Hot Flushes, Hot News

In a recently televised experiment on the BBC, two male politicians agreed to wear zip-up vests designed to mimic a hot flush. After this uncomfortable experience one of them asserted that women needed support in order to contribute to the economy for longer, while the other pronounced that what affects women also affects family life, which must be supported.

Each of these men gave valid reasons for taking menopause seriously; but I was left wondering why funding women’s mental and physical well-being had to be justified either in direct financial terms (contribution to the economy) or indirectly, through women’s support for others (family life). Women’s well-being seemed only to matter as long as it was deemed ‘useful’ in some way. Supporting well-being because it is a good in itself doesn’t seem to have occurred to them. Isn’t upholding the dignity of life, and improving the quality of that life, the proper goal of any politics?

Politicians looking uncomfortable in zip-up jackets was just one of many news items on the menopause in recent years. Prominent women are now using their public platforms to push for change. Indeed, so many have joined this chorus that a small revolution in attitudes has begun. By publicly documenting their own trials and triumphs on the menopausal journey, these women have begun to blow away centuries of ignorance and taboo, and in so doing increased awareness of the impact menopause can have on women’s mental as well as physical health.

There is also increased coverage of scientific research into different forms of HRT, and older women are sharing what they wish they’d known before the onset of menopause in order to help prepare and support younger generations. These campaigns have fuelled such an increase in demand for HRT that parts of the UK are experiencing serious supply shortages.

Menopause is no longer something we whisper about. It is now unacceptable for managers to scoff at women’s requests for ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace. Menopause is at last being brought out of the shadows. Where women were once expected to retreat and suffer in silence, their concerns and perspectives are now coming into the full glare of the media.

In February 2024, The Equality and Human Rights Commission issued guidelines, including a video, aimed at employers wishing ‘to ensure fairness and inclusivity in the workplace’ for female employees struggling with menopausal symptoms. The full guidelines and the research underpinning them led to their creation can be read on the EHRC web site. This is a big step forward – and the advice is both clear and practical. But these are still only guidelines. Employers are not obliged to provide what they consider goes beyond ‘reasonable adjustments’.

But some employers are listening. In 2018 just 10% of employers offered any kind of support, according to a recent article in Positive News. This year (2024) has seen that rise to around 46%. Over 1,500 major employers have signed the Wellbeing of Women workplace pledge to improve conditions for employees going through the menopause. And recent years have seen a steady growth in grassroots help and support groups. Menopause cafés are opening in some companies and in public spaces, offering a place to chat through worries and share advice with women at or approaching the same stage of life.

There is increasing awareness of early menopause, too, and of the various symptoms of perimenopause. The astonishing disclosure in a 2021 UCL research report by Dr Megan Arnot that menopause is not even being studied in 59% of our medical colleges has prompted a call to overhaul education at every level. A positive outcome of this report has been funding for researchers at UCL to develop the UK’s first national menopause education and support programme, to be delivered in community settings.

Much of the conversation is centred around dealing with symptoms, which is of course crucial, but there is still a tendency to treat menopause as a problem. Menopause is not a problem if women are given space and time to adjust. It is not simply a change of body that can be sorted out with a desk fan and the right hormone supplements. It requires a shift of perspective on life, our place in the cycle of nature, and in the universe of which we are all part. Menopausal women, no less than young women or teenagers, need time to exercise, to eat well, to rest properly, and to think. We need to be cut some slack at times in the workplace and for our continuing contribution to be recognised, and we also need space to reflect on the passage of time, on what we wish to do with our remaining decades, on what is important to us, and how we can plan for a healthy, happy old age.

I salute and applaud those women who are using their public profile to bring about change. There’s still a long way to go but at least we’re now openly and unashamedly talking about the subject. Women won’t be going back to suffering in silence any time soon.

Hot Flushes, Hot NewsClaire O'Brien2024-04-21T11:03:02+01:00

What is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?

