Banyan Tree - Banyan Tree - Jun 2006
by Life Positive
Life is Both Dreadful and Wonderful
Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.
If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace...
Meditation is to be aware of what is going on - in our bodies, in our feelings, in our minds, and in the world. Each day, 40,000 children die of hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy our planet many times. Yet the sunrise is beautiful and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects.
From Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
"What must I do to attain holiness?" said a traveler.
"Follow your heart," said the Master.
That seemed to please the traveler.
Before he left, however, the Master said to him in a whisper, "To follow your heart you are going to need a strong constitution."
Anthony de Mello
Perhaps one of the most noble and elevating spiritual concepts in any path is the Buddhist concept of the Bodhisattva. Usually attributed to the Mahayana school of thought, the bodhisattva is a being who aspires for bodhi or enlightenment, a Buddha-to-be. Yet the distinguishing feature between the bodhisattva and the ordinary seeker is this: the bodhisattva's vow is to delay the attainment of Nirvana and the consequent freedom from the cycle of birth and death, until all sentient beings have been helped to attain it. For the sake of the suffering millions, the bodhisattva postpones his own enlightenment.
This powerful concept of sacrificial giving even to the extent of enlightenment has been a great source of inspiration for all those who walk the Buddhist path. It testifies that there could be something higher than enlightenment and that could be the service of humanity.
The concept of bodhisattva has its source in the life of the Buddha as Prince Siddhartha, and also in his penultimate earthly life when he was King Vessantara.
A Plague Story
Once a terrible bubonic plague broke out in Asia and wiped out millions of people. The king of Bharat summoned all the old and wise priests of the realm to find ways to arrest the sweeping plague. Their spokesman said to the king, "My Lord, this is a visitation from the great god Siva and so we must appease him by offering worship and prayers throughout the kingdom."
A week after the priests began their worship, one midnight the great god Siva appeared before the priest and said, "Your prayers have pleased me. My servant Nandi will guard your country against all evils."
Now Nandi was posted to see that the plague did not enter the kingdom. One night, as he was on his rounds along the frontiers, the grim plague assumed a body and shape, and appeared before him, threatening to enter the kingdom. At last, a truce was made, and they came to terms. It was agreed that the plague would stay only for a day and take only one man as its victim.
But the next evening, a great hue and cry was raised in the city, for it was reported that not one but a hundred men had died. Nandi flew into a rage, caught him by the neck and thundered, "Scoundrel! You have broken your promise. You've taken 100 victims." From under Nandi's grip, the plague let out a peal of laughter and said, "Brother, I've not broken my promise. Don't be angry with me. I did take only one man as I promised, but the other 99 died out of fear. I had nothing to do with it."
Nandi loosened his iron grip and let the plague go.
Adapted from Folk tales from India by A.K Ramanujan.
The Rise of the Phoenix
Perhaps one of the most awesome and inspiring testimonies to the power of the human spirit is one's ability to assimilate acute negativity and transmute it into an instrument of good.
One such person is Mukhtar Mai, otherwise known as Mukhtaran, a young Pakistani peasant woman.
Three years ago, she was gang-raped on the order of a local tribal council. Instead of buckling under the humiliation and indignity, this spunky young woman prosecuted her attackers and used the compensation money to start schools. Today, she is the focal point for scores of similarly outraged women, who approach her for support and succor. And Mukhtar Mai does not fail them. At any given time, a dozen or more camp at her place, for whom she arranges legal assistance, contact with aid groups and other matters. One woman whose nose was cut off (a standard punishment for women in Pakistan) was assisted with three surgical operations.
If only each of us, like Mukthar Mai, were capable of converting our bruises and scabs into shining badges of goodness and glory, how much better a world would we be able to create.
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