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Archive for the ‘Dalai Lama’ Category

I spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon at the Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London. They had a community day, which involved welcoming back the resident teacher, a meeting about the future of the centre, and some carols. It was a wonderful day, and I’m glad I made the effort to cross London in the snow to attend.
My main reason for attending was to pray and say thank you for the recovery of my son from his illness (read my previous post “I am human, for we are many”). Although I only had a couple of minutes in the Gompa, it made me wish once more that I would sit and meditate more at home. I think the main problem is that the Gompa in particular, and the centre in general, has a very calm and different attmosphere than I have at home. This isn’t a surprise, as my home is home to two children, and this rarelly makes for a calming environment. I will try and find a new place for my meditation, and will report back soon.

Several weeks ago, we had my sons Christening. It was a wonderful day spent with friends and family. During the service, the minister made his sermon all about trust. He even had the children involved, doing a simple trust exercise, falling backwards, comfortable in the knowledge that their friend would catch them.
The sermon then went on to comment about faith. It got me thinking about faith and what it really is. And when you have it in the same sentence as trust, it made me realise that a lot of faith is based on some form of trust. When we think about it, we don’t really know who our prayers are being listened by. Is it some supernatural power? Or are we just talking to ourselves? The plain and simple truth is, we just don’t know. We believe our prayers are being heard by gods, but we don’t KNOW, not 100%.
Some people will tell me that without a doubt, they know that god hears their prayer, but they don’t know, they believe (and I’m not about to tell them they are talking nonsense).
There are also some people who would tell me there is proof for this. For example, I am reminded of a story by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. When he was young, and was visiting a palace for the first time, he walked into a room he had never been in before, and started to point to a chest of drawers. He kept saying his teeth were in there (barring in mind he was young and still had all his teeth). A Lama opened the drawers, and His Holiness reached in and picked out a small wrapped up cloth. Inside, were the remaining false teeth of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama. For some, this proves that He is the reincarnation of His predecessor. For others this is just a story. One more point to be made: in Buddhist scriptures (I don’t know which, I’m not that well learned), the Buddha says:

Believe nothing on the faith of traditions,
even though they have been held in honor for many generations and in diverse places.
Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it.
Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past.
Do not believe what you yourself have imagined, persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests.
After examination, believe what you yourself have tested
and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.

Buddha

What the Buddha was saying, was just because I say this, don’t except it as being true. Test it out for yourself, and if you find it to be true, then learn from it. If you find it not to be true, then disregard it. I think this is a great system to adopt in any part of our lives.

I think for me, this is the main wonder of religion (which ever religion that may be), that you have to trust that what you are being told, what you have read, heard, watched is true, and that unless we escape samsara, we will for ever be reincarnated and live on this earth, and never find Nirvana.
Maybe this is something to remember in this time of year. So to all my readers, Happy Christmas, or Happy Holidays if you prefer. And have a great new year.

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This must be a record for me: two posts in the same month. Great! This post will be a little odd, because I’m going to ask a favour from my readers.
Last night, I sat for the first time in a long time. It was lovely. It cleared my head up, for a while, and relaxed me nicely to get a good nights sleep. I also watched a film last night. It was Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, a film following the life of HH Dalai Lama. It’s a very good film, showing the stuffle between the Tibetan and the newly formed Peoples Republic of China. It gives a wonderful look into the Tibetan world before it was invaded by the Chinese. It always makes me want to meditate and keep my practice going.
The sad fact is that I have become very lax in my practice. I try and keep to the precepts as best I can, but I’m not always able to. I know meditation is not the only way of following the path, but it is a good start. And I like to meditate; it helps me to concentrate, it clears my head, and it’s good for my health (which is a good point at the moment). The problem is, my meditation is very random. Sometimes I sit for several nights at a time, sometimes I won’t sit for months at a time. And it bugs me. What I need is a little prodding. Keeping this blog up to date would be a start. So what I’d like is people who notice I haven’t posted for a while to prod me by leaving a comment, and remind me to keep on track with my practice. I know it’s a long shot, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

