Back in the 1980’s, one of the common catch-phrases in the aerospace/defense industry brought about during the Cold War years was the concept of “Peace Through Strength.” The idea was that by having or possessing technology or weaponry which instilled fear in your opponent that the entire notion of committing an act of aggression would be dissuaded by the immediate and present fear of losing the confrontation (the premise of Mutually Assured Destruction). Then we further escalated the tension by envisioning “First Strike” capability, wherein upon even the threat of a potential nuclear conflict, we’d simply launch first. But what if we disable their ability to launch, then we’ve truly won? What if they disable our ability to disable them first? This rather nauseating discussion continues even today.
But let’s examine the behavior on a much more local scale, what keeps a potential burglar from entering your home? An obvious security system? A strongly locked front door? A loudly barking dog? Think about the situation from the perspective of the thief. Seeking the path of least resistance is common human behavior, even in the most monumental efforts. Each form of deterrence presents a form of resistance – another boulder in the stream. Some thieves may be deterred by strong evidence of defense, and yet others may be actually attracted with the potential of greater rewards hiding behind an iron curtain of protection. Is what’s in Fort Knox perhaps more valuable than something sitting in an open box on the curb?
A different way of seeing the differences might be comparing a skunk and a domestic cat. When you observe skunks, you might notice they don’t travel very quickly, and are almost casual in their pursuit of food and shelter. The high contrast colors of their fur, and certainly their smell bring an aura of caution and warning to every thing that encounters them..While they have sharp claws and teeth, they rely mostly on intimidation by scent and fluffing out their body and tail fur to make themselves appear bigger, hopefully scaring away a potential predator. Cats by comparison come in a couple of noticeable varieties – those that are quite easily skittish and very wary of approaching anyone or anything, and those that seem to be affectionate to everything and anyone. To a predator, the easy target might be the affectionate kitty, whereas it might avoid entirely going after the skunk.
Is our vision of our perfect existence a world full of skunks, or kittens? Doesn’t it depend a bit on whether you’re a predator, a skunk, or someone seeking companionship? In the latter case, you might find it much more difficult to make friends with a skunk. Or not – maybe you’ve lost your sense of smell.
And why would we see “violent” monks? Because we are still human. Yes, even monks. They are still people; people who have fears. Their attachment may be to their faith believing only they can defend properly its teachings or even its existence. Perhaps they are afraid that their example is not sufficient for others to follow. Maybe they believe that by providing a tough exterior it will shield the precious contents from theft or harm.
But re-examine the thief scenario from above – and imagine that you have given up attachment in the sense that you are secure in knowing everything you will ever need to survive and prosper will eventually come back into your life when it is needed. That every challenge you face is an exercise in your ability to adapt to change and apply your creativity and draw upon the strength you have developed by helping others to succeed for themselves. And in this world, we are actually surrounded by both skunks and kittens, and predators, and each plays its own role in everyday life in nature.
The thief who has everything will still always be hungry for more (termed Asuras or hungry spirits). You however, can satiate your desire for more by deciding to view things differently. You can accept that there will always be those that hunger for more. And also accept those who are unbelievably generous. The inner peace will come from wanting nor needing either. Through that peace, you become impenetrable, and thus, strong. Simple concept, but perhaps difficult to achieve. That’s the many-faceted path of being human. Try to be thankful for that gift of having a choice.
/* 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*/
If we define hope as wanting, wishing or imagining something that isn’t in our present existence, we could say that hope is an imaginary concept – something that isn’t real. If we think of hope as a state of consciousness, or the state in which we are visualizing this changed existence, then hope becomes a more tangible idea – something that persists.
The four virtues of enlightenment are expressed as permanence, bliss, self and purity, and in this context, the state of permanence is elusive depending on how we define our concept of hope. Each of these states is related to embracing the dynamics of change as an ever-present condition. But to also realize that hope becomes ever-present as long as we can imagine a state of improvement beyond where we are today. You give up your imagination, and you can say you gave up hope.
Nature accepts things as they are – whatever happens, happens. People like to change things, like creating clocks to track time instead of watching the sun and moon. We try to move and push our environment around to better suit what we think is easier, more advantageous, or even more efficient.
