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Posts Tagged ‘Mahatma Gandhi’

light-and-dark-poem-mushinIn the wonderful book A Guide to the Buddhist Path Sangharakshita writes about peace in such a beautiful way. In Pali there is a word “Upeksa which is tranquility or, more simply, peace.” He writes:

“We usually think of peace as something negative, as just the absence of noise or disturbance, as when we say, ‘I wish they would leave me in peace.’ But really peace is a very positive thing.  It is no less positive than love, compassion, or joy—indeed even more so, according to Buddhist tradition, Upeksa, is not simply the absence of something else, but a quality and a state of its own right.  It is a positive, vibrant state which is much nearer to the state of bliss than it is to our usual conception of peace (page 162).”[1]

And yet most of us have never experienced “bliss” itself.  Sometimes we can feel something similar with help from drugs or alcohol but that is not the Buddhist idea of “bliss” for sure.   But we all have experienced the idea of peace. What would the world be like if every morning every person on the planet woke up filled with peace, joy, and compassion for self and all others?  No one would go hungry because if we had one piece of bread–we’d share it with someone who had none.  There is a very powerful saying, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”  I cried because I had no peace until I met a family who lived in a war zone, or walked thousands of miles with their children to leave gangs and death, rape, and poverty.

The author goes on to write, “We shall have to regard ourselves as citizens of the world in a more concrete sense than before, and rid ourselves of even the faintest vestige of nationalism.  We shall have to identify ourselves more closely with all living things and love them with a more ardent and selfless love.  We shall have to be a louder and clearer voice of sanity and compassion in the world (page 132).”[2]

If it’s to be it’s up to me!  I must be it, live it, and honor it in all that I do, and think, and say.  I must be the example of peace and love and not to just the nice lady down the street, or the kind man who held the door for me when my hands were full of packages.  Not just when the person agrees with me.  There is a great story attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and told by Chuan Zhi in 2003.

“When we achieve true restorative balance within ourselves, we are happy and content and can live without regret, remorse, or guilt. We are at peace. The enlightened approach is to always be vigilant, to guard against committing sins—those violations of our Buddhist Precepts.  But when we slip and fall into error, we must go that extra mile into positive areas and not only make restitution and correct the damage, but we must also correct ourselves.”

Chuan Zhi goes on to write:

Gandhi is near death from starvation when a crazed man, a Hindu, arrives with food that he insists Gandhi must eat. He demands, “Here! Eat! Eat! Eat! I’m going to hell—but not with your death on my soul!” Gandhi replies, “Only God decides who goes to hell.”  “I killed a child!” the man confesses.  “I smashed his head again a wall!” Gandhi asks, “Why?”

“Because they killed our son…my boy! The Muslims killed my son!” Gandhi sees the man’s unbearable grief and remorse.  He gently tells him, “I know a way out of hell. Find a child, a child whose mother and father have been killed—a little boy- and raise him as your own.  Only be sure that he is a Muslim…”

And thus, came peace in the heart of the man and the child that he raised.  What do you need to do to find peace in your heart?  Now go do it….

[1] Sangharakshita, A Guide to the Buddhist Path, Windhorse Publications: Birmingham England

[2] Ibid.

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Enlightenment is an elusive idea spread by many religious and spiritual teachings around the world. Questions abound:  What is it?  How do I attain it?  What will happen if I do get it?  Does that mean I have to leave my family and friends and go live on the top of a mountain somewhere?

Dogen said, “Great enlightenment right at this moment is not self, not other. Great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily activity.  Enlightenment is ungraspable (page 55).”[1]

Tanahashi and Levitt say, “Awakening to the ultimate reality of human existence is called ‘realization’ or ‘enlightenment.’ It is the actualization of our innate capacity to experience wisdom beyond wisdom (page 50).”[2]  Wisdom abounds everywhere, are you looking?

Enlightenment is knowing that you are in the present moment, doing all that you can to demonstrate your oneness with the world and the people around you.  It is living in the moment and not being drawn into future events or challenges or pushed back to the worries and woes of the past minutes, hours, days, or years.  It is being one with all in this very moment.

As Dogen said it is the “tea and the rice of daily activity.”  So if you are sitting or meditating so you can be sent to another plane of existence, or to light up like the pictures we see of Jesus, or to be relieved of your daily chores and sorrows you may or may not grasp it.  You just may be looking in the wrong place for the wrong thing.

Enlightenment to me is when you are living your life fully with peace, love, joy, and compassion.  When without thinking you act as the Good Samaritan, or Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or the Buddha just doing and being the embodiment of those things. It is washing the dishes with care, driving the car with mindfulness for the safety of others on the road and the passengers in your car.  It is saying a prayer before you eat to bless the food and those who have made it possible for you to eat: the farmer, the truck driver, the clerk in the grocery store and hundreds more.

We have a beautiful prayer that we say before each meal at our Zendo if you are not already using it I hope you’ll try it out.   It seems to have extra added benefits like no indigestion after the meal for some reason or other!

Earth, water, fire, air, and space combine to make this food. Numberless beings gave their lives and labors so that I may eat. May I be nourished so that I may nourish life.

This prayer can be used throughout the day for everything.  Bless the clothes you wear and the people who made them for you.  Bless the car you drive and the home where you live, and the furniture that you sit and sleep on. See the “light” in everyone and everything.  That is why we call it “enlightenment.”  It is not a place to go but a place to be!

Be light about everything, look for the humor and laughter around you and bring humor and laughter wherever you go.  Life is short—too short to be living “enheavyment” every day all day long!  Be good to yourself and lighten up. When you do you see enlightenment everywhere in everyone and in everything.  Think what a miracle that would be! If this day was your last day on earth what a wonderful day it would have been.

Dogen said, “You should remember that how much you study and how fast you progress are secondary matters.  The joyfully seeking mind is primary (page 51)”[3]  So trade in your heaviness for joyfulness today!  When you do you will be face-to-face with the master’s I have named above and many more—you will be walking with them in the light.

So travel lightly, Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

1.  I will begin each day with joyfulness and lightness.

2.  I will remind myself that life is short—and not to spend time in “heaviness” but in “lightness”!

3.  I will remember to keep my eyes and ears open because wisdom and enlightenment are everywhere present.

4.  Lastly, I will keep a journal of the opportunities that have been presented to me so I can keep track of my progress and my opportunities for growth.


[1] Tanahashi, K. Levitt, P. (2013) The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala: Boston, MA

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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