Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Integrating Spirituality into People's Politics

Integrating Spirituality into People's Politics
Phra Paisal Visalo

During the past decade, Siam has witnessed the rise of civil activism throughout the country in various fields ranging from environment, education, and agriculture, to constitutional and democratic reform. This is not only a middle class phenomenon; peasant farmers have been actively involved in all these forms of activism, utilizing protests marches, demonstrations, hunger strikes, mass sit-ins, and other forms of nonviolent direct action. One of the most important recent examples is the three-month rally in front of Government House organized by the Assembly of the Poor, a large and broadly based movement of people affected by dam construction and other government mega-projects that have robbed them of their traditional livelihoods. Simultaneously, separate protests were staged in key provinces throughout the country against the construction of power plants and gas pipelines, all of which were approved by the supposedly democratic government without local people's approval, not to mention valid environmental assessments and other requirements stipulated by the new constitution.

These incidents represent not only the conflicts between government and the people; they also reflect the broader conflict between the power of capital and society as a whole. The latter conflict is one of the world's major conflicts in this age of globalization. From this perspective, different civil actions in Thailand, ranging from protests against such global agencies as the WTO and UNCTAD; campaigns like that against GMO products; and the political reform movement against money politics; are but part of the global response to capital's dominating power in different aspects of peoples' lives, both private and public.

The Invasion of Capital
Globalization has been propagated with the promise of better living within a borderless world. What really happened, however, is a world under the threat of capital's hegemony. Never before has capital's power been so widespread, able to invade and dominate every level of society, and every aspect of life. The recent wave of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation not only decreases the role of the state, it also increases capital's capabilities to weaken and undermine society - simply for capital's own greedy purposes. Altogether, capital's hegemony undermines three aspects of society - namely, the material (living conditions), social, and spiritual.

Material and Living Conditions
At the community level, natural and community resources are sacrificed for the unsatiated growth of the business and industrial sectors at the expense of rural areas. Forest and biological diversity are decimated by logging companies, dam construction, petrochemical agriculture, and local infrastructure schemes. Water, now an economic commodity whose life giving value is increasingly denied to the poor, is diverted to cities of commercial importance. While soil is increasingly degraded and eroded due to deforestation and aggressive farming practices, rural lands are gobbled up by the rich. Once their all important physical resources are depleted, the traditional livelihood of villagers is undermined practically forever. 

Not only community resources, but also state's resources (budget, personnel, equipment, and power) are exploited mainly for the growth of capital. Through the state's machinery and systems - i.e. political, economic, and educational - capital power dominates and manipulates infrastructures and policies for its own benefits. A few of the policies that reveal this distortion are the unbalanced development policy that diverted community resources to feed the incessant growth of the business and industrial sectors; the agricultural policy that increased farmer's dependence on world markets; and education plans that transform human beings into labor for the market.

The recent policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, while destroying the social safety nets that benefited the poor, have allowed market mechanisms to control basic services that were previously provided by the state. This makes them less accessible and more expensive for the poor, thus worsening their standards of living. Thus, the poor are both undermined and excluded by the new economic mechanisms.

Once natural and physical resources become scarce, communities quickly disintegrate as competition tends to increase among the villagers. An "I-for-myself" attitude replaces that of cooperation. The situation deteriorates further when the customs and culture that once unified communities are prostituted through their commodification for the sake of the tourist industry, homogenized through the Bangkok centered education system, and pushed aside by the new "factory culture." Relationships in the community and family are also affected by the migration of the youth and middle-aged to the cities for better paying jobs, leaving the elderly and children behind. On the national level, a widening gap between the rich and the poor increases estrangement among the people. Their perspectives are now so polarized that they have very few things in common as people living in the same country, proving the stock politicians phrase "Thai Brothers and Sisters" a lie.

Thanks to a market economy that increasingly dominates local communities, money value has penetrated into the life of the people, paving the way for materialism and consumerism to dominate their minds. Each trying to enrich himself materially as much as possible, everyone tends to regard each other as either enemies to compete with or victims to be exploited. Not only is the sense of connection with others weakened or lost, people are isolated in increasingly rootless and self-centered egos.

In the meantime, rich, poor, and the middle classes alike are subject to more stress, anxiety, and frustration because of the intense competition. No matter how much we get or accumulate, we still doubt the meaning of such a life and feel overwhelmed by the sense of lack, which is expressed in different forms of dissatisfaction, i.e., concerning wealth, bodily appearance, and social status, not to mention feelings of loneliness midst the scurrying crowd. We modern tantaluses find the meaning of life beckoning seductively but always out of reach.

Unsatiated Growth of Capital Leading to Violence
All of the above problems are either manifestations of violence in themselves or lead to violence in different forms, which are multiplying in most of our societies. The economic system and policy that rob villagers of traditional livelihood and natural resources, leads to widespread poverty, which is nothing but structural violence. It spills no blood, directly, but inflicts suffering to death, not least because of malnutrition. Such structural violence also leads to open physical violence as it stirs up protests by people all over the country who are its victims. Oftentimes, the government and vested interests respond to these non-violent protests with violence - police dogs and truncheons, thugs, arrests, dispossession, and extra-judicial killings - resulting in many deaths, injuries, and the break-ups of families.
Simultaneously, the very same materialism and consumerism that undermine human and natural relationships on every level, further lead to crimes such as robbery and domestic violence. Whereas relationships were once imbedded in a common moral sphere, the culture of self-indulgence places few restraints on desires, even the basest ones.
Fundamental to this structural and physical violence, is the peaceless mind that is dominated by greed, anger, hatred, fear, and the individualistic attitude that regards others as either enemy or victim to be exploited. This state of mind is harmful to both oneself and others, and thus can be regarded as another form of violence.
Violence in society, family, and the mind is encouraged by another kind of capital, namely, illegal or underground capital, such as in drug trafficking, gambling, and the trade in women and children. A good deal of crime and domestic violence is not only caused by the organized crime that run these underground businesses, but also by people who are addicted to their products. Further, due to organized crime's pervasive influence on the political system, it often appropriates state power to its illegal ends, such as military and police complicity in the drug trade.

The growth of underground capital is fueled by the opportunities that legal capital creates. The disintegration of family and community, for example, helps create the demand for narcotics and supplies bodies to the sex industry. Globalization also strengthens the criminal economy. The liberalization of trade and services, for example, enables underground businesses to grow internationally, makes it easier for them to move their illegal wealth in support of their activities, and helps them establish powerful connections all over the world. Without the unchecked growth of legal capital, the criminal economy could not globalize and become as powerful as they are now. In other words, growth in organized crime is a natural corollary of economic globalization.

Civil Activism as Politics for Peace
Since unchecked growth of capital power is the cause of widespread violence, peace making in any society must include attempts to check the power of capital and prevent it from becoming a new tyranny. In this light, civil activism against the invasion of capital is absolutely necessary for a peaceful society. Such activism can be called "politics for peace." For civil activism to be a powerful agent of peace and effectively reduce different forms of violence, strategies of confrontation (protest and popular pressure) and constructive programs (development activities and issue-oriented alternatives) are not sufficient. Any civil movement that aims for genuine peace must promote and model alternative structures and systems capable of replacing the existing ones maintained by structural violence. Moreover, an ideology or world view that is free from capital's domination, materialism, and consumerism is a prerequisite for civil activism to be a "politics for peace."
The civil movement's ideology is characterized by its emphasis on cooperation, egalitarianism, horizontal relationships, and social concern. Though these values make the civil movement's ideology distinct from its capitalist counterpart, they are insufficient for the former to be a powerful alternative to the latter. Another necessary aspect of the civil movement's ideology is spirituality. Spirituality is about the inner life on which every social activity is based and provides are most important sources of strength. Spirituality is essential for us to work continuously and energetically for the greater common cause without being easily burnt out, co-opted, or falling into self-serving ego trips. It also enables us to be peaceful and happy inwardly without much dependence on external wealth or recognition.
Briefly speaking, there are two aspects of spirituality - worldview and values.