When facing extreme changes, that’s when humans often resort to despair instead of hope, losing that sense of a better tomorrow. But really, tomorrow is by its own peculiar definition, something that hasn’t happened yet. We may have a less shiny and perfect vision of that which has yet to come, but basically, it still is beyond the present. And until it happens, it’s still not our reality (barring existence in a parallel universe and warpage of time, of course.)
Our reality is how we perceive it. A fish out of water is kind of stressed, and probably certainly not happy about that. But it has relatively little capacity to change its own condition. We, by comparison, have amazing capability to change our presence, where we are, how we live, and in what manner we decide to co-exist with everything else. Question is, do you realize that potential?
Hope becomes real as we define and change ourselves, whether that means being content with whatever we have already, or transitioning and developing ourselves to see beyond our self-imposed limitations. In the path of transformation, we materialize our vision or goals into reality.
Looking at the situation in a more pragmatic light might be that we can consider ourselves either “stuck in traffic” or “faced with the opportunity to choose alternate paths to our destination.” Either way, the traffic is there. It is up to us to figure out how we perceive it and how we deal with it..
My own hope in this case is that you find that hope isn’t something someone else gives you. Hope is what you give to yourself.
I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful. –Bob Hope
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. — Yoda
But there is more. Suffering leads to desire. Desire leads to attachment. Attachment leads to attainment. Attainment leads to loss. Loss leads to fear. And the cycle continues.
Augmented Reality has been around awhile, but until the little Nintendo game came up this week that shadows Foursquare’s original check-in GPS technology (leading to 4SQ points, badges and virtual hierarchies of achievement), with the connection to the popular collect-until-infinity game Pokemon, we didn’t see people walking distracted into moving traffic, getting mugged and robbed by wandering where they shouldn’t, nor putting themselves in the beyond-selfie dangerous places.
People’s desire for things they don’t have (yet) was described in the original Buddhist depiction of hungry spirits (jpn. Gakido or skt. Preta-gati) as the realm of existence that one finds a mere level above Hell itself. (Shinnyo et.al describes ten realms of existence – six lower ones are consumed by desire or earthly limits, and 4 realms of heavenly or getting closer to Nirvana existence.) The difference between a human and a hungry spirit is that a human has the ability or will to say “no” to desire (the spirit is kind of perpetually suffering from desire unless it transcends.)
But in my depiction of the odd cycle of fear described above, you might see how an incidence of any kind of violence, intentional or not, tends to lead oneself into the cycle, and has a relatively predictable outcome, despite rejecting the original emotion that triggered it. I remember this as a child when some other child took a marble from me (one of those “I know it was there a moment ago – Hey! Give that back! That’s mine!” moments.) While I didn’t fear losing that one marble, within six months I had started carrying around this 5lb (2kg) sack of marbles, which I’m sure provided great strength training, but was eminently impractical, especially for actually playing marble games. Maybe that was my own little sack of karma.
Marbles back then, human lives now. I was reflecting to my life in the 80’s when our President and his staff dealt with an amazing number of fear factors all during the decade – financial ruin, insider trading, junk bonds, deregulation, AIDS, the Cold War, Iran-Contra, technology boom, Yuppies. We responded by buying guns, putting on Walkman earphones, and going online. Maybe VR and AR are just a lead-in to realization of the world of Tommy (don’t hear, speak or see… happy, safe and secure)
But there are always those who, for whatever reason, decide to open their eyes, listen carefully, and speak up. Their fear is transformed into compassion. Compassion leading to caring. Caring leading to love. Love leading to enrichment. Enrichment leading to embracement. Embracement leading to freedom. Freedom leading to acceptance. And acceptance leading to enlightenment. And thus, a new infinite single-ended cycle begins.
