Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Happiness

     

Everyone wants to be happy. According to all the research, what  makes people most happy is their connections with other people. To have a sense of belonging to a loving family or loving community is what makes us happy and apparently adds as much as 10 years to life expectancy. Before I became a Buddhist I was very self-sufficient and cultivated independence and self-sufficiency. This was not a bad thing, but it did take me many years of practising Buddhism before I realised experientially, that I did need other people – that my spiritual practice was nothing without other people and that the family of Sangha really was a blessing and a boon in my life. I can say now that I am happy most of the time and I believe this is largely due to being part of this alive spiritual community of Triratna. Bhante Sangharakshita says in Wisdom beyond Words that there is only one thing we need in order to be able to give to others. We need “to love ourselves and know that we are loved by others. Appreciate ourselves and know that we are appreciated by others”. This is also what we need in order to be happy.

Life


Life is abundant. Life is like a tropical rainforest or a Niagara falls – it rolls on relentlessly and is a flourishing abundant cornucopia –producing and reproducing endlessly. Life cannot be stopped, it cannot be contained and restrained. But we want to control life. Our fears and insecurities lead us to want to control life as much as possible. We even want to control the future.
EM Forster –the English writer – said:  “ We can spend our whole life preparing to live” . And John Lennon said  “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” . In other words the urge to control life and make it secure and comfortable can lead us to miss out on actually living our lives. We can spend a lot of time and energy trying to create an imagined future or trying to protect ourselves from a feared future and in the meantime our life is almost on hold.
But as Sangharakshita puts it in his poem of the same name – Life is King.
Hour after hour, day
After day we try
To grasp the Ungraspable, pinpoint
The Unpredictable. Flowers
Wither when touched, ice
Suddenly cracks beneath or feet. Vainly
We try to track birdflight through the sky trace
Dumb fish through deep water. Try
To anticipate the earned smile the soft
Reward, even
Try to grasp our own lives. But life
Slips through our fingers
Like snow. Life cannot belong to us. We belong to Life. Life
Is King.
 The great Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Mindfulness is the Buddhist way of living your life as though everything is a miracle. For Buddhists it is not the walking on water that is a miracle, it is the simple fact of walking.  When we have mindfulness and when we have love, we have everything and without needing to control, we are able to connect to the pulsing heart of life. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Conflict

There are always conflicts in the world - Israel-Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, DRC, Sudan, Venezuela - and many more. And those are just some of the violent conflicts. There are many more conflicts between different political ideologies, labour and capital, racial, religious, linguistic groups and so on.

Looked at rationally it would seem obvious that conflict doesn't really solve any problem but simply creates more problems. But humankind is not rational, or at least not just rational.

Often we, as individuals, are in conflict with ourselves. We want to be happy and we do things that make us unhappy. We want to be loved and we behave in ways that make it less likely to happen. We want to be free and we give up our freedom out of fear. There are forces at work within us that are not under our conscious control and this creates tension and conflict. And because there is conflict within human beings, it is not surprising that there is conflict among humans. (for more on this see my other blog and the talk entitled Demons for Every Occasion)

To reduce conflict within we need to become more aware of ourselves; more aware of our thoughts, emotions, motivations and actions. Becoming more aware requires some effort and is helped by the techniques of Buddhist meditation. The Mindfulness of Breathing helps us to get to know ourselves better. The Development of Loving Kindness (Metta Bhavana) helps us to experience our emotions more clearly.

If we develop more awareness of our own minds, we will over time gain a greater understanding of others too. And with that greater understanding comes empathy. Awareness and empathy help to reduce conflict, both internally and externally.

Buddhism says

22nd April 2014

I am intending to use this blog to write short pieces that give an idea of the Buddhist perspective on various issues. There is of course no one Buddhist perspective, because there are so many schools of Buddhism, so what I say is very much the view of this Buddhist who has been practising for over 30 years and teaching for about 26 years.