A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Where ever you are, just start being more compassionate right now

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion,...

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, 16th century image from Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I talked about Ecobuddhism as a solution to the impending disaster, as I have started to call it, Ecogeddon. More on that tomorrow, I realized that whether it is the environment, problems with others, dissatisfied with ourselves, the solution is the same. The answer to all these problems, is to become more compassionate. Today people are desperate to help themselves, help their families and neighbors, and to help save the world. People are spending a fortune on self help books, attending costly seminars, purchasing the newest must have gadget in order to feel better about themselves. These methods were being used before The Buddha became enlightened. His own story of how his parents, did everything within their considerable power, to see to it he was not exposed to suffering. Let’s face it, if a wealthy king with the resources at his disposal, was unable to prevent his son from encountering suffering, what chance do us everyday people have? Whether it is ourselves, our families, or our neighbors, we all suffer. Accepting this fact is the first step on the path of discovering happiness. Even saving the planet, requires us to take small steps, which can quickly add up. However for today, I will forego the environmental problems, and instead focus onus as individuals.

I am a follower of Mahayana Buddhism, which emphasizes compassion as the basis in all our interactions with other beings. Whether it is in our thoughts, our speech, or our actions, they all need to be based on compassion, or loving kindness. The Theravada approach has the same goals, and is equally valuable as a reference.

So you want to change the world? What do you want to change? Is the goal to make the world, more how you think it should be or is it to help each being achieve happiness as they define it, while ensuring no other being is harmed by your actions. I just realized today, that The Buddha does not define what happiness is, rather he just says to attain this in an ultimate form, we need to eliminate suffering. In his teachings there is no heavenly realm awaiting those who follow the middle path, nor is there an everlasting hell for eternity for those that do not. There are heavenly realms, and hellish realms, but they are impermanent, just as our lives are. For most of us when we feel pain, we shield our hearts. In our relationships, someone we trust hurts us, we close our heart, so as not to feel even more pain. We just got slapped on the face, and for most of us, we immediately want to strike back, to return the hurt. Those who are more compassionate may not strike back, instead they withdraw, so no further slaps may reach them. This is a very good step towards not hurting others, but it is not even half the solution. The Buddha told us we must love our foe as our friend. So that person who just hurt you, is to be forgiven, and treated with love and respect. I understand if you are saying, but I can’t. This is not a virtue that is granted us, rather it is one we must learn to develop. When we are capable of being compassionate to those who hurt us, then we are making compassion as the basis for our interactions. If our first thought is not one of anger, but rather love, then surely our speech and actions will follow. Within Buddhism there are many ways we learn to train the mind. Firstly we start with meditation and the three adjustments to our body. We adjust our body to be able to sit comfortably for an extended duration. As the Venerable Master at my temple points out, don’t worry if you can’t do a full or even a half lotus. Find a comfortable position to sit in, but no so comfortable as to fall asleep. Close your eyes, and think of your self as a molecule at the inside tip of your nose, concentrate on your breath, notice the cool dry air being inhaled, the warm moist air being exhaled, also was there a pause? Once you have your breath as your mental focus, just continue to focus on it, and if another thought arises, let it appear, then disappear, don’t linger on it, instead return to concentrating on your breath. After a period focus your thoughts, as all the love you have within you, then choose the person most deserving of all this love. Focus all these loving thoughts on yourself. For it is only once we accept who we are now, with love understanding and compassion, do we realize that who we are right now, does not have to be who we are next day or next year. Focus all your love, understanding and compassion on yourself, and perhaps not the first time but with practice you will soon find you smile easier, people will notice you seem happier. Now that you have been practicing on yourself, add your spouse or another relative to the practice, start with yourself, then expand this ball of love, compassion and understanding to include the other person. Over time you will expand this practice to include everyone, even your foes. I am going to leave this topic here, for to go further would require more background to be taught, and corrections to your practice to be made, and I don’t feel this is the place to do this properly.

If there is a Temple, Buddhist Church, or Wat  close to where you reside, see if they offer meditation classes.  Learning these techniques is easier if you have a teacher to guide you. Also being in a room where others are doing the same practice reinforces our own abilities. There are many other groups, associations and people who offer classes in meditation, some may be good some may not, but regardless of where you choose to go. listen to your inner feelings, does this feel like a place of love and compassion? Feeling a little nervous if it is your first time is expected, but if you do not feel a warm, loving sense, perhaps you need to continue searching for a place to learn. As the Buddha taught us, to test what we see, hear and learn, if it is agreeable then we should adopt it.


