Snakes, Ladders, and Utopia, by Diana St Ruth

The practice of Buddhism, however, is not to go up and down with those changing conditions—feeling sad when things are not as we want them to be, and happy when they are. The Buddha’s teaching is pointing towards understanding this world…

Fudō uses his sword to cut through ignorance and his lasso to reign in those who would block the path to enlightenment. © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtHave you ever noticed? If everything seems to be going right in your life, if everything seems to be perfect and you start thinking that this is the most perfect time in my life and it’s going to be wonderful from now on, your world suddenly falls apart. It’s a bit like that old board game of snakes and ladders where you throw the dice and climb the ladder to greater and greater heights, then encounter a snake and zoom down you go again, maybe even to a lower position than before.

Some people might say that this is a somewhat pessimistic view of life and that we should be more optimistic, but I have found that this sort of thing does happen quite often. The pinnacle of perfection is reached in terms of health and worldly well-being, our ambitions have been gratified, maybe just sometimes, it’s exciting, and then something awful happens and we plummet downwards into a difficult or even nightmare situation. The depths of despair, on the other hand, can equally as suddenly turn and life goes into the ascendant again. Mostly, we probably just jog along with less dramatic ups and downs — we’re relatively happy; we’re relatively unhappy; we’re relatively happy again. Continue reading “Snakes, Ladders, and Utopia, by Diana St Ruth”

A moment of realisation, by Diana St Ruth

A moment of realisation about the way we operate in the world can open doors in our mind for the light to come in and bring insight. It may cause us to cringe a bit when we reflect on how we’ve been in the past, a very uncomfortable feeling. On the other hand…

Chinese Lion, Hanabusa Itchō (Japanese, 1652–1724), © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtPart of the Buddhist path may be to come to terms with our own immaturity, having to realise that maybe we’re not always right and we’re not always kind. Sometimes in fact we’re downright foolish and unkind. Maybe we don’t mean to be, but we are. In the past we have justified our actions, perhaps, but through awareness we can notice this justification process going on. And even though it might be rather disturbing we face this reality because we want to know the nature of existence and the nature of ourselves. That wish for truth overrides our petty motives and we’re willing to look.

A moment of realisation about the way we operate in the world can open doors in our mind for the light to come in and bring insight. It may cause us to cringe a bit when we reflect on how we’ve been in the past, a very uncomfortable feeling. On the other hand, if we are resolved in wanting to know the truth of existence, we know we have to face such realities, any realities, whatever they are. Continue reading “A moment of realisation, by Diana St Ruth”

Our culture doesn’t encourage too much contemplation on birth and death

We see and know impermanence as a constant. And that is liberating. All the mental suffering about what is going to happen to us, about being this or that person who will eventually disappear, about becoming ‘nothing’, is dissipated and this moment becomes a vast timelessness. The Buddha called it ‘birthlessness’ and ‘deathlessness’, freedom from birth and death…

Diana St Ruth

Lisa Daix mustang 2011As we get older we inevitably find that more of our friends, family members and acquaintances are dying. It is sad to think we won’t see them again, and we may grieve our loss. A close death, however, can also put our lives into per­spective, bring us back to a place of con­templation. If we contemplate our lives, birth and death — which we tend to do as Buddhists — we realise that the end of this life could come at any time — any week, any day, even before the next breath! This way of thinking could bring on a state of melancholy, fear and panic, or it could lead us into reflecting on the three character­istics of existence — imper­manence, not-self, and suffering or unsatis­factoriness. Continue reading “Our culture doesn’t encourage too much contemplation on birth and death”

A Handful of Pain, by Diana St Ruth

To allow the body to be painful when it needs to be, without regarding it as a bad thing, can be a liberating experience, a relief even, because there is no further conflict in the mind. Of course it is difficult when pain is severe, but there is a way of separating oneself from it and changing one’s relationship to it…

Fudo-myoo Photo © @KyotoDailyPhotoAnguishing about what we have or have not got can often be a far greater suffering than physical pain. The anguishing might be related to physical pain ― we don’t want it ― but the dread and despair we suffer are not themselves physical pain. We pile anguish on top of pain by longing for it to go. Desire first, then the impatience and anguishing . . . and then desire again, going round and round ― cause and effect. Continue reading “A Handful of Pain, by Diana St Ruth”

First steps into Buddhist meditation

You cannot change the past, arrange the future to suit yourself, or make other people say and do the things you want them to say and do. All of your power is contained within this moment, related to this particular body and mind. And this is a very powerful position to be in…

Sitting in meditationAwareness is the key. But what does the word mean to you? To most people, perhaps, it denotes an acknowledgement of that which is going on around them in a general sort of way. In the context of meditation, however, it means ‘waking up’, becoming acutely sensitive, knowing, feeling, living the moment in its pristine state, sensing colours and contours, sounds, textures, smells, recognising tendencies within oneself yet resisting the pull to be controlled by them — this is meditation, to begin with at least.

Life is a bit of a game really, isn’t it? We look forward to something and when it comes we criticise it, resent it, worry about it, want to change it, want to make it better.

Why do so many beings have to endure hunger and cold, heat, disease, cruelty, physical and mental abuse and deprivation, torture, injustice, and all the rest of it? Some have to go through a living hell, don’t they? And others suffer because there isn’t any cheese in the fridge. Continue reading “First steps into Buddhist meditation”

The Grandmotherly Kindness of the Zen Masters, Diana St Ruth

As far as the Zen masters are concerned, however, they have always been motivated by something beyond this material world and even when they are being apparently extreme or severe, if they are genuine, far from being cruel or uncaring they will be acting from a grandmotherly kindness…

Otagi-ji Photo © @KyotoDailyPhotoTo our western ears, Zen can often sound austere, unkind, even brutal and cruel. We hear about the rejections at the monastery gate, the hardships, humiliations and rough treatment its adherents are sometimes subjected to, and maybe we’re inclined to think it’s all a bit much for grown up people. However, when things are taken out of context—historically, spiritually, and culturally—they can so easily be misjudged and that is what can happen to Zen. This is, after all, a particular system which has survived around the world for centuries. It isn’t the only route for Buddhists, of course, but it is a tried and tested one. Naturally, when the attempt is made to transplant something so subtle from one country to the next, let alone from east to west, there will be difficulties, and it will be subject to abuse or misuse which in many respects it is suffering now in the west where in a broader sense the word ‘Zen’ has come to mean clever, smart, refined, minimalist, aesthetically pleasing, fashionable, tough, etc, and sometimes removing it entirely from its Buddhist context. Continue reading “The Grandmotherly Kindness of the Zen Masters, Diana St Ruth”