Roundabout Path To Buddha

18 Sep

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I was asked recently why I suddenly decided to study Buddha and the precepts of Buddha after all these years of proclaiming myself an atheist or, at best, an agnostic. The short answer is that I’m still leaning towards Atheism and Agnosticism as my view of reality. The long answer is more complicated.

I’ve told a little of my life’s store here and there in my many blogs. Basically, I’ve seen the very worst that the human race has to offer. My time traveling around the country and especially my time in the Marines and then Vietnam taught me that you can take the most decent human being and turn them into animals that adore killing and inflicting pain for reasons they could never explain in a million years.

I came home from Vietnam a mental wreck and it didn’t get much better over the last 42 years.  My body is disintegrating because of the Agent Orange I was exposed to and so many other reasons and the VA does everything in its power to refuse treatment or compensation.  Like the poor idiots that are going to Iraq and Afghanistan, we are all hailed as “heroes” when we’re murdering other human being for the wealthy but become zeroes in the eyes of the nation when we return.  By the time the kids going over now start getting cancer from the depleted uranium they are exposed to day and night there will be no VA and no heath insurance to cover their illnesses and the country will gleefully turn their backs on them as they always do if it might cost them a penny in taxes to care for the wounded.

So, knowing that it is terrible and getting worse, I’ve had to decide that I can only directly affect my own mind and how I see the world and indirectly affect how my immediate family is protected and loved by me.

I looked into nearly all of the major religions and found some very powerful, peace-filled messages that the followers of those religions nearly always intentionally ignored and then behaved as the animals that all mankind becomes when they decide that there are no limitations to stand between what they have and what they want.  Christians proclaim their god the “Prince of Peace” and then murder children in their sleep thousands of miles away while the Americans sit in their east chairs watching insane children’s games or stupid movies made for morons.

So, I decided to pick and choose among the religions for the messages I wanted to try and live by.  Jesus probably never existed but the messages that are given in his name are almost always teachings of peace and love and sharing.  Buddha may or may not have existed but, again, nearly all of his messages point the way to a world in which war and hunger and anger and need no longer exist.  Even the Native Americans offered many valuable lessons about man’s relationship to the earth.  The very early Islamic teachings were of peace before they became centered on death and suicide and a hatred of women.

So, after that long search I settled on trying to learn more of what Buddha and his followers taught.  I do not intend to chant or wear robes or shave me head or any of the other cultish outward appearances that religions seem to demand.  Instead, I will seek the words that help me get through life a bit easier from day to day.  I’ve added a few here that I try to remember every day of my life since they are so appropriate to so many daily puzzles.  Maybe they can help others.  Maybe not.  But they help me.

Words I Love

Pain is inevitable.

Suffering is not.

Buddha

This is a huge lesson for me.  I feel such pain in my heart and body but the reality is that how I react to that pain is my decision.  Even in personal relationships, the pain of losing someone dear to me can be painful but I do not need to suffer from that loss for a long period of time.  I can remember the joys from that time and keep that close, instead.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

Buddha

Again, I must remember this every day.  I have so many regrets from my past, so many wishes for the future, and it is very difficult to keep myself rooted in the present which is the only place in time I can make a difference or improve my life or those around me.  But it is a day to day to struggle to do so.

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?

Buddha

This encompasses both of the previous quotes, for me.  My mind can repeat the teachings, I can try to share the teachings but the moment I act impulsively I act in ways that contradict all that I know to be true.  It is like the followers of so many other religions, they attend whatever services they attend, listen to whatever speaker they have chosen to listen to, then they leave and return to their lives of greed and hatred and meanness.   I do not wish to be like them but I find that I so often am and that brings me sadness.

It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.

Buddha

This is my final quote for the day.  It is, probably, the most important one.  No matter what I’ve done in my life that I regret and no matter what I may do in the future that I will come to regret, it is always my own mind that set me upon the course that resulted in those acts.  Until I can control what has been called my “Monkey Mind” I can control nothing.

If you like designs made from Buddhist ideals and Buddha’s own words then please visit our shop at Buddha’s Gifts  It helps to support all of our blogs and local charities.

Thanks for reading this.  Peace.  Namaste

Celebrating Buddha

14 Sep

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I’ve noticed, quite often, that images of Buddha and references to Buddhism appear in the most unusual and unlikely places.  In my shops, I attempt to explain and illustrate the teachings of Buddha and the basic philosophy of Buddhism in a respectful yet lighthearted manner.  I never mean to make fun of Buddha nor to insult the wonderful teachings he left us.  Buddha tried to live a life of peace and contentment and my designs attempt to reflect those goals as best as my meager talents allow.

