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This is the Year… (Fill in the Blank)

Happy New Year!

Every New Year’s I come up with my mission statement for the year: This is the Year…

Last year was “This is Year I go back to France”. Through hard work, chanting, and perseverance I made it happen.

I have a lot of upcoming events in 2013. I am facing new opportunities, both career wise and personally. I’m not sure 2013 is going to be about a concrete and tangible thing or experience, but rather a continued effort to succeed and to challenge myself. Most of all, this year will be about overcoming weaknesses and habits that no longer serve me.

As I closed the door on 2012, I realized that I am in fact closing a chapter on my life. I have a great opportunity to begin my next chapter as a stronger and happier person, based on everything I’ve learned and chanted for over the last 12 months.

And so, I believe the following passage sums up what my year will be about. Again, I wish everyone a wonderful and prosperous 2013. Think about what your mission statement will be!

From February 2013 Living Buddhism “Those who Never Give Up are True Victors”:

“In another letter, he [Nichiren] compares the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to a ‘lantern lighting up a place that has been dark for a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand years’. No matter how deep or long entrenched the darkness in our hearts, the moment we chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, we bring forth the brilliant state of Buddhahood, and the light of hope begins to permeate our lives… The key to winning in our human revolution- the process of becoming happier and more capable- is to overcome our weak self and cultivate a noble and strong state of life. Winning in this endeavor requires that we never give up”.

 

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A Footnote to “I Have Faith”

The below passage from President Ikeda bears repeating. A couple of weeks ago, I posted that I have faith a path will open up for me. Well, soon after I posted that blog a new path blossomed right before my eyes. Speak loudly and the universe listens. Be careful what you say because the universe does hear you. I sometimes feel like the universe gets fed up with my choices and offers me a way out, if you will. My new path leads into a forest of the unknown. All I do know is that I now have the time to make my art, to follow my dreams. When you are confronted with this new reality it is easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. Fortunately, I have my Gohonzon and the following wise words to help me navigate the scary road ahead. I have faith the new path leads to good things.

“”Precisely because these are such challenging times, I hope all of you will have bright dreams, share them widely with others, and change the world.
“Your dream can be anything, even if it’s vague right now. It can be a small thing. Don’t think about whether it’s something you can realise or not. The first step is to envision it. Once you’ve made up your mind, have the courage to take the first step toward realising it. Once you do so, the way forwards will begin to reveal itself. Just keep pressing straight ahead. There will be times when you have doubts and second thoughts, and times when you hit a wall. All of these things are proof that you are growing. When you overcome the obstacle of your present limitations, new horizons will open up before you. That is why it’s important to keep challenging yourself and keep persevering.”

“No matter what your dream, when you start challenging yourself to realise it, the adventure begins.

“I once asked leading American economist Lester Thurow what true wealth meant for him, to which he replied unhesitatingly: a spirit of adventure and inquiry.
“Professor Thurow is himself an adventurer who has climbed 7,000-meter peaks in the Himalayas and driven across the Saudi Arabian desert. “I completely agree with his assertion that a spirit of adventure and inquiry, not money, constitutes true wealth.”

“There’s bound to be some kind of gap between our dreams and reality. Any dream that’s easily attainable isn’t very exciting. To realise our dreams, we need to have a strong commitment and determination to succeed.

“Thomas Edison was said to have been a poor student at school, but his strong desire to make life more convenient for everyone led him to become a great inventor. And for the Wright brothers, it was their enduring dream to be able to fly like a bird that enabled them to surmount a long series of failures and finally invent the first powered airplane. Though facing numerous obstacles and hardships, these great individuals continued to hold fast to their dream and worked tenaciously towards making it a reality. They never gave up on it, even when others said it was impossible or ridiculed them.”

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I have faith.