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His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet is currently in England on a tour. This week end, he is giving teachings in Nottingham. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend these teachings, however, I was able to attend his talk at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 23rd May 2008.
I arrived at South Kensington Tube station at about 13:15, plenty of time to find my seat. As I walked up Exhibition road, I suddenly noticed that I was surrounded by people dressed in robes, shaved heads and mala’s swinging from their wrists and necks. It was clear I was getting close to the Hall. As I came out onto Kensington Gore, I noticed three groups. On the park side of the street, a pro China group were lofting banners professing the clamour of being part of China. On the opposite site, making more noise with a megaphone, a Pro Dorje Shugden, A deity banned by His Holiness, were calling for religious freedom. Finally, back on the park side, A pro Tibet group made their presence known with simple waving of Tibetan flags. As I walked round the Royal Albert Hall, Numerous camera crews grabbed people from the crowds to interview.
As 13:45 approached, the time the doors would open, I made my way round to my door. A Police barrier stopped me from going too far. As I waited, a group of four Tibetan Dancers walked out from the stage door in full Tibetan dress. As they stood looking anxious, several cars pulled up. Before I realised what happened, people were cheering, waving flags and cameras poised. Suddenly, His Holiness emerged from the car beaming his trade mark smile. He went up to a group of supporters, shook their hands and laughed. He eventually walked slowly in to the stage door, guided by his aids and plain clothes security. Meanwhile, the dancers performed a traditional dance for His Holiness. An unexpected but welcome surprise. I showed my ticket to the Police Officer on the gate and walked up to the door.
As I walked through the door, my bag was searched and cleared. I followed the signs down stairs to door C to find my seat. As I emerged onto the Arena floor, I was greeted with the magnificent view of The Royal Albert Hall. The Victorian walls towered above me, glowing warmly in the stage lights. The ‘roof’ consisted of large circular discs, suspended from the glass top of the Hall. I over heard one of the technicians explain that they were designed to reflect the sound down to the hall, and bounce the noise from the street back out. Very clever. Hanging above the stage were two large screen TV’s displaying pictures and stats of the Tibetan plight. As I found my seat, a canvas bag was waiting for me filled with a program, with a timeline of His Holiness’ life and several other leaflets asking for support.
Soon after 14:30, the lights dimmed and we were welcomed by the Chief Executive of the Tibet Society, the organisation who planned the talk. After which, we were treated to some traditional Tibetan dancing and singing. Finally, we all stood for the Tibetan national Anthem. After a short interval, the moment we had all waited for, His Holiness appeared on stage. An almighty cheer rang out from the crowd, almost drowning out the thunderous applause. He took a seat on the plush white chair laid out for him on the stage. As he started to remove his shoes, some one in the rafters of the hall shouted loud and clear “we love you!”. Everyone laughed, and His Holiness, without looking up from his shoes, waved a thank you.His Holiness and his translator
His talk was an uplifting one, explaining how we can be happy by not being selfish. At one point, he mentioned the well known Mantra “Om Mani Peme Hum” and turned it in to “Om Mani”, and finally in to “Money, Money, Money”. This just demonstrated his point. His speech could be summarised in one sentence he used to complete his talk:

“The 20th Century was one of war and bloodshed. Let us make the 21st Century the century of dialogue. Then there will be a real possibility of peace”

He left much as he entered, with a smile and a wave, and suddenly, the rather surreal experience of seeing His Holiness was over. As I made my way home on the train, his message ringing in my ears, I felt energized and determined to continue my practice of Buddhism. I think this happens to most who meet him. It was a wonderful experience, and look forward to seeing him again soon.

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As you may have noticed, I have been resolutely quiet since the recent uprisings in Tibet took place, and this is partly due to choice, and partly due to illness and technical difficulties. However, I could hardly call my self a Buddhist Blogger if I ignored the obvious struggle in the homeland of one Buddhism’s most recognisable figures.

Any regular reader would have noticed that I am a follower of His Holiness, the 14th Dalia Lama of Tibet. I have read many of his books (four in the last year), and take great inspiration from his life’s work. I am also a big believe in his Philosophy of Non-Violence. I have read many sources on him that all point to the same thing: he is one of the most trustworthy men alive. However, if one is to believe the propaganda of the press, this is not what he is. He has been painted with many brushes by the Chinese government: tyrant, dictator, liar, instigator of violence to name but a few. But this hardly sounds like the work of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
I have recently been watching a series on BBC 4 called “A Year in Tibet”, which follows the lives of ordinary Tibetans under Chinese rule. They range from a successful hotel owner, a Buddhist monastery to a rickshaw driver. To be honest, I am pleasantly surprised as to quality of life of the general Tibetan; in particular the Buddhist Monks (Mao Zedong is apparently famed for saying “religion is poison”). However, not all is a bunch of roses. The health care leaves much to be desired and the rural farming communities are often struggling to make ends meet. I regularly have to remind my self that I have to take what is shown with a pinch of salt, as I believe the Chinese Government have made strict restrictions on what the team were and were not allowed to film. If we were to take this footage as the only evidence of life in Tibet, many people would say “What are they rioting about? Life isn’t so bad”. But all this must be taken in to context.
Tibet has been under Chinese Government rule since 1950, when the Peoples Liberation Army entered the eastern provinces of Tibet. Wikipedia has a very brief timeline of the events that happened (click here for more info). However, the statistics shown make for less comfortable reading. The Dalai Lama, fearing imprisonment or death, left for India to set up the Tibetan Government in Exile and has been fighting his countries corner ever since. This would be a kin to the Queen leaving England and ruling from afar. Moreover, in the past, the Chinese Government was accused of breaking down and destroying Tibetan culture, although recent efforts have been made to reverse this. With all this in mind, it is no wonder Tibetans have a saw spot towards the Chinese Government.