What is the Sound of One Hand Clapping? It’s a famous koan – an insoluble question posed by a Zen Buddhist Master to his student. Give a clever-clogs answer and the fierce Master might bash you with a broom handle. Instead, the student must try to answer authentically, from the depths, and rise to a new level of understanding.

I was born with only one hand. The other – my ‘little hand’ or stump – has been a kind of personal koan I’ve had to ponder all my life. It has forced me, sometimes against my wishes, to grow in directions I may never have taken. I’ve written a memoir about it called The Sound of One Hand, because it is also inevitably linked with my Buddhist journey.

As a child I didn’t want to discuss it much. I didn’t want a prosthetic because I didn’t want to make any concession to it at all, not even covering it up. My parents told me I was no different from anyone else. At school I competed hard; winning stuff gave me recognition and helped me feel equal to my fully-armed friends.

This narrative persisted well into adult life. If anyone asked (which they rarely did) I told them the hand hadn’t affected me much: ‘A little bit of course… for practical stuff.’ I pushed to one side lurking suspicions of being different or awkward or weak. What was the point of exploring such uncomfortable feelings? I’d still have one hand missing and I’d be miserable aswell. I was doing okay thank you very much.

One day I was on my way to work on the Tube when I saw a guy with a missing hand. A banker, I thought. (We were at Bank station.) I quickly hid my little hand under a book, hoping he hadn’t spotted it. I didn’t want a chat with him on the inevitable theme. But this episode set me thinking: ‘I’m 29 and have been meditating for nine years or so. Surely I can face these feelings a bit better? Why don’t I want to meet anyone like me, let alone engage with them?’

In my thirties I started to talk about it more. An inner shift in me allowed others to ask how it had happened. ‘I was born like this,’ I replied, privately acknowledging the wish for a longer, more heroic explanation. I also started to breathe and pause whenever I felt the instinct to hide or tuck the stump into a sleeve. I still do sometimes, but it also helps to lean into the feelings and resist habitual urges; it opens things up in all sorts of ways

Through writing the memoir I’ve been able to reflect on how much my little hand has shaped me. It’s been a grain of suffering in an otherwise happy and fortunate life, a pinch point around which my growing self has had to forge an identity. As I approach my fiftieth birthday I realise more than ever that the way our lives unfold is a mystery. There are so many causes and conditions for what happens to us. For me, my hand is just one. Maybe not even the main one. I probably wouldn’t have been a rock star, even with two hands!

No doubt everyone, even the most blessed among us, has a difficult condition to contend with, bodily or otherwise. The pain and confusion that surrounds these deeper conundrums is often what opens the way, delivering us to the doorstep of Dharma practice. A paradox worthy of a koan. For, in the larger scheme of things, this may be the greatest blessing of all.

What is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?David Waterston2024-04-02T17:17:53+01:00

Dewi Sant

The cycle route from my house into Cardiff takes me past Llandaff Cathedral, and sometimes through its grounds. It was built in the twelfth century on a site at least five hundred years older. Though its scale is grand, its setting is modest: out of sight at the base of the hill, in a dip close to the River Taff and surrounded by trees. Passing through, I recall Philip Larkin’s feeling in the poem Church Going, that ’It pleases me to stand in silence here.’

Those moments in the Cathedral grounds, when I feel that I am brushing past something ancient and deep-rooted, remind me of the many ways in which geography can be mapped into the psyche. Every landscape is imbued with invisible meanings that come from the generations who have previously inhabited it. Our relation to the land depends on our relation to those generations and their sources of meaning.

The desire to inhabit a sacred landscape also reminds me of the fascination with Tibet as a place, which is so important for many western followers of Tibetan Buddhism. The German Buddhist, Lama Govinda, writes in his memoir, The Way of the White Clouds:

Tibet has become the symbol of all that present-day humanity is longing for … the stability of a tradition, which has its roots not only in a historical or cultural past, but within the innermost being of man, in whose depth this past is enshrined as an ever-present source of inspiration.

