Tag Archive: STRUCK

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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Google Gagarin

It Was 50 Years Ago, Today

…when mankind left the gravitational confines of our Earth.

Google Gagarin

Google Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

A poor boy from the steppes, Yuri Gagarin, simultaneously became the first man in space and the first man to leave Earth and orbit it completely.  (This is something that took NASA several steps before John Glenn finally emulated the feat).

While of humble background (like Jesus), his father was a carpenter (like Jesus) and his mother read voraciously (as Jesus knew the scriptures).  Obviously, Gagarin wasn’t Jesus, but he did die in his mid-thirties which parallels Jesus’s early death.

Gagarin Launch

Gagarin Launch

I was alive when Gagarin stunned the world by being shot into space.  I remember very few photos of the man or the event.  The West was naturally very embarrassed by being overshadowed by a dictator-led communist state.  Most scientists were just astonished.  Most politicians and the mainstream media were extremely alarmist in public (and fully actioned in private) because the inter-continental aspect of chucking a nuclear weapon sized piece of machinery aloft at the height of the cold war was paramount in their minds.

What struck me then and since was the fact that Gagarin always seemed to have a happy cheeriness about him.  When we now see his pre-flight pictures, his confidence is astounding, because remember, before the voyage, mankind had conflicting ideas about the very survivability for a man in the entirely hostile and unforgiving environment of space.  Some said that a man would die within half and hour from radiation….

Of course, the Soviet scientists had tested these theories with mammals (dogs & ape) and knew that even though the animals died on their space-flights (and were destined to die, by design), they knew that a man could survive the flight and if a return to Earth could be made, he’d live to see another day.  They’d also done a small step-by-step approach to their rocketry so even though the rocket was made primarily as an ICBM, its designer was actually more interested in getting men into space and had designed accordingly.  (see this article on Sergei Korolev and his space-flight dreams).

This, Gagarin duly did, by re-entering the atmosphere in his capsule and then, when the speed had sufficiently reduced, by opening his capsule and leaping from it to then descend on a conventional parachute.

Amazingly, this all worked, perfectly.

International Space Station

International Space Station

We now see the benefits of this early Soviet work because for the next few years, transport of people to the International Space Station (ISS) will be done by the Russian Soyuz spacecraft alone now that the NASA Space Shuttle is grounded for good.

The Soyuz is a direct descendant of Gagarin’s early capsule and the subsequent work and deaths of Soviet cosmonauts.  Later joint work with NASA and their own accidents and astronaut deaths have made the Soyuz platform very reliable, in space flight terms.  See this Wikipedia article for a full introduction to space-flight of all kinds.

Google Celebration

Google, characteristically, have celebrated Gagarin’s achievement (and that it was, make no mistake, he was a very, very, brave man), with a decorated main page which I’ve copied for posterity above.

Hooray For Gagarin.

So it was 50 years ago today.  An event that changed the world and our perception of it and ourselves  in the universe.

It’s only people some years older than myself who actually remember the previous world where people remained fixed to the planet and could only dream and wonder about the reality beyond.  For myself and folks younger than me, we can only to imagine what that world was like because we are part of the world that Gagarin’s bravery opened up for us..

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All Healthcare is Temporary in America

Healthcare Woes

NHS LogoLying sick in bed this morning listening to a Radio 5 phone-in about the “state” of our Accident & Emergency (A&E) healthcare system here in the UK, I was struck by the failure of the radio show’s producers to engender the expected flurry of tales of woe and poor service.

Happy and Immaculate Professionalism

Far from the engineered curses that the show had hoped to produce – instead, a host of people took the time to phone in and praise the excellent service, waiting times, courtesy and professionalism that they had witnessed, sometimes under conditions of the utmost duress (e.g. during the accident black-spot due to falls on the winter ice).

Proposed Cutbacks

We are now all primed for cutbacks in services in the UK to pay for the banks’ greed.  However, all parties promise to protect the NHS’s frontline services.

The UK spends less on healthcare per capita than the USA.  This is not in doubt.  In fact, the USA spends more per person than any other country.

But now, consider this news article from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.  See how front-line healthcare staff are treated in the USA and consider the service you are likely to receive from such a system?

Link: Temple hospital, striking workers reach accord

Obama’s Broken Temple Problem

Philadelphia Nurses Strike

Philadelphia Nurses Strike

The nurses at the Temple Hospital in Philadelphia have been on strike since March 31st.  This much is clear.

However, in contrast to the UK (and most of Europe), all the staff appear to be on fixed term contracts which had expired last SeptemberIn the UK, if you are good enough and pass all the tests, you get a job and keep your job (unless you need to move or progress in your career, say), to serve your local community.  As new techniques arrive, you pass more tests etc.  You build up your skills as part of a team.