Spirituality includes our insights into the deeper nature of human beings and the universe we inhabit. It realizes that every human being has the potential to attain the highest freedom, that is, freedom from suffering. It sees that there are many levels of happiness and finds the real source of happiness in the mind that is free from attachment, not in the acquisition of material things. A genuine spiritual worldview not only perceives human beings in their deepest sense but also recognizes their place within the broadest context, namely, seeing human beings in intimate connection with all beings in the universe.
Value system
Spirituality is reflected in and achieved through such values as self-contentment, simplicity, compassion, and nonviolence. In this light, harmony and balance in relationships with other people and the rest of the natural world is emphasized rather than growth of the individual at the expense of the others. These values provide the heartfelt stirrings and motivations needed to turn visions, theories, and strategies into genuine action for peace.
Spirituality is the crucial element most often missed in the ideologies of most civil movements. It isn't surprising, then, that civil movements oftentimes unconsciously and inevitably adopt materialist worldviews and value systems as their own. Such adoption is expressed through the lifestyles of movement members, such as entertaining oneself with brand name products or luxurious consumption. Groups reveal this in how they run their organizations and business, for example, holding meetings in hotels like the business sector does. Moreover, materialism is frequently integrated within their social vision. Material and physical well-being becomes the primary objective of their activities, programs, and alternative systems and structures. Sometimes, social values and well-being are included in its objectives, such as, promoting civic virtues, strengthening trust, and increasing social capital. Spiritual well-being, however, is almost always ignored.
Yet, any social activities that ignore their spiritual aspect are doomed to failure. Any development project that succeeds in raising incomes or diminishing the poverty of the people, but ignores helping them to be free from materialism, may end up turning them over to the mercy of the market or transforming them into good customers of the TNCs. In the long run, their livelihood and social well-being will be affected by excessive consumption, indebtedness, competition, and tension in the community. In other words, such development projects risk failure in the long run. They are merely reformist. Radical politics must also be spiritual.

Consumerism and Spiritual Gratification
Spirituality is so important to civil activism that it determines whether a civil movement's ideology is able to resist or even replace consumerism, which is currently the most powerful representation of capitalist ideology. Consumerism has spread so pervasively throughout the world not so much because it provides physical comfort or convenience, but because it gratifies, or promises to gratify, the spiritual needs of people, albeit temporarily. In other words, it functions as a pseudo-religion in its pretense of meeting the deeper needs of every human being, namely, the desire to have an improved identity, to be a new person, or to recreate oneself.
Consumerism succeeds because it makes us feel that we will have a better self, be essentially a better person, through possessing brand name products, especially through consuming the image that both sells the product, which may be in itself useless or trivial, and is the main source of value. Consumerism also gives us the freedom to choose the appearance of a new and better self through cosmetic surgery. It gives us a purpose in life, namely, to accumulate and consume as many objects as possible. Such a clear and concrete objective makes our lives seem meaningful to a certain degree.
It also promises to reduce the sense of lack. We feel something lacking when we sense the gap between the ideal and the reality of our being. By consuming the products, services, or images presented by consumerism, we believe that our reality moves closer to the ideal, and thus reduces the gap. In actuality, the gap will never be closed since the ideal, our expectations, always move further away, mainly because we are exposed constantly to new products through the media. The sense of lack persists because we realize that once the products are consumed, the happiness we attain is never up to our hopes and dreams. The gap between expectation and reality inevitably maintains the sense of lack and self-discontent. We therefore are motivated unconsciously to acquire and consume more and more with the deluded expectation that the sense of lack will finally disappear. It is a game of futility.
From a Buddhist perspective, the deepest sense of lack is the result of our intuitive knowledge that in the depths of our being the self does not inherently exist. From this awareness, fundamental insecurities and fears emerge, disturbing our minds every now and then. Regardless of our attempts to suppress such inklings, they repeatedly come up, though distorted into the sense of lack. That's why we try to clutch at anything as our true self. In this light, consumerism provides products and images of self for us to grasp. In other words, it seems to satisfy the deepest, or spiritual, need of every human being. Though it cannot satisfy in the long run, since nothing that it provides is identifiable as a true self; it works temporarily, creating more needs later.

Spirituality as Critical Element of Civic Ideology
The ideology of civil movements can't replace or challenge consumerism, unless and until it can provide better solutions to the spiritual needs of people. That's why spirituality must be incorporated into civil activism. To begin with, spirituality should be incorporated into the civil movement's world view, so that it can give better answers to the questions of existence: i.e., what is suffering and its causes, and how can freedom from suffering be realized. Rather than thinking that unsatiated desire is the problem, we tend to think that failure to fulfill the desires is the problem. We are like the addicted gambler who says that "gambling is not my problem; I like it. The problem is my $100,000 of debt." One reason for consumerism' s popularity is its ability to divert people's attention from their real suffering and its causes; people assume that lacking sufficient money to buy things, not limitless desire itself, is the real problem. They therefore try to acquire more money instead of finding out what's wrong with their own minds and the social systems that mirror the greed and delusion structurally.
A spiritually informed civic world view can provide the broader perspective that there are many levels of happiness. Material happiness is just one level of happiness. Camaraderie and healthy family life provide emotional happiness. Deeper than that is spiritual happiness, which helps reduce one's dependence on material accumulation. No ideology can give a better explanation about how to attain deeper happiness, as opposed to the superficial pleasure of unsatiated consumption, unless it incorporates spirituality as part of its world view.

Apart from being incorporated into the civil movement's vision of life, spirituality should be part of its social vision of as well. Spiritual wellbeing should be the objective of the programs, systems, and structures that are proposed as alternatives to the existing ones that promote structural violence. Spirituality should be part of the civil movement's organizing principles and mode of relationships (e.g., sharing, cooperation, and compassion). Finally, a spiritual worldview and values should be integrated into the way of life of each member of the civil movement, especially its leaders.
Since spirituality is an antidote to materialism and consumerism, a civil movement based on spirituality can be ensured that it can challenge the power of capital without being contaminated by materialism and consumerism. Simultaneously, it can critique and challenge the false religious institutions that betray their spiritual origins in favor of temporal power and wealth. With spirituality, civil activism is no less than politics for peace. It not only resists the unsatiated growth capital and its structural violence, but also reduces the sources of violence in society, namely, the greed, hatred, anger, and fear in the minds of people Spirituality is essential for harmonious relationships within society, since it enables people to attain inner happiness and contentment with a simple life, therefore reducing competition and antagonism, while encouraging sharing. Genuine spirituality includes kindness and patience towards others, a willingness to set aside personal agendas, and the ability to sacrifice for the common good. Most of all, the inner harmony of mature spirituality inspires harmony in others. Spirituality is also the guarantor that civil activism is peaceful and nonviolent. It deepens and broadens the perspective of activists so that they realize that the causes of social problems are not the persons themselves, but something within them (selfishness, illusion, attachment), together with something beyond them (unjust structures like the economic system, oligarchic politics, and materialist-oriented education system). This allows activists to be less judgmental and blaming, and more tolerant and nurturing of individuals and groups despite their imperfections.
With spirituality, one realizes that simply eliminating "the bad apples" can't solve problems. Only by transforming internal worldviews and external structures through peaceful means can problems be solved. Resorting to violence only worsens situations; old worldviews become more fortified and violent structures more rooted or increasing defended by violence, while vicious cycles of violence grow stronger.
Ultimately, the real objectives of civil activism are not stopping the dam construction, halting the pipeline project, or gaining compensation for lost lands. More important than all of these is to replace the unjust structures and reduce structural violence, along with changing attitudes and worldviews. Both can be achieved only through nonviolence and compassion. Nonviolence can open the hearts of people, while compassion can expel the anger, and thus enable them to see the real causes of their problems and sufferings. The wisdom that arises is required for one to see solutions alternative to violence. Besides, inner peace from spirituality can restrain the mind from indulging in anger, dwelling in hatred, or reacting out of fear, which are the inner sources of violence.
With spiritual inspiration, one can continue the struggle and retain the ideal of civil activism, without getting stuck in the trap of materialism, or falling victim to greed and becoming a turncoat to the powers that be, or ending up burnt out and leaving the movement. Thus, spirituality provides the steady, consistent motivation needed for long-term grassroots peace work.
In brief, spirituality is essential to civil activism in all its phases: from the development of ideology and social vision, organization of the movement, staging direct actions, and running development projects, to the way activists and the people live out daily life. Spirituality also forms the basis of peace on every level; personal, operational, and structural. Therefore, contrary to general belief, spirituality is an integral part of people's politics. Without it, people's politics is either a short-lived reaction to the powers that be or power politics in disguise.
The best way from http://www.visalo.org

