Has anyone mentioned the Olympics or the Golden Jubilee yet? No? Well I'm not going to either.
Did anyone see Great Expectations on the telly over Christmas? It was really good!
Dickens was a really good writer and this year sees the bicentenary of something or other connected with him. As well as being really, really popular, Dickens' works are also very strong on morality. No honestly, they are. If you want to be moral, you could do a lot worse than read Dickens. And the great thing is, even if you don't have an Invisible Magic Friend, you can read Dickens to learn how to be moral.
The central character of Great Expectations is Pip, who wants to be a gentleman, but he learns that personal virtue is more important and then the book ends. I just want to throw in the word "didactic" at this point. That should get even a few Radio 4 listeners searching for their dictionaries.
Another character is Miss Haversham. She's an elderly spinster in a wedding dress, who we associate with decay an putrefaction. Putrefaction's not a very nice word to associate with anyone, even Miss Haversham, but I'll use it anyway.
This is all very moral. It's also Art.
It's also Karma, which is the belief that things affect other things, but you can read Dickens and learn to be moral even if you're not a Buddhist. In fact, you don't have to have any religion at all to read Dickens and learn to be moral. Even secular people can read Dickens and learn to be moral.
Human egg donors are to get more money. Hurrah! The more egg donors we can get the better. At the moment, donating eggs to create a new life is done mainly for altruistic reasons. Financial considerations don't really come into it. We don't want women selling their eggs on eBay do we?
The creation of a new life via IVF is something to be celebrated. If generosity and selflessness are part of this then so much the better. This is fully in line with the philosophy of Honey Nut Cornflakes Buddhism. Honey Nut Cornflakes Buddhism says that you should be sweet, crunchy and ever so yummy. You should be loving and generous and give all your possessions to the poor. This will make you very happy. The poor however will be very unhappy as they will now have all your possessions and won't be happy and destitute any more.
That's all great and fine and stuff, but given the happiness that a baby can bring let's encourage even more egg donations. So what's the big deal if someone makes money out of it? Sell them on eBay after all!
Tomorrow on Thought For the Day, Catherine Pepinster and Clifford Longley on why IVF is evil, sinful and a barbaric product of the Culture of Death so typical of the godless West. If only the Catholic Church were in charge to prevent this vile holocaust of murdered embryonic babies.
Aren't things just terrible at the moment? All this unemployment and the rising cost of living. Everything's just terrible.
But just cast your mind back to the good times. They were terrible too. It was just work, work, work all the time. Busy ordained Buddhists like me were just rushed off our feet. Everyone was so terribly materialistic. We, and by "we" I do of course mean "you", were constantly comparing ourselves with everyone else on the greasy pole, forever trying to outdo others. What you need (and I'll bet you never expected to hear this from a Buddhist) is a bit of meditation.
Me and the NHS have been busy trying to get people to slow down for years. I spend all my time rushing from one hospital to the next, desperately trying to get people to meditate or be mindful. It just never stops. When I'm not at a hospital I'll be at some doctor's surgery, or at a health centre. In between all that, there's Thought for the Day to squeeze in as well. I can't tell you what a relief it is that my Blackberry's gone down and I'm finally getting a bit of free time.
My advice to you is to meditate a bit, then quickly dash off for a walk in the park, look at the sky, watch the pretty birds, then quickly get back for some more meditation. Don't forget to get in at least half and hour of mindfulness before your next meditation session.
I'd love to help you out a bit more but you wouldn't believe the number of therapy sessions I've got lined up for today. The "slow down" business is really booming, even in these gloomy economic times.
And if you're unemployed? Well, just sort of enjoy the free time I suppose. Think of it as an opportunity to not be materialistic.
Tariq Jahan stands out those week as a voice of reason among all the shouting. The father whose son was murdered while trying to protect his neighbourhood, appealed for calm, saying that he had no hatred in his heart.
He stands beside others who have also suffered great loss with equally great dignity, asking that communities do not tear themselves apart in revenge attacks.
This kind of admirable behaviour does not come easily or accidentally. It takes training as part of a philosophy, like... for example... oh... I don't know... to pick a philosophy at random... Buddhism. Buddhism is a very good way of learning how not to be angry. Tariq Jahan isn't actually a Buddhist, but had he been a Buddhist he would have learned to behave exactly the way he did.
Buddhism teaches you to not unleash the perfectly natural psychotic rage that we all feel all the time. Through Buddhism, we learn to calmly and methodically examine our motives. If Mr Jaham had only been a Buddhist, he would have learned that anger leads to the Dark Side. He would have learned many fine words such as empathy, justice, forbearance, forgiveness and many other words from that entry in the thesaurus.