I have faith that things will get better. I have faith that people on the East Coast will get their power back (possibly in more ways than one). I have faith that I’ve been put on this earth to do good. I have faith that I’m on a journey and the end is not for me to know. I have faith that I will soon take a path- right or wrong it doesn’t really matter- and this path will lead me to where I need to be. I have faith that the best is yet to come and will keep getting better. I have faith that happiness is always within my reach. I have faith in my Gohonzon. I have faith that this country can turn itself around. I have faith in other human beings to help other human beings for no other reason than its what we are all meant to do. I have faith in the question, not the answer. I have faith in myself and my family.

Daily Encouragement by Daisaku Ikeda
Sunday, November 4, 2012:

The purpose of faith is to become happy. I hope all of you will take this sure path to happiness, never wandering onto byroads that lead to unhappiness. Please walk the great path of kosen-rufu with confidence and pride.

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Baby Steps

Rome was not built in a day.

I somehow get caught in the trap that I have to complete all my dreams and goals in one fell swoop. I instantly become overwhelmed and then nothing gets done. Lately, I’ve revisited the notion of taking baby steps and convincing myself that it is perfectly acceptable to take my time. So far I’ve been successful!

In a book I’m reading, the author dedicates his novel to his father and says thank you, “For teaching me to take my time to get it right the first time”.

Taking my time and patience have never been my strong suit, but I think there is something to it. I’m starting a new blog/website that is dedicated to my love of France. I want to get it up and running NOW and I get angry at myself that it’s slow-going. However, I read that dedication from author to father over and over and remind myself that it is ok to take it slow and get it right. Fast and cheap doesn’t necessarily equal good quality, if Francis Ford Coppola is to be believed.

Nichiren and President Ikeda encourage us to take baby steps to achieve our goals, just as long as we take that step. One step will lead to the next and then another and before you know it, you are already there.

A translation of President Ikeda’s “To My Friends” published in the Seikyo Shimbun and more.

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
— TO MY FRIENDS —
Even if it’s just one step, or even half a step,
let’s continue to advance towards achieving our goals.
It’s in the midst of unceasingly challenging ourselves
that our lives shine like gold.
Come, let’s play out the drama of our human revolution!

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Curbing the negativity

I have a constant stream of negativity that flows in and out of my brain. I call it my “Negativity Ticker Tape”. When I see it flash by, I tell my NTT to beat it. Get Lost. You’re not wanted here. And sometimes that tape becomes an infinite loop in my brain, no matter how hard I try to tell it to go away. I even find myself fueling the fire causing the tape to grow bigger and bigger and fly through my brain faster and faster, until I realize that I am now having imaginary fights in imaginary situations. It’s negative (obviously), and it makes feel hopeless and out control. I simply become “A Victim”, which is a pretty lonely place to be.

Sigh…

When things don’t go my way, or I lack confidence, or I’m struggle with some obstacle in my life, I know the NTT starts to hover in the corner of my mind, ready to play itself out and distract me from the truth. I immediately go to a place of “It’s not my fault! Everything stinks! I’m not good enough!” and the imagined fights and “poor me” scenarios start to flit around my head.

Why is it so easy to complain, rather than work on what is wrong?

Lately, I’ve been complaining about my job, and I notice it puts me in a constant state of resentment and negativity. I feel under appreciated and taken advantage of. The problem is, I’m not DOING anything to change that. Just complaining. I got into action last week and asked for a meeting with my boss to discuss some of my frustrations and what we can do moving forward. I felt there was hope… and then the meeting didn’t happen and now the resentment is back.

In Lessons From The New Human Revolution: On Complaint, President Ikeda has this to say:

“People who are always complaining tend to create a gloomy atmosphere and rob the people around them of their enthusiasm, even if they aren’t aware of it. In other words,they diminish the momentum for kosen-rufu and drain away the strength for others to strive their hardest. not only will they not receive benefits,but they won’t be able to escape retribution for their negativity. As Nichiren states ‘It is the heart that is important’ Your attitude as you practice your Buddhist faith is crucial. If you’re always complaining and don’t practice with a sense of motivation and initiative, you’re only hindering yourself. Let’s all try to joyfully and vibrantly advance”.

Perhaps my boss didn’t want to hear my “complaints”. Perhaps she is tired of my rants and general unhappiness. Perhaps it is not even her job to get rid of my frustrations. I believe my goal now is distinguish between what is frustrating me versus what can help me improve my performance at work and help benefit everyone. Frustrations are my problem (and probably my perception). Other issues that hinder me from doing the best job I can possibly do is what I need to discuss with my boss. There is a difference and it’s important.

Resolve of the week: What can I do to change my career situation so that it works to my advantage? What are areas where I can improve, and what are the areas that I need help to improve, thus approaching my boss for ideas? How can I better do my job, rather than focus on what annoys me?

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Our voice

Wow- I really needed this one today. The hardest thing I’m going through right now is finding my own voice. I have lots of things to say, to encourage, to give. Why is it so hard to speak up?
Back next week with more posts! (I’ve been lax, I know)

Daily Encouragement by Daisaku Ikeda
Wednesday, September 26, 2012:

Our voice costs nothing and it is our strongest weapon. Nichiren Daishonin wrote, “Do not spare your voice” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 726).There are different voices for different situations: the clear, resounding voice that declares truth and justice; the strong voice that refutes evil; the bright, confident voice that tells others about the greatness of this Buddhism; the warm voice that gives encouragement; the sincere, friendly voice that offers praise and words of appreciation to others. The important thing is that we meet and speak with people widely, inside and outside the organization.

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Are you happy?

I saw this on my trip to France spray painted under a bridge. It’s interesting that it is in English. I was able to answer “yes”. Ask yourself.

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Moving Forward

Today, I heard a wonderful story on the radio.

In 1942- the early days of WWII- in Brookings, Oregon, a Japanese spy hatched a plan to load a plane with explosives and fly it into the national forest. He was hoping the wildfire caused by the plane crash would start a widespread panic. Everything started according to plan: the plane crashed and exploded starting a large fire. A fire-watcher in a tower some distance away happened to notice the small plane fall into the trees and instantly saw the smoke. He was then able to radio for help and a small crew contained the fire before fire crews put it out.

The Japanese spy had strategically and methodically planned this attack, which would have ultimately been successful except for one tiny detail. It had just rained. The small crew wouldn’t have been able to contain the fire had the ground not already been very wet. Needless to say, the spy was caught.

Oregonians did not hold a grudge against this Japanese upstart for attempting to destroy acres upon acres of forest. Instead, years later they invited the man to come back to Brookings to participate in a flower festival. The ex-spy took this as an opportunity to apologize. He presented the mayor with a samurai sword, as well as expressed his sorrow at causing such an event. Over the course of many years, this Japanese gentleman (whose name I did not catch) continued to come to Brookings. He was welcomed. The samurai sword currently hangs in the public library. After the man’s death in the late 90’s, his children continue to come and visit the small town.

As a citizen of  a country that has been engaged in a seemingly endless war for nearly a decade, we need more stories like this. President Ikeda has spoken all over the world about World Peace, coming together, creating unity, and spreading Kosen-Rufu. While we can never change the past, we can certainly make amends for past wrongs and we can atone. This Japanese man took an awful event and tried to make it right. He was not met with anger or silence, but with open arms. He was forgiven and everyone was able to move forward with understanding and healing, and even friendship. You can’t move forward without it.

It’s stories like these that give me hope. Peace is achievable. It just takes a little bending on both sidesAs the saying goes, “Can’t we all just get along?”

And speaking of moving forward… I am getting married! I am back after my fabulous 2 weeks in France and have returned as an engaged woman. I feel like I’ve made a leap. I’ve got a soon-to-be partner for life and it’s wonderful. I’m not sure if President Ikeda has ever written about marriage and Nichiren Buddhism, but I would sure love to read his wisdom on the subject! I’m entering a whole new realm, of which I know little about, and will need all the help I can get.

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Bon Voyage!

Tomorrow I embark on my much anticipated sojourn “en France”. I will be taking a brief hiatus from blogging, but will be back at it upon my return!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, this trip to France has been a 12 year vacation in the making. I had been dreaming of returning to France after spending a year studying abroad in Bordeaux and somehow money, time, and other activities always got in the way. This past January I made the cause with the following statement: This is the year I return to France. I chanted everyday to make my goal a reality. Not only did I want to go back to France, I wanted my boyfriend to come with me, so I chanted about that too. Lo and behold, all the elements starting falling into place. Money has been the major factor as to why it’s taken me so long to go back, and I set up a savings plan. Time  and work always seemed to stop me, so I made sure I saved all my vacation days. I was worried about my return: Would I still remember my way around? Would I remember the specific phrases in French that I learned while I was there to get around? What if my boyfriend expected me to speak French the entire time and I forgot some of the language? Needless to say, I was afraid. But I was also extremely determined to go, and I let my excitement and strong will guide me, instead of my fear.

I couldn’t get to this point without Buddhism and my French Professeur. Buddhism kept me focused and made me face all of my fears. As President Ikeda always reminds us, just take one small step towards your goal, everyday. It may take a month, a year, a decade, but you will reach your goal as long as you have faith and take action. And that is essentially what I did. I have to say, I’m proud! Lastly, I cannot thank “mon prof” enough for all of his patience, French books, and conversation. It means a lot to me.

This past week I’ve chanted non-stop for the success of this trip. A little devil popped up yesterday, just to see if I was paying attention. I somehow strained my knee and was briefly concerned I would be able to do a lot of walking. But, I’m not letting anything stand in my way!  So I say “Je refuse” to you, small devilish obstacle, and bought a knee brace. My boyfriend can toss me down the metro steps, if need be- I’M GOING!

A bientot!

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Battling Your Own Fundamental Fault

So, I’m probably not the first one to admit that I have a lot of faults. I’m certain my boyfriend would agree with me. But what is my ONE fundamental fault, my “one evil” that ultimately keeps me from fulfilling my Human Revolution?

Hmmm…where to start?

Maybe some of my so-called “Faults” are really just bad habits, but there is one fault I have that gets me every time. I have a problem with following-through. I get overexcited about an idea and then promptly get overwhelmed by the work involved to achieve the result. Instead of taking action, I mostly sit and daydream. Daydreams are nice places to visit, but the years pass quickly, and soon you find yourself with the same dream, which is just that: A Dream.

I want the result to come quickly, effortlessly, and when it looks like the “DREAM” might take a few years to fulfill or require maybe some extra education or research, I push it aside. I also anticipate the end result, and often not in my favor. “I’m a great writer”, I think, “and I have wonderful ideas for stories. I will write my epic and it will become famous, turn into a movie, and win an Oscar”. Believe it or not, this is not an impossible dream. It actually happens. But what keeps me from moving forward, is the negative demon voice that fills my ear: You won’t get published. No one ever publishes a first time novelist. You will have to research specific topics for your novel: No one will take you seriously. You have bad grammar skills.  You will fail. Your story idea isn’t good enough. I could go on…

So I give up too quickly, often before I’ve even started. This is my one fundamental flaw: Believing the impossible is always impossible.

Here are President Ikeda’s thoughts on “Fighting the Evil Within” (From “Struggling Against the ‘One Fundamental Evil'”

“Unless we fight against the “one evil” – the fundamental cause of all troubles – we will solve nothing, no matter what clever plans or strategies we devise. In our human revolution, too, each of us has ‘one fundamental evil’ – one basic fault- that stands in the way of our personal growth. Some of you may think you have many faults, but in most cases all those faults derive from one fundamental fault- for instance, cowardice or rudeness or sentimentality or a short temper and the list goes on. We must become aware of that fundamental fault or evil in our lives, chant with all our hearts and take thorough action to overcome it. This is the practice of human revolution. We will achieve no progress as long as we just float through life aimlessly. Practice is what counts. If we can overcome our fundamental fault, everything will open up dramatically. We can shine. And even tendencies that we previously though of as failings will be illuminated as strengths”.

My resolve for the week: Continue to overcome my fundamental flaw. No success happens overnight. It takes elbow grease, and I’ve got to believe that the small steps I take today, make a difference down the road.

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