The on-going index to links and titles of the available Macclesfield audios and videos is available on this website in Audios/ Videos section. Its existence may get ‘buried’ so i’m adding a link to it here.
The number watching was no indication of its quality – its evocation of the complete madness and irresponsibility of the war in Afghanistan and its enduring legacy, of the energy and resilience of the children and of scenery of great vastness… of harshness and beauty.
International Film Festival Rotterdam (USA, 2016) World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Best Cinematography at Sundance Film Festival
SHORT SYNOPSIS from savage films
A gang of Afghan kids from the Kuchi tribe dig out old Soviet mines and sell the explosives to children working in a lapis lazuli mine. When not dreaming of the time when American troops finally withdraw from their land, another gang of children keeps tight control on the caravans smuggling the blue gemstones through the arid mountains of Pamir.
In this seamless blend of fictional and documentary form, we experience a stunning cinematic journey into the beauty of war-tormented Afghanistan. Shot over seven years on evocative 16mm footage, first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue paints a whimsical yet haunting look at the condition of Afghanistan left for the next generation. As American soldiers prepare to leave, we follow De Pue deep into this hidden land where young boys form wild gangs to control trade routes, sell explosives from mines left over from war, and climb rusting tanks as playgrounds-making the new rules of war based on the harsh landscape left to them. De Pue’s transportative and wonderfully crafted film confronts the visceral beauty and roughness of survival, serving as a testament to the spirited innovation of childhood and the extreme resilience of a people and country. – Sundance Film Festival
This seems to be available free to download on the internet.
From 2003 James has taught in Macclesfield either once or twice a year. Originally when he came up he taught in a little room above pizza express, in a park building and in a hospital out-building. After that the group of practitioners in Macclesfield had the use of a building which became a buddhist centre…
For about a decade Chris Coppock, who was a major contributor to this, made audio recordings of the talks which James gave and also made (latterly with Charles Lomas) some video-recordings.
Latest set of videos now available – Refuge is liberation / Garab Dorje’s Three Points as the essence of refuge. From fusion to dualistic intention to non-dual liberation… ( Nov 2008)
Due to causes and conditions that buddhist centre eventually folded but happily James has continued to come north and teach in different venues, annually, since then.
I know some people are following through with the audios of the Macclesfield talks and thought it might be helpful to put the links to the available videos and audios which are available to listen or download from the simplybeing website…all grouped together on one page.
So far we have:
1. View of dzogchen Nov 2003 audio talk (audio only )
2. Dzogchen practice-Focussing and Distraction July 2004 audio (audio only )
3. Living with anxiety and doubt February 2005 audio (audio only )
4. Wisdom and compassion May 2006 audio (audio only )
10. Love,compassion,joy and equanimity- the four immeasurables June 2009 audio
11. Four foundations of mindfulness-a dzogchen perspective Jan 2010 audio
12. Working with change and impermanence Nov 2010 audio
14. Integrating openness and presence Feb 2013 audio (audio only)
15. Balancing relation and effort in buddhism Feb 2014 audio (audio only )
16. Staying open to life as it is Feb 2015 audio (audio only )
17. Buddhism and creativity Feb 2016 audio (audio only )
19. Working with life and death March 2018
We’re working on the videos for talks 10, 11 and 12 and I’ll add the links as they become available…
Light + concept = pseudo-entity
In the speed of interactions in the world – will i remember the truth of this?
[from Macclesfield talk 08 Integrating-the-dzogchen-view-with-basic-buddhist-practice/ ]
Any time i tighten or freeze and ‘make something of it’ i know that i’ve got lost in a situation and fused with concepts, with my thoughts or feelings or sensations.
Reminding myself of the truth on a daily basis with the prayer by Rigdzin Godem means that, for at least the time while i’m saying it, that view in the equation above is operational…but that’s only for a few minutes… what about the rest of the twenty four hours???
Re-membering, re-membering (preferable to being surrounded by body parts!)… form is not other than emptiness, form is exactly emptiness…
So, what is it?…this ‘thing’ to which i am averse?… It’s the flower of emptiness…inseparable from its ground.
And who is this one who is tightening up?…also the radiance of the dharmakaya – impermanent and so ungraspable, arising due to causes and conditions which are themselves impermanent…
Maybe a knot in the handkerchief would help!
Maybe… but this is a slow and uncertain way to proceed…where kind of ‘during or after the event’, if i’m lucky, i realise, so there’s a bit of a gap while i assess, remember…. then also there’s remembering that what is arising in me as a response is also empty… and then orientating myself accordingly – according to received wisdom, or that deduced by analysis.
It’s through the opening and dissolving practices in tantra and dzogchen that i can have an on-going certainty regarding the nature of each manifestation, including that which i call ‘me’. Its through these practises that eventually the relaxation of rigidity enables creativity… when responsivity arises directly from spaciousness, from the infinite hospitality.
