Tag Archive: EMPTY

Life is fleeting so first of all learn about death

Nichiren – The Importance of the Moment of Death

Lotus Blossom in McClelland Art Gallery - contrasts to the large sculptures...

Lotus Blossom in McClelland Art Gallery – contrasts to the large sculptures…

With it’s dramatically sombre title, “The Importance of the Moment of Death“, Nichiren tells us exactly what’s on his mind. The text of the letter shows that it was sent to an unknown person to read to the lay nun Myōhō.  Presumably she was unable to read… Whatever, Nichiren knew several lay nuns called Myoho and this one’s a widow.

We know he despised the “Pure Land” and other teachings and espoused the Lotus Sutra as being the final version of a lifetime’s work and thought by Shakyamuni, who most know as the Buddha.  His outspokenness brought him many enemies in feudal Japan.

He was drawing to the end of his life, being 56, with 4 years to go.  In this piece he states exactly what he thought – and did! The sheer poetry when he talks about the transient nature of life, is like majestic magic.

Looking back, I have been studying the Buddha’s teachings since I was a boy. And I found myself thinking, “The life of a human being is fleeting. The exhaled breath never waits for the inhaled one. Even dew before the wind is hardly a sufficient metaphor. It is the way of the world that whether one is wise or foolish, old or young, one never knows what will happen to one from one moment to the next. Therefore I should first of all learn about death, and then about other things.”

So I gathered and considered the sacred teachings of Shakyamuni’s entire lifetime, as well as the writings and commentaries of scholars and teachers.

Which is what Nichiren really did.  From a young boy he sought the true nature of existence.  And using the metaphors that without white there can be no black, and without life there can be no death, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was the fruit of his lifetime’s studies.

Nichiren explicitly says (above) that it was from looking at dead people at such an early age that he commenced his life’s work and started studying Buddhism!  What a fantastic thing from such a gloomy beginning!

Encouragement

  • Nichiren encourages the lay nun Myoho that her recently deceased husband is okay.
  • He also says that she will be (and is currently), okay.

The persistent care and trouble that Nichiren takes over ordinary people is noteworthy; he continually encourages, when things are just pottering on as well as when people are at their darkest hour and are troubled.

How does he say these things?  Here?

The key passage for me is here:

Carina Nebula

Carina Nebula

One who upholds the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra transforms the black lacquer of the evil deeds of a lifetime, and of countless kalpas of lifetimes in the past, into the great merit of good deeds. All the more so is this true of one’s good roots from the beginningless past, which all take on a golden hue.

And when your deceased husband chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at the end on his deathbed, the evil deeds of a lifetime, and from the beginningless past, changed into the seeds of Buddhahood. This is what is meant by the teachings called “earthly desires are enlightenment,” “the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana,” and “attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form.”

And because you are the beloved wife of such a man, the teaching of women attaining Buddhahood without doubt also applies to you.

The image is that of a huge dying star, the Carina Nebula which is likely to cataclysmically pop.  From its remains, new stars will be made, which is the whole point of it all.   Nichiren then goes on to finish saying,

…if this were to be a lie, Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and all the Buddhas of the ten directions, who are Shakyamuni’s emanations, would be liars, great liars, evildoers, and those who deceive all living beings and cause them to fall into hell (…)  It would not be Nichiren’s lie; rather it would be the lie of all the Buddhas in the ten directions and three existences.

But consider: How could such a thing ever be?

I will explain this matter in detail when we meet.

I would love to had been at that meeting!

And in Another Letter to the Lay Nun Myoho…

ShunnedThree years later in another letter to the nun, Nichiren again encourages the nun.  Her loneliness has increased as she is shunned by her family – all for chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

In fact in this letter, we get a clue to Nichiren’s realisation that Buddhahood applies to everyone.  He paraphrases Shakyamuni’s disillusionment with the women of his time and at the same time praises the lay nun Myoho, when he says,

I have received your gift of a light summer robe.   You have been left behind by your deceased husband in a woman’s situation, and are separated from your relatives, too. You hear nothing from your one or two daughters, who are not to be relied on. Moreover, you are a woman who is hated by others because of this teaching. You are just like Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.

I had therefore thought that, though women would tarnish their names and throw away their lives on meaningless paths, they were weak at following the path to Buddhahood. But now you, born a woman in the evil world of the latter age, while being reviled, struck, and persecuted by the barbaric inhabitants of this island country who are unaware of these things, have endured and are propagating the Lotus Sutra.

She must have been a tough one.  She chanted the daimoku, probably just like in this YouTube video.

