The Dhamma of Cats: Cats are a great indicator of various aspects of the Dhamma. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are just as good,; I just happen to own cats.
There are various indicators of the human predicament that are shown by cats. Craving/desire/need for certain things are many of them. Cats crave attention. They demand affection. Now most of us will probably deny that need at our age; but remember back to your teenage years… how demanding of affection were you then? Cats slink around your legs, paw at your knees, wake you in the middle of the night, all for a small show of love. Humans crave love, whether they be 1 or 100. Craving love is a natural condition of the human existence, but one that must be overcome, if we are to reach Nibbana. We have to realise this task, so that we are no longer attached to the love of others, before we can move forward. Continue reading →
Forgiving can be VERY difficult at the best of times, but how do you forgive the person who murdered your child? How do you forgive the person who imprisoned someone for 20 years as a sex slave? How do you forgive a man who has raped children? These are all very emotive and sensitive questions that need answering in the most delicate manner possible.
Human nature is a varied and wild beast. We think we are above the animals because of our intellect, but we are only above them by one level of existence. We still have to deal with our base instincts, our base emotions, our base attitudes to life in general. Continue reading →
To own something is, technically, impossible. Ownership is merely a legal concept used to decide who has the right to possess an item or thing.
Possession is apparent and true. I possess this tablet I am writing this post on. Legally I own it, but all I really do is possess it. If someone breaks in to my flat an steals my tablet, I will no longer possess it, but the thief will. Should the thief be caught, then the courts would decide who, out of the two of us, has the right to possess the item, or ‘own’ it.
If I were to truly own this tablet then I would be able to take the item with me when I pass on, but in reality we only ever really possess things, we ‘own’ nothing.
Take money for example. Do you really own the money in your bank account? All your bank account says is that there are so many pounds and pence in it. they are just 1’s and 0’s recorded on a hard-drive in a server out there somewhere. There are no 5 pound notes sitting in a vault with your name on them. Do you really own those 1’s and 0’s? If the server crashes and those 1’s and 0’s disappear, the bank will say you have nothing. Truthfully you do not even possess those 1’s and 0’s because you cannot hold them in your hand can you?
This may seem a little silly as an example, but when you get down to it, how CAN you own or possess something that cannot even be seen with the naked eye. You have to take it on trust that if you go to the bank and ask for the money that they say you have, that you would actually be given it, and we all know what happened with Northern Rock in the financial crash. They DIDN’T have the money to give to people even though the accounts of the customers said they did have it. So… do you possess, or ‘own’, your money?
You save up for retirement over 30 or 40 years only to find that either the Government or the company has rifled the accounts and your pension pot is next to worthless.
Also, if you have bought a ‘freehold’ house, you say you own the land that comes with the building. How can anyone own part of the planet? It was here several billion years before you were born, and will be here several billion years after you die, so how can you say you ‘own’ the land your house is on? Yes, the government and legal system says you do, but, again, it is just legal jargon for the sake of convenience. You may possess the house and land for the duration you live there because you have the keys to the front door, but you never truly own the land. No one does.
I could go on but I hope you get the idea. Ownership and possession are different matters, one is purely a legal matter, the other is fact for as long as you actually have the item in your hands.
And none of what you think you own or possess can be taken with you into your next incarnation!
If you read enough Buddhist literature you will realise there is not just one Dhamma. The Dhamma that the Buddha taught is not the only one! This can come as a shock to some people but it need not be that way. Everything, from the smallest atomic particle, to the entire universe has its own Dhamma. Every individual person on our planet has their own Dhamma. The roses in you garden, the aphids that attack them and the treatment for those aphids that you use have their own Dhamma. Even your settee has its own Dhamma.
How can this be so?
Dhamma basically means “the way things are”. It’s as simple as that. The Buddha taught Dhamma on a global and cosmic scale, as well as on the day-to-day life scale. He taught how the world works, how suffering is the nature of this world in which we live, and how to escape from that suffering. That is his Dhamma. He taught the Dhamma of this three-dimensional reality. He taught its impermanence, it’s unsatisfactorinss and it’s escape. If we wish to escape suffering, then we best follow his teachings, otherwise we will only end up back here, or worse, if we do not.