/* 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*/
Let’s explore further the realms of the three areas of Intrinsic, Compassionate and Strict styles of the Shinnyo Teaching (the 3-Wheel Turning Bodies of the Buddha, Kannon Bodhisattva and Mahavairochana Achala.) Throughout the volumes of dharma teaching are a seemingly never-ending list of numerically related lists and figures. Some examples:
Four Means of Embracement
Four Immeasurable Minds
Four Noble Truths
Four Grave Offenses
Four (or Eight – depending on which edition you’re reading) Sufferings
Five Cardinal Sins
Six Periods of the Buddha’s Life
Seven Levels of Consciousness
Eight-fold Noble Path
Ten Realms of Existence
Yea! – Memorize all those, and you probably still haven’t found enlightenment (but people may be very impressed with your mastery of lists.) Every teacher comes up with their own way to help remember what you’re supposed to learn. Master Shinjo Ito noticed that the Nirvana Sutra (aka the Mahaparinirvana Sutra) kept reinforcing the basis of buddhism being founded on what are known as the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Sangha (or community), and the Dharma (or teaching). Alone, each element exists, but only together do they form the basis for what we know as Buddhism.
Relating back to last month’s podcast about Practice, and the story of the three kinds of practitioners, he also thought about the common threads between each of the myriad sub-schools of Buddhism – each of which had a particular focal point of study (quite parallel to the various sub-sects of Christianity and Catholocism focusing on different saints, or missionaries, or how Shinto groups each have their own particular Kami (or god) as reference for their respective focus.) Within the founding of Shinnyo’s goals was the objective to unify and fuse the esoteric practices commonly found under the compassionate wisdom sects with the elements of the exoteric sects promoting determined practice, and disciplined self-regulation. Translating the three essential Buddhist elements into objective examples to study,we get:
Coming from a psychology background, I tend to translate the religious themes into scientific or concrete-reasoning examples for my own consumption, but nonetheless, I think you may start to see how things fit together in this model. Within every person lies the buddha nature inside, and each person also has free-will, and also moral or ethical boundaries. And it is the process of both self-examination of these values, and the outward expression (or practice) of these values that form the person we know.
The Intrinsic stream is our model or would-like-to-really-be-one-day self. If everything in the world were perfect, and this were Utopian existence, these are our target elements to existence in a super-happy care-free world. To really imagine or visualize this stream takes more than imagining a bunch of good luck comes to you; for example, you get a trillion dollars. Is having that being happy? Or is it the potential to spend it, the happy part? Or is it obtaining anything you want, the satisfaction you want? And once you have everything, are you happy yet? Power, money, control, success, respect, admiration, love – what is going to get you to that happy place, and keep you there? Our example given to us, is to imagine the opposite – never worrying about how much you have or don’t, surrounded by compassion, and being really satisfied with whatever happens to come your way.
As you noticed, compassion is part of our Utopian vision for our self. And it’s a dilemma, that to be cared for by others, you have to care about them, too. If it’s just a one-way situation, not only does it not sustain over the long-term, but starts to transform into other things – envy, greed, jealousy, and even hatred. You might even see all this one-way caring as false – people are doing it just to get something from you. That’s paranoia, and not part of our happy place at all.
Discipline is not control, nor is it about punishment. Knowing that you have a genuine sense of where you want to be, and that you care that others can help you in creating that reality, now you need to actually pursue it and not just let it fade into the night as a nice dream. To do that, is the work. But it’s not work if you enjoy what you’re doing. Just like any career formed around something you love to do, it transforms what was mundane, busy and irritating because it just must be done, into something gratifying and even pleasurable. Like building a house you get to live in, you take pride in doing a great job at something when you know what qualities went into creating it. You don’t do it because you have to, you do it because you want to. Kingdoms are not strong because of the King by themselves. They become transformed because every single member contributes towards making the whole a greater presence of stability, growth, and even respect. Each person’s discipline to go above and beyond becomes the Sangha, which ultimately satisfies the Self. And since somewhere inside you is a buddha wanting to emerge, the cycle perpetuates itself.
/* 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*/
Ever noticed when some people seem to live a charmed life? Not referring to being lucky, or fortunate success-wise, but more towards how some people haven’t had a lot of bad things happen to them. Accidents are few and far between, or never broken a bone, or became really ill. Some are winning every contest they enter, and seem to go through life with an ever-present ray of sunshine falling upon them, never casting a shadow.