Yet I often see images of Buddha and Buddhism used in places where an image of Jesus or of Muhammad would never be acceptable.  I feel no anger about this, only wonder that people can not see that using Buddha’s image or scenes from Buddhism to sell products or to be included and placed in a design in a way that would infuriate the followers of any other spiritual paths should be avoided.

Imagine seeing the face of Jesus or Muhammad or the Pope on this model’s bikini bottom instead of Buddha’s.  How great would be the resulting anger and outrage?  Yet there is nothing spoken of or written about this misuse of Buddha’s image in such a crass and gross manner.  There are many other ways to depict Buddhism for this design such as the Lotus flower that would be as beautiful but not as provocative.

Buddha's Gifts Would Never Misuse Buddha's Image Like This

In fact, at my shop on Zazzle, Buddha’s Gifts, there is a strict policy against using any images or references to Buddha or Buddhism or Buddhists on any underwear or animal products at all.  That policy will block all images on all products if even one product that is insulting to Buddha and Buddhism is included in the shop.  It is a policy I strongly support for all religions as, whether or not you see the religious figure as one that you wish to follow in your life, you have no right to insult or belittle others in such a way.

Another way that corporations misuse images of Buddha is on food products.  Buddhists are, as a rule, strict vegetarians and avoid the flesh of animals as food.  Nevertheless, some corporations will use an image of Buddha to sell their products with no regard for that fact.  Perhaps they do it out of stupidity, perhaps out of malice or perhaps simply because they want to attract the eye of those who follow Buddha but who are not consistent with the dietary practices of Buddhism.  Consider, again, if the face of Jesus or the Pope or Muhammad were placed on this package instead of Buddha.  Would there be outrage among their followers?  Would the corporation even dare to use those images?  Then why is it acceptable to use the image of Buddha to sell their products when their products have nothing whatsoever to do with Buddha or Buddhism or the dietary habits of Buddhists?

eef and Black Bean Soup with Buddha Image

Please understand that I am not picking on just these two products nor that I would even consider writing to the corporations that misused Buddha’s image to complain since, frankly, I think Buddha himself would find great humor in the situation.  Buddha had a sense of humor that is unmatched in the world’s religions and that humor was soft, self-effacing and gentle and I doubt that, even if he could, he would ever write a letter of complaint to any corporation.  Perhaps he might write a letter that offered some kind words and thoughts of wisdom about the situation but never one of complaint since that would indicate anger and we know that we never punish others with our anger but our anger punishes us.

I owe the subject of this article and the two images to a gentleman from Sri Lanka who wrote a blog about what he saw as an insult to Buddha in these images above.  I must disagree with the word “insult” since I see the images more of a misuse of Buddha’s images.  I use Buddha’s images on many of my products but, I hope, in a very respectful way just as I would use the image of Jesus or the Pope or depictions of the Muslim faith (but never of Muhammad) if I were to create such designs.

I am certain that, if one looks hard enough, one could find truly offensive and insulting depictions of Buddha in the world since there are simply truly mean and spiritually misguided people everywhere.  As is said, 50% of the people are below average in intelligence and the bottom 50% of those often do mean, spiteful things simply because they do not know better.  While it is not the purpose of individuals who try to follow the words of Buddha to correct them in words, it is our duty to show them the correct way through our own words and actions.  That would be Buddha’s way.

Namaste.  Peace.

More Quotes From Buddha’s Followers

14 Sep

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It’s been a while since I’ve had time to do any reading or searching for more quotes from Buddha and his many followers since I’ve been focusing my energies on creating the newest store in our long line of stores called Buddha’s Gifts on Zazzle. For some reason, they are the slowest company to deal with I’ve ever designed for. They force you to wait 24 hours or more while they “approve” designs for Buddhist shops and then often omit certain products that takes another 2 hours to replace into the store. Nevertheless, they are better than Cafe Press on their best days since Cafe Press seems to be about to go out of business and steals from its shopkeepers constantly while Zazzle lets the shopkeepers set their own profit margins (ours are among the lowest, by the way) and then gives you the total profit, not just 10% of what you set. Do I sound cynical about Cafe Press?

But, now that I have that out of my system, and proven how far I have yet to go on my long, winding journey to anything that even slightly resembles “Enlightenment”,  let’s return to the positive aspects that Buddha taught and that I so obviously have yet to get a firm grasp on. Let’s look at more than few that I need to incorporate into my daily life and my reactions to the dealings of others. I can only control my own thoughts and my own actions and, thus, that is where I should be focusing my attention.

