Tag Archives: action

2016-05 May Shinnyo Podcast – Practice

2016-05 May Shinnyo Podcast – Practice

  • What is a Practice?
  • Why do we Practice (and not Preach?)
  • The Story of Buddha and the 3 Monks
  • Practice is Not Perfect
  • Balance of Time – Working with Karma

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theoryintopractice
Courtesy of creative-remembering-techniques.com

What is a practice? Pretty much anything you do.  What is not practice? Thinking without action, although philosophically-speaking, inaction is still action, as it results in an outcome whether intended or not.

Practice in this context, is not limited to something specific you’re trying to learn, Philosophically, we could say we’re learning throughout our lives, each and every day, so that’s how our “practice” extends throughout our days, indeed throughout our lives.

But isn’t it good enough to be really loud and speak your thoughts like a broadcast?

the-brixton-evangelist
Street evangelism 1950’s Brixton, UK

What happens when you hear such a person?  Is it a moment to stop, listen and contemplate carefully what they’re saying?  Or do you mentally try to block out the extreme noise, and make a mental note to avoid that place in the future.  After all, if it works for cheerleading, why wouldn’t it work for all communication?

51176-318x283-megaphone2
Cheerleading with megaphone

If you observe the difference in context, you can see or maybe hear, the difference between an audience that wants to hear you (and can’t because you’re very far away,) versus one who is trying to tune you out and being viewed as an irritant rather than a example.

Master Shinjo once related how different types of people react to guidance with a story about Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciple Ananda walking home one night. They came across three monks who had been drinking something that was forbidden for monks at the time. The first monk quickly hid on the side of the road behind the bushes hoping not to be discovered.  The second monk averted his gaze and walked quickly past the Tathagata hoping not to be noticed.  The third monk thought that the money he spent was his own and boldly walked calmly right in front of the Buddha without care.  Master Shinjo’s notes on this encounter mention that the first monk represents readily instructable people who are open to new ideas, the second person might need more specific examples and might question reasoning but are motivated by emotional care and compassion, and the third person might need actual correction and regulation in order to learn a new behavior.  Depending on the person, your words and actions might be absorbed readily like a thirsty sponge, or discarded as so much hearsay and opinion.  For those interested in delving further into this story, next month’s podcast will explore the realms of the three areas of Intrinsic, Compassionate and Strict styles of teaching (the 3-Wheel Turning Bodies of the Buddha, Kannon Bodhisattva and Mahavairochana Achala.)

About 2 years ago, I decided that collecting guitars was not the same as actually playing them and signed up for formal lessons.  A long time had passed since I last had something that needed periodic and continued effort to get past my own mental and physical blocks to mastery, and this instrument had become one of those – the kind of situation where you can play “Stairway to Heaven” until people don’t want to hear you any more, but you can’t pick up a random music score and play it because you’re not familiar with how it goes. It’s very similar to saying, “I’m a very religious person,” and everyone nods their heads and thinks, “yes, and one day we’ll see it by actual example.” In this way, you can be doing or saying something quite clear, honest and with great intent, but without reflection upon the outcome of such actions, there really isn’t any measure for improvement or failure.

Just as much as every day we are sedentary, we lose some 1% of our muscle mass per year after 50, the same goes with both our minds, and our efforts to practice. Like that slowly leaking balloon that looks really great floating around, but it’s ever so slowly losing its helium and eventually grounds itself as a deflated rubber raisin, when we don’t do something each day to offset our little sack of karma, it too gets slowly heavier and heavier through natural entropy. To keep our momentum going and that sack staying as light as it can be, it takes daily efforts, and renewed exertion to offset the gentle though persistent waves of sediment that slowly build up over time, and eventually can solidify into much harder to break stone.  This is an example of the same person transitioning between starting out like the first monk described above, and later developing into the third monk even without intent to do so.

