Suggested use: on rising each morning of everyday life.
May I awake to clarity and throughout this live-long day sustain mindful awareness.
Let me observe my karmic reactivity so that I may insert reflection before I speak or act.
May I restrain my natural pomposity, prejudice and pride so that I may return to openness, empathy and joy.
May my words and actions reflect consideration and understanding for the stupidities and waywardness of others.
Let all beings be as my mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters or children and let me so care for them.
Let me perceive the Dharma in the life of my teacher setting aside his/her mundane characteristics.
Let me pay attention to my teacher's words even if I disagree with them.
May I train my thinking so that my thought corrects itself before any harm is done.
Choosing one path with which I feel affinity let me pursue it with diligence without self-centred picking and choosing.
Let me put all beings before me on the path to enlightenment.
Setting aside my own ambition may I sincerely help others on the road.
Leaving aside my wish for the future let me realise that life is only now.
Homage to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Throughout my remaining life may I tread the Buddha's way.
Perspectives on the World Predicament April 2002
I have just returned from China where the Great Leap Forward is going on all the way from the coast to innermost western China. I had not heard the news for three weeks and felt relieved and benevolent as a result! So as I read what I had prepared for this issue (below) I felt out of touch with all the global anxieties I had raised. But then I realised nothing had changed, merely shifted from Israel to Pakistan and India – without of course any resolution to earlier issues. So I have kept the text as it is but intend to focus elsewhere in our next issue.
Western Buddhists may belong to a variety of political persuasions, for these differ not so much in good intentions as in policies to fulfil them. Even so, we all start from the Buddha's advice to cultivate compassion and insight, a position necessitating critical appraisal of the political initiatives currently being followed. These appear to arise from the best of intentions but so often lack wisdom of a reflective nature. Politicians, following the latest analysis of people's attitudes, tend to reflect an emotional reactivity that may earn them votes rather than a considered stance based in statesmanship. Is this a process of political deterioration in populist democracies lacking in courageous leadership?
The task of Buddhists in the present situation is to reflect and influence others through careful argument, clear positioning and tolerance. We must bear in mind that the Buddha himself did not eschew politics but often proffered opinions variously taken up by the rulers of his time, not always in a manner he perhaps intended.
I recently visited Robben Island off Cape Town and was shown around by an elderly African who had occupied a cell a few doors down the bleak corridor from Nelson Mandela. He emphasised " I am not a terrorist and was never a terrorist. I was and I remain a freedom fighter. " We need to consider this distinction wisely. Where the law is unjust, Robin Hood arises. Who becomes a hangman then? And who should be the hanged? When should laws be changed rather than upheld and who should change them and how?
Consider then the following issues upon which you may wish to consider your own Buddhistic perspective. You do not have to agree with them: you do need to think your own stance through.
* Violence, intolerant political activism and terrorism breed where the representation of the people's will is not expressed by a ruling government. Representation in a democratic style allows people to be heard and appropriate action considered in a participatory process which eliminates the need for extremism even if no one gets 100% of what they would like. Consider now the governments of the Middle East. There is no true democracy anywhere in the Islamic world, dictators, religious fanatics, royal aristocrats, dominant and unrepresentative politicians rule. Some Governments are more representative than others, as in Jordan and Egypt, but the repressive and heavy hand is never far away. The need for a restructuring of politics is, as the European position argues, one of the most profound needs in this crisis. This can only come about through long term, democratic participatory negotiation. Few Arab leaders would welcome this and the means for representation has barely been considered.
* It is not anti-Islamic to point out that high-level terrorism will only produce counter terrorism backed by state power against which ultimately the cause will be lost, and the moral high ground vacated. It would be better for Islamic peoples to put their own house in order rather than replaying justified complaints about US dollar imperialism alone, serious as this charge may be.
* It is not anti-American to point out that the republican policies since George Bush's highly questionable election have put national selfishness far ahead of any sort of global responsibility. While everyone sympathises with a great nation humbled on Sept 11th and its angry response, the destruction caused and the innocent casualties suffered by a poverty stricken peasantry in Afghanistan now more than balances that offence. There is something morally repugnant about high flying, unassailable bombers flying in their arm-chairs, carpeting remote deserts with often unexploding bombs left for children to pick up. The failure to follow up such destruction with adequate nation-restoring policies other than money is losing the USA any moral high ground it originally held. And then there is Kyoto - and all that stands for
* It is not anti-Semitic to point out that by destroying the Palestine Authority's political structure the Israelis have denied Arafat the possibility of controlling terrorism and created a martyr's myth around him. The invasions of West Bank towns and the televised behaviour of Israeli soldiers bring to mind the Nazi occupation of the Warsaw ghetto. It is tragic that so historically abused a people should fall back on such suggestively similar methods when they become oppressors themselves. Participatory negotiation with the current Saudi plan in mind is the only course tolerable to world opinion. Although Israel, backed by US finance, is one of the last colonial states, in humility rather than arrogance it needs to negotiate its entirely justifiable continuation.
* It is not anti-British to point out that, whatever may be said in private telephone conversations, there is no need for a British Prime Minister to be so uncritical of American policies in public when the rest of Europe is clear cut in its opinion. The Special Relationship resembles a wobbly bridge ever increasingly, and the too easy use by the US of this country's kin-based fondness for America needs to be answered by more alertly critical replies to cross Atlantic opinion.
* It is not stupid to suggest that while uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by rogue nations must be stopped and an insistence on the implementation of United Nations demands upheld, the careless throwing about of military power "going it alone" may not be the best answer, especially when the outcome has neither been foreseen nor replacement regimes created. Forceful diplomacy should at least be properly developed and tried out before yet another war with unpredictable consequences is started. Iraq, Iran, North Korea are separate issues. There is no axis of evil.
Taking a broad, reflective position, Buddhists need to consider what justice, participation and democracy mean in this world and in what way a careful building of a new world political system based in representation and negotiation can undercut this trend to military industrial dominance within capitalism, cheap national interests, dictatorships of various kinds, ethnic and religious hatred, violence and death on an ever widening scale.
Meanwhile, the way the "world" will end is becoming apparent as every hectare of the Antarctic ice shelf falls gracelessly into the warming ocean unheeded by a seemingly obsessed humanity stupefied in its inherent ignorance.
What has happened to the “United Nations”?
Making the mistake of continuing
we wander now in a meadow of thistles
yet even here we may listen to the songs of larks.
I am afraid of flooding the mind too suddenly with images
letting these black rooks
flap in their myriads, cawing
to some festival
claws clutching at midnight twigs half budded only, green tips coming slowly to the sun.
What have we done that suddenly
these figurines take life gyrate, kaleidoscope and waltz clashing their symbols, omens of bird flights
feathering under heaven.
Having strangled God he gets back at us with whips and great canes
beating slowly our twisting bodies on the bed
til we are crying
No No No
and enter this unending inner scream.
In my cupboard I keep it,
only under the pressure of someone's kindness do I let it out
cracking the glass in the windows.
My scream is as unending as a wheel spinning in a monastery.
I am as trapped as monks
in their wheels of prayer.
My scream makes no sound
I don't disturb anyone
it just goes on and on in silence.
I don't know what you will do when you hear it
Our hearts are so close it will kill you.
I simply want to say “Yes!”
wordlessly tonguing the flute
where words could go on endlessly
into the deep woods.
Such warm silences of the heart this unison in joy
and the sea-bird's weeping.
Now this tangible absence –
looking for the caress
of lips with pain blossoming. Let be to let be
From an unpublished collection: Shamanic Verses - revised 2002