Monday, January 30, 2012

Not in need of 'status crutch'


 The decline in morality and continued disarray of Buddhism over the past several decades have prompted many Buddhists to try to strengthen the religion. One of the measures has been a call that Buddhism be declared the official national religion in the new constitution, whose first draft will be finished today. In the past, Buddhism was an inseparable part of Thai life, history and culture. Today, however, Thai people live a life that is increasingly separated from Buddhist teachings. The proof is in the sharp rise in crime, widespread corruption, domestic violence especially against women and children, proliferation of gambling, promiscuity and the unprecedented obsession with occult practices and talismans.

All these raise the question: Is Buddhism still part and parcel of Thai life? 

There is nothing wrong with the campaign to name Buddhism as our state religion. The problem is that we can't make it true by writing a passage down in the constitution. 

Suppose we had a new constitution with Buddhism codified as the state religion today, do you believe that crime, rape or corruption cases would go away? Do you believe Thailand would cease to be a paradise for the flesh trade? Do you believe people would stop killing one another? 

The only difference would be an increased sense of puzzlement among foreigners or people who uphold different religions: if Buddhism, which preaches compassion and peace, was made the national religion, why were Thais still doing violent and vile things?'

It does not take a clause in the constitution to make Buddhism our state religion. What it takes is a return of the Buddhist teachings into the hearts of the people. 

While the government's support would be necessary to realise the mission _ an issuing of legislation to correct structural flaws and a provision of financial assistance or capable personnel _ it is not as important as cooperation from the Sangha Council and the general public. 

Among proponents of the state religion status, an argument seems to prevail that Buddhism is in decline due to lack of state support, thus the proposal that the national status would help. Some urge that the government allocate more budget to Buddhist organisations or activities. 

But do these organisations suffer from poverty?
The answer is, not at all. 

The Sangha Council and temples around the country receive massive amounts of donations from the public. Where does the money go? To buildings, mostly. A hundred million, or sometimes a billion baht, can be spent on majestic chapels and temples, but little can be found to sponsor education for monks and novices, or to organise courses on moral ethics for youngsters. The irony is that whereas some urban temples have in their coffers billions of baht, many rural-based ones struggle with scarcity _ some cannot provide enough food for their monks and novices. 

The problem with Buddhism, therefore, is not the lack of support from the government but the lack of awareness among Buddhists of all levels of the woes within. Try contemplating these questions: How much better Buddhism would be if richer temples were to help with or sponsor the education of monks and novices from poor, rural temples? How much in terms of Buddhist education would we have gained from the money that goes straight into the construction of grandiose edifices or the making of talismans? 

The responsibility lies at all levels, starting with the Sangha Council, the Buddhist clergy's governing body. For the record, the education of monks is at a crisis stage. More than 80% of monks and novices flunk either the Dharma or Pali studies while 100,000 of them do not have the chance to study for the entry-level Nak Tham Tri Dharma examination. This is not to mention the quality of the education. At present, each temple is responsible for the education of its monks. The Sangha Council only takes care of the examination. Even though repeated calls have been made that a reform of monks' education be conducted, the council has consistently ignored them, despite its having the full authority to do so. 

Under the circumstances, there is little the government can do or contribute. 

King Rama V actually once tried to initiate a reform in monastic education. The King established the Maha Mongkut Buddhist University and Maha Chulalongkorn Buddhist University with the hope of educating monks so that they could give guidance to people in a rapidly changing world. 

Even though the King's attempt was fully supported by his brother, Prince Wachirayarn, then abbot of Wat Boworniwet and head of the Dhammayudh Sect, the overhauling and upgrading of monastic schools and curricula was stopped after a few years because of opposition from senior monks, who viewed that monks had no business learning about new things or the secular world. 

The push for Buddhism to be labelled a national religion stems from the belief that its stability _ even prosperity or decline _ hinges mainly on the government. But has the government shown any achievement in that respect? Can it take care of even basic problems such as making temples alcohol-free zones? Even though it is against the Five Precepts to drink alcohol, it is common practice in many temples during festivals. It seems only the local monks and communities are in a position to tackle such a problem, but apparently they can't. Why? Because monks have become weak and the communities complacent. 

Now, do we think that if we write in the constitution that Buddhism is our national religion, we will rid our temples of alcohol? 

So far, we have covered only problems regarding monks. However, a big part that contributes to the suffering of Buddhism has to do with the decline in people's morality. The best the government can do in this regard is to force children to study more moral courses or the general public to listen to more sermons _ the usual stints that have proved a miserable failure in instilling moral ethics in people's minds. Indeed, what the government can do to strengthen people's morality is to come up with measures, both legal and institutional, that will prop up the much-weakened family institute. 

For example, what can be done to allow modern parents to spend more time with their children? Or, what can be done to prevent materialism from spreading all over the mass media? These are actions the government can take to help shore up ailing morality.
But these are measures we can actually push forward or achieve without having to designate Buddhism as the state religion in the charter. Being Buddhist is in the mind and conduct. It is not in a label or brand. 

Indeed, the labelling, if allowed to go through, would put a blind on these problems and prevent them from being properly addressed. Why? Because the Buddhist communities would then have an excuse not to do anything and shift the responsibility to the government _ it's the state religion, isn't it? 

There is a major concern that the designating of Buddhism as the national religion would cause a religious rift in the country, where about 5% of the population belongs to other faiths. The feared belligerence would not occur if we all followed our religious faith with an open mind. The reality, however, is far from ideal. The reality is many groups of people are so absorbed in their own beliefs that they can't open their minds to different ideas or perspectives. This is especially true when fervent nationalism is brought into play. 

We have witnessed people who issued personal threats and curses against academic scholars who argued that the first stone inscription may not have been made by King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai as believed. We also saw public harassment against the academic who questioned the existence of legendary figure Thao Suranaree. Some people still protest against women entering the inner sanctum of the chedi where sacred relics are enshrined. 
These events happen so frequently that they call into question whether Thai people still practice tolerance as taught by Lord Buddha? 

