Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Hesitant Bodhisattva

“Make now your mind that of a bodhisattva”: that was a piece of advice I got from a Zen teacher by email. I have been considering for a few years the possibility of going through the Bodhisattva ordination. There are quite a few reasons why I don’t feel it’s a good idea. First and foremost is the feeling that I’m officially “joining” a religious organisation. That doesn’t sit right. Secondly there is the feeling that I’m somehow separating myself from my peers. That may sound strange, but the fact is this: the majority of people I know would regard Zen and Buddhism as being, well, a bit weird. Normally, I’m not one to mind such things, but sometimes I get tired of being stuck out on a limb. The other main reason is, quite simply, I don’t feel I commit myself enough. I often slack-off from attending zazen. I don’t feel like an exemplar of zen practice, not at all. I’m not even all that mad-keen on sesshin if I’m really honest. I should confess that there are loads of things I like that aren’t zen.

But then a thought struck me recently. The whole idea of the Bodhisattva is that he or she is busy practicing in whatever situation they find themselves in, whether that be a temple, a supermarket or an underwater chess championship. Perhaps then, a lazy and unsure Bodhisattva might have his uses, to those who are even more so. Or even just to show that there’s more than one way to skin Nansen’s cat, as it were. I think I’ve built up this crazy picture of what being a Bodhisattva is all about, but as the teacher suggested: you can be a Bodhisattva now. All beings are already deeply in touch with our life, so really we cannot avoid being an examplar of humanity. Think about it. It's kind of scary....

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The English Riots

Tonight could be another night of violence across England, as a portion of my fellow countrymen and women decide whether or not to feed the growing tide of rioting, arson and looting. There are many ways of painting what's going on: an oppressed and unheard underclass acting out their anger? Materialism gone rampant? A statement against Capitalism? A profession of love for Capitalism?
If I am disgusted at the level of consumerism evident in these acts, then I'd best be sure to check out my own desires: am I really desireless? If I am surprised by the levels of thoughtlessness shown, then I ought to recognise my own capacity for such thoughtlessness.
If we as a country are surprised that people will commit violence and engage in looting, perhaps we had better check the culture that we surround ourselves with, the endless adverts, films and games which promote the acquisition of goods, and which promote violence as a justifiable tool.
None of this is the same as saying that these acts are blameless. To say that someone is purely at the mercy of their environment is to patronise them, and rob them of their human quality. But at the same time as seeking "justice", we have to ask: what have we done to minimise hatred, materialism, and violence?
Be cool Englanders, be cool...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Shambhala: 35 under 35

Howdy Zen fans! I haven't been writing much here for a few days, for which I apologise. But I have been moonlighting on the side, writing pieces which I hope will included in a new project run by Shambhala Publications called "35 under 35". Here's a link to it:

Writing "Winter skincare do's and don'ts" doesn't come easy"
So I have been creaming off the best bits for later consumption, which is mean I know, but an amateur writer has to take his breaks where he finds them...

More posts soon, I promise.

Ta, Nick.