Every accident I’ve ever had came from my own action or inaction. I was either unaware of my surroundings because of distraction or focus on something else, or thought I could do something that would get me there faster or presumed someone else was responsible for an action (whether avoiding me because I was there, or was otherwise responsible for predicting what I was about to do.)
I’ve driven always as though I’m invisible, because for all practical purposes, people have the most accidents when something predicted doesn’t happen (the person isn’t supposed to be there; the fan I tripped on wasn’t supposed to in my path; the food I’m eating wasn’t supposed to be spoiled, though it tasted oddly metallic, etc.)
One of the puzzling observations I’ve made has to do with how some people have many people in their lives that are in some way negatively influential, or critical, or even just chronically unhappy with life. While I don’t have any definitive idea where that comes from, I know that for myself, those kinds of people simply aren’t naturally attracted to me. I do encounter plenty of people who have ideas for improvement, or ways to do things better or more effectively in my daily life, but none who see the world as impossible to solve, or are faced with challenges beyond their capacity to cope. Much of that could be attributed to my belief that I can’t really do anything in someone else’s life other than show a different way of handling things. But it’s ultimately still their choice to make a difference for themselves. Whether that forms its own kind of invisible force-field against being surrounded by naysayers and prophets of doom, is up to pure speculation, but it is what it is.
Many years ago, I subscribed to the concept of rescuer mentality, developing sort of a Pygmalion attitude about relationships, which in turn attracted many people of similar belief. You became attractive both to those seeking refuge from circumstance and wanting a hand-up to a better life, as well as those who sought to rescue those in need. By itself this would seem to be an amicable relationship, seeing that those wanting support are matched with those seeking to provide it. But I think you can also see the co-dependency aspect of this situation – how the hungry never learn to satiate their own hunger, and the providers never fulfill the illusion of creating independence. Instead of a symbiotic relationship of mutual support, it becomes a parasitic relationship with each party needing the other to continue unfulfilled, lest the relationship (and the emotional satisfaction derived from it) collapse. The tensions of the need becomes the energy fueling the connections.
To this very day, I still find an innate sense of wanting to rescue, but with a realization that people are not stray dogs and cats, you do what you can to provide an example of self-sufficiency and ability, and do your best to embrace whatever life deals you. There’s a subtle but real difference between when one of those stray animals wanders into your life, looking for solace, versus the ones you go out and trap and domesticate. Similarly, you can be a great teacher and inspire people to learn, or just talk a lot about great things, and never pay attention that your audience isn’t really listening or learning.
While it makes no sense to try and draw direct relationships between bad luck and how one behaves in life, it may be worth noticing that the little rumbles and ripples from broken promises, and living a life of incongruity is often accompanied with a certain over-abundance of misfortune and misfeasance. Or if screaming at the top of your lungs that life isn’t fair and the world needs to treat you better hasn’t worked, maybe it’s time to instead invite a few faeries of good fortune and the leprechauns of luck into your life by trying the nicer road. Bad times are challenging, but not a curse, and at the time you encounter them, you do have the muster to overcome them. But if you insist on encouraging the worst by spouting your bravado, I’m pretty sure it will prove to be an entertaining event at the very least. Enjoy the lesser trodden path of life; it often comes filled with surprises and unforeseen opportunities.
When we first enter this world, we learn the harsh feeling that pain delivers. As parents, we spend lifetimes trying to keep our children from experiencing as much as we felt when we were growing up. As aged people, we spend on pharmaceuticals and every contraption imaginable to avoid having to suffer from it. And our own imaginations create our hopes of next world existence in places free from pain – heaven, nirvana, the after-life.
We even will often leave ourselves in relationships that are painful simply because we want to avoid the additional pain of having to end it – because in some sense, it may feel worse (mostly from sense of guilt) to end the relationship, rather than endure and continue. This particular point is often seen as one of those “double-edged swords” with what seems to be negative outcome no matter which path you choose. Remember that guilt becomes a trigger for our own negative behavior, as well, as it is triggered from our emotional wish to try and relieve the pain and suffering of others. But also remember the premise that others can only change themselves, just as we can only change ourselves.