The drop in tolerance would not be a healthy background for the designation of Buddhism as the state religion, as the move would inevitably make people equate being Thai with being Buddhist _ a dangerous idea that could lead to discrimination against people of other religions as well as those of the same faith who happen to think differently. 

With such a concept in mind, it would be easy to fall into the ultra-nationalist trap of calling those who do not support the state religion move _ or in future any move to benefit Buddhism at the expense of other religions _ as being un-Thai. The trap has proved to be the trigger that tipped conflicts into bloodshed in the past. 

On this note, it is important now that both proponents and opponents of the state religion campaign start to show tolerance and stop condemning people who support different ideas.
The thing is, differences of opinion have become a normal thing in the present. We have to live with them. And the only way we can live with all these opposing ideas and campaigns is to practice tolerance.

There is an anecdotal story about Dr Bradley, an American missionary who came to Bangkok during the reign of King Mongkut to proselytise Christianity. One day, Dr Bradley stopped by a shop selling Buddha images and started to condemn the worship of a Buddhist icon. As this is a tropical country, Dr Bradley got tired after a while. The shop proprietor sympathised with the tired missionary and so invited Dr Bradley into the shop to sit down and rest. Then, he inquired why Dr Bradley thought so. Dr Bradley was very impressed that the shop owner did not show animosity back to him, so he wrote the story down as a record. 

What the shop owner from the reign of King Rama IV did represents what religious tolerance is and what it's like to have Buddhism enshrined in our minds. And if Buddhism is firmly rooted in our minds, there is no point of writing it down in the charter.
The best way from http://www.visalo.org

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reaping what we sow Be prepared to be treated as you treat others

Reaping what we sow
Be prepared to be treated as you treat others

After only three years, the marriage of Pornsak and Somsong was already on the rocks and they quarrelled all the time. That night, like every night, they went to bed angry at each other. Pornsak suddenly remembered that he must get up very early the next day. He wanted her to wake him up, but being conceited, would not speak to her first. So he wrote a note and gave it to her. The note read: ``Wake me up at 6 o'clock in the morning.''

The next day, he was woken up by the sound of the national anthem from a school nearby. He was angry at his wife and planned to explode at Somsong the minute he saw her.
When he reached for his glasses at the head of the bed, however, he saw a note on a piece of paper. It read: ``Wake up! Wake up! It's 6 o'clock!''

The story above shows we should be prepared to be treated the same way we treat others. Don't expect from others more than what we give them. If we want others to speak to us, we must speak to them first. If we want friendship from others, the place to start is ourselves. Whatever we do, it goes back to us. It's normal. Hence the old saying: we reap what we sow. It's how the law of karma works, isn't it? If we want to achieve anything, we have to put an effort in it. If we remain angels, don't ever hope to get help. To invest just one and to expect one hundred in return is like overcharging. In the same vein, if we want our children to be good and compassionate persons, we cannot neglect the children when they are young. We cannot just pamper them with money or materials without giving them time, love and care. We also must be good role models for the kids. If we want quality children, then we also must be quality parents.

These days, we often hear complaints against the young generation that they are materialistic and slaves of fashion from Japan and the West. That there is nothing in their heads but to find concerts to scream their hearts out. Before we adults go on complaining, why don't we ask ourselves why the kids have become like that. Is it because of the environment we have created for them? Isn't the society which is obsessed with materialism and the blind following of foreign cultures the inheritance the kids receive from what their parents have created? If so, how could we expect the children to be any different?

The teachers who want their students to achieve must invest time and efforts in them _ as shown by the story below.Teacher Boonchoo must lecture his class on Mondays during this semester. Often he could not make it because of his moonlighting at a private company on the same day. He solved his problem by having his assistant take his recorded lectures to class so the students could listen to the tape.

One day, he happened to finish his meeting at the company early so he rushed to class. When he entered, he found an empty room. The recorded lecture was on. But there was not one student there. Only tens of tape recording machines on the student's desks at work, recording his recorded lecture. Action equals reaction. This is a universal law.
Best way from http://www.visalo.org

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Freedom is Salvation from Prison

Freedom is Salvation from Prison

By  Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

You must recall the words "salvation" or "liberation" that are used in all religions. The final goal of all religions is salvation, or emancipation, or whatever word is most suitable in each language. But all these words have the same meaning -- getting saved. All religions teach salvation. Yet, from what are we saved? We are saved from spiritual prison. The thing that all of you want and need even right at this moment is the thing called "freedom" or "liberty," which is, simply, escape from prison. Whether a physical, material prison or a mental, spiritual prison, the meaning is the same. In all cases, we want freedom.
Those who lack wisdom can see and fear only the physical, material prisons. But those who have the wisdom (pañña) to look more deeply will see how much more terrifying and dangerous the spiritual prison is. Really, we can see that hardly anybody is locked up in the ordinary jails, while everyone in the world is caught in the spiritual prison. For instance, every one of you sitting here is free of the ordinary prison, but you all are incarcerated in the spiritual prison. That which drives us to be interested in Dhamma, to come to study Dhamma, to practice mental development, is the oppression and force of being caught in this spiritual prison. Whether you feel it or not isn't important. It forces us, no matter what, to struggle and search for a way out of spiritual imprisonment. Nonetheless, it's forcing all of you, whether you realize it or not, to find spiritual freedom. So you come looking here and other such places.
Although that which imprisons us is only one thing, namely, upadana all by itself, this prison takes on many different forms. There are dozens of styles and kinds of prison. If we take the time to study every type of prison, it will help us to understand this phenomenon much better. Then we will understand upadana better, and we also will better understand tanha (craving) and kilesa (defilements of mind) which, according to the Buddhist teaching, cause dukkha. We will understand the issue of dukkha if we understand the issue of prison clearly and thoroughly.
I'd like to advise that you use this word "upadana" instead of "attachment" or any other English translation. Those English words are constantly being misunderstood. You may not understand it fully at this time, but try to use this word upadana to accustom your mouth, your mind, and your feelings to it.
We must realize that the heart of Buddhism is to wipe out upadana. The heart of Buddhism is that which gets rid of upadana, or cut it out. Then there is no prison, and then there is no dukkha.
You must take the meaning of the English words attachment, grasping, and clinging, then combine them to get the meaning of "upadana." It's better for us to use the word upadana. Its meaning is broader and it will enable us to look into this matter more deeply and extensively.
The best way from http://www.suanmokkh.org

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Buddhism, Why Now? AND WHY IN AMERICA

