Monday, September 19, 2011

Charter for Compassion - Karen Armstrong

I came across this shared by a fellow poet on Facebook. It is so close to what my understanding of the teachings of Buddha are that I decided to post this on this blog. Click here to learn more about Karen Armstrong and the Charter for Compassion and to add your name to the charter.

On February 28, 2008 Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize and made a wish: for help creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion. On November 12, 2009 the Charter was unveiled to the world.
Among those who have already given the charter their backing are Richard Branson, musician Peter Gabriel, Sir Ken Robinson and the Dalai Lama. As of December 2010, over 60,000 other people from around the world have affirmed the charter.
 "The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blog For A Cause

A frequent question that right thinking individuals are faced with is how we can make a difference to the environment beyond setting our own individual lives right. For writers, artists, bloggers, musicians, this is the driving force that makes them stick to their beliefs, striving to share and promote their vision without compromise.

I recently came across a wonderful blog set up by a team of young people who are trying to do just that. It is called I Blog for a Cause, and tries to create a community of people that are working to reverse the damage we have done to our environment and our society. A truly laudable initiative, this project promises to make a real difference to the world around us, by bringing ideas and people together. Do visit, subscribe, join as a follower, and share on your social networks.

This is what the team says about itself.

I Blog For A Cause” is a social project that provides bloggers to showcase their Social Responsibility. Everyone supports one or more social cause, everyone tries to make a difference, but that is not enough. We need a platform and a solid network of like minded people. “I Blog For A Cause” is a community where you can share a cause that you support and where the fellow members will help each other to spread the word. Just imagine how easy it becomes to spread the message when there are people who are as serious about a social cause as you are.

Here's wishing I Blog for a Cause all the best!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What the SGI is doing now in Japan and elsewhere...

Mar 28, 2011


Starting March 11, the day the earthquake and tsunamis devastated the Tohoku Region, the Soka Gakkai with its large grassroots network and local community centers throughout Japan, created emergency task forces at its headquarters in Tokyo and throughout the affected region.

A total of 4,500 people were provided with shelter immediately following the quake at the main Soka Gakkai Tohoku Culture Center in Sendai City, and 40 other local centers throughout Tohoku as well as in Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures. As of March 27, around 200 people were still receiving shelter and food in these centers.

Soka Gakkai community centers in some of the worst-hit towns along the coast such as Ishinomaki, Kamaishi, Tagajo and Kesennuma provided safe havens from the tsunami for many people, despite partial flooding. Local Soka Gakkai volunteers were among the first to help reestablish initial contact with some isolated communities and bring in relief supplies by car.

Hundreds of volunteers have been continuing to help locate missing people and provide assistance to survivors. One local youth leader, Masatoshi Suzuki, was knocked unconscious when his house in Iwaki City was swept 500 meters by the force of the tsunami. As soon as he recovered consciousness, he began rescuing others trapped nearby, and he continues to play a leading role in relief efforts. "Since the quake I have felt keenly the importance of the 'never give-up' spirit that I have learned through Buddhism," he says.

Members from nearby Yamagata, Niigata, Aomori and Akita prefectures and Hokkaido have been regularly delivering truckloads of supplies including generators, fuel, foods and medicines, with the first vehicle arriving in Sendai City at 2am on March 12.

Soka Gakkai's emergency task forces have been closely coordinating their ongoing efforts with local authorities and community groups. The parking lot of the Tohoku Culture Center in Sendai City was used as a base for 25 fire trucks from local fire stations engaged in fighting the fires that broke out in the days following the quake.

By March 27, the amount of relief assistance provided by Soka Gakkai through its networks in support of local relief efforts totaled around 100 millionyen (US$1.2 million). This comprised:

22,000 items of clothing such as winter jackets, sweaters and shirts; 4,700 blankets and futons; 242,000 toiletry and related products including diapers, powdered milk, 77,000 "kairo" disposable heating pads and 60,000 portable toilets; 38,000 medical items including masks, cold medicine and bandages; 280,000 items of food and drink such as rice balls, preserved food and snacks; and 25,000 electrical-related items including radios, phone chargers, kettles, portable stoves, flashlights, batteries, and generators, as well as nearly 8,250 liters of fuel.

