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Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Category

The last week have been very hard for my familly. Last Monday, my youngest son (4 months old) was rushed to hospital with a suspected infection. After several tests, it transpired he had meningitis. We were rushed to a London childrens hospital, where they took very good care of him. I’m happy to say that he is now back in our local hospital and responding well to treatment. We are extremly lucky that the diagnosis was made very early, before the infection became too serious.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank every member of all the medical teams that have helped make him better. My familly and I are eternally grateful. We are making plans to repay the kindness by donating money to the three charities that helped us in this very dificult time.
The main purpose of this post, is to talk about something I have noticed this last week. Once the news of my sons condition had spread from family to family friends, we soon received multiple messages of support (which were most appreciated). Most of these messages said they were all praying for us and a speedy recovery for our son. Soon, entire church congregations were praying for his wellbeing. It got the point where I realised the only person not praying for him was me. When at the London hospital, my wife wanted to visit the chapel. It was magnificent! I knelt breifly, and said thank you. But I knew this was not enough. Sunday night, I finally sat and meditated and said thank you. I used the Medicine Buddha mantra (tayata Om Bahgatze, bahgatze mahabahgatze, ragdzad somaghate soha). By the time we returned in the morning, our son had made a marked improvement.
I’ve always known that this was the main aim of praying for someone, but I have never seen it demonstrated so well. Then, whilst we’ve been in hospital, I have been reading Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’. The novel aside, it has some very interesting history and research behind it relating to the Mason’s, mystisism, and Noetic Science, a relatively new branch of science that aims to show that humans are only using part of their brain (amongst other things). The author states that researchers in the field of Noetics make claims that the human consiousness has a measurable mass, and is able to manipulate the physical world, just by thought. The book goes on to mention other bits of research with ‘fantasticle’ claims (I would like to point out at this time that this is all based on ‘The Lost Symbol’ and I have not yet done any research of my own).
Whether I, or the reader, believe in these claims in the book, I can only comment on my personal observations, and from what I have witnessed this week, with so many people praying for my son, that the human conciousness has made a significant impact on me this week. One could put this down to the medicine working, but I find the sudden contrast was astounding.
The concept that the human mind has a measurable mass (a very small, yet measurable mass according to the book), is consistent with the Buddhist notion of reincarnation, where the conciousness will leave the body after death and find another body. The events of the last week have only increased my faith.

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Who is really suffering?  Me, or some one with a excruciating terminal illness?My work allows my colleague and I to ponder on many things.  Most nights it will be whether we think so and so will manage to arrest such and such, or if a certain youth is going to become trouble or not, and more often than not gasp at the incredible stupidity of some human behaviour.  But every now and again, our topic of conversation turns a little more intellectual.  Such as the other night.
Whilst patrolling some of our quieter streets, we were talking about the incredible capacity of some of our animal companions, in this particular case, dogs.  I was explaining how one of my dogs had become a veritable Lassie and helped a couple of parents find a lost child, without any particular training.  This reminded my colleague of one of her dogs, who alerted someone that one of the horses had collapsed (and sadly, died).  It then came to my attention that the topic had changed to terminally ill animals, and had me wondering: if some one (or some animal) is terminally ill, and in extreme pain, would it be right to end their suffering?
I posed my colleague this moral dilemma: if a loved one (human or animal) was terminally ill/injured/crippled to the point where their life would be terrible suffering, would she consider euthanasia?  Her answer was simple, if it was a dog (or any kind of animal/pet) she would, if it were a loved one (mother, daughter, son) she wouldn’t.  Her reason?  It’s easier to be unattached to an animal/pet.  A living person is harder because the attachment is stronger.  I think it would be safe to assume that this is a view shared by many.  Pets and animals are loved, but not in the same way as a child or parent.  Because they are not blood related, it is easier to detach ourselves when the time comes.  Another consideration is the responsibility we have over our pets.  Most owners have a feeling of responsibility toward their animal charges for everything from health care to lodging (I am not counting people who abuse their pets because they are “dumb animals” of course).  This sense of care for the animals’ well-being is exhibited if we have to make tough decisions on their behalf.  This responsibility is taken away, however,  with a human because they have the ability to make their own decisions (most of the time), and therefore our responsibility for their care is diminished (but not gone).
From a Buddhist point of view, this discussion is finished before it even started.  Killing of any kind is undesirable, what ever the motivation.  If our reason for killing someone was to “put them out of their misery”, it would be a misguided motivation.  The Buddha’s first teaching was that of the Four Noble Truths.  In this, he explained that all life is suffering.  In a sense, I am suffering now, writing this (although I do enjoy writing for you, dear reader).  Therefore, if I was to kill some one because I believed it would alleviate their suffering, I would, with this reasoning, have to kill myself because we are all suffering.  One kind of suffering is no different from any other, except for the manner in which we suffer.  Our lives are propelled by Karma, good and bad, which determines our current and future lives.  We will all be suffering until we reach nirvana.  This is the reason we try and escapeSamsara, by attaining enlightenment.Please understand, I am neither for or against euthanasia, and I am not judging anyone who does, as it is not an easy decision to come to.  These are only by personal opinions from what I believe would be a Buddhist perspective.

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The very first teaching given by the Buddha after his enlightenment was the Four Noble Truths. These are:

  1. Suffering. The Buddha realised that life (in general) is painful. We go from one painful experience to another (sickness, loss of something/someone precious, aging, death, not getting what we want and getting what we don’t want, etc).
  2. The Source of suffering. Essentially, a craving of things we can’t have, then being disappointed, causes us to suffer.
  3. The end of Suffering. How we free our selves from this endless cycle of suffering is by (essentially) seeing that our cravings for things we want and can’t have leads to our suffering. We must “let go” of this craving to relieve the suffering.
  4. The path leading to the ending of suffering. This is path will free us from suffering, and this is the Eight Fold path, which is of the path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right Mindfulness, right concentration.
    This is the basis on which Buddhism is built.

I got a very good demonstration of this cycle of suffering given to me by wife: She recently admitted to me that she had been constantly buying things of the internet and in the shops. I had come to suspect that something was happening when the post-man kept leaving delivery slips through the door (there appeared to be one a day). Naturally, I couldn’t blame her, as I have a job which takes me from home a lot (a lot of nights), and she would be alone a lot (moreover, I was guilty of the same thing a couple of years back). It demonstrated very well how people believe that their next mobile, car, top, job, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, shoes, Etc will bring them all that they desire (naturally, they do bring joy, but that joy doesn’t always last, as is demonstrated by the high rate of divorce in today’s society).
I too am guilty of the same thing: I have recently attended an interview for a promotion (of sorts) at work. I keep finding my self thinking “When I get the job, this will be easier…” or “Once I move upstairs, we could get a mortgage, and buy a house, and…” so on and so on. I have to constantly remind my self that there were a lot of other people applying for the jobs, and I may not get them. And if I did, it would mean leaving the job I am in now which I really enjoy (if you’re wandering why I’m applying for others, I’m on a temporary contract currently due in March). It’s a good mindfulness trigger. I can remain mindful that not all things are certain. This brings me onto the subject I left in my previous post: Mindfulness Training.

After many hours trawling through the internet, I have come to understand that mindfulness training is quite simply being mindful at all times. SO I have recently been trying to be mindful of my feelings, speech, actions, thoughts, etc. It’s one of those exercises that seem easier than it is… But I stay mindful of my defeating mind.

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