Why Buddhism, Why Now? AND WHY IN AMERICA
 By JAN Nattlier 

1960 there were 200,000 Buddhists in the United States. Of these, a few were "self-converts" who had begun to think of themselves as Buddhists after reading a book, traveling to Asia, or having some other chance encounter with this unfamiliar religion. But the vast majority-more than half of them residents of Hawaii-were the children and grandchildren of immigrants from Asian Buddhist countries, primarily China and Japan.
Estimates of the number of Buddhists in America today vary widely-the U.S. Census Bureau no longer records religious affiliation but most observers put the figure at between two and three million adherents. Even the more conservative figure represents a tenfold increase in only 40 years. Some of this growth can be attributed to waves of immigrants from Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Taiwan. But Americans of non-Asian ancestry are also becoming Buddhists. if we include those who merely admire Buddhist ideas or use Buddhist texts for inspirational reading~ people whom Tom Tweed, author of The American Encounter wtn Buddhism, calls "night-stand Buddhists"-the number of Buddhist sympathizers might well exceed ten million.
What fuels this attraction to the Buddhist faith? How are we to account for the fact that millions of Americans who were not raised as Buddhists are now drawn to a religion that holds that ultimate realty can be attained not through a relationship with a Supreme Being, but through a radical transformation of our notion of the "self"?
No systematic survey has yet been made of why Americans are drawn to Buddhism, though nary menhon diidolties with the idea aftmi~ iteef. But the s~gle factor most often credited by converts with leading them to abandon their inherited traditions is an existential longing for a road map for personal change.There are great differences among the various forms of Buddhism now taking root in America, but virtually all of them offer clear-cut instructions for dally religious practice. These range from chanting to meditating to receiving initiation from a guru, but they share one common-ality: the prornise that the I.conscientious observance of these practices will result in a profound change in Ore’s spiritual condition. There are two major, and very different, strands of "new Buddhisrn" in America: the ohanting~entered practice of the Soka Gakkal International (SGI) and the meditation-centered practice of the Zen, Tibetan, and vipassana traditions.
In the SGI, the promise that chanting the formula Nam-myoho-renge-~o not only will bring spiritual peace but also will enhance ore’s social, economic, and professional circumstances has drawn large numbers of less-than-affluent adherents. Meditative Bud-dhism, on the other han~ favored by the upper middle ciass~rtiques the concern with material well-being as fundamentally un-Buddhist, focusing instead on understanding the ultimate nature of onesetf and thewold.
The SGI is relatively homogeneous in its practice and teachings; all local groups in the United States are linked directly to a single head organization in Japan. Wrthin meditative Buddhism, by contrast, there are substantial differences in both content and style, due in part to the different cultures from which they are derived. The aura Of a Tibetan Buddhist shrine room, with its riot of color and dizzying variety of images of gods and goddesses, could not be more different from the black-and-white austerity of a Japanese Zen meditation hall or the neutral decor favored by practitioners of V~passana-a meditative tradition drawn mainly from the Theravada Buddhism of Burma and Thailand.
Significant doctrinal differences exist as well. While most Tibetan Buddhists tend to accept that enlightenment requires many lifetimes of gradual practice, Zen Buddhists, like followers of SGI, believe that enlightenment is avallable here and now. Md while both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism consider a relationship with a spiritual teacher to be vital, "ipassana places far less importance on cuitivating such a bond, thus appealing to independent "non-joiners," many of whom do not call themselves Buddhists at all. Commenting on the differences between Tibetan Buddhists and her own Zen tradition, one longtime priest declared, "They’re Catholics, and we’re Quakers." Following this logic, vipassana practitioners are surely Unitarians.
All of these forms of Buddhism~ncluding both the SGI and the various meditative tradition~xperienced their first phase of rapid growth in this country during the 1960s, when they were embraced in substantial numbers by baby boomers. But since then they have taken quite different turns. Most "ipassana groups (and Zen groups, to a slightly lesser degree) still consist overwhelmingly of aging beby boomers, while the SGI tends to have a somewhat broader demographic appeal. But young peopl~men and women in their teens and early twenties-today seem to find Tibetan Buddhism the most attractive. Surely the high profile of the Dalai Lama has been one factor in this attraction, as has the popular perception of Tibet as a pristine Shangri-la whose very real suffering under Chinese control has drawn condemnation even fromconservativeChristians.
Sk~~ the recent spate of Thet~uil~ed movies (kundun, Seven Yea’s in Tibet) and the patronage of a number of celebrtties (Richard Gere, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys) has placed Tibetan Buddhism in the limelight Yet farnous names are associated with other forms of Buddhism. So why do younger Americans choose Tibetan Buddhism over the other brands of Buddhism available on the American market?
One item often mentioned by converts is what might be called the aesthetic factor. Feeling comfortable with a religion means not only finding the doctrines and practices appealing, but also feeling comfortable with its iconography. It may well be that the austere aesthetics of Zen and Vpassana are simply too minimalist for a generation raised on the nonstop visuals of MTV If more is better, the rich, multicolored imagery of Tibetan Buddhism may give it a subliminal aesthetic edge.
Although the images and teachings of Tibetan Buddhism may seem wild and chaotic on the surface, it is overall the most highly structured of all the forms of "new Buddhism" in America today. And while the offspring of the baby boom generation may share their parents’ skepticism, they do not share their 1 9605-bred confidence in spontaneity. Indeed, this generation often expresses a need for structure, and the fact that Tibetan Buddhism offers the most elaborately structured map of the path to enlightenment-and demands the strongest commitment to the authority of the guru-may actually be not a weakness but a strength.
For the moment, then, we can expect the fascination with Tibetan Buddhism to continue, and the other forms of "new Buddhism" to grow at a more moderate pace. But whatever American Buddhism looks like today, we can be certain that in 50 years it will have quite a different face. For what distinguishes all forms of the I
"new Buddhism" from the more traditional Asian-American temples is that these new organizations consist almost entirely of first-generation converts. And a new convert to any religion is a veryatypicalmember~ Consciously or unconsciously, converts reinterpret their adoptive religion in ways that conform to their own needs and preferences, often failing to see problematic elements in a new religion that they would be quick to condemn in their own. Will the security of a detailed road map to enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism, for example, eventually give way to dissatisfaction with its strongly hierarchical system? Or will fascination with images of tantric goddesses turn to disillusionment as foilowers discover that Tibetan Buddhism-like virtually all religions on our planet-accords a distinctly second-class status to women? It has been argued that one of the distinctive features of American Buddhism is the extent to which non-Asian converts insist on reconfiguring Buddhism in aocerdance with their own values and preferences. Yet it is ironic that Tibetan Buddhisrn, which has arguably made the fewest concessions-and in many circles is moving away from adaptation and farther toward the maintenance of tradition is scoring the greatest success with the younger generation.
As these newly transplanted forms of Buddhism enter their second and third generations in Americ~including the old and the young, from the casual to the devout practitioner-we can expect that they will come to bear a far greater resemblance to their more traditional Asian-American counterparts. Md given the fundamental Buddhist tenet that all conditioned things must chang~all things, that is, save nirvan~ne can expect that the future of Buddhism in America will be as kaleidoscopic as its past.
The best way from  http://www.ambedkar.org/

Friday, January 20, 2012

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu: The Middle Way Life in a World of Polarity By Santikaro

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu:

The Middle Way Life in a World of Polarity

By Santikaro 

We human beings have long acquired the habit of creating dichotomies and opposition, and our understandings of scriptural texts and traditions have not avoided this tendency. We frequently find polarity imposed as a device of convenience: tradition versus reform, meditator versus scholar, etc. Some Buddhist teachers may fall into such dichotomies. Ajahn Buddhadasa is one who does not.  For him, the middle way is about finding the right course between extremes.

