caught up in excessive enthusiasm we make mistakes. If we are not willing to patiently endure the discomfort of heat and frustration in our practice, we won't progress very far. Similarly, if we fail to invest adequate time, our other good efforts could be wasted. Purification doesn't proceed according to our preferences.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Saturday, 13 February 2016

There’s More Than Enough of Us

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Malthus. Malthus was the father of
Malthusianism, which contends that the Earth cannot support unchecked population growth.

250 years ago, the world population consisted of about 800 million inhabitants, and from that moment, it has progressively increased, until the mid-nineteen fifties in a continued, steady way, but since that date, it has been increasing exponentially. Thus, the world population has, since 1950, virtually trebled from 2,519 million to 7,401 million today.

The Buddhist views on procreation and marriage are liberal. Marriage is regarded entirely as a personal and individual concern and not as a religious duty. It is not laid down anywhere that Buddhists must produce children or regulate the number of children they produce.

Although Buddhism does not direct people to give birth, or suggest how many children they have, if any. Buddhist leaders are acutely aware of issues related to overpopulation. The Dalai Lama stated, back in 2008 that if the population grows beyond 6 billion, this will cause great difficulty - (the world population is now approaching 7.5 billion). Therefore, he says, family planning is necessary. In an attempt at humor regarding such a serious subject, he quips that if more people become nuns and monks (therefore practice celibacy) this will help control population growth.

Thich Nhat Hanh, teacher, author of books about contemporary Buddhism, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, stated in his U.N. World Conference speech, “For a Future to be Possible”:

“Our world is becoming smaller, and even more interdependent with the rapid growth in population . . . It is important to reassess the responsibilities of individuals in relation to each other and to the planet as a whole...

We are finding that the world is becoming one community. We are being drawn together by the problems of overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, and an environmental crisis that threatens the very foundation of our existence on this planet.”

Malthus himself stated that population tends to increase at a faster rate than its means of subsistence and that unless it is checked by moral restraint or by disease, famine, war, or other disaster widespread poverty and degradation inevitably result.

Monday, 8 February 2016

New Moon - Changlessness

Awakened Ones do not cause harm. 
They are rightly restrained 
and they move to changelessness 
where they grieve no more. 

Dhammapada 225

There is a lot that could and should be done to address prejudice and tyranny in the world. Our Dhamma practice is lacking when we chose to ignore opportunities where we could help. But our Dhamma practice is also lacking if we chose to focus only on the outer tyrants. Certainly, the Buddha wanted us to train body, speech and mind to not cause suffering for others. More than that though, he wanted us to realize the changeless reality in which suffering simply does not exist. Awakened beings who know this reality, which is free from all clinging, are not capable of intentionally causing harm to any being, oneself or others....