EcoBuddhism or Ecogeddon

I guess you could say this entry is about Cause and Effect. I found a book today titled, A Buddhist Responese to the Climate Emergency. Some of the authors inside include The Dalai Lama, The Karmapa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Bhikku Bodhi, Robert Aitken, Lin Jensen and many others.  Opening it up, I found their website:


Needless to say for the rest of the day I have probably looked as some would say, like the village idiot. Here is a book that combines my spiritual beliefs with my belief in the ecology. I am going to share the the dedication, in hopes it will inspire you to purchase or borrow the book from your local library.

“To the human generations to come,

To our companions, the kingdom of the animals of land, sea, and air,

The great plant kingdom that sustains us all,

The single-celled ones and fungi that recycle and transform,

Al of you who have no voice,

With whom we are inexticably linked

In this net of exquisite energy, this living world.”

John and Diane Stanley from the acknowledgements of the aforementioned book.

I have come to belief mankind does not have to worry about an armegeddon visited upon us by a venegful God as many religions predict, and countless more sciencefiction stories have described. The doomsday cults that have said over 500 times that Armegeddon will occur on the following date, have lined up the stars, the moon, rogue comets, and supernatural entities as the bringer of our doom.

I have been watching as in the last decade more research has shown mankind is the cause of the upcoming sixth extinction event in the planet’s history. In 2004  the Species Survival Commission for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is released a study that shows that the extinction rate for spieces because of human enviornmental influence is over 100 times faster, than before we show up in fossil records. Not since the last great extinction level event, the disapearance of the dinosaur has our current rate been exceeded. The ICUN was founded 5 October, 1948 under the auspices of UNESCO, to give it a more scientific base. 18 governments, 7 international organizations and national nature conservation organizations signed the charter. One of the key criticisms used against what this body states is that they extrapolate the existance of undiscovered spieces. This is an attitude that was shown against scientists such as Galileo, caused the Library at Alexandria to be destroyed, attacked Darwin’s theory of Evoloution, among many such denials. In the past thi sattitude at times was caused by Religions objecting to anything that did not fit with their version of history. Today the new Religion of Consumerism and it’s under lying belief in sustainable profits over a sustainable enviornment, fight with every weapon available. If it is global warming, then quick find someplace that it didn’t warm up, the glaciers melting, well thats to be expected its happened before. Global warming is the behavior of the total climate of the earth, not one or two isolated regions. According to studies on the glaciers using core samples, there is no recorded melting to match the current rate. In other words those who deny it are making a guess, with no evidence available to support them, or evidence to deny either. So using advertising techniques, they trumpet the message of :Don’t worry be happy, and keep right on buying more stuff.

The Dalai Lama has weighed in after careful consideration. He has publicly endorsed the 350 ppm  Atmospheric CO2 level. 350ppm is considered the upper level of the range that our ecosystem can survive. We are alreay at 385ppm and climbing. If you would like to know more click on the above ecobuddhism.org link.

Buddhist Decleration on Climate Change is also available on their website. I have added my small voice to this growing voice.

More over the next few days.


Good & Evil as seen through our Diet

A little housekeeping before the main course so to speak. I can’t remember where I found this, so can’t attribute it to it’s author. If anyone can identify the real author please send me a message, as I have found several who claim to be. Secondly while it refers to God & the Devil, as Buddhists we understand the difference between Right actions and those are not right, so you can still enjoy. Finally regardless of which path you follow, it is our minds that make the decision to follow good thoughts, which lead to correct words and actions. Or we can let the five salesman we call our external senses run the show.

Angel’s Food vs. Devil’s Food

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables  of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then using God’s great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Krispy Creme Donuts. And Satan said, “You want chocolate with that?” And Man said, “Yes!” and Woman said, “and as long as you’re at it, add some sprinkles.” And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat, and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.

So God said, “Try my fresh green salad.” And Satan presented Ranch Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, “I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them.” And Satan brought forth deep fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.

God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it “Angel Food Cake,” and said, “It is good.” Satan then created chocolate cake and named it “Devil’s Food.”

God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald’s and its 99-cent double cheeseburger. Then said, “You want fries with that?” And Man replied, “Yes! And super size them!” And Satan said, “It is good.” And Man went into cardiac arrest.

God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery.

Then Satan created HMOs.

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