Conclusion

Operating Table

Operating Table

Nichiren does not explicitly say, to my eyes, what “The Importance of the Moment of Death” is.  But his meaning is clear.

The importance of the moment of death is to be chanting The Daimoku of The Lotus Sutra, even if it’s only in your head.

I did this when I had an operation a few years ago, just as I was going under the anaesthetic.  Of course I woke up later (like dah…), but my faith was paramount in my thoughts as I drifted off, though weirdly, I almost forgot…..  Here’s how.

I was completely empty of thoughts, or a bit shocked, as they prepared my hand for the drugs, maybe my face showed trepidation or something to the anaesthetist, but she said “most people try to think happy thoughts or faces at this time” – it was then that I remembered I’d previously promised myself many times to chant as I went under…. so I did… and just in time.

  • I continue.
  • Clifford Worley Quote

    Clifford to Clarence Worley – Click image for Quote

    I have a set drill in my head now that should I feel I’m a goner, to chant, even if it’s just inside my mind.

  • Is this mad?  Not for me.
  • Will I forget again?
  • Who can tell?  But though I quoted this at the top from Nichiren, I’ll repeat it again here…

It is the way of the world that whether one is wise or foolish, old or young, one never knows what will happen to one from one moment to the next.

“So quit fuckin’ around!”

– from True Romance (1993)


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How to Clean Up Outlook Contact Phone Numbers using VBA

Introduction

VBA for Fix Phone Numbers

VBA for Fix Phone Numbers

I got a new phone and when synchronised with Microsoft Outlook, the phone numbers don’t dial out properly because of spaces & STD bracketing.  It’s an LG – the previous Nokia was great, as was it’s synchronising software!

Solution

I used VBA in a workaround via Microsoft Excel!  (If you don’t have Excel, this won’t work…).  It will convert phone numbers like (+44) 1234 456789 to 0044123456789.  It also removes “-” entries and ones with multiple spaces as a number, like ”   ” which are invisible but muck stuff up!  [but see later addendum for later code additions, code is here: FixPhoneNumbers – SP]

First Step

Export the “Contacts” folder from Outlook as an Excel spreadsheet to your hard drive.  Give it a sensible name!

Second Step

Open the Excel file and then press Alt + F11 to open the Visual Basic Editor (VBE).  We’re gonna write code now!

Third Step

Insert a new code module.  You can give it a name if you like.  I didn’t and just left it as it was.

Fourth Step

Copy this VBA code into the module in the VBE. (That’s a screenshot of my code above!)

Option Explicit

Public Sub FixPhoneNumbers()
Dim rg As Range
Dim r As Integer
Dim c As Integer
Dim wks As Worksheet
Dim s As String

Application.ScreenUpdating = False
Set wks = ThisWorkbook.ActiveSheet
r = wks.Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Rows.Count
c = wks.Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Columns.Count

With wks
     .Columns("AD:AT").NumberFormat = "@"

 For c = 30 To 46 Step 1 'all phone fields
      For r = 2 To .Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Rows.Count
      Set rg = .Cells(r, c)
           s = rg.Value
           s = Replace(s, "(", "")
           s = Replace(s, " ", "")
           s = Replace(s, ")", "")
           s = Replace(s, "+44", "0044")
           s = Replace(s, "+", "00")
           s = Replace(s, "-", "")
      If Len(s) < 7 And Len(s) > 0 Then s = "01278" & s 'assume local phone #
          rg.Value = s
      Next r
 Next c
End With

Application.ScreenUpdating = True
Set rg = Nothing
Set wks = Nothing

End Sub

The key is the lines with the Replace function.  Additional lines can be easily added if more gotchas are spotted in your own numbers.

If you don’t need a line to run, remark (Rem) it out by putting an apostrophe at the line beginning, like this one here… ‘

Fifth Step

From the Debug menu in the VBE, compile the code.  This ensures that no typos etc have got in.

Save the file.

Sixth Step

Now run the procedure called “FixPhoneNumbers”.  The simplest way to do this is to make sure the screen cursor is somewhere within the code you’ve copied in – and then hit F5 on the keyboard.

If this is confusing, go to the main Excel screen, hit Alt + F8 and run the macro, which unsurprisingly is called “FixPhoneNumbers”!!

Seventh Step

Save the file again if the changes look alright.

If they’re not, then close the file without saving, then re-open, and adjust the VBA code to suit your columns, which will be the most likely thing you’ll need to adjust.

Then do all the above again, from the Fifth Step onwards.

Eighth Step

Import the file back into Outlook.

