If our present suffering is the result of bad karma from a prior life, what is the present cure for suffe

 In a recent conversation with one of my Christian friends, a really important question was raised. It seemed like a perfectly logical thing to ask. 

She asked….. If our present suffering, is the result of past life karma, how can we logically cure it today?       
 
She quite rightly  pointed out, we can’t touch the past or change it – so it seems like a long shot to believe we can alleviate the suffering we brought from the past. 
When we look at things through a Buddhist eyes however, it’s always a little more complex even though we ourselves work with logic. Anyone, who believes in the process of reincarnation, would probably acknowledge & accept, that the way we live today and the body we occupy, is a result of our past life.  This is also outlined in a very famous Buddhist quote which says….

if you want to know about your past life, look at the body you occupy today, and if you want to know about your next life, examine your mind. 

My friend was looking at the issue from a single perspective. This being, if we are brought here with suffering from our past which we can do nothing about, how can we change it in the present? This quote makes perfect sense, and kind of answers the question beautifully. The remedy  for changing suffering brought from past lives, is changing our mindset and the way we conduct ourselves in this one. 

What are your thoughts on this wonderful subject? 

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Forgiveness-where does it begin and end?

 Forgiveness, is it the only way forward in our society today? Or simply a week watered-down solution to cover up the cracks that we have no answers to?

 

This is a discussion often had by religious leaders, about societies were violence is increasing.

Many people in my circle, know that I also for gave the man who murdered my husband back in 2005. Then there’s the inspirational Eva Kor, who lost all her family in the Nazi concentration camps after being horribly tortured & experimented on -but ended up forgiving her publically forgiving her captors. I Believe strongly that we are all victims of something. My husband was the victim of his killer & of his own karma & his killer was also a victim of his own karma, of society & of the values with which he was raised. Of course not everyone will agree with my views, and that’s why these debates are so wonderful. Some people will feel capital punishment is the only way forward, and that getting rid of the perpetrators is the only way to save the world in which we live. Others will be of the view that forgiveness should always prevail…..

Here I have two very powerful questions for debate:

1- what are your views on forgiveness?

2- Is there any real logic in handing out the death penalty to someone who committed murder?

What are your thoughts? Please like, comment and let’s have a fantastic debate! Please also share this post if you like it f what are your thoughts? Please like, comment and let’s have a fantastic debate! Please also share this post if you like it.

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

Today I’m re-posting my latest you tube clip in honor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 84th Birthday. I did post it on his 81st Birthday and would you believe it’s been going around all that time? As many will know I qualified as a Laughter Yoga Leader in 2014 and have been running sessions up and down the country. So what is Laughter Yoga? Well it was born in India Mumbai back in 1995 by a medical doctor Madan Kataria. Dr Kataria wanted to look at the connection between joyfulness & good health. After a lot of research and practical work he came up with Laughter Yoga Clubs. I’m not going to talk too much about Dr Kataria’s work but you can find out more on the link below http://laughteryogasalonnyc.com/drkataria.html For now enjoy my video, join in have a good laugh and celebrate life!

Who is the karma judge?

 

We all have our differing views on life, consequences & whether things in the world happen because of Gods will.  

Buddhism doesn’t recognise God as creator, in fact the Buddha taught we are all responsible for our own thoughts, motivations & actions etc. Everything we do think or say in this life, will determine how we are eventually reborn in the next. In Buddhism, there is no personal God interacting with his creation, who determines whether or not a person has done something to merit either “good” or “bad” Karma? 

So….. Here’s today’s debate question….

If this decision is made at the end of one’s life, who is actually making the decision? How can an impersonal force “decide” anything? Who is the final judge of Karma, and mustn’t this judge by necessity be a personal being (capable of making a decision)?


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Mantra Without Joy is like Autumn Without Leaves

Fortunate enough to have travelled some of the holiest cities in India, one thing has always puzzled me – tourists with such miserable faces. 

This may appear judgemental – it really isn’t meant to. But almost every group of tourists I’ve encountered on my travels through India who’ve come to study meditation etc with a personal Guru, looks absolutely miserable as sin. The men appear to have spent a whole month continuously smoking pot, and the women look like startled rabbits in headlights, painfully thin, and frustrated at not being able to understand what it is they’re meant to do. This naturally brings me to the question where is the joy? Spiritual practice often involves chanting, giving reverence and respect to deities who’s influences help us move forward in life. Therefore joy is a major part of spiritual practice – or at least it should be. Can you imagine how it would feel, if you threw a big birthday party and everyone sang happy birthday as if they were exhausted and couldn’t be bothered even being there? Well it’s pretty much the same thing really.

