Buddha's Brain

"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." ~ Buddha

Actions We Take in the Service of One Another

Posted on April 2, 2015

This is one of my favorite speeches from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi….it’s speaks to my heart and personal self because it touches on deep threads of truth, woven into my existence. From my personal experience, in this modern society, it’s very difficult to find people who are willing to risk looking at the world without fear, judgement or ego. It’s difficult to know because we are conditioned to live our lives through fear, not love and compassion. If given some thought, the realization will come that throughout most of our lives, the actions we have taken to this point, were fueled by some ounce of fear. This I know firsthand….surely, fear has played varying roles in my life…..yet, it’s my hope that someday I become a fraction of the being Gandhi was…..bridging disloyalty, with friendship and affection.
Life can be challenging and certainly we human beings simply want compassion and happiness. True compassion and love is based on the simple recognition that others, just like myself, naturally aspire to be happy and to overcome suffering, and that others, just like myself, have the natural right to fulfill that basic aspiration. The empathy you develop toward a person based on the recognition of this basic fact is universal compassion. There is no element of prejudice, no element of discrimination. This compassion is able to be extended to all sentient beings, so long as they are capable of experiencing pain and happiness. Thus, the essential feature of true compassion is that it is universal and not discriminatory.   ~~ Ajahn
I believe that the core of all religions is the same—otherwise they would not be religions. I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Parsi, Buddhist, and Confucian. Rivalry among creeds degrades them. The idea of “My God is better than your God” repels me.
Nor do I believe in the superiority of nations or races. There is good and bad in all of them. I would not hurt England to help India. Peace at the expense of some nations is only an armistice. Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals. Love gives men a partnership in the cares and the needs of others. Hate and competitions then yield to cooperation.
Love between individuals is the elixir of growth. I believe that I achieve my highest stature by merging my ego in the other individuals. This is love, or tender identification.
My love of my fellow men does not depend on their agreeing with me or following me. I smile on the dissenter. Disloyalty to my ideas is a gulf easily bridged by friendship and affection.
Civilization, I hold, is the acceptance, aye, the encouragement of differences. Civilization thus becomes a synonym of democracy. Force, violence, pressure, or compulsion with a view to conformity is therefore both uncivilized and undemocratic.
Force leads to fear and fear makes a small man. I have tried, throughout life, to banish fear, for if I fear I am not free.
Fear, I am convinced, reside in possessions. My heart is where my worldly goods are, by worldly goods I mean not only treasure and property, I mean also power, popularity, even this body of mine. Were I to put a high value on these I would hesitate to give them up in payment for principles. An attack on my principles would then make me cringe and retreat.
I am not against wealth. I am against wealth that enslaves. No possession must have a veto power over my actions. I fast when the cause for which I fast is more important to me than life itself. I renounce because that which I renounce affords me less pleasure than the fruits of renunciation.

I am an ordering person, subject to many frailties, and if I have any right to speak about myself it is only thanks to my successful experiments in living. My life is action. I believe that I must live what I believe. I have attempted to eliminate the conflict between what I believe, what I do, and what I say. This is truth. I preach what I practice. The result is an integration which brings inner harmony. In the face of a wrong I cannot remain supine and merely wring my hands, utter pious regrets, and thereby salve my conscience. I share responsibility for all the evils in the world unless I combat them.

The poor and the oppressed are my first and chief preoccupation, but I will not act for them, I act with them. They must not be passive or indifferent. I fear resignation more than failure. Action in a right cause ennobles, though the results be meager, for means are more important than ends. Actually there are no ends in life (there is even no end to life, for every end is a beginning and another incarnation), there are only means, every means is a means to another means. Means, accordingly, make the man and they must be clean and beautiful.
I believe that God is no dictator. He leaves us the freedom to master ourselves.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader of the independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. 

It whispers…..so listen…..