Through that same idea, we cannot end the suffering of someone else, even if we are causing it, because we can only remove ourself as a source of pain. Even if you go away, their pain they feel may continue. You cannot achieve a goal of making another person’s world free of suffering. They have to be able to create and sustain that for themselves.
We are even taught that suffering trains us to be tougher, or more resilient. (e.g. “Man up!” or “Tough it out!”) While love may work through the premise, that “All love flows through your own love for you,” pain follows a similar path. When you put yourself through a painful life, it actually tends to transmit the same to others. Ever had an emotional reaction to seeing an senior war veteran, realizing what that person had gone through and still emerged alive? Was that feeling joy and elation? Or was it empathy for their pain?
This is why Shinnyo talks about your attitude when performing voluntary service is really important. If you view contributing your time and efforts as a burden, or a task you’d rather avoid, others will not see the positive nature of our efforts – they feel the pain instead. In doing our work, any work, if we do not retain the joy and happiness related to why we are doing it, we actually can produce a counter-productive result. Instead of more people being encouraged to “follow our lead” and help-out, we end up giving people the idea “Wow, I’m really thankful I don’t have to do what they’re doing.”
Physicians of all sorts learn the concept behind expediency in trauma treatment leading to faster recovery (and ideally, less pain sustained.) The pain of pulling a bad tooth endures less than suffering from the infection. But I think the verdict is still undecided on removing bandages from a healing wound. Some say, doing it quick has a momentary shock of pain, but it’s over quickly. Others find removing it slowly and deliberately causes less incremental pain, though it takes longer to subside. Either way, leaving it in-place doesn’t end the suffering, it merely avoids it, but perpetuates the pain’s eventual emergence.
The difficult thing is that emotional pain can extend long beyond the physical cause. That’s because emotions are triggered from inside your mind, and not a splinter you can just remove. I think it’s this kind of pain that often binds us to inaction – why we stay in bad relationships, or even perpetuate ones that we know aren’t good for either person, but it seems preferable to having to experience the actual pain of breakup and dissolution. Or maybe we even try to convince ourselves that somehow the pain will end if we just suffer through it, even though we’re causing it (which is why emotional pain isn’t a bandage you can simply remove.) From a physiology standpoint, emotional pain is biochemical – which means until you change the chemistry that creates the trigger, the psychological experience will endure.
Even a person with advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s can still feel emotional pain. And all the sedatives and tranquilizers you can take, won’t change the biochemistry that is causing the sensation; they just mask your momentary awareness of it. Only actual change in mind (setting forth the right thoughts), body (cessation of the bad behavior), and soul (this is the motivational part of why you are listening, or reading this – it is your Self you are changing) can heal an emotional wound.
When you feel life’s burdens seem to be never-ending, part of the feeling may also be the result of what we consider karma or the product of previous generations. That is not to say, the blame is from your ancestors – each generation is given the opportunity to address that burden and each generation can address it, or pass it on to the next. You have the capacity to transform burdens into life’s challenges and your opportunity to overcome them, or be overwhelmed by them.
There’s an old illustration of a thief who has a strong attachment to money. Succeeding generations of their spiritual downstream also maintain a similar attachment, whether in the opposite direction (they loath and refuse to accumulate it), or reinforcing it (by hoarding or collecting it.) The attachment becomes a never-ending hunger that cannot be satiated either way. That is where the concept of embracement of life’s events becomes empowering. Shinnyo (oneness with truth) says life never delivers you a challenge you are not ready to accept. How you deal with it determines so many things downstream from your choices. Whether called the Butterfly Effect, or leave it unnamed, this is the actual power you have to affect the world around you.
What do you see when you look in a mirror? Do you look at your hair, face, expressions, youth, aging, acne, whiskers, grey hairs, lines, dirt, oil, makeup, hemlines, shiny shoes… What do you see?
A mirror [ ˈmirər ] – a reflective surface, typically of glass coated with a metal amalgam, that reflects a clear image.
But what do you “see” in that image? Do you see your beauty? Your flaws? Do you see only what you want to see? Do you see what others see? Do you hesitate to look in a mirror?