Dhamma is how things are. It is their pure nature, it is their fundamental reality. Dhamma explains exactly what makes up the thing in question. Tied in with the concept of Dependent Origination, which is another fundamental concept, you can, with enough practice, understand the true nature of anything you put your mind to. The two concepts may seem difficult to understand at first glance, and I will cover Dependent Origination in a future post, but once you have grasped them, nature falls into place quite easily.
Dhamma does not have to be difficult. At it’s essence, it is incredibly simple, which is why the ‘Breath Meditation’ practice is so simple. Simple practices lead to the realisation of simple concepts. They lead to those ‘Ah! That’s how it is!’ moments. Those moments are another step closer to final liberation.
A friend of mine once told me she had been taught a meditative technique that involved watching a pebble grow. Now I never quite got that at the time, but it would be a wonderful practice now. To actually see a pebble grow does not mean you see it get bigger, but it means you see it’s nature and reality as it really is, thus the pebble becomes more than your mind thought it to be in the first place. The pebble is, basically, a pebble, but your understanding of that pebbles nature grows over time. You could use your settee, oven, fridge, best mate or the leader of your country as the subject of your meditation, but a pebble is nice and simple. It will yield the same results thus negating any emotional complications in your practice.
As I said earlier, Dhamma explains the way things are. Atoms do what they do, cells do what they do, people do what they do, even nations do what they do. The world exists in the only way it can because of the nature of this three-dimensional reality. The human rebirth leads us to do what we do, whomever we are, and thus suffering takes place. Kamma acts in the way it needs to, whether good or bad, and 99% of the time no-one has a clue that this is the cause of their situation. To escape this round of rebirth and suffering one needs to follow the Buddha’s teachings. It may not happen in this lifetime, or the next, but if you start practicing now, then you have taken the first steps on the road to freedom.
It is a mistake to think that being Buddhist means you must meditate. In fact the Buddha mainly kept meditation instruction for his closest followers and monks. He very rarely taught meditation to lay followers.
This wasn’t because he thought they would not understand, or not benefit from the pratices, it was because he knew that they had too many wordly concerns to be able to put in enough time for meditation to have it’s desired effects.
The Buddha taught Right Living to lay people, villagers and the like. Compassion, loving kindness, correct methods for resolving disputes. These are all genuine Buddhist practices that benefit all who practice them and all those around them. Right livelyhood is a big one. Earn your living honestly and with care. Dishonesty leads to suffering, Dukkha, for all involved. The dishonest person may not seem to suffer immediately, but they will, either in their current lifetime or a future one.
Causing no harm to any sentient being is also another important teaching for the lay observer. All sentient beings suffer in some way or another, and deserve our compassion and care. This reminds me of the Wiccan Rede. “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”. It may seem to be a licence to do what you want, but you just try living your life without harming anything at all! It is far more difficult (almost impossible) than you may think.
So, you can definitely be Buddhist and not meditate. Don’t get me wrong, meditation leads you along the path far more quickly than if you do not meditate, but you do not have to, to be a Buddhist. Just try to follow the Five Precepts of the lay follower, and you will be doing very well.
The Five Moral Precepts are refraining from:
• harming living things. • taking what is not given (stealing). • sexual misconduct (adultery etc). • lying or gossip. • taking intoxicating substances (drugs or alcohol).
At the end of the day, those 5 precepts are no too demanding. Be honest, be sober, don’t put it about too much and don’t spread gossip. The main one is do no harm to living beings, which is why many Buddhists choose to be vegetarian, but the Buddha never taught vegetarianism, and he often ate meat himself, so that is purely a lifestyle choice should you wish to persue it.
The five precepts are an excellent start on your Buddhist path. Mindfulness and Metta meditation can come later should you so wish, but it is not necessary, nor is it written in stone. Basically the requirements are to be honest, nice, responsible and caring! No bad thing if everyone were to abide by it.