The day after the earthquake, many youth leaders and doctors and nurses from the organization's medical professionals' group immediately traveled to the area to assist with local relief efforts. Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada visited Sendai on March 17, to listen directly to the needs of evacuees, and Honorary President Daisaku Ikeda has sent frequent messages of support, praising the indomitable spirit of the people of Tohoku and the action they are taking to help others affected by the tragedy.

Soka Gakkai International Office of Public Information Executive Director Hirotsugu Terasaki comments, "Our relief activities will be ongoing for as long as people are in need. We are here, like many others, for the long run. We firmly believe in the Buddhist principle of 'turning poison into medicine' -- that it is possible to create something of value out of even the worst circumstances. Hope is one of the most precious commodities needed now."

Friday, March 4, 2011

How to forget getting bored...

It’s said that when we practice meditation we are actually practicing three separate skills: 1) staying with the object of meditation, 2) recognizing when we’ve drifted off, and 3) returning to the object without fuss or judgment. When we have a “good meditation,” i.e, when our concentration is good and we’re able to stay with our object of meditation, we are developing the first skill. When we keep drifting and returning, even if we do it 100 times in a sitting, we’re developing the second and third skills. These, in fact, may be the most important skills in terms of improving our daily lives: recognizing when we’re no longer present and returning to mindfulness.

The poet William Blake wrote in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell that “if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” Keep watching your mind just as it is. Turning poison into wisdom is the path of the Buddhas.

You will read these lines again at the end of the post, primarily because this is a sort of plagiarized post from the existential buddhist, Seth's excellent commentary of contemporary understanding of the correct teaching.

I have not asked him for his permission to reproduce his post in toto on this blog, and I know the kind of organizational trouble one gets into for having a standalone spirit out of sync with the "norm."

Anyway, over to the existential buddhist.

"How’s your meditation practice coming along? If the answer is “not so good,” what’s getting in the way?

Often the number one thing getting in the way of meditation practice is our idea about how our meditation practice should be going. We have beliefs about how our mind ought to be during meditation instead of simply observing it as it is. Or we have an idea about the kind of progress we ought to be making, comparing our meditation today with how it was during certain moments idealized in memory.

The Pali Canon speaks of five hinderances (pañca nīvaraṇāni) or obstructions during meditation: sense desire (kāmacchanda), ill-will (byāpāda), sloth and torpor (thīna-midda), restlessness and remorse (uddhacca-kukkucca), and doubt (vivikicchā). We have all had moments — perhaps eons — when these have been present in our sitting practice.

Sense desire includes wishing for our sitting space to be warmer, cooler, or quieter; wishing we were more comfortable or in less pain; wishing our nose wasn’t so stuffy or our stomach so full; wishing that attractive person had taken the cushion next to ours in retreat. Sound familiar?

Ill-will includes resentments from the day that carry over into our practice as well as anger arising from emerging memories of past hurts. We can spend countless cushion-hours imagining what we’re going to say the next time we see that so-and-so. We can rehearse rationalizations that justify our anger, and reinforce our narrative about being the aggrieved party. We can dig the hole deeper.

Sloth and torpor refer to mental states of dullness, boredom, sleepiness, and lack of alertness. These states are often due to physical causes such as sleep deprivation, exhaustion, or postprandial “coma.”

Restlessness has two facets: motor restlessness and mental restlessness. You may feel jittery or have an urge to get up or shift position. Your mind may race about without focus like a hyperactive mongoose. Remorse is a sore spot in memory where you wish that you could redo something — your mind keeps returning to it, endlessly replaying “woulda,” “shoulda,” and “coulda”.

Doubt could be doubt about the Dharma, the path, your teacher, or your practice. “Is this the right practice for me?” “Should I be trying something else?” “Does practice get you anywhere?” You may be doing mindfulness of the breath and wonder whether you should be counting your breaths, doing mental noting, reciting metta phrases, or engaging in choiceless awareness instead.

Calling these mental factors hinderances, however, is a fundamental mistake. It’s better to think of them as grist for the mill. They are the contents of our consciousness. Instead of wishing them away, can we invest them with interest and simply observe them as they are? When we do this, the hinderances become our very practice itself rather than obstacles in the way of practice.

If boredom presents itself, what happens if we investigate boredom? What are its qualities? What is its intensity? How does it vary from moment to moment? Is it just a quality of mind, or can it be experienced in the body as well? What happens if we don’t wish boredom away, but allow it to stay for as long as it wishes to be around?