So here’s today’s little issue for debate ……..

Why do you think, so many people take meditation and mantra so seriously? And do you think it’s appropriate to show joy in such situations?

 

 

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Death – Are You Really Prepared?

In my last post we discussed the issue of death, and why Western culture often finds it terrifying, dark & complex. In Buddhism, the death process is also seen in a similar way, but for very different reasons.  In Buddhism one of he most significant things relating to the death process is Bardo.

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This takes place between the point of death & rebirth. The process is said to last for a 49 day period and during this time the consciousness will go through many different phases until it is finally reborn. As the process takes place, different prayers are recited from scriptures called the Bardo Thodol . These prayers are aimed to guide the consciousness to the point of rebirth without distraction. In Tibetan Buddhism, the consciousness is said to be the last thing to leave the body even when all other organs have shut down. This means technically the person is still alive right up until the point where the consciousness leaves. When this happens, a small spot of blood will usually appear on the crown of the head, or fluid will start to leave through the deceased persons nostrils. At this point, the body is ready for cremation etc.

Please see for more information on the actual process  https://www.andrewholecek.com/after-death-states-the-bardos-in-tibetan-buddhism/

There are 6 Bardos, but the final 3 are after death states:

1- The painful Bardo of dying (Chikai):  When consciousness of the newly deceased becomes aware of and accepts the fact it has recently died.

2 -The luminous Bardo of Dharmata (Chonyid): The consciousness reflects upon its past life and the mind is laid bare, karma is assessed in preparation for rebirth.

3- The Bardo of becoming (Sidpa): During the second state of Bardo, the consciousness will encounter terrifying images and sounds. These are only attributed to the winds as the senses start to close down. How we react to those terrifying images and sounds, determines what will happen in the third Bardo (becoming) in other words how we will be reborn. This is why we are encouraged to meditate on death whilst we are very much alive, and why we should encounter every difficult situation with a mindset of compassion and generosity so that when the battle process is happening we can hear these terrors and know exactly what to do without panicking.

Different cultures view death and dying in very different ways. Here in the West we usually lay out our loved ones in the chapel of rest for around three or four days before burial or cremation. This is so people can pay their last respects, share memories about the person’s life-who they were & what they were like etc. In Islamic culture however, it’s traditional to bury the body as quickly as possible without delay.

So here’s today’s question to ponder…. If we accept the Bardo theory as accurate, what thoughts feelings &  emotions are raised about our own traditions of burying or cremating the dead?

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Thoughts About Life…..

We’ve all at some time or other, sat and pondered on the wonders of life & how it began. There are many different perspectives on how we got here. God, The Big Bang, Apes, Dinosaurs etc – they’re all widely debated. Buddhism however, teaches the law of causality – Everything has a root cause and is dependent upon other factors to exist. When it comes to ‘sentient beings’ karma is that root cause. According to Buddhism, how we are born in this life for example, human or animal (Reincarnation) very much determines how our past life was. For example, if in our past life we were greedy and uncaring about others – making no effort to change, it may be we are reincarnated as an animal of some kind. The fundamental difference between animals & humans is the ability to fully understand & exercise morals (What’s right & wrong) 

An animal when it’s hungry will hunt. It pays no attention to the pain of its meal – it’s only desire is to satisfy hunger. When it’s finished the meal,it will curl up and sleep peacefully. If you own a pet dog, you’ll have felt the unconditional love he/she shows. But if by chance you died would your lovely canine friend eventually eat you? Of course he would.

So Buddhism teaches, we are all reborn as a result of past positive/negative karma

But What real evidence do we have that reincarnation is true?

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Life – Is it Really All That Bad?

The first teaching of the Buddha was called the four Noble truths’s. The 4 Noble truths’s speaks about suffering, and the cessation of suffering. in other words, how to get rid of it and make a happy life for ourselves and others. According to the 4 Noble truths, nothing in this world that exists without an element of suffering. However, for many people this sounds pretty grim – let’s face it, if everything is all about suffering then how can we ever be happy?
But what actually are the 4 noble truths?