Putting all this together, along with the constant demand from His Holiness for dialogue between the two countries, I feel that a completely Free Tibet is, for the time being at least, a long way off. However, this is not to say that all hope is lost. Let’s not forget that Tibet and China lived peacefully together for nine years, with His Holiness and the Chinese Government making concessions. So maybe a return home for His Holiness isn’t so far fetched even if he is still under rule from Beijing. After all, Britain has rule over The Falklands, and they are further away. None of this however could ever condemn the violence of the last couple of weeks, and I only hope that now the wider community has become involved that both His Holiness and the Chinese Government can agree to talk on the future of both their countries, with a satisfactory conclusion for everyone.

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Yesterday was a strange day…  Full of coincidences.  First of all, I received a newsletter from Jamyang, the Buddhist center in London that I try to attend whenever I can.  One of the articles was from the residential teacher, Lama Soepa (who I have talked about previously).  His article was a preview of his new book, The Precious Tree of Cures.  In the excerpt, Geshe-la was talking about the killing of animals (for food).  He said it was best not too, because no more animals would be killed, which means that we wouldn’t be gaining any negative Karma.  This is an obvious thing to come from a Buddhist monk, but the coincidence comes in here:  latter that evening, my wife and I watched “Jamie’s Fowl Dinners”, a program explaining where our eggs come from, and what happens to the chickens after they are past “laying” age.  Being Jamie Oliver, it wasn’t sugar coated, and rather graphic.

To start with, his unsuspecting audience were asked to separate a batch of baby chicks into males and females and were shown what happens to them if they were in the egg industry.  The males were put into a gas chamber and killed.  It was sad to see these very cute chicks suffocate to death and then be fed to a python.  The females on the other hand, were sent off into their egg laying life.  If they were battery hens, they would live in small cages in groups of up to six, fed by a conveyor belt and lay a minimum of one egg a day.  Most of the time, they were scrawny looking, missing feathers and often sitting in their own feces.  Barn hens were kept in huge groups of 1600, but in relatively better conditions.  Finally, free range egg chickens were kept in wide open spaces, with a nice warm barn to sleep in.  It easy to see what chickens are better looked after (not saying that battery hens are badly looked after, but I know which I’d rather be). 

The second side of the ‘industry’, is the chicken side that we eat for our roast dinner.  There are two different kinds, so called ‘Frankenstien’ chickens (who grow to full size in 38 days) and ‘normal’ chicken (who take longer to grow).  The fast growing chickens are used for things such as fast food, cheap microwave meals and some of the cheap complete chickens you can buy in the shops (the 2 for £5 kind).  The ‘normal’ chickens are also used for roasts, but obviously cost a little more.

To finish off the program, the innovative chef showed how some chickens are killed.  I’m glad to say that the method shown was relatively painless, but still tear jerking.  The whole point of the programme was to show where our chickens come from, and campaign for a better life for them. 

A final thought: Is the eating of meat right or wrong?  Well, at the end of the day, I think this is a personal issue.  Personally, if I’m going to eat an animal, I’d like to know it was treated well before death, and if I can’t know, I pray that the animal has a good rebirth.  After all, even His Holiness the Dalai Lama eats meat, but only when his diet requires it. 

One of my wifes’ friends said “If it’s going to be slaughtered, why bother giving it a good life, surely it’s just false hope”.  A good argument.  Here is my counter argument:

Every sentient being (including humans) are going to die some day.  With the above reasoning, if we’re going to die, why bother making any effort at all in life, surely it’s all a waste of time?  Personally, I completely disagree on both these comments.  Chickens are sentient beings too, and who knows, we may have been a chicken in a past life (or it may have been our mother!).  With this in mind, were we a chicken, would we want a rough life, no matter how short, or a nice life?  Same with being in a human body.  Should we waste our life doing nothing, or make the most of it while we can?  You decide…

If you’d like to learn more about Jamie Oliver’s campaign for animal welfare, or to find out more about the chickens and eggs we eat, visit Jamie Oliver’s website here

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This is a sentiment shared by millions in the new year.

Every year, Millions of us vow to change our lives for the better, go to the gym more, find a better relationship and maybe not drink so much.  But what are we really celebrating?    In real terms, the earth as done one full circuit around the sun.  Historically, the beginning of the Gregorian calender.  Religiously, Christians are still celebrating the Christmas season, with the 6th of January marking Epiphany, the arrival of the three wise men to Bethlehem (more of a Catholic celebration).  For most, the first of January is a time to turn a new leaf, make a fresh start, not to make the same mistakes again.  And we keep these resolution strongly until something makes us give up and we start all over again next year.