This thought resonates more strongly in some places than in others. I was born in Croydon, a dismal London suburb where any sense of ancient sanctity has been buried beneath concrete, and whose sole river, the Wandle, is for most of its course culverted like a sewer. I moved from England to Wales to marry a Welshwoman, and the difference is palpable – bound up with the land, the people, the stories they tell and, for many, the language. Though North Waleans would deny it, that’s even true in Cardiff.

I have learned to love the distinctive character of Welshness. I feel it keenly when we go on holiday to Pembrokeshire, even among the well-heeled visitors from the cities who come for a summer of sailing and paddleboards. Between the Preseli Hills and Cardigan Bay, the place has an Atlantic starkness and the same sense that following its paths means stepping upon layers of memory. The cathedral town of St Davids is on the west coast, facing the ocean. That is where the eponymous Dewi Sant lived in the sixth century. I enjoy the story that David founded a monastic order whose members pulled the plough themselves and usually ate only bread with salt and herbs.

The daffodil and leek lapel-badges you see on St David’s day are emblems of something half-remembered. In this country we cannot help stepping on the past, or into a space where things that were once powerfully alive persist and continue to surprise us. At the end of Church Going Larkin recognizes the significance of the place into which he has stumbled:

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.

As well as the literal space of a physical church there is the figurative space of our consciousness. When I think of Larkin’s lines I also think of my favourite poem by Wallace Stevens, The Final Ballad of the Interior Paramour, which describes an encounter within this inner space:

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one…
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Happy St David’s Day! Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

VISHVAPANI BLOMFIELD

Dewi SantVishvapani Blomfield2024-03-09T06:53:55+00:00

Going with the Flow

Recently, I hit on an idea. Instead of stressing about the pile of chores facing me each day, or the tasks over-spilling my desk, I would give up ‘admin’ altogether. So I put away my To Do list, and banned any reference to work-related items. To be more precise, I re-named them. I did Really Useful Things all day instead. This made a real difference. I no longer groaned over my loss of adventure or fun. Instead I basked in a vision of usefulness, where purpose and meaning meet in perfect union, and sighed with satisfaction at the really useful way I spent my hours. Believe it or not, as my attitude changed I felt the burden lighten. Seeing time so usefully employed, I began to appreciate my individual efforts, and how each creates the whole.

Did this work? Well, yes. Up to a point. But …

I had to wonder: is a simple change of attitude enough? Can it sustain us through horribly busy patches? Would it cope with undue stress? And then, what about those ‘really useless things’ which are just as important? Some activities serve no obvious purpose but still lend a dash of colour: ones without rhyme or reason that bring added zest to life; or, being unexpected, open up space for unplanned joy. A change of attitude may help in part, certainly, but more is needed. We need a change of state.

What state is that? It is the state of FLOW. When we flow with the stream of life, we are never stumped or stuck, stopped or stymied, bored or burdened The endlessness of our jobs dissolves, because it too is part of the flow. This is not an idea or attitude. Flow is something we experience deeply from within. It is our essential agreement with Life as it is. Flowing with whatever comes, we have the energy to engage fully and creatively, with focus and care. How different we become – and how different Life looks – from a state of flow.

Into the Flow is the second of my Gentle Guides to Meditation. It is also a guide to flow. For meditation, in essence, is the practise of flow. Meditating, we see flow close-up, from within. We explore what it means, how it feels. We taste for ourselves its infinite ease and freedom.

Flow is a blessing, in meditation and in life. Finding flow is the first step to making peace with ourselves, with the world – and (as it happens) with our ever-flowing To Do list.

Going with the FlowElizabeth English2023-12-05T08:26:03+00:00

Villajoyosa

My Spanish was about as good as the policía’s English – which wasn’t saying much. Before he could sign and stamp the eight-page crime report he’d laboriously tapped out on his clunky old Amstrad I needed to prove that I was, indeed, the aforementioned female of said age, address and nationality. Reader, I couldn’t.

