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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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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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