Friday 24 May 2013


Today, in large parts of the world, is Vesak or Vesakha  - a celebration of the birth of the Buddha.  This is decided by tradition and fiat rather than any evidence - very similar to Christmas in the West.  But it is more like Easter in that it is a moveable feast, being celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month of the Chinese lunar calendar OR the day of the full moon in May OR the second Sunday in May. These can't all be in agreement let alone right, and I point out that NASA reckons the full moon is tomorrow 25-May.  Vesakha is equivalent to Hanamatsuri (Flower Festival) in Japan although that is celebrated on a different day again.    No matter, it's okay if we designate one day in our year to reflecting on our good fortune in being alive and thinking about those less fortunate.  No harm if we do something about the dispossessed, either, and many Buddhist temples lay on some tea and free food on the day.
I like the picture of the Buddha on the left, I find it/him restful and calming, somewhat austere - protestant even.  A lot of the statues and pictures of Siddhartha Gautama (as he was born) strike me as prim or supercilious, or over-coloured, or facetiously fat-and-jolly.  But that's just me embedding myself too rigidly in my own cultural clutter.  But whatever the language, whatever the culture, whatever the country we could all do worse than resolving to bring the following into focus/foreground of our lives:
* Right beliefs
* Right intention
* Right speech
* Right conduct
* Right livelihood
* Right effort
* Right mindfulness
* Right concentration
I've been swept up in a little bit of a flood-tide of Buddhism over the last 10 years or so because of The Beloved's involvement in the practice.  I won't go on about it here except to note a rather heartening teaching that I heard from a very young very calm Vietnamese monk in a dharma-discussion a good few years ago.  He was explaining the five mindfulness trainings or the eight-fold path (see above) or  the ten precepts or the four noble truths - I forget which.  But the point he made was that they were aspirational and if you could get through the week having achieved 2 or 3 out of the five (or 8, or 10, or 4) then you were a lot better (off) than if you'd booted them all and you shouldn't beat up on yourself too much.  From 3/5 you could push on to making 4/5 at some future date.  In the christian tradition, there are similar rules but the balance is too often reversed - one strike and you're a sinner.

What is mind? -- no matter.
What is matter? -- never mind.

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