Some Thoughts From Buddha’s Followers:

Our actions, our words and our thoughts determine our karma, in other words, the happiness and the suffering that will be our lot. – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

We are all slaves of our own actions. Why be angry with anyone else? – Shantideva

When we feel responsible, concerned and committed, we begin to feel deep emotion and great courage. – The 14th Dalai Lama

The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another. – Jack Kornfield

Words should be coherent and controlled, clear and pleasant, and should be spoken in a calm and gentle voice; they should express neither desire nor hatred. – Shantideva

It is the place of feeling that binds us or frees us. – Jack Kornfield

It is by striving ceaselessly to change our emotions that we will succeed in changing our temperament. – Matthieu Ricard.

I must admit that the mere act of recording these words reminds me just how terribly far I am from any form of freedom from the vices that keep me shackled to this Earth and its pain and suffering. I am so very, very imperfect and so very far from where I know I must be to end this cycle, yet each day I find myself forgetting and re-enacting the foolishness of my anger and fear. These words, at least for a few moments, reminds me of the path I’ve fallen from again and again but, when I read these words, that path becomes a bit more familiar and a tiny bit easier to regain. I hope they help you as well.

I wish you all peace and contentment. Namaste. Peace.

More Buddha Quotes I Love

9 Sep

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In my readings I keep stumbling across words and teachings from Buddha and his followers that strike a chord within. If I try to share them with the consumers that make up the vast majority of Americans I either get blank stares or an attempt at convincing me to become a “Christian”. When I explain that being a “Christian” is not the same, on any level, as following the teachings of Christ I am given a hate-filled glare and either walked away from or told I am going to some mythical hell that their silly religion invented in order to frighten the stupid.

Understand, I love the majority of what Jesus, mythical or not, supposedly taught. He taught peace and love and sharing. His followers, though, practice war and hate and greed and I find that very, very disgusting. So, I find Buddha far more wise and his followers far more apt to actually practice what was taught.

That said, here are a few of the quotes I’ve stumbled across recently. If some are duplicates of quotes from previous articles it is because they struck a different chord this time and gave me the need to share and remember them once again.

BUDDHA’S THOUGHTS

We are the sum of a huge number of free actions for which we are the only ones responsible. - Matthieu Ricard & Trinh Xuan Thuan

If a man who enjoys a lesser happiness beholds a greater one, let him leave aside the lesser to gain the greater. – Buddha

Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world. - Buddha

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful. - Buddha (I think)

Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds. (Buddha – I think)

One of his students asked Buddha, “Are you the messiah?”
“No”, answered Buddha.
“Then are you a healer?”
“No”, Buddha replied.
“Then are you a teacher?” the student persisted.
“No, I am not a teacher.”
“Then what are you?” asked the student, exasperated.
“I am awake”, Buddha replied.  Story from Buddha’s Life.

In this world Hate never yet dispelled hate.  Only love dispels hate.  This is the law, Ancient and inexhaustible.   Buddha  Dhammapada.

You too shall pass away.  Knowing this, how can you quarrel?   Buddha  Dhammapada.

I must admit that the final quote has always been one of my favorites.  Our time is so short here.  A billionth of a blink of an eye in eternity.  How we spend that time is of utmost importance.  Being angry, arguing with another, quarreling about anything is such a terrible waste of that tiny span of time.

Please visit our shop at Buddha’s Gifts for shirts for Buddhists as well as many gifts for Buddhists.

Peace

More Quotes From Buddha

7 Sep

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I adore the many teachings of Buddha and his followers.  I often try to use them in my daily life, quietly repeating them to myself when I find the hardships of the world becoming too great or my interactions with people with no heart or wisdom too disheartening.  Remembering the thoughts that made Buddha great and created the basis for Buddhism and that led me to be, in my small, undisciplined manner, a Buddhist in practice only is often all I need to move past anger and frustration.

Here are a few of Buddha’s thoughts that I find quite helpful and so I will pass them along in hopes that you, too, will find them useful in your life.  Please understand that the comments I make and the thoughts that I bring to these quotes are mine alone and, as such, are not to be taken as the teachings of Buddha but, rather, my human interpretations of those teachings.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.

This in a difficult one for me.  I find that the world today is full of hate and greed and a love of violence that sickens me.  What most sours my heart towards others is when they speak like roosters about our “Brave Heroes” who are thousands of miles away, occupying many nations and murdering innocent men and women for reasons not one in a million Americans can truthfully explain.  Then, when those “heroes” return, these same American lovers of war and death suddenly turn their backs on these “heroes” and refuse to care for their inner or outer wounds because it might create a need for a tiny increase in taxes.