At the beginning of the year, self help books and gym memberships are amongst the first things people buy I would imagine.  And why?  All because you think a slimmer, better adjusted you is what needs to change to make it all better.  And to some extent, this is true.  Slimming down to a healthy weight is important.  I stress healthy because being stick thin and calling yourself fat is NOT healthy (see my post Internal Appearance Vs. External Appearance for more on this subject).  Emotional stability is also important.  I will admit that I always used to make New Years resolutions.  None, that I remember, I ever kept…  But who does?  Not everyone let’s be honest.  This year however, I will, again, make a New Year resolution, and I am going to state it here for the whole world to see (if they read this page…):

I will keep up my Buddhism and meditation practices.

The first is not too hard, as it is a regular thing I do every day (or at least try).  The second, though, is slightly harder…  I always have good intentions to sit down and count my breaths, but sometimes it’s just not feasible.  I read somewhere that the best time to meditate is either early morning before dawn, or late at night before sleeping.  The late night before sleep isn’t too hard.  Normally when I come home  from working a late shift (I’m normally through the door by 23:30), I sit down for around twenty minutes and meditate.  No problem, it helps me sleep, dissolves the stress of the day at work and centers me.  Early morning is not so easy, especially in the winter.  I do take solace in the fact however, that His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama also claims to have the same problem.  To hear that such a highly experienced practitioner has the same problem is reassuring.

My final thought for this first post of 2008 is this:  You don’t necessarily need something external to get a New You, just your will and determination to liberate others from samsara.  Or at the very least, just help others.

May all my readers have a Happy New Year and prosperous 2008.  I leave you with this simple prayer for those in need:

 May I become at all times,
Both now and forever;
A protector for those without protection,
A guide to those who have lost their way,
A ship for those with oceans to cross,
A bridge for those with rivers to cross,
A sanctuary for those in danger,
A lamp for those without light,
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter,
And a servant to all in need.

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Tonight, I am working with a man who seems to have the same daemons I do (well, one of them anyway), and it’s something that has been bought to light in the last couple of shifts…
We are currently having a problem in one part of the building with the drains. They have been blocked and are starting to smell. Badly! It has got to the point where the closest kitchen to reception (where we spend our entire shift) smells so bad, it’s very unpleasant. We would go to another kitchen (located on another floor) but this one has the same problem. Fortunately, the smell hasn’t, currently, drifted into reception, but this is not the point. As my colleague quite rightly said, the situation is unacceptable.
In all due fairness, the sinks have only just started to smell. However, they have been out of action for four days. Although this may sound a lot like whining, it is strange to think that in this day and age what, should, be a straight forward job has taken over four days to fix (more, considering it won’t get done over the week end. I’m not placing the blame entirely on the maintenance team, as I know they are short staffed, and have over fifteen buildings in the area to maintain. What it seems to come down to is a simple blindness to a very simple and obvious precept: that we are all, in one way or another linked together and rely on each other to live.
This was again bought to our attention the other day, when one of the cleaners rang down to reception to report that one of the hot water earns was running hot water everywhere, and that she couldn’t stop it. My colleague went up and stopped it. It seams someone tried to use it, couldn’t turn it off, and left it. This incomprehensible blindness meant that the poor cleaner had to stay behind; taking what could have been precious time to clean someone else’s mess.
Buddhism calls this Universal responsibility and Dependent arising. It was a concept I couldn’t quite grasp until I read His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s latest book, “seeing yourself as you really are”. It simply states, that we each should care for each other (as well as other things) personally, because we depend on these people to survive.
Take for example a cup of tea: to reach our lips, we have completely relied on thousands of people to drink this simple beverage. We depended on the people who prepped the ground the tea was grown, the people who cared for it, who picked it, who weighed it, packed it, shipped it, and sold it to us. Then the water was treated against all sorts of nasty diseases, piped to our homes. The pipes that transported the water to out homes, the kettle that boiled the water, the cup we are using to drink, and possibly, the milk we have added, the sugar… all these ‘tiny’ things have been made by people, for people. And in return, we have given these people a job, a wage (one hopes), a reason to live, even. And yet we never even met these people. It is not a long stretch to say we owe these people at least a thank you. But most of us don’t (with due reason. I’ll admit I never used to think about all these people until it was pointed out). The best thank you we could give is by helping them in return (whether directly or indirectly). I think this, if anything would have a serious impact on the way we live. By thinking of the countless other that we affect on a daily basis, we are in actual fact, helping ourselves.

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