A mirror does not judge, it merely reflects. Light and dark. Whatever is there, is there, or not. A mirror that is slightly askew, that is, seen indirectly at an angle, shows you something not directly in front of you. It can show around a corner, or something off to your side. Or a view from above or below. The light or shadows are a reflection in opposition, meaning you’re actually seeing the reverse of what is really there (unless adjusted by an optical reversing lens or otherwise image-processed.)
Seeing your self (or Self, metaphysically-speaking) is often considered a first step towards what is expressed in many different words: enlightenment, heaven, Nirvana, truth, Shinnyo, happiness, contentment, harmony, and even peace. Regardless of how you perceive everything and everybody around you, if your own self-image isn’t clear, or acceptable to you, then it reflects on and changes how you interact with everything and everybody else.
This concept of reflection is what we can also witness in how other people (and animals) communicate and interact with us. The words someone uses to talk with you, especially individually, are intended for your ears to hear (or eyes to see, or to touch). They aren’t really good or bad, or supportive or critical, until you interpret their meaning. Otherwise, they are just words. This is the same as when you like or dislike what you see in a mirror. It’s pretty amazing how much actual power you have over what and how you feel as you perceive the world around you.
Similarly, if you can develop your sense of how others see things, learning how to step into other’s shoes and walk in their footsteps, so to speak, you begin to see why Shinnyo refers to everyone else becoming mirrors of you. The way they act and treat you is not so much a consequence of their specific intent in one way or another, but a reaction to what you represent to them.
My friendly facilitators Steve Snyder and Michael Benner, now over at TheAgelessWisdom with whom I spent many days, weeks, hours and years in my college years learning from and with, always used to say, “Your own Love flows through your own love for You.” This translated into something like, you can’t really give what you don’t have. If you look in the mirror and accept what you see, others will, too. It’s when you can’t or won’t accept what’s there, that others become confused and don’t know what you’re really about. And if you fabricate something else about that reflection, it becomes really difficult for others to see things the same way.
Animals in their purity of absorbing the world around them, often are the clearest mirror to your own behavior. And, similarly, so are newborn babies. They perceive the world as it is. They learn from what has happened to them in the past. And that often forms the basis for how they perceive something new. When an animal has only known a world of kindness, it doesn’t really know what aggression or meanness means. Trainers often point out that you can say whatever words you want, but it’s the intent, emotion and feeling that the animals are reacting to, and learning. That’s also why it’s crucial to do as you say, and say as you do. People learn from what you do, and not so much what you say. Mirrors show what you are, and not what you say you are.
“Be gentle, love life, and take care of each other.” — Michael Benner
Each of the various sutras (sacred writings) related to buddhism ends with a common phrase, “…as I have heard.” (technically, “Thus, I have heard..” begins the phrases in Sanskrit, and we translate the grammatical structure in-reverse for English – and that’s more than you wanted to know about why there’s a difference.) Going back to the beginnings when Siddhartha was walking around talking with people about what was on his mind, many people couldn’t read written text (education being something only for the wealthy, and having a few thousand different dialects didn’t make it any easier), and so, he spoke. He also noticed something interesting about speaking with people – people listen and hear differently from each other.
There’s a BBC2 programme called “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School” that is studying the differences between UK students, and those in China, relating to how and why they learn, and the struggles of attempting to teach students that are from very different social backgrounds. One of the many take-aways in the program relates to classroom management, wherein there are classroom monitors (elected by their peers) who are designated to act not only as supervisory extensions for the instructor, but also become role models for the others by demonstrating desired behavior.
The observed difference for a teacher attempting to mass educate a large group in a standardized way, without that group being very consistent and homogenous in focus and intent, becomes very chaotic. By comparison, speaking with a smaller focused group, or even one on one, becomes much simpler for the speaker to adjust the content and manner of speaking, or even vocabulary, so that the instruction doesn’t get lost.
Similarly, when the students are given a physically engaging task to accomplish, that requires both focus and determination, they are as a population, able to achieve their individual goals at their own pace, some needing assistance from facilitators, and others determining their own path to success.