I can usually stare at them blankly and mumble a few words just to give myself time to leave the vicinity of these fools but I can seldom find the words to amend their minds to reality with that one word that might bring peace.  I fall far short in that area and will probably live my life wishing and trying to be better at it.

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

This is one that I wish I could make huge billboards out of and place along every freeway in the world.  Just as the only difference between east and west is the one we chose to make distinctive though our meager words, there is no difference between the people who live in one place over another.  They may have different cultures or languages but they are all just as human as you and I and to hate or fear anyone for those differences is spiritual insanity of the worst kind.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

I have found that the act of conquering myself is a thousand battles.  Every day brings new onslaughts from without that I must do battle with inside my heart in hopes of not straying from the peaceful path that Buddha laid forth for us all.  I’m afraid I lose most battles and can only see those loses late at night as I relive each day and see where I could have spoken or behaved in a way that might have brought more peace to that tiny part of the world for that instant in time.  I suppose when I feel I have achieved victory over myself I have either reached that wondrous state of enlightenment or, more likely, the state of self-delusion.

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.

I have twice run for elective offices in my life.  I lost both efforts.  Frankly, I am happy I lost both times because I know that my mouth often forms and utters words and thoughts before my mind has fully had the opportunity to conclude whether what I am about to say will improve the conversation and the lives of those that hear them or if they are merely words meant to give others an impression of me that may or may not reflect my heart.

Words are far more powerful things than most understand.  Advertisers understand their power to persuade.  Politicians understand their power to convince others to do things against their own best interests.  Generals understand the power of the word to move otherwise intelligent men and women into situations in which they must take the very lives of others with whom they have no quarrel and sacrifice their own for causes that are not of any importance to them at all.

I most importantly must chose my words with great care when speaking to my son. His disabilities and our long history together has given him a trust in what I say far beyond perhaps the wisdom of those words.  I wish for him to grow into a strong, happy, confident man that does his best to live a life that would make Buddha proud without, perhaps, even bringing up the idea of Buddhism because of the strange beliefs of the rest of his family.  Thus, I must take great care in what I say to him even in the most casual moments because I know that he will remember what I’ve said long after I’ve forgotten.

Final Thoughts

I am not one to ever consider myself a teacher or even much of a disciple of Buddhism.  I acknowledge that I pick and chose those thoughts that I believe might help me live a more loving life.  I do the same with the words of Jesus and the other teachers.  Any phrase that inspires love and awareness is, in and of itself, very worthy of thought.

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Please visit out shop at Buddha’s Gifts.  We have created a separate shop for just the designs and quotes from Buddha.  Buddha’s Gifts is a wonderful place to find shirts for Buddhists and well as wonderful gifts for Buddhists for every occasion.  Thank you and Peace.

The Laughing Buddha

5 Sep

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Many people believe that the figure in Buddhism known as the “Laughing Buddha” is actually a depiction of the true Buddha. The Laughing Buddha is usually depicted as a fat, happy man that gives out treats and candies to children as he passes along in his travels. The truth, though, is different.

The Laughing Buddha began as a Chinese folkloric deity whose true name was Budai, pronounced Hotei in Japanese.   His name means “Cloth Sack,” and comes from the bag of clothing, candies and sweets that he is conventionally depicted as carrying. He is usually identified with (or as an incarnation of) Maitreya Buddha, so much so that the Budai image is one of the main forms in which Maitreya Buddha is depicted in East Asia. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha.

He is not, however, to be confused with the historical Buddha, known as the Shakyamuni Buddha (Shakyamuni means “Lion of the Shakya Clan’ with Shakya being the clan name).  The historical Buddha was born Prince Siddhartha, raised and lived in wealth and power, and left it all behind so as to discover the meaning of suffering and ultimate liberation. When gaining this knowledge, he was called a Buddha by his followers, since that means “an enlightened one.”

Budai is traditionally a fat bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads. He carries his few possessions in a cloth sack, being poor but content. He is often depicted entertaining or being followed by adoring children. His figure appears throughout Chinese culture as a representation of contentment. His image graces many temples, restaurants, amulets, and businesses throughout the world as well as in many homes.

According to Chinese history, Budai was an eccentric Chán monk who lived in China during the Later Liang Dynasty (907–923 CE). He was a native of Fenghua, and his Buddhist name was Qieci (literally “Promise this”). He was considered a man of good and loving character and especially beloved by children.

The term Buddha means “one who is awake”, meaning one who has awakened into “enlightenment”. Many believe that there have been others who have attained the level of enlightenment of Buddha and later followers of the Chan school would come to teach that all beings possess Buddha nature within them, and are already enlightened, but have yet to realize this. This teaching would become Zen Buddhism.