Ajahn Buddhadasa grew up during a time of great change in Thai society, as aggressive western “civilization” and imperialism made deep inroads. This change brought about many benefits such as roads, schools, and advances in health care, but much destruction resulted as well. The forests of Thailand diminished from over 90% to just 10%, prostitution became rampant, and traditional modes of life have disappeared. Many in Thailand responded to the pressure to westernize by embracing and profiting from it. Others took the opposite approach, resisting and refusing what the West had to offer. Ajahn Buddhadasa sought the middle way between these opposing alternatives.
The organizing element in Ajahn Buddhadasa’s response to Western imperialism and modernization was the Dhamma. This may seem self-evident, but it wasn’t true of the political-economic elite or even the majority of Thai monks, especially the senior monks who were often much more interested in maintaining tradition and privilege than in living from Dhammic principles. One of Ajahn Buddhadasa’s most notable qualities was his ability to hold the Dhamma at the center—not a bookish, memorized Dhamma, but a living, creative expression of it. He and others, such as Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, represent some of the healthiest Asian responses to the tremendous economic, political, and military pressure emanating from the violent capitalist-driven ideology of the West.
Faced with the dichotomy of slavishly following or stubbornly refusing the progress of Westernization, Ajahn Buddhadasa felt that there were many things to learn from the West. Like the Dalai Lama, he was fascinated by science. When he was a young monk, he cherished the typewriter given to him by an early benefactor. He experimented with radios and early recording equipment, and was an excellent photographer. He read Freud and other psychologists, and philosophers like Hegel and Marx. He believed there was a way to use some Western developments constructively. Instead of blindly refusing them, he thought that one should learn how to adapt them - understanding them while being mindful of their potential dangers.
He thought that Asian peoples could learn from what those in the West were thinking and doing, without surrendering their own wisdom.  Many Thai students in Europe and in Western-style educational systems were being told by their European teachers that they came from an “inferior civilization.” There were some who believed what they were told. Fortunately, others did not. Ajahn Buddhadasa emerged as the main Thai voice pointing out that Europe had created nothing comparable to Buddhism, while acknowledging the economic and military advancement of the West. He presented the view that Asian Buddhism had an attitude much more fitting with science than Christianity, and a kind of wisdom largely missing in the West.
Ajahn Buddhadasa taught that in order to wisely absorb what is coming from the West, and to filter what is unhealthy, we need to stay grounded in an understanding of Buddha-Dhamma. This had a great influence on Thai society, especially among the progressive elite. Though the meaning is a bit different for those of us born in the West, the dilemma remains: we live in a culture that is very powerful and has some healthy, creative aspects, but also a tremendous amount of violence and destruction.  How are we going to sort through this? In which principles can we ground ourselves?
Another dichotomy occurs between conservative and radical. The Thai activist and scholar Sulak Sivaraksa coined the term “radical conservatism” to describe Ajahn Buddhadasa. In some ways Ajahn Buddhadasa was conservative. He thought that Southern Thai culture was healthy, balanced, and wise, and he wanted to help conserve it. He was also conservative, in certain respects, regarding Buddhism, believing that Buddhism needed to stay grounded in its past without being stuck there. 
At the same time he was radical.  Ajahn Buddhadasa honored the Buddhist tradition that had developed over 2500 years, but he also recognized that the many changes it had been through were not in keeping with its core. In trying to understand and preserve the tradition, he endeavored to find the original and essential aspects of Buddhism through carefully reading and studying the Pali suttas. He insisted on reviving core threads of Buddha-Dhamma—teachings such as suññata (emptiness) and tathata (thusness) —that were in danger of being obliterated by certain elements of traditional Theravada Buddhism. Although this could be considered a conservative activity, it seemed very radical to the  monastic hierarchy. Rather than end up on one side or the other of this conservative-progressive dichotomy, he was able to be progressively conservative and conservatively progressive, avoiding a common ideological lock-down.
Another key dichotomy he addressed is that of lay versus monastic. Senior monks discouraged him from teaching anatta (not-self) and paticcasamuppada (dependent co-origination) to lay people on grounds that it would “confuse them.” But in good conscience Ajahn Buddhadhasa could not stop. He argued that these dhammas are core to Buddhism, and all people who want to end suffering have a right to learn them. For him, ending suffering is not a monastic issue, or even a Buddhist issue, but a human issue. He took on the work of making the Dhamma available to anyone who might be interested, whether they were lay or ordained, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Sikh (and he had students from all of these traditions).
 Ajahn Buddhadasa also challenged the meditation versus daily-life practice dichotomy. The term ‘Dhamma practice’ is often used as a euphemism for meditation both in the West and in Asia . When people say ‘practice’ they are referring to the practice of sitting on a cushion or doing walking meditation, and sometimes specifically on retreat or in a formal setting. This has raised questions and created confusion about how to practice in daily-life, and how to respond to the demands, complexities, and needs of the world we live in.
Central to Ajahn Buddhadasa’s approach is the idea that “Dhamma is duty; duty is Dhamma.” Dhamma practice comes down to doing our duty, which inspires a further investigation into the nature of that duty. For some of us our duty is something dictated to us by our family. The government tells us about our patriotic duty. Capitalism tells us about our duty to consume to keep the economy strong. Ajahn Buddhadasa believed that duty must be discovered by and for ourselves. We should be mindful of messages from our family, government, culture, and economic system, but in the end it is our own responsibility to identify. Sometimes it’s about taking care of the body, sometimes it’s about one’s profession, and sometimes it’s about social action. Ultimately the core duty is to let go of self and to be free of suffering.

Finally, there is the spiritual versus worldly dichotomy. There are teachers of Theravada who believe in a clear duality between samsara and Nibbana, the worldly and transcendent. And there is much in the West that dichotomizes these as well, including leftist political traditions that want to abolish religion and be simply materialistic. There are others with the opposite bias: “Forget politics and forget social issues, all you have to do is practice, practice, practice and escape to Nibbana.
While Ajahn Buddhadasa didn’t believe that samsara (worldly) and Nibbana (transcendent) are one and the same, he did insist that Nibbana is found only in the midst of the world. For him the way to end suffering could only be found through suffering. He described Nibbana as “the coolest point in the furnace.” 
The Dhamma perspective that made all this bridging possible is an understanding, both intellectual and experiential, of idappaccayata—the universal natural law that all things happen because of causes and conditions. Nothing is static, absolute, or fixed. Seeing this, we avoid becoming trapped in ideology, positions, and dichotomies. Ajahn Buddhadasa believed that an approach which may have worked for a while may also finally reach its limit. The more we understand that everything depends on causes and conditions, that nothing is fixed, the easier it will be to navigate the intellectual and ideological dichotomies of our world, and to follow the middle way of non-suffering in this lifetime.
The best way from http://www.liberationpark.org


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Every moment is new

Every moment is new
Open-mindedness and staying in touch with the 
present always brings a new experience
 Phra Paisal Visalo 

The river stream that runs past us is never the same stream. The candle that is alight and burning is not the same candle. Everything that occurs before our eyes, or in our mind, is never the repetition of the same thing. They are constantly new and ever-changing, like the hands on a clock, they appear to be still, but they are in fact moving all the time.
The same is with our body. A stream of birth and death is occurring there all the time. Each day, over 50 million cells die. Each and every body organ is continually replenishing itself. This is true not only to our skin and hair, but also our bones, lungs, liver, kidneys, and our heart. It is estimated that in seven years' time, our whole body will become nearly entirely new. Nearly nothing old is left (except for the brain, perhaps).
This is particularly true with the mind, which is continually born and dies in great frequency. Just like the fluorescent light or the TV screen, the great frequency of their flickerings give the impression that they are sending steady light. Even when we are thinking about the same subject matter, or even when our anger lasts for days, the things that occur in our mind is always new. The anger that we felt a moment ago is not the same with our anger in this present moment. Just like the flame of a candle, its flame the previous second is not the same flame now.
Nothing is repeated. Everything is always new. If we open our mind to be in touch with the present moment, we will see and experience newness all the time, be it concretely or abstractly. The repetition only exists in our thoughts. But it does not exist in reality.
When we open our mind to watch the river stream _ when we are not attached to the old mental image we have created or when our mind is not clouded with thoughts _ we will be able to see a different stream that never fails to give us new, fresh feelings, as well as new discoveries.
When we chant our prayers with mindfulness on every single word, when we are not just reciting out of habit or chanting with our mind elsewhere, then we will discover that the prayers are always fresh, with new dimensions for us to contemplate on, although we have chanted the words for hundreds or thousands of times.
Keep observing our body that moves, the mind that breeds thoughts, the breathing that continually goes in and out, year in and year out, on the same path. For every breath and every walking step can shift our mind to a different dimension to see life and the world in a new light, in ways that we cannot imagine. This is because every breath we take and every step we walk is never repeated; they are always new.