Observing a cat, seeing ‘itself’ in the mirror for the first time
……a sudden shock, bristling – the hairs of the fur standing on end, eyes widened…
whilst we might think ‘that’s me who’s in the mirror’ – this cat just checked it out
spent no further time on a reflection.
‘You put your whole self in – you put your whole self in, you put your whole self out, in out – in out, shake it all about… ‘ ‘that’s what it’s all about’.
Maybe this can be a good metaphor for effective practice!… particularly tantra and dzogchen.
Before I went to sleep as a child there were three prayers i used to say out loud. One was ‘MatthewMark Luke andJohn blesssther bed that I lie on… Arrrrrmen’ and I said the words… exactly that, I said the words… like a rhyme.
I was very moved by the story in one of the scriptures of the pigeon who felt so desperate to help in the face of a forest fire which was consuming every living thing…… but was powerless to do anything but fly to and fro with a beak full of water from a nearby river… and then died, exhausted. The beak-fulls of water did not put the fire out yet good consequences did ensue… so maybe these little somethings…? So, later in life, in saying different prayers on a daily basis I started gradually to put more meaning, more intention, more energy and concentration into my hopes and requests.
Although I knew that ‘energy follows intention’ as I spent more time in this neck of the woods, with prayers being the best that I could offer into the desperate and difficult situations in the world, and spending more time doing this, I felt the need to ask whether or not it really made any difference. I could see that it made a difference to me as, over time, it changed my appreciation and orientation yet I was dubious as to how much difference, if any, it made outside of that.
The answer came in the form of a question ‘Can you get someone to turn their head around and look at you if you stare at the back of their head?’…. my answer was ‘probably yes, if they are not deeply involved in something else.’
Really this was deepening my comprehension that however we are, whatever we do, has an impact – it might not be visible but nevertheless it does. I had previously explored this with people who say ‘ what’s the point, why bother, what I do doesn’t make any difference?’
Over the years of doing the Rigdzin Puja, often as if it were a piece of pleasant homework, sometimes just ticking the box – ‘task completed’– I finally had a lightbulb moment… seeing that if ‘I’ was doing it – even with my good intentions – it wasn’t being done, or being used, effectively as it should. For a long time I was going…ah yes, white light…now red light…and so on, turning the pages…but without any feeling of a change it was just words. I had to allow myself to become an engaged participant in the activity, to allow the activity to flow through me, to become the activity, for it to be possible for any effect to occur. That also implied changing priorities, giving enough time and space to the practice and engaging ideally at time when i was fresh rather than half-asleep!
Ah well, it takes as long as it takes…
……Put my little self in, take my little self out
in-out, in-out, shake it all about (it will dissolve if I shake it enough),
Get my big self out, let my little self in…
…the whole self i’m in… oh! the hokey cokey…
With practise the tune changes…… in out, in out > out-in-out, out-in-out…not so catchy!
The teachings have a rather different origin from say “Teach yourself Buddhism”…(the first dharma book i bought…and one i didn’t finish – dry bones)…and it takes time and is worthwhile to let the perfume sink into every pore..
I was talking with someone a while ago and mentioned the haiku by Kobayashi Issa “slowly, slowly, the snail climbs Mount Fuji”…he felt so sorry for the snail!
…an alternate rendition “O snail! Climb Mt. Fuji… but slowly, slowly” …maybe gives a better sense of the way
As the practice says…and as the Irish say in a beautiful way… ‘Take your time’
Sometimes, in order not to interrupt the flow, I trust that things will become clearer in time or through engagement… if I asked him anything by way of clarification I think the answer probably was ‘you have to hold them differently’…err… yes…and???
As I put together an assortment of articles to take with me I had a glimmering of that to which he was alluding. That everything, everyone, with whom we engage – if the engagement is to be the most attuned or appropriate – requires a unique response, specific to their presentation that time.
I could give you many examples of my not getting that right…however I think this one, which doesn’t involve people, is a good illustration –
I was in charity shop a little while back and when i went to pick up a painted wooden duck, very similar in appearance to one i once owned … there was an explosion….it was very surprising …bits of stuff went all over the place.
Luckily I managed to catch a little vase in my skirt before it hit the ground and amazingly the other bits and pieces which I had knocked over were unbroken.
I’m not usually clumsy so what had gone wrong?
Well, it was just that I had picked up the wooden duck, which looked so much like one I had owned some years ago, as though it was the exactly the same. However whilst this duck looked like it was made of wood ( I was not wearing my glasses!) it was in fact pottery – quite a different weight – and, moreover, the head and neck came apart from the body… they formed a lid to a pot… and it that was what I lifted up. I had gauged the amount of energy needed and the trajectory completely wrong and the spare energy scattered everywhere.
So it is with people. If we are confident that we know how the other is prior to meeting them, or if we meet them without sufficient spaciousness to have a sense of how they actually are ( because we are already full of our own ideas about how they are, or what we have to get across to them) or if we just have our own constant ‘ way of being’ – take it or leave it this is me! – then the possibility of a beneficial congruence is remote…. and the risk of explosions much greater!