Posted on March 29, 2015

As a cancer survivor, it frustrates the heck out of me to see and hear how rabidly judgmental people are to those, such as Angelina Jolie, who are proactive in their actions. For so long, women have fought to have the right to do what they feel is best with their own bodies….and so, when I read comments from fellow yogis about how ignorant Angelina Jolie is, it bothers me tremendously. What bothers me even more, is that as yogis in a dedicated yoga practice, we are taught to be compassionate and non-judgmental….so why are people, in one of my favorite yoga studios, being so judgmental when they have never walked in “cancer” shoes?
I have been a vegetarian and on a plant based diet since I was 13 years old. I have been active and spiritual most of my life and can say that I am truly happy. Food was never an issue for me. So, several years ago, when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it was a surprise. I was lucky to find the cancer early and am eternally grateful to the doctors and oncologists who took such great care of me. Where would I be had I chosen to ignore everything and not “cut out” certain body parts? When you are in survival mode, you do what you have to do to survive…..and certainly, Angelina Jolie, being the daughter and granddaughter of women who died from ovarian cancer, made the right decision for herself and her children. She experienced losing a parent to such a deteriorating disease and she chose not to let her children experience the possibility of such pain. Why is that “bad” or “misguiding” to her fans? In my opinion, it’s just the opposite…..I feel she is being proactive about her health, knowledgeable and she is eliminating the possibility of such suffering…..this, to me, sends the message of empowerment to her fans.
Anyone who has sat next to any cancer patient and watched the process from diagnosis to death would never sit in such judgement. I’ve lost family members and friends to cancer…..I’ve lost dear people in my life that helped me through my own battle with the disease and I can truly say that there was no “imbalance” in who they were…..they were beautiful, inspirational and amazing people. So, for those who make comments such as “But if you develop cancer, you can heal, learn, change your ways that brought you to un-wellness.”, on Facebook, I would ask that you remove yourself from the seat of judgment and place yourself in the seat of tolerance, compassion and understanding…..tenants in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and perhaps, just perhaps, put your yoga practice into play…..after all, ahimsa not only encompasses non-violence, it also encompasses non-judgement.

Good & Evil

Posted on March 25, 2015


If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?    

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn


Because it emphasizes mindfulness of our thought processes, Buddhism encourages us to be wary of antithetical concepts, not only good and evil, but success and failure, rich and poor, even the duality between enlightenment and delusion. We distinguish between the opposing terms because we want one rather than the other, yet the meaning of each depends upon the other. That may sound abstract, but such dualities are actually quite troublesome for us. If, for example, it is important to live a pure life (however I understand purity), then I need to be preoccupied with avoiding impurity. If wealth is important for me, then I am also worried about avoiding poverty. We cannot take one lens without the other, and such pairs of spectacles filter our experience of the world.
What does this mean for the duality of good versus evil? One way the interdependence of good and evil shows itself is this: we don’t feel we are good unless we are fighting against evil. We can feel comfortable and secure in our own goodness only by attacking and destroying the evil outside us. And, sad to say but true, this is why we like wars: they cut through the petty problems of daily life and unite us good guys here against the bad guys over there. There is fear in that, of course, but it is also exhilarating. The meaning of life becomes clearer.
We all love the struggle between good (us) and evil (them). It is, in its own way, deeply satisfying. Think of the plots of the James Bond films, the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones films. In such movies, it’s quite obvious who the bad guys are. Caricatures of evil, they are ruthless, maniacal, without remorse, and so they must be stopped by any means necessary. We are meant to feel that it is okay…..even, to tell the truth, pleasurable…..to see violence inflicted upon them. Because the villains like to hurt people, it’s okay to hurt them. Because they like to kill people, it’s okay to kill them. After all, they are evil and evil must be destroyed.
What is this kind of story really teaching us? That if you want to hurt someone, it is important to demonize them first…..in other words, fit them into your good-versus-evil story. That is why the first casualty of all wars is truth.
Such stories are not just entertainment. In order to live, we need air, water, food, clothes, shelter, friends…..and we need stories, because they teach us what is important in life. They give us models of how to live in a complicated, confusing world. Until the last hundred years or so, the most important stories for most people were religious. Today, however, the issue is not whether a story is an ennobling one, a good myth to live by, but the bottom line: will it sell?
The story of good and evil sells because it is simple and easy to understand, yet from a Buddhist viewpoint it can be dangerously deceptive. It keeps us from looking deeper, from trying to discover causes. Once something has been identified as evil, no more is there a need to explain it, only a need to fight it.
By contrast, Buddhism focuses on the three unwholesome roots of evil, also known as the three poisons: greed, ill will, and delusion. In place of the struggle between good and evil, Buddhism emphasizes ignorance and enlightenment. The basic problem is one of self-knowledge: do we really understand what motivates us?
In a passage from the Sutta Nipata, Ajita asks of the Buddha, “What is it that smothers the world? What makes the world so hard to see? What would you say pollutes the world and threatens it most?”
“It is ignorance which smothers,” the Buddha replies, “and it is heedlessness and greed which make the world invisible. The hunger of desire pollutes the world, and the great source of fear is the pain of suffering.”
Because this view offers us a better understanding of what actually motivates people…..all of us…..it also implies a very different way to address the problems created by ignorance and desire and violence: not a new holy war against evil, but a less dramatic struggle to transform our own greed into generosity, ill will into love, and ignorance into wisdom.

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