I’ve experienced many losses in my life: job losses, financial losses, human losses, weight losses, you name it, but one loss I hadn’t experienced until last February was the loss of my identity.

Once upon a time, in those halcyon, pre-Brexit, pre-Covid days, David and I had spent two glorious February weeks in sunny Barcelona, basking in shorts and t-shirts. We’d returned tanned, relaxed and raring to go.

‘Let’s do it again,’ I urged him, after a miserable, wet winter of hard work and ill health. ‘Recharge our batteries, only this time let’s go further south for even more sun!’

Ha, ha. Almost as soon as we stepped off the plane in Alicante we came down with stonking head colds. Then it started snowing. The weather was so unseasonable it was even featured on the BBC News.

Our glacial Airbnb looked out onto a modern church with a thirty-foot crucifix in its forecourt – somewhat disorientating for a pair of intrepid Buddhists. Determined to make the best of it, we decided to hire a car. As the bog-standard one we’d opted for had a flat tyre we were upgraded to a plush, techno-smart, brand-new car for free. Hopeful that our luck had changed we decided we’d risk a picnic by a lake we’d spotted on Google maps.

The moment we drove into the empty car park it began to rain. ‘ We’ll have to picnic in the car,’ said David. ‘But let’s take a quick peek at the lake, first.’

The lake turned out to be a boring reservoir. Drenched to the skin, we hastened back to the car only to discover one of the windows had been smashed and my handbag, (which I’d stupidly left under the seat), containing my passport, phone, driving licence, bank cards, purse and five hundred euros, stolen.

The old boarding card in my pocket wasn’t enough proof for the policía, who clearly suspected I was intending to make a bogus insurance claim. As he sat back in his seat, weighing me up, I furiously chanted a Buddhist mantra in my head. Eventually he shook his head, sighed and stamped the report.

My bank and the British Consulate also viewed me with suspicion and wanted to send notifications to my phone to confirm my identity. But I had no phone. I no longer existed. I felt like a persona non grata.

As we drove into Benidorm, where we’d been instructed to drop off the damaged car, I couldn’t help but admire the courageous 11am lager drinkers, thighs purple with cold under optimistic shorts. And as we drove away in our inferior replacement vehicle, I felt vindicated for having avoided, until now, this brash Spanish metropolis.

On our last day we discovered a colourful little seaside town called Villajoyosa (Joyful town). An antidote to Benidorm, it was, indeed, a joyful place. ‘Suffer what there is to suffer’ wrote the thirteenth-century Buddhist sage, Nichiren, ‘enjoy what there is to enjoy.’ And so we did. The langostinos and Rioja were as fabulous and as welcome as the sunshine.

The day after I returned home on an emergency passport the insurance company agreed to pay my claim in full. I added ‘loss of holiday I’d craved’ and ‘loss of identity’ to the list of life losses that, thanks to my Buddhist practice, I’d somehow managed to survive.

A week later I came down with Covid.

VillajoyosaDiane Esguerra2024-04-11T06:38:51+01:00

Two Hats

As a professional psychotherapist and someone who has had a long-term engagement with the Buddhist teaching of Dzogchen, I’ve become used to wearing two hats. In fact, I can hardly remember a time where I have not been a fence-straddler.

It’s a trait which shows up in this book. The two hats in this instance are those of someone who is writing about the tradition to which they have been devoted for almost fifty years, and someone who has discovered the value of Buddhist academic scholarship for – surprisingly – the cultivation of faith.

In the first section, Who’s Who within the tradition’s lineage, I have not only retold the legends but also – and this is a little unusual for books written for those practising the tradition – revealed in some cases where the legends have come from. When I do this it is immediately apparent that most were written many hundreds of years after the events they recall, and that they are certainly not histories as we would understand the word, but rather narratives whose intention is to teach and evoke devotion.