For many just learning about Buddhism, Budai is often confused with (or simply replaces) the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, in spite of the distinct visual differences in how each has been depicted. In India, Nepal, and throughout southeast Asia, Gautama (who lived during the 6th c. BCE) is commonly depicted as being tall and slender in appearance.

In contrast, in China and those areas to which Chinese cultural influence spread, the depiction of Budai (who lived during the 10th c. CE) is consistently short and rotund. Both depictions are the idealized results of the religious, cultural and folkloric traditions which evolved in the centuries after their respective deaths.

Another theory has it that he was originally a God of fertility, or a God of Prosperity, and his round belly was a symbol for a bountiful harvest. As Buddhism spread into China from India, the local population accepted him as a saint, or a manifestation of the Future Buddha (Maitreya Buddha). In Japan he is known as Hotei and is considered one of the Seven Gods of Fortune.

It is not uncommon for shopkeepers and other people in general to rub the belly of Ho Tai in order to bring good luck. Ho Tai is also considered to be the patron saint of children as well.

Truly, though, it is the teachings and thoughts that comprise Buddhism that are more important than the shape of the Buddha itself. Buddhism is a set of thoughtful, loving directions for a life spent in seeking enlightenment both for one’s self as well as assisting those in your life to find the contentment and peace that Buddha can bring.

For those who enjoy Buddhist imagery and quotes, Buddha’s Gifts provides shirts for Buddhists and many wonderful gifts for Buddhists and for those who simply wish to share our hopes for a life full of happiness and sharing. So from Budai I wish you a life full of laughter.

Buddha’s Gifts – Basic Teachings

30 Aug

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The Basic Teachings of Buddhism  

by Arjanyai

The main ideas of Buddhism are contained in the statements known as the

Four Noble Truths and the Middle Way

which the Buddha proclaimed in his first sermon at the Deer Park near Benares in the first year of his ministry. The Four Noble Truths are :

1. The Noble Truth of Suffering: This Truth deals with all the problems of life as represented by birth, old age, disease and death, including sorrows and frustrations of every kind. Obviously, these things are unsatisfactory and people try their best to avoid them and to be free of them. However, not only these, but all conditioned things can be unsatisfactory as they are transient, conflicting and phenomenal, lacking an underlying enduring substance, and can cause sorrows and frustrations to anyone who ignorantly clings to them. For those who want to avoid and to be free from suffering, this Truth teaches that a right attitude, the attitude of knowledge and wisdom, must be maintained towards all things. One must learn to know things as they are. The unsatisfactory facts of life must be observed, located and comprehended. Beyond this, one has to proceed to other steps set forth in the other Truths.In short the First Noble Truth treats of the problems and problematic situations which are to be observed, located and comprehended.

2. The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering: In this Truth, the Buddha examines and explains how suffering arises through various causes and conditions. This Second Truth includes the profound law of causes and effects called the Paticcasamuppada or the Dependent Origination, the practical part of which is the well-known law of Karma. In short, the Second Truth teaches that all kinds of suffering have their origins in craving or selfish desire rooted in ignorance. Not knowing things as they are or being ignorant of their true nature, people crave for and slavishly cling to things. Through this process, they develop three kinds of craving: craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence and craving for self-annihilation. Through unsatisfied desire or through inadequate response, they experience sorrows and frustrations. Through the three kinds of craving, they also perform various evil actions with the body, speech and mind, which result in the suffering both of themselves and others and whereby other evils are caused to grow.

To put it simply, the Second Noble Truth deals with the examination and explanation of the origin of the problems by way of causality. It points out the causes of the problems which one has to destroy if the good life is to be experienced.

3. The Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering: This third Truth deals with the goal of Buddhist endeavour. It tells us that when ignorance is completely destroyed through true knowledge and when craving or selfish desire is eradicated and replaced by the right attitude of love and wisdom, Nirvana, the state of perfect peace, absence of defilements and freedom from suffering, will be realized. For those who have not completely destroyed ignorance and craving, the more ignorance and craving are diminished the less suffering will become. The more their life is guided by love and wisdom, by knowledge and compassion, the more their life will become productive of happiness and welfare, both of themselves and others.

The third Noble Truth serves as a prediction, a hope and an urge for the striving of the followers.

To support these articles explaining the teaching of Buddha and a path to a better future, please visit our shop Buddha’s Gifts where you will find Shirts for Buddhists  as well as many other fine products. I wish you all peace and contentment.

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