Overwrite old contacts with the new ones.

There should be no need to map fields etc because we haven’t mucked about with them!

Caveats

  • The code is designed to work with a standard output dump from Outlook.  If you’ve added or removed fields from the contacts part of Outlook, the export will be different and you’ll need to check which columns contain phone numbers.  Modify the VBA code to suit.  In total, there were 92 columns in the export from Outlook, so if you don’t have this number then you’ll probably need a quick code modification. (That’s why I checked the count at the beginning of the code with the CurrentRegion bit so that I could get the dataset size.  In the end, I only needed a row count, but I’ve left the code in so that you can step through the code using F8 to check yours out.  Clear?  Don’t worry. )
  • Some entries I had were local phone numbers.  My code is 01278 so this is added and will need changing to suit your own local STD code if you’ve entered phone numbers without the exchange.
  • I check that the UK international code is correct.  Change the 44 to your own as appropriate.
  • There’s no error checking in the code.  But it should work – it did for me!

ADDENDUM: New Code Version!

This code is smoother and has more features than previously, although I still don’t error check.

It’s advantages are:

  1. It checks all columns and looks for the words “Phone” or “Fax” in the data headings.  In this way, any logical Outlook customisations are taken care of!
  2. It prompts the user for their local STD and National codes, placing these in the correct place.

Next Steps:

  1. I’ll turn the code into an xla add-in with a one-click button.
  2. I’ll make the whole thing work directly on the Outlook contacts from within Outlook.  I’ve used the Outlook object model before, just not very often!  So watch this space as current Outlook addins are pricey and a bit of a kludge from what I’ve read…

The New (Improved) Code Version

Download plain text version: FixPhoneNumbers

Option Explicit

Public Sub FixPhoneNumbers()
Dim rg As Range
Dim r As Integer
Dim c As Integer
Dim wks As Worksheet
Dim s As String
Dim LocalCode As Variant
Dim NationalCode  As Variant

Application.ScreenUpdating = False

LocalCode = InputBox("Do You want Full Code for Local Numbers?" _
                     , "Enter local STD/City dialling code" _
                     , "01278")
NationalCode = InputBox("Do You want cleaned up National Code? e.g. 44=UK" _
                      & vbCrLf _
                      & "+44 goes to 0044" _
                     , "Enter National code" _
                     , "44")

Set wks = ThisWorkbook.ActiveSheet

With wks
       .Range(.Cells(1, 1), .Cells(1, 1).End(xlToRight)).Font.Bold = True

          For c = 1 To .Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Columns.Count Step 1 'all columns
              s = LCase(.Cells(1, c).Value)       's picks up column heading
                                                  'lower case to match search string later
                                                  'as text compare doesn't work
                'now find phone/fax fields and if found, fix numbers
     If (InStr(s, "phone") + InStr(s, "fax")) > 0 Then
            .Columns(c).NumberFormat = "@"      'make text format for tel nos
                                                'allows leading zeroes!

                     For r = 2 To .Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Rows.Count
                         Set rg = .Cells(r, c)
                         s = rg.Value            're-use s
                         s = Replace(s, "(", "")
                         s = Replace(s, " ", "")
                         s = Replace(s, ")", "")
                             If Len(NationalCode) > 0 Then 'not empty string
                                  s = Replace(s, "+" & NationalCode, "00" & NationalCode)
                             End If
                         s = Replace(s, "+", "00")
                         s = Replace(s, "-", "")
                             If Len(s) < 7 And Len(s) > 0 Then s = LocalCode & s
                              rg.Value = s
                     Next r

     Else
        'nowt
     End If
       Next c
End With

Application.ScreenUpdating = True
Set rg = Nothing
Set wks = Nothing

End Sub

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Easter Island not a Treasure Chest

Tests raise life extension hopes – see news here

Possibly, this stuff, rapamycin, could be the next big internet scam.  Acai berries are nearly done, same as Green Tea and Wheat Grass.

Rapamycin

It’s an anti-biotic, found in 1970 on the bleak Pacific island called Easter Island.  I’ve mentioned this place previously as a comparative parable of our times here:

http://strangelyperfect.tv/346/easter-island-modern-history-in-miniature/

Global Survival of the Human Race

Earthrise

Earthrise

And in a miraculous co-incidence, we are currently in conference to mitigate Climate Change(see here).  A noted bunch of academics are saying that Kyoto was a waste of time (history proves this as emissions reductions and postitive action, not words, has been minimal), see here.  Prince Charles in last night’s Dimbleby Lecture stressed the importance of living within our energy means.