The best way from http://www.visalo.org

Friday, January 13, 2012

meditation changes the brain

Study shows compassion meditation changes the brain

                            BY  Dian Land

Can we train ourselves to be compassionate? A new study suggests the answer is yes. Cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples' mental states, say researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Published March 25 in the Public Library of Science One, the study was the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to indicate that positive emotions such as loving-kindness and compassion can be learned in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport. The scans revealed that brain circuits used to detect emotions and feelings were dramatically changed in subjects who had extensive experience practicing compassion meditation. 

The research suggests that individuals — from children who may engage in bullying to people prone to recurring depression — and society in general could benefit from such meditative practices, says study director Richard Davidson, professor of psychiatry and psychology at UW-Madison and an expert on imaging the effects of meditation. Davidson and UW-Madison associate scientist Antoine Lutz were co-principal investigators on the project. 

The study was part of the researchers' ongoing investigations with a group of Tibetan monks and lay practitioners who have practiced meditation for a minimum of 10,000 hours. In this case, Lutz and Davidson worked with 16 monks who have cultivated compassion meditation practices. Sixteen age-matched controls with no previous training were taught the fundamentals of compassion meditation two weeks before the brain scanning took place.
"Many contemplative traditions speak of loving-kindness as the wish for happiness for others and of compassion as the wish to relieve others' suffering. Loving-kindness and compassion are central to the Dalai Lama's philosophy and mission," says Davidson, who has worked extensively with the Tibetan Buddhist leader. "We wanted to see how this voluntary generation of compassion affects the brain systems involved in empathy."
Various techniques are used in compassion meditation, and the training can take years of practice. The controls in this study were asked first to concentrate on loved ones, wishing them well-being and freedom from suffering. After some training, they then were asked to generate such feelings toward all beings without thinking specifically about anyone.
Each of the 32 subjects was placed in the fMRI scanner at the UW-Madison Waisman Center for Brain Imaging, which Davidson directs, and was asked to either begin compassion meditation or refrain from it. During each state, subjects were exposed to negative and positive human vocalizations designed to evoke empathic responses as well as neutral vocalizations: sounds of a distressed woman, a baby laughing and background restaurant noise. 

"We used audio instead of visual challenges so that meditators could keep their eyes slightly open but not focused on any visual stimulus, as is typical of this practice," explains Lutz.
The scans revealed significant activity in the insula — a region near the frontal portion of the brain that plays a key role in bodily representations of emotion — when the long-term meditators were generating compassion and were exposed to emotional vocalizations. The strength of insula activation was also associated with the intensity of the meditation as assessed by the participants. 

"The insula is extremely important in detecting emotions in general and specifically in mapping bodily responses to emotion — such as heart rate and blood pressure — and making that information available to other parts of the brain," says Davidson, also co-director of the HealthEmotions Research Institute.
Activity also increased in the temporal parietal juncture, particularly the right hemisphere. Studies have implicated this area as important in processing empathy, especially in perceiving the mental and emotional state of others.
"Both of these areas have been linked to emotion sharing and empathy," Davidson says. "The combination of these two effects, which was much more noticeable in the expert meditators as opposed to the novices, was very powerful."
The findings support Davidson and Lutz's working assumption that through training, people can develop skills that promote happiness and compassion.
"People are not just stuck at their respective set points," he says. "We can take advantage of our brain's plasticity and train it to enhance these qualities."
The capacity to cultivate compassion, which involves regulating thoughts and emotions, may also be useful for preventing depression in people who are susceptible to it, Lutz adds.
"Thinking about other people's suffering and not just your own helps to put everything in perspective," he says, adding that learning compassion for oneself is a critical first step in compassion meditation.
The researchers are interested in teaching compassion meditation to youngsters, particularly as they approach adolescence, as a way to prevent bullying, aggression and violence.
"I think this can be one of the tools we use to teach emotional regulation to kids who are at an age where they're vulnerable to going seriously off track," Davidson says.
Compassion meditation can be beneficial in promoting more harmonious relationships of all kinds, Davidson adds.
"The world certainly could use a little more kindness and compassion," he says. "Starting at a local level, the consequences of changing in this way can be directly experienced."
Lutz and Davidson hope to conduct additional studies to evaluate brain changes that may occur in individuals who cultivate positive emotions through the practice of loving-kindness and compassion over time. 
The best way for all  from www.news.wisc.edu

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reaping what we sow Be prepared to be treated as you treat others

Reaping what we sow
Be prepared to be treated as you treat others

After only three years, the marriage of Pornsak and Somsong was already on the rocks and they quarrelled all the time. That night, like every night, they went to bed angry at each other. Pornsak suddenly remembered that he must get up very early the next day. He wanted her to wake him up, but being conceited, would not speak to her first. So he wrote a note and gave it to her. The note read: ``Wake me up at 6 o'clock in the morning.''
The next day, he was woken up by the sound of the national anthem from a school nearby. He was angry at his wife and planned to explode at Somsong the minute he saw her.
When he reached for his glasses at the head of the bed, however, he saw a note on a piece of paper. It read: ``Wake up! Wake up! It's 6 o'clock!''
The story above shows we should be prepared to be treated the same way we treat others. Don't expect from others more than what we give them. If we want others to speak to us, we must speak to them first. If we want friendship from others, the place to start is ourselves. Whatever we do, it goes back to us. It's normal. Hence the old saying: we reap what we sow. It's how the law of karma works, isn't it? If we want to achieve anything, we have to put an effort in it. If we remain angels, don't ever hope to get help. To invest just one and to expect one hundred in return is like overcharging. In the same vein, if we want our children to be good and compassionate persons, we cannot neglect the children when they are young. We cannot just pamper them with money
or materials without giving them time, love and care. We also must be good role models for the kids. If we want quality children, then we also must be quality parents.
These days, we often hear complaints against the young generation that they are materialistic and slaves of fashion from Japan and the West. That there is nothing in their heads but to find concerts to scream their hearts out. Before we adults go on complaining, why don't we ask ourselves why the kids have become like that. Is it because of the environment we have created for them? Isn't the society which is obsessed with materialism and the blind following of foreign cultures the inheritance the kids receive from what their parents have created? If so, how could we expect the children to be any different?
The teachers who want their students to achieve must invest time and efforts in them _ as shown by the story below.Teacher Boonchoo must lecture his class on Mondays during this semester. Often he could not make it because of his moonlighting at a private company on the same day. He solved his problem by having his assistant take his recorded lectures to class so the students could listen to the tape.
One day, he happened to finish his meeting at the company early so he rushed to class. When he entered, he found an empty room. The recorded lecture was on. But there was not one student there. Only tens of tape recording machines on the student's desks at work, recording his recorded lecture. Action equals reaction. This is a universal law.
The best way from http://www.visalo.org

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Making the best of bad situations

Making the best of bad situations 

The Buddhist ''Lent'' is not only for monastic men and women to undertake rigorous retreats. The three month period, starting from the first day after the full moon of the eighth lunar month (July 30th) can be a time for everyone to start anew: to contemplate one's life, to vow to correct past mistakes and to initiate new, auspicious steps towards something better.
For the past six years, the Phuttika Network, a coalition of ''socially engaged'' Buddhists, has launched several campaigns specifically designed to coincide with the Lenten period. In a popular booklet called Chalard Tham Boon (Smart Ways of Making Merit), the coalition recommended scores of ways beyond donating money to monks and temples for people to make merit.

