I was fishing around the inter-web-tubes today and came across an old show detailing the swearing and start of punk, and more. A good listen and viewing, watching ourselves get older and older…. The guy at 1:11 is Tony Bulley, who led us (as the band Crawling Chaos) in a roundabout way into the welcoming (surely shome mishtake) arms of Tony Wilson and Factory Records.
Was it a good thing? Who knows? Could we have done better? Probably. But it is what it is, it is.
…when mankind left the gravitational confines of our Earth.
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.
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
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, 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..
One Small Step for Man, one Giant Leap For Mankind
When Armstrong said those words (except I missed out the ‘a’), it looked like men & women would be walking tall on all sorts of astronomical bodies in a continuation of the Apollo programme. As we no know, things didn’t quite work out like that though, and the Moon is still the only place we’ve been except our dear Earth – although unmanned and earth-based exploration continues in great leaps and bounds.
CERN Makes Antimatter Last
But although announced with a small fanfare, the news that CERN has made antimatter atoms in the form of anti-hydrogen last for getting on for half a second made me blink twice. See BBC News item here.
It’s my guess that this is the real “small leap for mankind” that will eventually lead to the real “giant leap”.
We are now talking the Star Trek language that everyone understands; antimatter, containment fields, annihilation. Soon we’ll have dilithium crystals and the stock market to sell them in!
Consequences of Antimatter Creation
But seriously, it’s one hell of a leap. The big puzzle is why matter (and thus ourselves because we are made of it), is here.
Why is there any of it, anyway?
… … because in every experiment that we’ve done, matter and antimatter cancel each other out! Exactly!
So the physical laws that we’ve invented or discovered, right back to the Big Bang, all say that we should not be here. Any of us.
Current physics says that our universe should only contain the energy from the mutual annihilation of matter & antimatter. But there is also matter, which is tightly rolled up bits of energy….
Self-evidently, we are here, which means that matter had a slight excess over anti-matter just after the Big Bang.
So I think that somewhere within the physics of our creation of antimatter, lies the answer to the matter/antimatter conundrum, of that I’m sure.
We’ve made a few atoms so far and watched them annihilate with matter on contact. The next steps will be to make and keep zillions indefinitely until they are needed. What for?
Now suppose we make these starships. Our current selves are very destructive, both towards our environment and ourselves.
We live on our Earth, us in the West consuming like locusts while those less well off try a rapid catch-up.
We have never had a year without a major loss of life through conflict, disease or other disaster.
In short, though we may well have the technology and explorative urge for interstellar travel in the future, our present state of intense animality leaves us unsuited to such endeavours. It’s unlikely that any expedition would arrive at its destination intact. They’d self-destruct. It’s what people do.
We must change ourselves before we can aspire change our location in the universe, or else our present location (the Earth), will be a blackened desert. Un-departable.
Today is exactly the 80th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai.
It’s a Buddhist organisation with its philosophy wrapped up in its name of “Value Creation Society“.
Let us all use three words as tenets, a true mantra for a civilised survival on Earth for generations to come.
When the time arrives for the Earth’s ultimate destruction, if we haven’t made a “Value Creation Society” that would allow our escape, then we are quite simply, stuffed.
So join the millions of Soka Gakkai Buddhists today as they celebrate their inheritance from one man, then another and another.
Makiguchi was his name and he died for his principles in a Japanese gaol in 1944. He and his disciple Toda were hounded by the animality of the times and only Toda was left at the end of WW2.
From him, and then Ikeda, the Soka Gakkai owes its existence, and we all need such principles if the magic of antimatter creation and containment is to mean anything in the future. It’s a truly wonderful thing.
A. Those who practice Buddhism do so without any expectation of grace or favour. They do it for two reasons:
To Improve their own life and continuing existence
To improve other’s lives and future existences
You don’t have to believe that they do this – after all, it could all be a big deception, couldn’t it?
But a true Buddha, revealing their Buddha nature and pointing out the iniquities and devilish qualities of the world, does believe this. Wholeheartedly.
This is why, in all the Buddhist schools, there is a phrase passed down from eons back.
Those who vex and trouble [the practitioners of the Law] will have their heads split into seven pieces.
Now What Does That mean!
It’s an allegory, that quite often is remarkably accurate…. I’ve seen it happen; where people have vexed and insinuated against someone that’s revealing their Buddha nature – and then come a cropper! You name it:
Business or company breakups
Family break up or polarisations
3000 Realms in a Single Moment
If Buddhism were just capable of punishing without change, then it’d be no good. It’d be just like Judgement Day, which it’s not. The principle of 3000 realms in a single moment [of life] means that everyone can be bad and good at the same time.
Really. That’s what it means. It’s the complete essence of Buddhism.
Therefore, even very bad people, who have “harmed or vexed” a Buddha, can reveal their good side and instantly become a Buddha – just like that!
Conversely, anyone can go over to the dark side of animality. At any time.
You don’t have to believe any of this, of course.
But I do.
From someone with the very worst excesses of delusions and animality being transformed instantly to a person of great note – I believe it.
For someone that harms a Buddha having their head [metaphorically or literally] smashed into seven pieces – I believe it.
Like I said, you don’t have to believe it – but I do, and so do millions of Buddhists. We know what will happen because we’ve seen it.
Why am I talking like this?
A. Because, as a practitioner of Buddhism, I’m being attacked for trying to protect people and to turn the attacker into something better;
And it’s my warning.
I don’t have to do anything – the universe will make it so, (as Captain Jean-Luc would say).