Similarly, in the section on ideas, What’s What, I have occasionally stepped out of the box of simply representing the tradition, and have instead written about it from slightly outside. The origins of this are actually quite straightforward. Over the many years of my engagement with the Dzogchen teachings there have been a number of things that I could not understand and which did not seem to me to add up. This is where I have turned to scholars of the tradition. Buddhist scholarship can sometimes appear obtuse and opaque, but it is more than often clarifying. I have discovered repeatedly that when something does not make sense it is because layers of Buddhist thought have become compressed together. Knowing something of this history helps to tease things apart; what we are left with is an appreciation of a thousand years of yogic experience that repeatedly attempts to express what is ultimately ineffable.

And this neatly takes us back to the cultivation of faith. If the life stories of the saintly and wise are all made up and the ideas just a ragbag of Buddhist bits and bobs how could one possibly be so devoted? For me the answer is simple: this is not just a handbook for a rather esoteric form of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a demonstration of how such a tradition may make the transition into a secular society that, while it no longer believes in fairy tales, is able to appreciate deeply the value of human creativity when it is for the good.

Nigel Wellings

Two HatsNigel Wellings2024-02-06T17:23:51+00:00

When ’Stuff’ happens

None of us knows what’s around the corner. Only one thing is certain: it’s going to be a mixture of pleasure and pain. As the expression goes, ‘stuff happens’.

Many of us will have visited ancient cathedrals and seen the saints preserved in stained glass, looking serene and beautiful, but also rather anodyne, as if nothing even happened in their lives to disturb their pious expressions. But closer inspection reveals that the martyrs are often holding the instruments through which they met their gruesome fate.

Though he lived into old age and died of natural causes the Buddha was not immune from ‘stuff’ happening. Because we see his serene statue everywhere, from health clubs to garden centres, candle shops to Asian restaurants, we can easily forget that the historical person who grew up as Siddhartha Gautama was flesh and blood just like us. Those images remind us that he managed to preserve his serenity, despite difficult family relationships, troublesome monks and even assassination attempts. If he had lost his cool or succumbed to ‘events’ it is unlikely that the memory of his life would have been passed down through generations of followers. He would not have been seen as exceptional by those who knew him. In short, the life of the Buddha demonstrates that we might not always be able to change what happens, but we can shape our reactions.

Once, on a residential leadership development seminar, I took part in a session which made me extremely uncomfortable. I felt as if I were being compelled to speak about work matters which I regarded as confidential. I wasn’t prepared to do this, and I was concerned that this would be perceived as unwillingness to participate. By the end of the seminar I was both exhausted and upset. What should I do? As I went to bed that evening, I realised I had three options: pack my things and leave; sulk for the remaining day; or confront the situation gently and assertively the next morning. Which option I chose is not the main issue (in the event, I stayed and explained). What I realised, sitting in my room, was that – despite my wound-up state – I could choose which route to follow.

Why had it taken me decades to realise that I could shape my own emotional state and my response? A book by Julia Cassaniti which I read recently seems to sum it up. It’s entitled Remembering the Present: Mindfulness in Buddhist Asia and its argument is that people raised in a Western environment tend to see emotions as something which ‘happen’ to us, whereas in the Buddhist countries of south-east Asia, where her research was conducted, emotions are understood as something which people themselves construct. Such a perspective gives us far more agency. And it is this sense of empowerment, the possibility of deciding how one is going to feel, that first led me to explore mindfulness and its deep roots in Buddhist tradition.

The ancient narratives tell how the Buddha, with the wisdom derived from the insight of Awakening, managed to hone his responses to an extraordinary degree. Yes, the serenity so powerfully represented in Buddhist iconography is genuine; but it is achieved against the backdrop of many vicissitudes. I’m quite certain that I’m not going to achieve anything like that level of equanimity in this lifetime, but it is encouraging to begin to understand that we’re not inevitably the prisoners of our experience and emotions. At every moment it is within our power to think differently, to make different choices, and to unknot the tangled web of thoughts and emotions which ensnares us. In the Buddha’s own words: we do not need to be troubled.

