All entries about Buddhism

February 25, 2008

Buddhism in Finland

Just when I thought there was no Buddhism in Finland, I made an exciting discovery…

It happened while ice skating outdoors as the snow was falling heavily from the sky above. There is one guy who maintains the outdoor ice rinks all day long. He drives around in this special tractor that sweeps the snow off the ice. When he finishes one ice rink, he moves onto the next. But even before he has finished one, the previous ice rink is already covered in snow again. And so it goes on…

January 09, 2007

The bird and the monkey

Writing about web page

In one story, the Bodhisatva, who represents everyone on the path of Buddhahood, was a tree spirit. A monkey and a bird lived in this particular tree. One day the bird laughed at the monkey for not having a house, saying “why don’t you build a nest like I do? We birds have such nice, comfortable nests to live in.” The monkey replied, “you’re crazy, we monkeys don’t need such ridiculous things.” The bird laughed at the monkey who got angry and ripped the bird’s nest to bits. So the bird lost its nest because of its foolish tongue. It tried to teach technology to the monkey, but the monkey would have none of it. The Bodhisatva as tree spirit had a good laugh at this episode of the sassy bird teaching technology to a monkey. A wiser being would consider what is correct for the monkey and what is appropriate in this situation.

September 11, 2006

Jean–Jacques Rousseau the closet Buddhist

Lacking everything, he is never less miserable; for misery consists, not in the lack of things, but in the needs which they inspire.

Reading Rousseau’s famous book on education entitled Emile, I cannot help but think that this man was secretly a Buddhist. Some of the passages in this book look like they are taken from straight from the scriptures.

Absolute good and evil are unknown to us. In this life they are blended together; we never enjoy any perfectly pure feeling, nor do we remain for more than a moment in the same state. The feelings of our minds, like the changes in our bodies, are in a continual flux. Good and ill are common to all, but in varying proportions. The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.

Every feeling of hardship is inseparable from the desire to escape from it; every idea of pleasure from the desire to enjoy it.

An insect or a worm whose strength exceeds its needs is strong; an
elephant, a lion, a conqueror, a hero, a god himself, whose needs exceed his strength is weak. The rebellious angel who fought against his own nature was weaker than the happy mortal who is living at peace according to nature. When man is content to be himself he is strong indeed; when he strives to be more than man he is weak indeed.

I am disappointed that googleing “Rousseau” and “Buddhism” returns nothing specifically related to both subjects— there must be some scholarly types who have noticed this before.

August 09, 2006

Meditation in the garden

[Ven. Yasoja:]

Touched by gnats
& horseflies
in the wilds,
the great wood,
like an elephant
at the head of a battle:
he, mindful,
should stay there,

Thag 3.8

April 27, 2006

To take the tube or to walk?

In London, as in life, there are at least two ways of getting anywhere. Either you concentrate on the destination and getting there as quickly and efficiently as possible. Or you can give yourself up to enjoying the journey.

The London Underground is clearly designed for the former attitude by transporting you to your destination as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is fairly easy to use, you follow a procedural predescribed route devised from an abstract representation, and although the map has little relation to physical locations, still, it enables you to get to the destination. After a few journeys, there is little to enjoy about the journey itself, it is simply a means of getting where you want to go. It is not pleasant going underground on dark, dingy, fume–filled trains. How difficult it is to observe smiling faces on the tube. But people do it everyday in order to get to that destination, where they will start another journey.

There is another way to get around London. It is not as quick and efficient, but it is more healthy, for both body and mind. You can walk. Instead of following the procedural "tube" method for getting to your destination, you just head in the right direction. You will see and experience each place that you pass through. Each place will be different, unlike the stations that you pass on the tube. There is more to be experienced by walking. Each and every journey will be different. You will learn about the places that you pass through, you may even discover things that you did not know existed. You might not get to your destination as quickly, but what does it really matter, for you will probably go somewhere else after that anyway. At least you have enjoyed the journey.

And so it is with life. You can rush to achieve a goal as quickly as possible, and potentially miss many places on the way. Or you can head off in the right direction and let your experience guide you from place to place. Slowly, but surely, you will make your way towards a greater goal: discovering that life is all about the journey.

January 29, 2005

The parable of the poisoned arrow

There was not much to conclude from our talk this week. However, we did all enjoy this story…

If we are concerned about 'what created the world?' and 'why are we here?' then consider the parable of the poison arrow.

A man went to the Buddha insisting on answers to these questions, but the Buddha instead put a question to him: "If you were shot by a poison arrow, and a doctor was summoned to extract it, what would you do? Would you ask such questions as who shot the arrow, from which tribe did he come, who made the arrow, who made the poison, etc., or would you have the doctor immediately pull out the arrow?"

"Of course," replied the man, "I would have the arrow pulled out as quickly as possible." The Buddha concluded, "That is wise, for the task before us is the solving of life's problems; until the problems are solved, these questions are of secondary importance."

Life does not depend on the knowing how we got here or what will happen after we are gone. Whether we hold these views about these things or not, there is still suffering, sorrow, old age, sickness, and death.

January 23, 2005

Untangling karma (or kamma)

When this is, that is. From the arising of this comes the arising of that. When this isn't, that isn't. From the stopping of this comes the stopping of that.

There are many misconceptions about kamma (often refered to in sanskrit as karma). Westerners often associate kamma with fate or moral justice, making comments on negative personal situations like, "It must be my bad karma!" However, kamma is not the same as fate — in fact, kamma is about having free-will over your actions. Other people consider kamma to be like money: You can earn kamma by doing good things, you lose it by doing bad things and as long as you don't go over-drawn on your karma bank account you will be fine. This is also a misconception.

The word 'kamma' translates as 'action'. All actions are bound by the law of cause and effect. Each of our actions, no matter how small, have an effect. This law is one which scientists should be quite comfortable with, it is like saying that everything happens for a reason. A well-known physicist is famous for proving: 'For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction'. Over 2000 years prior to this, the Buddha had already pointed out that every action has an effect that is relative to the intention of the act. The effect may be immediate (e.g. you give someone a present and they are happy) or it may not occur immediately but, instead, the fruits of the action may come later (e.g. you teach someone and it becomes useful later). In actual fact, human behaviour is so complex that an action may have effects now and in the future. Who is to know what effect this blog entry might have in the future? — Probably very little! Kamma, then, is not a simple linear sequence of cause and effect but something that could span weeks, months, years, and lifetimes.

At this point we realise that we may never understand even a small proportion of the effects of our actions. If we really were able to see the consequences of our actions then it is likely that we would be much more careful people — people in power, leaders, politicians take note!

January 21, 2005

The weight of mountains

Writing about web page

Last night there was a discussion on 'suffering' by the Buddhist Society, this short quote from Thanissaro Bhikkhu sums it up nicely:

Is a mountain heavy? It may be heavy in and of itself, but as long as we don't try to lift it up, it won't be heavy for us. This is a metaphor that one of my teachers, Ajaan Suwat, often used when explaining how to stop suffering from the problems of life. You don't deny their existence — the mountains are heavy — and you don't run away from them. As he would further explain, you deal with problems where you have to and solve them where you can. You simply learn how not to carry them around. That's where the art of the practice lies: in living with real problems without making their reality burden the heart.

Next week the discussion will be on 'karma' — Thursday Week 4, 7pm in S0.09.

Quote of the day Go to 'Today's Quote'

Calvin Coolidge
"I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm."


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