If ill-will is present, what if we observe it in a friendly manner? What if we embrace ill-will with mindfulness, and treat it, as Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “like a kindly older sister or brother?” How is it experienced in the body? What thoughts act as accelerants to it? How is our sense of self involved? Can we observe how it makes us burn inside and adds to our misery?

If we keep drifting off into dreamy mental states, can we watch the process of beginning to nod off again and again, and invest energy in observing the process? Can we observe the very moment when we drop off? Were we experiencing an in-breath or an out-breath at that moment?

If sense desire is present, can we just watch desire? Can we “urge surf,” watching the desire arise, peak, and subside? Can we see how it catches and ensnares us, and then mysteriously fades away without our acting on it?

If these “hinderances” persist, if we remain “caught,” if we are the victims of a “multiple hinderance attack,” can we stay with this process without getting discouraged or disturbed? Can we let go of expectations that our minds will always be clear, calm, and steady? No matter how much practice you have had, it’s unreasonable to expect anything else. After all, our minds, like everything else, are affected by causes and conditions. Can we extend compassion and lovingkindness to ourselves in such moments?

It’s said that when we practice meditation we are actually practicing three separate skills: 1) staying with the object of meditation, 2) recognizing when we’ve drifted off, and 3) returning to the object without fuss or judgment. When we have a “good meditation,” i.e, when our concentration is good and we’re able to stay with our object of meditation, we are developing the first skill. When we keep drifting and returning, even if we do it 100 times in a sitting, we’re developing the second and third skills. These, in fact, may be the most important skills in terms of improving our daily lives: recognizing when we’re no longer present and returning to mindfulness.

The poet William Blake wrote in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell that “if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” Keep watching your mind just as it is. Turning poison into wisdom is the path of the Buddhas."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Notes from Naveena Reddy's lecture

This is a link to a food blog that posted the notes from today's gosho lecture in the form of a food philosophy guideline.

Do read and leave your comments.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gandhi King Ikeda – A legacy of building peace

There is much in the world today that appears wrong, that needs correction. Yet, institutions that safeguard human needs and interests are themselves corrupt. It is hardly surprising that then there is a growing sense of hopelessness in society and more particularly in the individual who feels totally effete and isolated. This frustration manifests itself most frequently in acts of violence and destructive behavior and culminates in war.

But even one individual, if he or she decides to stand up can make a difference. This is the message of the exhibition that showcases the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Diasaku Ikeda. One is a Hindu the other a Christian and third a Buddhist. They come from different countries and cultures. What links them is the fact that they had a vision, worked towards its realization and determination, despite great obstacles and realised it. What distinguishes their effort is the means – completely non-violent – with which they achieved their goals.

Though Gandhi and King are no more, their vision and ideals live on and are greatly enhanced in the person of Diasaku Ikeda.

The Gandhi/King/Ikeda exhibit is a nationally renowned exhibit extolling humanist virtues and its champions. Originally commissioned in 1999 by Dean Lawrence Carter of the Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA), it has been held at universities across the globe including Delhi University (2005). The photo–exhibit was first mounted in Delhi on March 16, 2002, at the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti and was inaugurated by Shri Omar Abdullah, the then Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs. The exhibition has also been held in Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Mumbai and many more cities across India.

Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) is the Indian affiliate of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) an NGO whose over 12 million members based in 192 countries and territories work for worldwide peace through the principles of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhist life philosophy. Central to this is the belief that fundamental change in a single individual can bring about a societal transformation.

Taking an initiative in this direction, Bharat Soka Gakkai is bringing the exhibition, “Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace” to Hyderabad. The exhibit has 18 panels each in English and Hindi. It is divided into sections that present their lives as they relate to key themes.

Forging Destiny imparts the importance of mentors and the key influences upon each man’s life.

Humanity at the Heart explores their common belief in the innate dignity of humanity.

Principles into Action illustrates how each man was able to translate his principles into dynamic action.

Nonviolence explores the principles of nonviolent action as a way of life and a means to bring about positive change in society.

Adversity and Resistance shows each man’s ability not only to triumph over adversity, but to utilize it to further their growth as humanists.

In addition to the exhibition we will have parallel activities for students and children to grasp and give way to their creativity toward building a peaceful society. We hope to empower the lives of individuals, particularly the children, in our area and reinforce the message of the power of one, in Mahatma Gandhi’s words, ‘Be the change you wish to see’.