Graham Dixon

When ’Stuff’ happensGraham Dixon2023-03-05T12:54:41+00:00

Thoughts about Thoughts

It could be a parlour game. You have all the day’s news in front of you and two minutes forty five seconds to make a Buddhist comment on it. You can deviate and hesitate, but not repeat yourself. You have to be relevant and you can’t be sectarian or party political. Several million people will hear your talk, so it’s a good idea to avoid being platitudinous.

Since 2006 I’ve been the Buddhist contributor to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – a venerable institution which has some people spluttering into their muesli and others taking the opportunity to head to the loo. A surprising number of people actually like it.

At a steady ten talks a year (plus others I do in a similar format for BBC Radio Wales), I’ve learned how to play this game. To connect the news with the Buddha’s teachings you have to draw out a general ethical or doctrinal reflection from the specific story. If the transition is too abrupt or the faith comment seems to leave behind the problem in the news, the result is platitude. But if the ‘thought’ is sufficiently resonant, it can add something to the discussion, even if it doesn’t offer a solution. When the Queen died I spoke about impermanence; when war broke out in the Ukraine I recounted a discussion with fellow Buddhists about what our non-violent ideals meant in the face of a brutal attack.

This raises a larger question: What does Buddhism have to say to modern society? One view is that it teaches leaving the world behind, not changing it. I don’t think that was true for the Buddha in his society and I don’t think it’s true now. Another is that the forces shaping the world institutionalise craving, aversion and ignorance and a Buddhist position should oppose them. I sympathise, but in practice, I observe that, while this approach will give you a left-wing perspective, it’s much less clear that it brings a distinctively Buddhist one?

For a long time the limit on expressing my personal opinions felt like a constraint, but over time they have helped me clarify for me what I think Buddhism really has to offer. In particular, I’ve found that some themes, which are central to the Dharma, also resonate strongly with the issues facing our society.

One is the central place that Buddhism affords to the mind. The rising incidence of stress and mental health problems make understanding and ‘managing’ our minds a pressing issue for many people. And in the world of the ‘attention economy’ Buddhist practices, perhaps mediated by the Mindfulness Movement, are directly relevant.

The same is true, in a consumerist society furiously dedicated to consumption and distraction, of everything Buddhism has to say about non-material sources of satisfaction.  Similarly, Buddhist teachings on universal loving kindness, or metta, are relevant to compassionate activity wherever it happens, and to issues of war and peace. They are also relevant to chauvinism and racism, even when they occur in Buddhist countries. Finally, the Buddhist teachings on karma or conditionality imply the need to take a long-term, holistic perspective on the world; that’s the opposite of the short-term, instrumental approaches that have brought so many problems, and it’s the key to the Buddhist response to climate change.

This isn’t a comprehensive list – I talk about many other things as well. It also isn’t a systematic Buddhist political philosophy, and I suspect that such a thing isn’t even possible. My criteria are that what I say should align with core Buddhist teachings and connect with wider needs; I also need to feel a connection with it that comes from my own experience and Buddhist practice.

Beyond the parlour game and the broadcasting, I suspect that what I’ve learned from doing Thought for the Day is relevant for other people of faith. In a fractious, polarised political culture where people are losing the capacity to listen, the world doesn’t need us to take sides. It needs us to listen, and offer an alternative.

VISHVAPANI BLOMFIELD

Thoughts about ThoughtsVishvapani Blomfield2022-12-17T11:06:35+00:00

Exploring Forgiveness

In December 2021, just as I was about to send the final draft of my book on forgiveness to the publishers, The Forgiveness Project’s founding patron, Archbishop Demond Tutu, died. This was followed a month later by the death of the Buddhist monk and spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Both men had been courageous and radical peace activists, renowned for being visionary leaders. It felt like the world had lost two moral giants.