The Four Noble Truths

  1. The truth of suffering (Dukkha) This means that suffering actually exists.
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya) understanding where suffering comes from.
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha) understanding that because suffering exist, it can also be ended.
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga) How to end suffering.

To put it in a nutshell, the Buddha taught, that once we understand the root of our suffering, which according to Buddhism is ‘desire’. Then we can actually move towards ending it.
This is why the Buddha was often compared to a physician because he diagnosed an actual human and universal problem, then prescribed the cure in 4 relatively simple lessons.

But here’s something to debate…..
LifeIf life is just suffering, as Buddhism claims, why is it some of us don’t see it this way? Why do some of us see life as wonderful rather than filled with suffering?

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Reducing Negative Emotions

We all experience negative emotions such as stress & anger but how do we reduce them before they cause long term damage? Well, the first port of call for many of us in the Western world is a large glass or even a bottle of wine, recreational drugs or even prescribed medication.

All provide great short term benefits, but each has its own side effect & if used in excess, can damage our physical/mental health. We tend to do this for various reasons, sometimes we need a quick result, other times we don’t know an alternative way. Tibetan Buddhism teaches the most effective way of reducing negative emotions, is by cultivating & increasing compassion & selflessness (altruism) When we think kind thoughts or do nice things for another person, chemicals such as Seratonin (Natural Happy Chemical) are released into our body & therefore our mood is lifted. Have you ever noticed how great you feel when you give gifts at Christmas or birthdays? The act of giving seems to create more joy than actually receiving but it isn’t just about materialism. Just a simple act of Altruism can impact so many people and touch their lives in ways you can’t imagine.

Here’s an example; John has worked for the same company for 25 yrs but for the last 10 years, that job has become more stressful. More responsibilities have been put on John and he isn’t able to manage his workload. He isn’t getting any younger and is afraid of losing his job so he works late most nights to get things finished. John’s manager notices him working late, but isn’t aware of John’s stress. All he’s interested in, is getting the products out on time. John is seeing less & less of his family so he and his wife argue a lot. His wife is almost always sad these days but they have a mortgage to pay so nothing can be done. All their friends have stopped visiting because the atmosphere is tense and they leave feeling sad. This has a knock on effect on their friends & families too. Eventually John starts to feel ill and collapses at work, so needs to take time off sick. He is visited by his manager who responds very differently than John expected. John’s manager is so affected by his stress, he agrees to help John by first reducing his workload and distributing tasks more evenly, also authorising paid holidays for him with immediate effect. This takes so much pressure off and immediately his wife’s mood improves. John’s health begins to improve too but all their friends notice the positive change. Because of this, lpeople start to visit more and they carry the joy into their own circles etc. So here we can begin to understand how one act of compassion by John’s manager impacted so many lives.

There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t show regular acts of compassion and altruism but in our busy competative Western culture we’re often in it only for ourselves and what we can achieve. Despite this fact, evidence shows we have the highest levels of Mental Health problems, Workplace Stress & Depression.

What are your thoughts on Compassion & Altruism being the greatest reducer of Negative Emotions?

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Rinpoche’s Take on Death & Why it’s Feared So Much in the West.

Yesterday evening I had the great honour & privilege of having Geshe Lama Ahbay Tulku Rinpoche visit my home for the 3rd year running. With a small gathering of spiritually minded people, we ate together, laughed together (what an infectious laugh he has) and shared some great philosophical discussion.

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After supper we all moved to my healing & meditation room for Q & A about Buddhism & life in general before taking part in the dedication prayer.
One of the questions raised during our discussion was this…… Why do you think Westerners have a deep rooted fear of death?

Rinpoche’s response;
Maybe it’s because in the West, the main focus is on materialism. The media is all about materialism, as are the newspapers & Internet. It’s all about products that make you feel and look good giving you the false hope of regaining youthfulness. We know the hope is false because from the moment we’re born, we are physically moving towards eventual death. That’s the cycle of life really – no escaping it. Then when illness & sickness comes it’s a terrible shock because we thought we were invincible. Death is something we Westerners choose not to talk about because it’s considered morbid & dark, but we all want a comfortable death surely? But, if we’re ever going to prepare for the inevitable event of death properly we must discuss it in life.

Rinpoche’s words gave me some great food for thought and so I’d like to put these 2 questions out to the universe…..

1, What are your thoughts on death?
2, Where are you going after death?

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