So it’s all there, the willpower and the knowledge within our world leaders.

Now what we need is for the leaders to lead by example!

It’s simply not good enough to flit around in massive cars, telling everyone to button down their consumption.

To demonstrably lead, you must do as you expect others to do.  Or nothing will change.

Easter Island

Easter Island

Easter Island

Easter Island is a wonderful example, in miniture, of the Earth.  It had it’s leaders and it’s religions.  It had literature and art.  It had it’s conflict over limited resources.

It’s almost barren and windswept, lost in an ocean, a shadow of it’s former self.  Trees weren’t growing as there were no seeds.  Everything was chopped down and burnt in a last desparate struggle to survive by it’s inhabitants.

Easter Island Moai

Easter Island Moai

The few survivors, when found, were reduced to a bestial existence, incapable of even contemplating the construction of any more statues, for which the Island is now famous.

This will be us in our world, lost in the empty blackness of space, if we don’t do something now.

For our continued existence, it’s not rapamycin that we need to extend our lives.  What we need is to realise that we live on a round world with limited resources.  That’s all.

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BBC Website has Advertising

BBC No Ads

BBC No Ads

BBC Ads

BBC Ads

There’s a lot of hatred in the UK that we all have to pay a ‘licence’ fee to watch TV.

  • Some people say that it gives quality and independence to the Corporation.
  • Others have commented on the corridors full of empty champagne bottles…
  • Recent scandals like the Jonathan Ross affair have seen the BBC ‘fined’ for improper output and the bad behaviour of their ‘staff’ like Ross.
  • But the fine is ultimately paid by the licence payer!

Well nearly all.  The BBC has other income.  Some of it from advertising.

Channel ‘Dave’ for instance, a BBC related project carries adverts.   So does the BBC website, including the much trumpeted News website…..

If you don’t live in the UK, that is  !!!

Check the two screen-shots I’ve taken.   Both are of the ‘Entertainment’ page this morning taken at the same moment.

  • The left one is without ads as seen in the UK.  It’s taken using a clean internet feed and viewed with Firefox 3.
  • The right one has ads.  It’s taken using a proxy feed and viewed in Internet Explorer 8 for convenience.

The browser choice isn’t important.  It’s for the convenience of using a proxy anonymizer tool called UltraSurf on one browser, not both, to get exactly concurrent screen-shots in time.  Note how much screen real-estate is taken up with the adverts…

Interesting, huh?

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Who’s Street View is Flawed?

Following on from the Google Street View roll-out, two issues have popped up – again;

  1. People’s privacy on the streets vis-a-vis a commercial organisation like Google
  2. People’s privacy on the streets vis-a-vis government organisations like local councils

For the first, the self-appointed guardian “Privacy International” have made an official appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office to shut down the service.  My view is that when you are in a public place, you should behave in a right and proper manner.  It’s your responsibility.  If you behave badly, whose fault is it – yours!

Having a camera photograph you in a fuzzy, non-targeted way is no different to having the hundreds of people who see you as passers-by as you walk down the street.  If you are embarrassed by the photo the surely, you’d be embarrassed by the gaze of your fellows?

So I’m afraid I’m with Google on this one.  Obviously there are exceptions, and Google will react very fast, but as Google said:

“The truth is that this is an empty and entirely predictable publicity stunt by an organisation that is far from impartial when it comes to the issue of Google and privacy” – said a spokesperson.  And that’s it – Privacy International have some very peculiar ideas when it comes to Phorm, for instance.

For the second issue, we find that since 2000, the number of organisations allowed to view detailed CCTV tracking videos and photos, intercept phone calls and emails etc, has ballooned from nine to nearly 800!!!   This is the dreadful RIPA and it’s ramped up fellow fiends against freedom, the imprisonment without trial laws etc. that we are now accustomed to…    …and which I predict in a few years will make this land no longer fit for heroes to live in.

We now find that any Tom,Dick or Harry council clerk with an axe to grind can tap your phone, get you sacked or worse without even leaving their office.  Averaged out across the country, there are about eight such fellows with these rights in each council.

Now remember that these eight will have partners and friends.   Now recall that we have “60,000 individuals trained in ‘terror’ prevention” (vigilantes) and you can see how an expanding miasma of corruption and consequent nepotistic clubmanship could spread across the land, all helped with easy spying technology.

It’s already started.  Read the links below.

This is wholly different to having a street snapshot at one moment in time, which is what Google Street View is.  Don’t get confused by the people who mush all aspects of photography and video into one thing – they’re not.  It’s how you do it and how they are used.

Reading and Links:

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