The Buddha, whose teachings Mr Jaham accidentally follows, taught that hatred comes from people. He wisely observed that trees have never been known to hate anyone. If we're going to stop the cycle of hatred, we have to stop hating people.
Now you're gonna get yours Ratko Mladic, you BAS***D! You EVIL F***ING BAS***D!!
You might think we Buddhists sit around all day meditating, wearing sandals and burning joss sticks. You might think Buddhism is the cuddly teddy bear of religions. Well, let me just tell you, my granddad died in a concentration camp because of EVIL F***ING BAS***DS like you, you BAS***D!!! Now you're getting you're karma. That's right, The Force is gonna get you.
You have caused a great disturbance in The Force and things cause other things. Good things cause goods things and bad things cause bad things. Now bad things are gonna happen to you because of all the bad things you did. You should have known that once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
Good karma always triumphs in the end. Don't mess with Buddhists, for my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. You BAS***D!!!!
Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 07:42 AM - VishvapaniRating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)
It's the old story, the powerful brought down in disgrace, the popular become unpopular.
We all have our ups and our downs, our successes and our disappointments, our profits and our losses, our triumphs and our failures. The wind of fortune sometimes blows in our favour, sometimes against. The wheel spins, the odds are cast, you pay your money and you take your bet. Love blossoms and love departs. The seasons come and the seasons go. The sun shines and the clouds gather. Sometimes there is pleasure, sometimes pain. There is good, there is evil, light and darkness, heads and tails, happy and sad, life and death.
Stuff happens. Shakespeare and Enoch Powell both said so.
And the big news today, 2,600 years ago the Buddha became the Buddha. Happy Wesak everyone! Before he became the Buddha, the Buddha was just a normal person. After he became the Buddha he might have been something else, or possibly still just a normal person. Nobody really knows.
So what is Buddhism? Is it a religion, a philosophy, a way of life? Nobody really knows, but whatever it is, it all started when the Buddha became the Buddha, whatever that was. On that day, the Buddha became enlightened, or "awakened" as I prefer to call it. What is "enlightenment", or "awakening" as I prefer to call it? Nobody really knows, but whatever it is, it's the thing that the Buddha discovered when he discovered it.
Being "enlightened", or "awakened" as I prefer to call it, is the opposite of not being "enlightened", or "awakened" as I prefer to call it. It's when you wake up from the sleepiness that you were previously in, rub your eyes, stare out of the window and say, "Wow, I'm enlightened, or possibly awakened." It's a mixture of wisdom, insight, maturity, discipline and many other fine words. It's a recognition that you're all going to die, and I really am very sorry to point this out at the start of a beautiful, sunny Spring day on your way to work. It is something that lies beyond your normal experience. This is something that I can be quite certain of because I haven't experienced it.
So although nobody really knows what Buddhism is, I think you can see that it really is all the things that I said it was.
I trust this has been helpful.
The Dalai Lama is a complicated sort of His Holiness. On the one hand he's really into science and reform and being modern. On the other hand, he's a reincarnated god-king with the absolute power of a feudal monarch over his enslaved population. Now, having ruled only ten years longer than Gaddafi, he is to relinquish the political power that the Chinese have prevented him exercising, in favour of a democratically elected leader.
Everyone agrees that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a really super His Holiness. In a way, it's really rather good that the Chinese have restrained his political power. It really would be most awfully embarrassing if someone as holy as His Holiness were actually to preside over a largely illiterate nation of bonded serfs. Thankfully that was all taken forcefully away from His Holiness and he can now speak with great moral authority about the oppression of his people.
By having all his palaces and monasteries taken away from him, His Holiness the Dali Lama is the very embodiment of Buddhist notions of simplicity and non-attachment.
Should we have an ethical foreign policy? Buddhism says we should.
The day may come when identical cows, identical in size, with identical markings, stare at you from their fields. That day came closer yesterday when a scientific advisory committee said that meat and milk from cloned animals were safe.
Public opinion remains resistant to cloning animals for agriculture. There's a deep sense of unease that somehow all living beings should be individuals and that cloning in some way violates this principal.
But where in all the sinews and muscles and genes can we find that essential aspect that defines individuality? Is there a soul? Buddhists would say that human consciousness arises through the same mechanism of stimulation and response that is present in all animals. It follows that animals can suffer and so it is natural for us to be concerned about their well-being. Treating animals as no more than agricultural products instinctively feels wrong.
There seems to be no obvious rational argument against cloning animals, or even people. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the technology, it's what we do with it that matters.