Phra Paisal Visalo, a leader of the network, recently came up with a timely new campaign: Chalard Tham Jai (Smart Ways of Thinking), which encourages people to face crises -- be they the loss of property, health problems or problems at work or in relationships -- in a more calm and constructive manner. The booklet for the campaign consistently suggests that events that seem unfortunate may actually be blessings in disguise. Below are some excerpts from the booklet.

When losing property
Whining and fuming will not help you retrieve what has been lost. Remember: You still have many other things that might be more valuable than what is gone. But we tend to grieve over our loss (or what we have not yet acquired) rather than appreciate what is already in our hand.
Try to pay attention, and give appreciation, to what you have at the moment, and let go of the past. You will suffer less as a result. Better still, think of how lucky you are not to have lost more than what you did.
Incidents of loss can actually teach you some invaluable lessons: To be more cautious and mindful, and more importantly, to realise that losing and departing is but a fact of life. If you cannot let go of minor things, how will you be able to withstand a bigger loss down the road?
Indeed, you should learn to prepare your mind all the time. When you are aware that nothing will stay with you forever you will not suffer when it is forever gone from your life.

When going bankrupt
Financial bankruptcy does not mean that your whole life will have to collapse, too. Remind yourself of the many good things you still have: Your family and the people you love, your friends, and last but not least, your own life.
You are still a valuable person -- to yourself and to many other people. Success and wealth do not make a person; it is the good deeds they have done that count.
It is never too late to start anew, all you need is your breath and your brain. Don't forget to use past mistakes as your teacher.
Everyone will have a fall sooner or later, but when it's time to stand up, pick up something to guide you in your next move.

When facing poverty
First of all, ask yourself if you are really poor. Having less than others does not necessarily mean you are poor. A number of people feel poor because they compare themselves with others despite the fact that they already have everything they need. You may not own a car or a house but look again, you already have a lot of comforts in life, don't you?
As soon as you feel contented or satisfied with what you have you will no longer feel poor and miserable.
The feeling that one is poor is largely a matter of perception. When we crave something, we will feel poor. Try to avoid comparing yourself with others. Do not fall prey to the bombardment of advertisements. Appreciate what you have. You will realise that you are not at all poor. You may not have much in terms of material wealth. But you have a loving family, some good friends, good health. To have a full stomach, be able to sleep soundly, to be free of debts -- there are so many reasons to feel grateful in your life.
Difficulty can be beneficial: It helps to make you strong, patient and self-reliant. Those spoiled by a comfortable life are usually weak, unable to accept failures and tend to have poor health.
The most important form of personal wealth is one's virtues and wisdom. In Buddhism, the pinnacle of these is called ariya-sap and is a sign of those who are truly rich. Those who have it will feel contented with what they have; and they will have real happiness. This is the kind of wealth we should try to accumulate as much of as possible.

When falling sick
Let just the body fall sick but not the mind. Otherwise you will have twice the problem. True, sickness is not a good thing. But when it happens, learn to accept the fact. You can even benefit from it: Now is an opportunity to get a rest. A number of people use the convalescent period to become closer with their family or to study dharma.
The physical symptoms are also a signal for us to review the way we live. Are we overworked? Do we sleep enough? Are we eating the right food?
Are we deprived of exercise or stressed? One valuable lesson from getting sick is to learn to make our lifestyle a healthier one. More importantly, the physical ailments teach us about the impermanence of life, that sickness is part and parcel of living. Such awareness will teach us to let go of our attachments, and also not to be reckless. We will come to appreciate every second we have left in our life as well as the value of good health.

When losing an organ
If the loss of a body part is needed to lengthen your life, so be it. Life is more important than any given part of the body. Even in the case of an accident where amputation is required you can still consider yourself fortunate: After all, you are still alive and not undergoing a worse ordeal.
The value of your life is in your good deeds, not in your physical appearance. As long as you continue your good deeds you should be able to respect yourself. The loss of an organ should not be an obstacle to doing good things, both for yourself and others.
True, one's daily life may become more difficult, but it is the mind that cannot accept the change that can cause the most suffering. The more one clings to the past, the more difficult it is to accept the present. The best thing to do now is to let go of the past, accept the reality, and move on with a steady mind.
To begin anew with changes to your body cannot be too difficult. Human beings have a wonderful capacity of adjusting to anything. It may be hard today, but tomorrow, things will become smoother.

Feeling unhappy at work
You should find out the cause(s) to unhappiness at work. Is the job too difficult? Is there no end in sight? Unfriendly colleagues? Unfair bosses? Low salary? Don't forget to ask yourself: How much do you put in to this job?
Being able to work happily comes when you love what you are doing. Then, even if it is difficult and there is no sign of a successful result or the boss is treating you badly, you can still derive happiness from your work.
To love what you do may come when you feel confident in it or see its meaning -- that it is serving the public or people you love or that it enables you to maximise your potential.
It is not difficult to find happiness at work: Be committed to what you do. Do not let yourself drift away or expect quick results. It requires mindfulness, the ability to keep your mind in the present, to do the work at hand. Happiness will follow as a result of this.
What you do is not as important as how you do it. Do you work because you like it or because of the money? Are you working with concentration and mindfulness or is your mind drifting? If your mind is not in the right state, you will have difficulty at work no matter how many times you change your job. We may not be able to have the job of our choice, but we can choose to do what we do happily.

When losing a job
At least you will now have the time to look for a job that really suits you. It could even be better than your old one. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers, was fired by his own company. He recalls the incident as one of the best things that ever happened to him. After being fired, Jobs started several new projects including what became a highly successful animation company as well as a company that developed the technology used in iPods.
Losing a job may lead some of us to go back and help our parents at home. For others, it is a time to do something that they have long wanted to do but have been putting off, entering the monkhood, for example, or studying dharma.
Do not worry that you will be jobless for the rest of your life. Never let your confidence be eroded by one incident. One important piece of advice: Try to make the best of the free time you have. Do not waste it by being despondent, idle, or just drifting away. Shake off past disappointment and move ahead: Better days are waiting for you. Life does not end today.

When heartbroken
Disappointment in love does not mean the end of everything. You may have lost something, but you still have many precious things left. To fail at love does not mean you are good for nothing. So many people still love and care for you: Your parents, family and friends. Do not let just one person determine your value or control your fate.
The past is the past. As long as you do not carry it or cling to it, it can have no effect on you. The more you carry it around, the more suffering you will have.
That person may not be your soul mate. To lose him or her may actually give you the freedom to search for the one who really suits you.
Being heartbroken also teaches us that life is not all about success. Disappointments are a fact of life.
They also make us stronger so that we will be able to withstand future disappointments.

When facing criticisms
First of all, ask yourself if the criticisms are based on the truth and are fair. If they are, even in part, you should consider them when trying to improve yourself and your work. Just take the gist of it and ignore the accusatory or inaccurate words.
Lord Buddha said the wise one who shows us the mistake is guiding us toward a treasure. Look deeply. In criticism lies many invaluable things. They help us to see the other side of the truth -- something we or our friends may not be able to see before. Or they help us to understand the speakers better and to know how to deal with them in the future.
Another valuable lesson when one is being criticised is to realise the truth of life, that praise and criticism are just two sides of the same coin. Nobody has ever received only praises. The more one has praises bestowed on them the more he or she is subject to gossip and criticism. Thus one should not be swayed by either praise nor criticism.
Indeed, the more we enjoy receiving praise, the more upset we are likely to be when facing criticism. If we don't want to suffer from being criticised we should avoid be overjoyed when praised, for the louder we laugh, the harder we will cry.
 The best way from  http://www.visalo.org