These are the instances when the famous Buddhist monk Nichiren talks about a “head being split into seven pieces” from his writings. As I say, you don’t have to believe it. All that matters is that I do.
For a clue to what this about, this is a neat definition of the term “scammer”, taken from The Urban Dictionary:
One who does everything in his/her power to steal from another, usually by means of trickery, deceit, and force. With the accesibility and anonymousity that the internet provides, scammers have become increasingly prevalent in modern times. Usually driven by personal greed or even outright amusement, they are unhindered by sympathy or morals and are the very face of human corruption.
The Hell of Incessant Suffering and the Land of Tranquil Light
Note: This was originally published here on Sunday, September 24th, 2006 at 4:28 pm and filed under Buddhism.. The link has been dead for quite some time, looks unlikely to re-appear, so I’m showing the words here as they are so wonderful because they deserve to be preserved. The material is straight from Google’s cache as it isn’t in the Wayback Machine. Use the contact page if you think this is unreasonable.
Through enlightenment we escape the confines of the physical and realise the unlimited potential of the human spirit. Just as the sun that dries the newly hatched butterfly’s wings, the compassion of the Lotus Sutra allows us all to soar from our pitiful cocoons and look out over the landscape of infinite possibility.
The potential for enlightenment exists within all human beings, just as an ungainly chick has the potential to become a great eagle, the single roe egg to become a great salmon, or the young cheetah to become faster even than antelope. Why then, do human beings endowed with the capacity for intelligence and great understanding constantly fail to fulfil their potential?
Physical confinement refers not only to tangible barriers, like walls, or borders, but also by those barriers caused by our lesser consciousnesses. Our lesser consciousnesses often serve to withhold our true potential, making us feel trapped within the lower life states of hell, hunger, animality and anger. We constantly fall into the three evil paths of greed anger and foolishness, and we commit the ten evil acts – all serving only to deepen our suffering and further delude us from our most true and pure nature.
This one moment of insight transformed Mr Toda’s life, and catalysed the growth of the SGI in post war Japan, and subsequently revitalised the cause for Kosen Rufu throughout the world.
It surprises me not in the least that given such a supreme teaching, and aware of his inability to directly influence the affairs of the world outside his cell, that the causes inherent in Mr Toda’s experiencing the Lotus Sutra ultimately led to such profound effects upon so many people today.
Trapped in a prison cell one is all too aware of his physical confinement. Given such an environment, and removed from every day affairs, even the ignorant would have much time to ponder. Many great people of compassion have suffered this kind of confinement – not just such great names as Mandela and Terry Waite, but the countless common people who have found their lives curtailed by cruel regimes bent on every kind of domination.
A prison cell is a relative confinement. The insects that must have occupied Josei Toda’s prison cell were most likely unaware of the rest of the prison, far less so the existence of the country of Japan, it’s people’s anguish, or the needless suffering being delivered upon countless millions of people due to the war. Those insects surely went about their daily business, oblivious to these facts. Spiders would spin their webs, and flies, being such, would daily find themselves trapped therein.
Josei Toda although knowing his mentor and friend Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was also in prison, must have felt a terrible sense of isolation from the world outside, and finally upon learning of Makiguchi’s death a year after his last brief meeting with him, he wept in his devastation all night. For a time he must have felt as isolated as a single ant in the middle of a great desert.
The hell of incessant suffering is indeed realised in this life due to our ignorance of our true nature and the way of the Lotus Sutra. Josei Toda’s prison cell provided him with the opportunity of transcending his own difficulties, realising within himself the Buddha nature which in turn blessed him with the vision that this world and all life within has the potential for buddhahood – that the potential existed for the land of tranquil light to be experienced in this life.
The relative confinement of the prison cell is no different from our confinement upon this planet. To live on a world the size of a grain of sand, human beings would be too small to see even under a powerful microscope. Imagine now that this grain of sand upon which billions of human beings depend may be more than 16000 miles from the nearest grain of sand which may also be inhabited by sentient life. It is impossible for common people to comprehend our isolation.
Surely then, humanity is more physically alone within the vast reaches of the universe than Josei Toda was within his prison cell. Yet, like the flies in Mr Toda’s cell, we are ignorant of our physical isolation and the darkness in our hearts. Why does humanity, more isolated in the universe as was Josei is his cell, not see it’s salvation in the compassion and supreme law of the Lotus Sutra? It is not unheard of for a person to exhibit great wisdom. People [pluraly] on the other hand, have never been recorded with the possession of a collective wisdom to match.
It is because people are amused by meaningless trinkets, misled by the poisonous machinations of our rulers, deluded by jealous and vengeful doctrines, and hungry for power that humanity has successfully delivered itself into a time where the great mystic forces have delivered the hell of incessant suffering before our very eyes.
Nichiren stated “those who stay long in privies forget how foul the smell is”, and so it is with humanity and the three evil paths. Our task as votaries of the Lotus Sutra and disciples of Nichiren is to make the great Law as irresistible to humanity, as the copy of the Lotus Sutra in Mr Toda’s cell was to him.
The movement for Kosen Rufu must make the Law accessible to all and to propagate it at every opportunity. True votaries of the Lotus Sutra see our worldly attachments for the illusions of smoke and dust that they are.
It is not enough simply to become comfortable exchanging our views with fellow believers at regular meetings. This time calls for shakubuku to be practiced with great wisdom, courage and compassion. To provide demonstrable proof to all those around you – your employers, employees, family and friends – is paramount if this world is ever to be transformed into the land of tranquil light. This world may not be transformed in my lifetime, but if we are to take true faith in kosen rufu then we will surely be reborn in the land of tranquil light.
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