In the USA, they appear to sack all staff from nurses downwards when their contracts are up, then replace all the staff with temporary staff!  This means that,

Most healthcare USA Workers are temporary…

The trouble is that all the right-wing forces at work there seem to believe that this is a good system and actually mock our NHS with comments like, “have you seen their teeth?”.  This is Obama’s problem with his efforts at healthcare reform.  The real truth is shielded from those in work and with private healthcare insurance, and they are a vociferous lot!

Healthcare?

The real truth is a warning:   Do Not Fall Sick Near Temple Hospital…. After all, what sort of care could one expect from a hospital staffed like that?  No matter how personally caring the staff are, there is no communication, no camraderie, no continuity, no honour.

In the dog eat dog world of America, it’s the last man standing who wins;  but what’s the point of being in a club of one?

Patriotic Battle

In fact, I have to question the sanity of anyone who would fight to defend a country (or it’s overseas interests) that treats it’s own citizens in pain with contempt and it’s caring profession with worthless indifference.

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Some Words are Just ‘Right’!

I woke up this morning

Lotus Flower……and read two small passages, both written by Buddhists, one of which quotes one of “The Buddha’s” last works, the Lotus Sutra.

What struck me, was that sometimes, this Buddhism that I do can get a bit confusing, and then suddenly – suddenly someone says something that brings everything right back sharply into focus.

And it all becomes clear, again.   It’s just so simple, really.

Daisaku Ikeda Says:

Many religions have demanded blind faith, taking away people’s independence. President Makiguchi opposed such enslavement. What he called for instead was solidarity of awakened common people. To achieve this, he proposed a self-reliant way of life in which we advance on the path of our choice with a firm, independent character. He also stressed a contributive way of life in which we set our fundamental goal in life toward the realization of happiness for ourselves and others, casting aside arrogance and self-satisfaction to respect and benefit others. – For Today and Tomorrow.

Nichiren Daishonin Says:

Becoming a Buddha is nothing extraordinary. If you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with your whole heart, you will naturally become endowed with the Buddha’s thirty-two features and eighty characteristics. As the sutra says, “hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us,” you can readily become as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni – Letter to Niike

Both these men are quoting or expressing a fundamental principle of my Buddhism, first expounded by the Buddha, Shakyamuni, many centuries before the Christian era, which is that all people are equal and that all can be as equally enlightened as himself…

Shakyamuni Buddha Says:

(speaking to Shariputra, one of his disciples and trusted friends)  ….you should know that at the start I took a vow hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us, and what I long ago hoped for has now been fulfilled…  see THE BUDDHA NATURE IS INHERENT IN ALL PEOPLE for a fuller explanation.

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Small Justice Against Solicitor Jim Beresford

Jim Beresford (slime of the earth)

Jim Beresford (slime of the earth)

Solicitors James Beresford and Douglas Smith – who took millions from Miners –  lose their appeal

Finally, after yet another year of time has passed, the crooked and not very appealing (they called themselves ‘entrepreneurial’)  James Beresford and Douglas Smith, formerly of Doncaster-based Beresfords Solicitors, have had their case against being struck off the solicitors’ roll quashed.

Unbelievably, Beresford and Smith deemed themselves fit to practice after ripping off taxpayers and widows.  See this BBC story

Doubtless, all the poor widow women who got a few hundred quid compensation for watching their husbands cough themselves to death because of industrial injury while the solicitors ran off with millions of taxpayers’ and their money will be gladdened by this…

NOT!

What should have happened is that all their ill-gotten gains should be taken back.  It’s not enough to stop them practising.  They deliberately set out to double-charge both victims and the taxpayer.  In many cases, these charges were wholly excessive anyway – and then they doubled them!

What actually happened  is that the grinning Beresford is now set up in another profitable business, living the life of Riley while the widows continue to suffer.   The slow drip of employee dissatisfaction shows the bloke to be as odious as before and karmic retribution is getting closer and closer for Beresford, at least.  (added on information received in later comments below)

Retribution

Retribution

The reality is that Beresford and Smith don’t just need their names striking off some paper roll.  They haven’t suffered in any way.

They need their balls striking off for having the balls to take money from those that could least afford it and who put their trust into their professional expertise where they promised to do the best for their clients.

As it is now, the interest on their ill-gotten gains is more than a banker’s pension.   I truly believe that Karmic Retribution will hurt these people very badly indeed.  It’s up to them to set right their wrongs or else they will suffer terribly.  I don’t have to do a thing.  I just know it.

See these related posts of mine and the other links on the devilish actions of the lawyers.

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