When students at Shinnyo-en attend dharma school (kind of a 5-year Masters program in Buddhist theology), the attending students are all focused on the same objectives and attending for pretty much the same reasons. In these situations, it is fairly simple to develop a standardized way to communicate a complex topic because the audience is consistent.
By contrast, when you encounter individuals asking a question, or seeking guidance, you will tend to shape your style and manner of communication to most effectively reach your goal of the other person understanding what you are trying to say. There is also a difference in the way you speak with someone close to you, with whom you share a common connection, versus what you say to a stranger, with a corresponding difference in objective (for example, to a stranger about to misstep, you might say, “Be careful!” and go about your business; but if that same person is your child or parent, your intent and purpose become not only insistent, but also highly protective.)
This is also the difference between this podcast, going out to a random population, versus how and what I would say to an individual. The content here is general information presented in a very common form, which some may or may not understand. But for those who reach out and ask individually for clarification, or when a familiar person encounters a situation needing similar advice, the information herein becomes tailored to the unique needs of that individual, restated in whatever ways are needed to make the message clear and understandable.
That’s the power of one on one conversation, at least so far as I have heard (and experienced it.)
““I hear that this month practitioners are getting ready for my birthday celebration. I’m grateful that you all want to express your appreciation to me in this way. But what I hope for more than anything is for all people to live with joy in their lives. I pray that you will take this occasion as an opportunity to take action so that even one more person can find joy in the world around them.”
— Master Shinjo Ito, 1973
About this same time last year, I described the general process of spiritual elevation at Shinnyo-en and conceptually what it was about. At last month’s meditative sitting, our spiritual guide had a few interesting observations about the Los Angeles training that were worth sharing. He had travelled from Japan, first stopping up in San Francisco, and then Chicago and now in Los Angeles. The first 2 stops were typical of this time of year – still fairly cold and either rainy or snowy outside, and a general feeling of people still hibernating, so to speak. But upon arrival in Los Angeles, whereupon he was greeted with 90+F temperatures, and even now, a rain-less, overly sunny climate that defies historical record, he said “this must be a form of Paradise!”
During our training, he felt we shared a brightness and warmth similar to the weather outside, with much happiness and joy throughout the group. But as the meditation deepened, he felt the room growing darker and dimmer, and our corresponding moods and spirits turning inward and more self-centered. It’s as if we started out with a sense of communal support and joy for our training, and then shifted towards a much more singular “I must elevate. Must focus my thoughts. Be determined.” mindset. And while this sort of internally-centered focus works well for the beginning stages of learning to meditate and clear your mental dissonance, it really doesn’t work to develop the openness and compassion needed to develop embracement and oneness.
Often we find ourselves in this odd balance between the chicken and egg syndrome of sharpening our own mental and spiritual awareness, but at the same time, not shutting out the rest of the world, and ultimately compassion, in the process. it’s a little like the Zen concept of “learn everything, then learn to know nothing.” Learning to accept not only ourselves (which is an important first step), but also the rest of the universe as it is, where it is, and what it is – means embracement (jpn. Shoju or Shojou) in its truest sense.
Remember that when we pay respects to our spiritual figures, we do so as a gentle reminder that we wish to change not only ourselves, but inspire others to have aspirations and positive hope, just as the figure of the Ever-Present Tathagata Shakyamuni represents the timelessness and universality of the Buddha’s enlightenment, in other words, the potential of all people to bring forth their own innate potential (aka buddha nature) to awaken.
To become one with G*d, to walk in Christ’s footsteps, embrace Tao,
develop buddha nature, or simply be a good person – whatever you end up calling the process of incorporating compassionate practice into your daily life, it is the steps you take each and every moment that lead you somewhere else, and not the imagining what it will be like to get there.
“No matter where you go, there you are.”
— Confucius, Buckaroo Banzai, Luca Bloom, et.al.
/* For more information and discussion feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1; With Gassho _()_, James*/
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.
Yet, 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.
From 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).
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,
Injuring a Buddha,
Disturbing the Sangha
8-fold Noble Path
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.
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.
If you Care a Little More, Things Happen. Bees can be dangerous. Always wear protective clothing when approaching or dealing with bees. Do not approach or handle bees without proper instruction and training.
You must be logged in to post a comment.