Free from Fear

This reflection seems so appropriate considering the nature of the Manchester terrorist attack…..

Becoming lost in enjoyment brings sorrow; 
becoming lost in enjoyment brings fear. 
Being free in your experience of enjoyment means sorrow ceases,  
so how could there be any fear?

Dhammapada v. 214

Is it possible to truly live with all the pleasure and pain of life and at the same time remain free from suffering? Clearly, our confidence in the Buddha’s Awakening means we trust freedom from suffering is possible. Such confidence is a powerful motivator and contributes to the foundation on which we build our spiritual practice. And from a practice perspective, we are not just interested in what we experience, but also in the way we meet all our experiences. Out of unawareness we readily become lost in experiences; the joyous, the utterly intolerable and everything in-between. But when awareness is well-cultivated there is the possibility of receiving all experience without becoming lost; without obstructing freedom.

Ajahn Munindo

A Buddhist Poem for World Poetry Day

Here’s a poem by Kenji Miyazawa – “Strong In The Rain” (Ame ni mo Makezu) for World Poetry Day.

 

Strong in the rain
Strong in the wind
Strong against the summer heat and snow
He is healthy and robust
Unselfish
He never loses his temper
Nor the quiet smile on his lips
He eats four go of unpolished rice
Miso and a few vegetables a day
He does not consider himself
In whatever occurs…his understanding
Comes from observation and experience
And he never loses sight of things
He lives in a little thatched-roof hut
In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove
If there is a sick child in the east
He goes there to nurse the child
If there’s a tired mother in the west
He goes to her and carries her sheaves
If someone is near death in the south
He goes and says, “Don’t be afraid”
If there’s strife and lawsuits in the north
He demands that the people put an end to their pettiness
He weeps at the time of drought
He plods about at a loss during the cold summer
Everyone calls him “Blockhead”
No one sings his praises
Or takes him to heart…
That is the sort of person
I want to be.
 

World Poetry Day is today, the 21 March, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements”.

Over Population & Inferno

I have been keeping an eye on the Current World Population figures with a view to writing an article when it reaches seven and a half billion.

I was going to wait but I recently watched the film of Dan Brown’s book “Inferno” and was really, really disappointed.

SPOILER ALERT

The whole point of the book was that the “plague” that the “mad scientist” successfully releases turns out not to kill people but to alter their DNA so as to render a random third of the population sterile and thus limit our numbers relatively humanely.

In the film it is a killer plague but our heroes prevent its release just in time so that we can continue to breed our species and the planet to death. (Sorry, that’s a bit dramatic, the planet will be fine and enough creatures will survive to carry on evolution’s great experiment just without us and a lot of other species.)

Well we’re almost at the seven and a half billion humans point, so here goes…………..

The average human now consumes 100,000 tonnes of fresh water, 720 tonnes of metals, 750 tonnes of topsoil and burns 5.4 billion BTUs of (mostly fossil) energy. This is 10 times more than our grandparents.

It takes the Earth 18 months to regenerate what humans consume in a year.

Humans are presently engaged in the greatest act of extermination of other species by a single species, probably since life on Earth began. We destroy an estimated 30,000 species a year. In the last 45 years we have killed off 58 per cent of the world’s large animals.

We contaminate the atmosphere with 50 billion tonnes of greenhouse emissions a year for a total to date of 2 trillion tonnes. This risks accelerated planetary warming reaching 4-5°C by 2100. Under such conditions there will be widespread famines, threatening all of the, by then, 10 billion members of the enlarged human population.

We contaminate the biosphere with 250 billion tonnes of chemicals and wastes each year. These have spread all round the planet from the deep oceans to the highest mountains and most remote regions. The World Health Organisation states “An estimated 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012 – nearly 1 in 4 of total global deaths”.

We contaminate the oceans with megatonnes of nutrients, CO2 and toxins. This is causing acidification, the collapse of ocean food chains and the spread of 470+ ‘dead zones’ around the planet. Ninety per cent of world fisheries are maxed out.

Global soil loss due to agriculture and development amounts to 75 billion tonnes a year and scientists warn we could run out of topsoil within half a century.

One in nine of us are starving. That’s 795 million people.

Acute water scarcity faces 4 billion humans at least one month a year; a UN report warns that at present rates of use world demand for freshwater will exceed supply by 40 per cent by 2030.

At the time of writing the world’s human population stood at 7,487,326,251

Where’s a Mad Scientist when you need one?

FULL MOON – MAGHA PUJA – Moving Through the World

As a bee gathering nectar
does not harm or disturb 
the colour and fragrance of the flower, 
so do the wise move through the world. 

Dhammapada v. 49

The implication of this teaching by the Buddha is that wisdom is required for us to move through this world without causing harm. A bee can gather the nourishment it requires without disturbing the beauty of the flower. We won’t cause disturbance to ourselves and others when we see that which is in front of us clearly. But because we don’t see clearly, we readily misperceive the world with its sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and mental impressions – and then we tend to blame the world. It is not the world’s fault, but our limited ability to see clearly. If we want to contribute to the beauty around us and not feed into the chaos, we need to work towards wisdom.

A Buddhist Father Christmas

The Listening Project is a BBC Radio 4 initiative that offers a snapshot of contemporary Britain in which people across the UK volunteer to have a conversation with someone close to them about a subject they’ve never discussed intimately before.

Just before Christmas Fi Glover introduced a conversation between a Buddhist Father Christmas and a Baptist chaplain about how they spend Christmas morning in the hospice. Another in the series that proves it’s surprising what you hear when you listen.

Island Nine Year Old Teaches Us All a Lesson

I always keep an eye open for an uplifting story at this time of year and I couldn’t do better than this one about the generosity of young Paddy Cotton as related in this week’s County Press.

GUESTS of the Isle of Wight Bus Shelter were shocked by the generosity of nine-year-old Paddy Cotton, of Ryde, who spent his Christmas money on Coal for the shelter’s multi-fuel burner. Paddy’s kind gesture sparked a social media campaign, urging people to buy coal for the homeless shelter, to see it through the Winter.

The Oakfield Primary School pupil was inspired to spend the remainder of his Christmas money on coal, rather than have more presents, when he saw a homeless man in Newport and noticed someone stop to buy the man a coffee.



Paddy said: “It made me really upset and shocked. I didn’t know there were homeless people on the IW. I was inspired by the person who stopped to help him. I saw that and it made me think about what I could do to help.”

He asked his mum, Katherine Cotton, to contact the IW Bus Shelter, a converted bus that currently accommodates 15 homeless people, and she was told the shelter needed coal. After he had spent the rest of his own money on coal, he asked his mum to start a Facebook campaign encouraging others to do the same.

Katherine said: “It was overwhelming how many people got in touch. I am so proud of Paddy. I think he has realised that just by doing a small thing to raise awareness, people on the Island really get together to support the community.”

Kevin Newton, who runs the Bus Shelter, said: “I am amazed at what Paddy has done. It is good to know there are children out there like Paddy who are thinking about homeless people at Christmas time.” 

The BBC have visited to film a feature for The One Show; about the Bus Shelter and Paddy’s kind donation. 

“Our guests couldn’t wait to meet Paddy,” Kevin said, “they just can’t believe a child has done that for them.” 

• Anyone can buy coal for the Bus Shelter from Windmill Farm, in Upton Road, Ryde. The farm will store the coal until it is collected by the Bus Shelter and they are doing a special price of £8.40 a bag if it is being donated.
Each bag lasts two days at the Bus Shelter, which is also looking for volunteers to help out.