Posts Tagged ‘Buddha’

The presence of prayer

January 1, 2012

The only way for human beings to change is for them to conquer their inner darkness and rediscover the eternal dignity within their own lives. Cultivating the noble spirit with which all people are endowed will directly lead to a change in the destiny of humankind. -Daisaku Ikeda (www.sharingbuddhism.com)

In reading God Has No Religion (by Frances Sheridan Goulart), I came across this passage about how one can become the prayer that is prayed. By making the prayer a mantra that is repeated several times a day, a person eventually becomes “transformed into the prayer itself and begins to reflect to others the compassion, love, and nonviolence of Jesus, Buddha, or the spirit who is invoked.” Goulart is obviously indicating that the prayer translates into compassion, love, and nonviolence (as opposed to “please, God, let me win the lottery!” I am not sure how that prayer would be translated into personhood).

This is the same idea as the notion that our thoughts create our lives (which is not really a notion, but becoming more of an irrefutable fact). Self-awareness can be a real beast sometimes. I am painfully aware that I am not living the prayers I pray.

It could be that I don’t have a good working definition of what a prayer is. It could be that I don’t pray long enough or often enough. It could be I am not praying the right words. It could be that I am not pointing my prayers in the right direction.

I was taught early in my Catholicism that we could pray to God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit, and an array of saints, all of whom have a specific function in prayer world, such as St. Jude being the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. A prayer to St. Jude is a prayer of desperation and, in my view, there are a lot of desperate people so he must be overloaded with requests. Mostly, my prayers go to the nebulous God who I define as the universal consciousness – the energy that we are all a part of.

I had always thought that a prayer is an asking, a desire for something specific – an outcome, an item, a direction. I have prayed for strength and wisdom. It has never occurred to me to pray in seeking my noble spirit. If I pray to “rediscover the eternal dignity within” my life, exactly how will that prayer be answered? Does it matter if I fulfill my own prayer or must that gift be bestowed upon me? Will God swoop down and suddenly gift me with eternal insight? Probably not. God’s swooping and bestowing days of a Biblical nature are the products of fairy tales and wishful thinking. I think what will probably happen is that God (i.e., life) will place opportunities for me to witness my eternal dignity.

The answer to every prayer is its intent. It is simply up to me to open my eyes, my heart, my soul, my mind to the presence of God in everyone and everything I encounter.

What right do I have to pray for someone else? Is it right for me to wish for an outcome that might not be the one that person desires? What if someone wants me to pray for something that I know is not good for that person? Like everyone else, I view the world from my own need to survive. I project my hopes, passions, desires, needs, wants believing that my way is the right way, the best way for me, and if it is good for me, isn’t it good for everyone else?

Maybe. Maybe not. I might never know. But I believe that prayer is a powerful way to move the universe.

My friend, Laurie, at Speaking from the Heart sent me a wonderful prayer for this New Year: that my every dream comes true; that I find myself surrounded by friends, laughter, and good times; that my every cup runneth over financially, romantically, spiritually, and creatively; that good health be my faithful companion, peace my guarded ally, and love my perpetual guide. My noble spirit stirs at the thought that I can become the living transformation of this prayer.

How can I go wrong with that?

©2012 Barbara L. Kass

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Walking talking presence

May 9, 2010

One may be letter-perfect in reciting the Lotus Sutra, but it is far more difficult to act as it teaches. -Nichiren

In other words, some of us talk the walk with ease but find it more difficult to walk the talk.

Nichiren was a Japanese Buddhist monk who lived during the 13th century. His philosophy was that one can be enlightened and learn the ways of the Buddha by following the teachings in the Lotus Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra itself is a daunting document to read, much less employ. Yet, I know I don’t have to understand each and every line to know how to live my life. My big question is: am I living the life I think, talk, and write about? The life I know my soul needs to be living?