/* That’s it for this session. Thank you for listening. For more information feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1 With Gassho, James*/

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2015-March Shinnyo Podcast – Understanding Impact

2015-March Shinnyo Podcast – Understanding Impact

  • Responding to Icky Moments
  • 1 -> 10 -> 10 million
  • Every Seed is Important
  • Try Not to Watch Your Pot When Boiling Water
  • A Snowflake Starts an Avalanche

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rain_bird
Found on YouTube

There are many inconsistent and confusing examples of contradictory spiritual behavior in the world. We seem to have buddhist monks behaving aggressively in Myanmar, people beheading people in the name of a belief system, children with explosives strapped to themselves being sent as human bomb carriers, and in Japan, toxins were unleashed on the public in a subway all in the name of a religion or belief system. 1,000 years ago, we had the Crusades marching across a continent in the name of spiritual liberation. Last month we talked about alignment between actions and our principles. But what exactly happens when misalignment occurs?

When we witness behavior that is contrary to our beliefs, humans generate a typical “fight or flight” emotional response. This is part of our built-in survival mechanism to avoid things that make us shudder, go “Eeek!” or “Blechh!” and generally keep us sane because we reinforce our own belief system. If you were in a constant state of questioning your own beliefs, you might find yourself overwhelmed by a sense of confusion or disarray in a very short time. But these are all short-term and immediate responses to aversive behavior. What I find more interesting is the relationship between these exposures to repellant behavior and what we call Karma or the concept of how positive and negative actions have impact over time.

Let’s say someone is harmed or killed in the name of a particular belief, that is the victim is perceived as being an enemy of the beliefs, or otherwise would cause some kind of harm to it. And the person who causes the harm or death is not directly impacted or addressed by their actions, meaning a witness or onlooker doesn’t see an individual person as the cause of the negative action –  we don’t perceive someone specific to blame for the incident. To keep this example simple, 10 random people witness this act. What happens in these 10 different impressions of the action of one person? What happens when this same act is magnified by media coverage to expose this same act to 10 million random people? What if it were just you, who saw what happened?  What would you do? What would you say to others? What if you did absolutely nothing?

The parents, family, friends, and even enemies of the person who performed the act above have impressions, too. And each of those people create a downstream effect of how that act will be perceived by generation upon generation of others. Was it good or bad? Was it righteous or tyrannical? Was it selfish, or generous? Each of these individuals contributes to future actions of whether this one act will be repeated in the future, and to what extent it will occur (positive perception generally leads to magnification of the effort).

In the nature of cause and effect, each of the above actions or inactions results in something else. The seed that doesn’t get planted, doesn’t result in a plant, which doesn’t have roots that hold soil, which results in:

  • the dirt can more easily be washed away in the rain,
  • one fewer plant to grow and filter the air,
  • one fewer parent plant to produce seeds,
  • less shade on the ground leading to hotter soil temperatures,
  • one fewer plant to act as a home to a few insects,
  • and so on.

plant_in_hand_thYet, all it takes is one positive act to have the same and opposite effect. Whether you “Do unto others..,” “Pay it Forward,” watch for “Butterfly Effects” or plant a seed, things start to happen when you do something. The odd and sometimes frustrating thing is that in all of these actions, there is no guarantee of instant gratification of seeing the results of your action. It may happen centuries in the future. This is why detachment from attachments is emphasized in philosophy; try to not have the expectation of a result every time you cause something to happen. By becoming an agent of change, you automatically subscribe to the results – you really don’t need to sit around and wait for the “Lessons Learned” meeting to happen.

Photo courtesy of Earth Science Picture of the Day @esra.edu
Photo courtesy of Earth Science Picture of the Day @esra.edu

The concept of inertial change isn’t new. Over 40 years ago, John Naisbitt wrote about Megatrends and studied how they occur and what we can learn from them. 40,000 years ago, someone scratched into the wall of a cave that a big four-legged animal might be a thing to eat and feed a village, or you could plant something and get a similar result. Ultimately, how do you react to things and how do you affect your downstream relationships (all 10 generations worth)?

/* For more information and discussion feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1; With Gassho _()_, James*/

2015-February Shinnyo Podcast – Taking Action

2015-February Shinnyo Podcast – Taking Action

  •         How Actions Lead to Perception
  •         Consistent Form -> Consistent Results
  •         The Rules of Engagement Require Actual Engagement
  •         You Are What You Do
  •         Taking the Next Step

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action_thFrom an address by Her Holiness, Keishu Shinso at the commencement of this year’s Annual Training period on January 25, 2015:

“Shinnyo refers to the qualities that we find exemplified in the lives of the Shinnyo Parents and the Two Dojis, most prominently in the way they demonstrated what it means to embody a spirit that is selfless, unbowed, and full of harmony. Shinnyo Ichinyo (oneness with truth) is about the effort that we make to express these qualities of shinnyo in our daily life, and by so doing, we are always connected with our spiritual masters”

Spirituality is often interpreted as being an internalized concept in that while various groups of people will have a common belief system, it is the beliefs and practices of the individual that comprise how the philosophy impacts the rest of the world.  We see that demonstrated in our contemporary life by the acts of a few individuals affecting the impressions that others form about a whole religion, or even simply the label of alliance with a philosophy. Whether or not the actions by those individuals are conscribed or taught by the actual philosophy are not part of the perception.

This is often illustrated in many idioms and proverbs:

  •         Do as I say, not as I do.
  •         Actions speak louder than words.
  •         It’s the thought that counts (implying, not the action, or lack thereof).

Effectively, these are saying, “Take my advice, even though I am acting contrary to it.” (Sometimes used as an apology for behaving hypocritically.) – McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

What most philosophical schools teach is that individual actions should always strive to be in alignment with the principles of conduct, or the laws of commonly decent behavior. In Buddhism, these are illustrated as the Dharma, which comes in many different expressions:

Four Noble Truths

  •         There is suffering
  •         A source of suffering.
  •         The cessation of suffering
  •         Attainment of Nirvana

Five Cardinal Sins

  •         Killing one’s father,
  •         …mother,
  •         …a saint,
  •         Injuring a Buddha,
  •         Disturbing the Sangha

8-fold Noble Path

  •         Right views
  •         …thoughts,
  •         …speech,
  •         …acts,
  •         …livelihood,
  •         …efforts,
  •         …mindfulness,
  •         …meditation

And others.

Nonetheless, memorizing the guidelines becomes pointless if actions taken aren’t in alignment with what performance is expected. We know children pick up on this concept rather quickly at a young age. If parents always say to do something, but either don’t do it themselves, or don’t make efforts to correct or demonstrate desired behavior, kids figure out, “they say it, but they don’t really mean it.” And likewise, so do our pet dogs and cats, and even our co-workers.  We learn from the actions we observe, and much less so, the words we read or hear.

Similarly, we also learn more from our own actions (and mistakes) much more than from what we write, or say. Repeated actions reinforce memory. Learning how to golf takes practice, and that doesn’t mean watching videos or reading books about it. The “muscle memory” comes from repeated guidance in the correct form (or conversely, incorrect form repeated over and over leads to really lousy golf scores.)

Returning to our sales-related analogy, once you have assessed the needs of the customer and figured out a solution that would address them, you have to actually finish the transaction (“seal the deal”, follow-through, make it happen.)  In a nutshell, if you don’t take action to write the sale up, you go home with less pay, thus there’s a direct positively correlated relationship between taking action and personal gain.

In life, the relationship is not so clear to those who don’t take action. But as in physics, not taking action is in and of itself another action. And there are consequences for inaction, too. And every action should emanate from a compassionate source or it tends to have an opposite effect.

In Shinnyo Buddhism this belief in action has been distilled into three basic practices:

  •         Connecting to others (jpn. otasuke)
  •         Making voluntary effort (jpn. gohoshi)
  •         Contributing time or value (jpn. kangi)

Just as the symbolism of cleaning things and places is also referred to as “polishing our hearts”, it is the actions that when repeated and reinforced through positive guidance that lead to actual transition, and transformation.