Desmond Tutu and Thich Nhat Hanh were also two of the people who most inspired me to spend nearly two decades of my life exploring the complex geography of forgiveness. I appreciated them particularly as they were able to speak beyond the boundaries of religion and, despite having witnessed suffering on a global scale, were able to help people address all the familiar harms and resentments of their everyday lives.

Desmond Tutu would often dispel the commonly held notion that forgiveness means reconciliation. He once explained that if someone is constantly abusing you, being ready to forgive doesn’t mean you have to be a masochist and hang on in there. In fact, it is far better to release the relationship than to renew it. In other words, you can turn your back on toxic relationships and still forgive. He also often spoke about forgiveness being the best form of self-interest, a kind of self-preservation, counselling people to forgive not because those who have hurt you deserve forgiveness, ‘but because you deserve peace’.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s life of reflection led him to believe that forgiveness was the key to creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world, and he maintained that ‘only when compassion is born in your heart, is it possible to forgive.’ In the film The Power of Forgiveness he recites a meditation for the ‘many angry sons and daughters’ who cannot make peace with their parents. In a soft, measured voice you can hear him instructing a room full of people with the words: ‘breathing in I see myself as a 5-year-old child; breathing out I hold that 5-year-old child with tenderness. Breathing in I see my father as a 5-year-old boy; breathing out I smile to my father as a 5-year-old boy.’ The point he is making is that only when you are able to visualise your cruel father or mean mother as a fragile and vulnerable 5-year-old, can you begin to understand and feel compassion for the person they have become.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s process to soothe the wounded hearts of adult children may not be easy but it has been adapted in multiple settings.

So many people who have shared their forgiveness journeys with me, have managed to free themselves from mental angst and bondage. Forgiveness is a virtue based on the ability to love when others are not loving you. Only then will a shift or transformation take place; only then can relationships be rebuilt and restored.

MARINA CANTACUZINO

Exploring ForgivenessMarina Cantacuzino2022-08-16T08:18:52+01:00

Pocket BUDDHA

The Buddha was born long ago and far away. He grew up in a world without writing, in an ancient civilisation that is no more. The buildings of his childhood, the trees under which he sat in meditation, and the dusty roads down which he once walked have long since vanished from view, buried deep beneath concrete and steel. Even the course of the mighty River Ganges has changed.

And yet something remarkable remains. Over two thousand years later his words continue to resonate and his teachings continue to inspire. Buddhist statues and shrines, temples and meeting houses can be found in almost every corner of the world. More than 500 million people alive today call themselves ‘Buddhist’ and look to him as their spiritual forefather. Never has interest in Buddhism been greater or more widespread.

How is it that a man with no home, no money, and no worldly possessions came to be one of the most influential figures in the history of humanity? What does his life-journey teach us today? Why do his words still speak to us so directly – even in our age of consumerism, cars, and computers?

The answer is simple: the fundamental questions raised by the Buddha long ago remain as salient now as they were in his day. Why? Because, for all our ‘stuff’ and self-importance, we, like the Buddha, remain nothing but the sum of our relationships with the world, our family and friends, with our communities, with each other, and, fundamentally, with our own inner selves.

That’s why, although circumstances change, the core Buddhist tenets have stood the test of time. The Buddha’s diagnosis of our spiritual malaise and his prescription for our well-being and happiness are no less powerful and relevant now than they were 2500 years ago. Finding a meaningful response to the challenges of our lives seems even more necessary and urgent than ever.

Since this book first appeared in paperback, five people named in the text have died: Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Colonel Gadaffi, Leonard Cohen and Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s worth reflecting on which of them enriched our world – and why.

 

TONY MORRIS

Pocket BUDDHATony Morris2023-12-03T11:11:43+00:00