Coming up with the words is easy. Walking the way of my words in the world is a little more difficult. There is that “reality” thing that I like to use as an excuse not to meditate . . . or exercise . . . or write . . . or market my writing. There is other work to be done that nags at me. “Reality” keeps blocking my way down my path. I think, talk, and write about connecting with another person’s eternal presence, yet “reality” has me so distracted when I am with others that I more often forget than remember. I am too busy trying to respond to whatever demand they are making of me in the moment.  

When I am catering to the “woe is me” attitude, I stop to remember how I have in the past walked my talk and accomplished everything that got me here to the luxury . . . I repeat – LUXURY – of even worrying about bringing my true presence to life. I am a thousand times more of who I truly am and living the life that I truly mine than I was even five years ago.

I don’t settle, though. I doubt that I will ever stop talking about the walk and working to walk the talk. That word “working” has caught my attention in a big way right now and you might hear more about it tomorrow.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Buddha presence

April 18, 2010

Saturday was spent basking in the life light of my granddaughter, who is eight years old and so full of herself and willing to be exactly who she is that I envy her. She is like Buddha presence to me: her teaching lies in her behavior as a human being in this world.

Occasionally, I slip back to my childhood and wallow in a bit of self-pity for I was taught that my behavior could control how other people treated and responded to me. In all of my relationships, my goals were outcome oriented: how did I need to be in order to elicit a specific result or response from that person? In the Catholic religion, I was given a script of behaviors that would guarantee me a ticket to heaven, and it did not matter if I enjoyed the behaviors or if they were good for me or not. I was soliciting a response from the ultimate authority: God.

That’s power. To be able to control God’s response to me would mean that I was actually more powerful than God. To be able to control anyone’s response to me either through coercion, manipulation, or bribery means that I am more powerful than them. The unspoken rule is: I do what makes you happy and then you are supposed to respond by meeting my needs and doing what makes me happy.

Yesterday, I learned that one can simply ask for what is needed. I mentioned to my granddaughter when I picked her up that it looked like she had grown since the last time I had seen her two weeks ago. She said, “Yes, and nothing fits anymore. We have to go shopping for summer clothes!”

And so we did. I set a limit on the clothes I would buy for her. I did not elicit any agreement from her otherwise about the clothes. She does not owe me anything. I did not buy the clothes because of any behavior she exhibited except for asking. I bought them because she needs them and I love her. This helps me stop my pity party over what I often perceive as my own bizarrely neglected childhood. I, too, am learning the Buddha presence. The contrast teaches me that what I had learned in the past means nothing to my behavior in the present. I can choose Buddha presence.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Courage in the presence of reality

April 15, 2010

Every day, I get a Daily Buddhist Wisdom (sharingbuddhism.com) that encourages me to seek the way of the Buddha and offers some insight and inviting knowledge that inspires me along my path. Today, the wisdom words were:

“Each of us wants to be wiser, more compassionate, and more courageous – to be better than we are. We would like to turn suffering into happiness, affliction to benefit, hardship to ease. We would ideally face both trial and tragedy in ways that could exalt and strengthen us. In every purpose we want and seek these higher tendencies-wisdom, courage, and compassion. These are also the prime qualities of a Buddha.” –The Buddha In Your Rearview Mirror

I agree with just about all of this . . . but the part about “ideally face both trial and tragedy in ways that could exalt and strengthen us” . . . well, um, no. Not really. I don’t need the exalt thing. My ego might want it, but in the presence of reality, I don’t think I could stand it. Exalt means to praise or pay tribute to someone. I might praise myself for having dealt ideally with difficult circumstances, but the fact of my reality is that I really don’t want to face “trial and tragedy.” I certainly would not seek them out. Both seem to find me just fine all by themselves. And I don’t know that I have faced all of them “in ways that could exalt” me. Sometimes, I just sort of caved and whimpered my way through. I probably came out of those a little bit stronger, but mostly smarter. If I have to suffer to attain the rank of Buddha, I would rather pass. Thus ends my Buddha quest.

The idea that we must suffer in life is all about our point of view. Suffering begins because we have the idea that someone or something is not the way we want or think we need it to be. In the presence of that reality, it takes courage to admit the root of suffering and still continue through it.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass