Zen master Hakuin on the Lotus Mantra

The Sutra called “The Lotus of the Wonderful Law “ (Sad Dharma Pundarika) is one of the fundamental scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. A commentary on it was written by Prince Shotoku, who used it to introduce Buddhism into Japan in the sixth century. Since his time, the chief Buddhist teachers of Japan have given this text an important place. Dengyo Taishi, founder of the Tendai Sect in Japan, made it the centre of his doctrine ; his great contemporary Kobo Daishi, of the Shingon or Mantra Sect, wrote his own commentary on the Lotus Sutra. There are introductions to the sutra by Honen, founder of the Pure Land sect, by the famous Zen master Dogen, and many others. Then in the thirteenth century, the saint Nichiren began to teach his followers the practice of repetition of the mantra of the Lotus, which runs: ” Namu Myoho Ren ge-kyo “, ” Reverence to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Law “. By repetition of this mantra with single-mindedness and sincerity, taught Nichiren, we become conscious of the essence of the Sutra, namely the eternal Buddha-nature in all. The practice of mantra is very ancient, and goes back to Vedic …

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Categories Zen

Unless roots of spiritual conviction have been put down, the whole structure is hollow and falls to pieces

INTERLACED BRANCHES When there is a grove of trees growing closely together, their branches can get interlaced, so that they seem to support one another. Because they are so close, their individual roots are often very shallow, but the whole thing looks like a stable structure, a sort of table with many legs. But when a big storm comes, it all collapses, because there are no deep roots anywhere. A society or group, says a Zen master, can be like this. The various elements support each other by a system of conventions accepted by all, for no other reason than that they have always been accepted. There may be no deep roots of conviction anywhere, but people act as if they had conviction. After all, the others seem to believe. Such a society can look very stable. It is, however, no longer creative, and it too collapses in a big crisis. In somewhat the same way, he adds, an individual personality can apparently hold together firmly, but merely because the parts support each other. This lasts only so long as times are good. Unless roots of spiritual conviction have been put down, the whole structure is brittle and hollow and …

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The Post-Beatles Generation and English quality of life

The middle-aged in Britain at present complain about the lack of respect for authority and the lack of consideration for others. The middle-aged have always done this. In 423 B.C. Aristophanes in Greece was  putting on comedies which showed how young people were questioning the authority of their parents. In one of his plays a young man beats up his father on the stage, to show his independence, and then he says, “And just to be fair, now I am going to beat up  mother.” That is more extreme than anything which has been shown on the ‘theatre of cruelty’ these days. Aristophanes wrote it to show the corruption of morals which was being caused by the teachings of Socrates (of all people!). Socrates was shown on the stage, and is his methods of instruction were parodied there. He himself was in the audience one night, and during the interval stood up “so that people can compare the original with the stage role.” In this he showed his humour and his courage—not long afterwards he was  condemned to death for impiety and corruption of morals. In the novels of the 1920’s, society is still complaining that children are abandoning all …

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Looking back over Victorian Times and English quality of life

It’s a hard Life It is an interesting fact that most British people think of the Victorians as rather ‘heavy’ people, very staid and without zest. One reason is that the photographs we have of our grandparents are all from the early era of photography, when the person being photographed had to keep absolutely still for several seconds. Naturally the pictures always show an unnatural fixity of expression. And one tends to feel that they were like that in daily life too. We feel they moved in a fixed and ordered society, with classes distinct and everyone accepting his ‘station in life’. This is quite untrue. The Victorians felt they lived in a world of tumultuous change, thrusting forward to unthinkable possibilities. One reason why they insisted is so much on the virtues of calmness, sobriety, steadiness and orderliness was that their world was being drastically upset all the time. Furthermore they themselves had the utmost difficulty in controlling their aggressiveness. Their scientific conferences often led to the most bitter quarrels, sometimes even fights; social order in general was often balanced on a knife-edge. Sexual morals—under the pressure of the Puritanical dissenting sects—were supposed to be very tightly controlled: In …

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The Ideal of Balance and English quality of life

The gentleman-ideal is not an exclusive English thing. The elements have come from many sources, and though it has been developed in Britain, it must be developed further. The valuable elements which have developed so far have included, in my opinion, these: (1). The concept of life as a sport, undertaken very seriously under strict rules, and always with a fundamental balance, and respect for the opponents. This concept has success as its goal, not triumph. (2). The courage to resist, to stand out even single handed, against the blind herd instinct—the herd instinct which can find its satisfaction only in conflict with another herd.           (3). Search for an ideal in secular life; this has been found so far in social service to strangers, protection of the weak, and a certain good taste. (4). Self-control, and specially the sense of humour, which produces personal modesty.  (5). An amateur attitude which prevents becoming absorbed in an expertise without any wider view. (6). The ‘gardening’ concept—that changes should come about by evolution not by revolution.  (7) Absence of deceit and trickery; keeping a promise. The deficiencies of the gentleman concept include: (1). A tendency to regard brilliance as a sign of lack …

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The Gentleman Ideal and English quality of life

The gentleman ideal is still one of the country’s most prized values, in spite of the ambivalence which makes the Eton boys try to get rid of their public school accents. The ambivalence means that the ideal is changing, as it has changed in the past. The main currents have been: (1). A gentleman is a good fighter from a good family, i.e. a family comparatively wealthy and influential for several generations: this was the classical view of the Greeks and Romans; (2). A gentleman is a noble fighter who protects the weak—view of chivalry; (3). A gentleman is a well-born man with a gloss of courtesy, refinement and poise in his manner— the French and Italian ‘courtier’ view; (4). A gentleman is above all a sportsman—the view of the 18th century English country squires; (5). A gentleman is a man of honesty and quiet strength of character, conforming strictly to artificial canons of speech, clothes and behaviour, reticent and restrained in everything—the 19th century public school view. There is now coming up more and more strongly a quite different notion, which has been quietly developing in Britain since Chaucer: (6). Any man who behaves gently is a gentleman. Here …

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The Public School System and English quality of life

The system in the boarding schools (or ‘public schools’ as they are confusingly called) was based on a very old English idea—that children should be separated from their parents and sent away to learn independence. In the 1300’s the English nobles used to send their s boys, at the age of 9 or 10, to some remote relation’s home, where they acted as pages and performed minor services for the adults around them. After several years of this they came back. In general, children in the Middle Ages had a very hard time; in the whole literature there is very little about them, and even in sculpture and painting there are few portraits. This attitude of indifference to children went on right into the 20th century. Under the British public school system, boys were sent is at the age of 14 to an expensive boarding school, and did not see their parents during term-time, sometimes two or three months. At the school a junior was the personal servant of a senior; games was one of the main activities, with the stress on ‘team games’—soccer, cricket, rugby. After the first year, the boy would be released from personal service, though he …

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My Husband and I and English quality of life

When I was a schoolboy in the 1920’s, I felt that the British monarchy should be abolished as an out-of-date institution. Like many young people in many countries, I was more interested in foreign countries and ideas than in my own. The good points of my own country I took for granted—in fact, I assumed that all other countries must have them too, and some special virtues of their own in addition. The foreign countries must therefore be better than my own. My parents occasionally tried to correct this view. My father had travelled only to France and Germany, as a soldier in World War I, but my mother had been educated for a year, when she was 18, in France and Belgium. She knew French and German fairly well. Moreover, her family had some connection with the noble Hungarian family of Esterhazy, and she travelled with her parents to Hungary each summer to stay with them. She described to me once the fantastic display of jewellery at the opera in Budapest, and I said, “It sounds much more exciting than here.” She said, “It is alright for the rich, but there are a million beggars in Hungary, they say. …

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English Quality of Life and ways in which British people think and act

In the famous “Thinker” of Rodin, a Frenchman. The pose, with one elbow on the opposite knee, is a most uncomfortable one, though the sculptor’s skill makes it seem calm. Foreigners remark sarcastically that it shows how the French twist themselves into knots when they think, and there is a saying, “Every Frenchman is a thinker, unfortunately; and no two Frenchmen ever think the same thought.” This last is a hit at the well-known Gallic love of argument. Well, what do the French say about their critics, the foreign Thinkers? “The Germans sweat when they think. They try so hard, and—they shouldn’t.” It means that the Germans laboriously spin out great spider-web systems of thought, ending up hopelessly entangled in them. It is the vast theory-systems of Hegel, Marx, Freud and so on, which are so complicated that people get confused, and which contradict each other. The English have produced hardly anything like this (Toynbee was an exception) and hence “cannot think.” “The English thinker? There is no English thinker.  The Englishman never thinks at all; he simply tries one thing after another till he comes to one which works. Then he does that.” As an Englishman myself, I can …

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