Instead we have to keep looking, take nothing for granted, put our memories aside, and have the confidence to be tentative…trusting that we can regain our balance after a faux pas or mis-step/ mistake… and also play a different tune if that’s what the situation requires.
All of which requires a good degree of openness. Intentionally practising doing it differently will, in my experience only take you so far… it’s the on-going practice of openness which will naturally lead to that ‘fresh cooking’ in the moment… of/as which James speaks
This P.S. arose as a solution to a practical –?what is fitting – problem and might just be useful-
I have a fridge and from time to time the drain hole bungs up and the bottom fills with water. The instructions suggest inserting a little plastic gadget (sometimes supplied) or a straw into the hole. This has worked before but this time no luck!
I didn’t want to call out an engineer to dismantle the drain from the back but, looking on the internet for another solution, i got to see the shape of the drain – its straight for a little bit [the gadget/straw solution works for blockages in this section] but then it then curves away downwards.
I wondered… What would have sufficient strength to clear the blockage…be the right width to fit inside the drain…after insertion- maintain a curve in the right direction so that it would enter the curved part…and be soft enough not to damage the drain ?
…a little while later i caught myself looking at the open plastic ring with the tab – the one that you pull to get the top off a plastic milk carton – as it lay on the side waiting to go into the bin…
The recordings are at last ready to listen to…you can click the link in the title below.
There have been quite a few provocations for those of us involved with this set of recordings. Even at the end there’s a little smiley one…I had suggested saying ‘audio-edited by w.c.’ as it perhaps looks less like wc–toilet …but….. never mind! ; ) hope you enjoy them.
At one time, little fly, you had the freedom of the space
but then your body nudged against a tiny sticky filament
and in your struggle to get free
your wings and body were stuck fast
” Fly in a net ”
no spider came as answer to your calls
to turn you into means for its existence
and so, unwrapped, flying again became a possibility.
Why don’t you move?
you are not dead!
using a lens and dampened brush
so gently, wash away the unseen residue, the glue,
and be a fly, and fly and be….
each moment freed, spontaneously.
The little net of the ‘ego thought’ catches the passing, fleeting thought… the beginning of the forming of a shape…of solidification and reification “Open… release…. begin again”…
The heart/mind not being different,
this is an excerpt i liked from Embracing Each Moment: A Guide to the Awakened Life
written by Anam Thubten, pages 132–133.
The Spiritual Olympics
We don’t have to try to surrender. That sounds too effortful. Then we will have a surrender competition. There is going to be a spiritual marathon, a spiritual Olympics, how about that? Indeed, there is a spiritual Olympics. It is not officially announced. Many people are working really hard trying to be the best meditator, the best ascetic, the most enlightened. So don’t try to surrender with your personal will or deliberate effort. It sounds like too much work, trying to surrender to everything. Instead, go inside. That is all you need to do sometimes. Go inside and let yourself be in touch with your heart. You know how to be in touch with your heart. Your heart is waiting to be recognized. This is why the Tibetan masters often said there are many forms or levels of meditation. The highest level is what they call effortless meditation. When they teach how to meditate, especially the masters from the Nyingma tradition, they always say, “Don’t do anything.” Rest in the present moment. Relax in the natural state of your mind, because if you can relax, rest in the natural state of your own mind, then you will be in touch with your own heart, with your original heart, with your innocent heart, and then surrender is very easy because all of your heart wants it.
In the childrens’ game of ‘Pin the tail on the donkey’ the winner is the one who, whilst blindfolded, manages to pin a pretend tail onto a drawing of a donkey… closest to the anatomically correct position.
Now, if we were inflatable donkeys…of the kind children might ride in a swimming pool (well i’m sure you’ve seen Loch Ness Monsters in that setting…so donkeys are a possibility…
….aha, found one… the incredible creativity of the mind!…)
we’d rightly be very wary around pins…for fear of deflation …. sssss….
In our felt separation – there’s me and there’s you
and we donkeys can make such a hullabaloo
…swapping tails with each other
we say ‘How d’ye do’ but….
we can be quite wary (while holding our pin)
with the thought that ‘the other’
might stick theirs right in…
In being not donkeys,
the tails are just tales…
and we don’t have that feeling that
we could be nailed.
And, in being (not donkeys)
we don’t fear the pin…
as there isn’t a rump
for the pin to stick in
Just being is us, but it cannot be done
if we spend our time fearing a pain in the bum!
This came after a chat about the behaviours that we do with a friend who is about to be 90…happy birthday Gwen!
I said it would only take a week or so of free time to get the recordings ready… and this is true, but sometimes there’s more to it than that….
Emerson recordings update 22nd Aug…nearly complete. There have been lots of difficulties in getting hold of the final part of the good recording which Gaynor made…i’ve tried improving mine but the result’s not great… so thankfully a friend who is a sound engineer is going to have a bash today…so…. ready shortly!
The first week back different people i had not seen for years got in touch or visited. Last week I was away at the Buddhafield festival, which had the theme “Courageous Compassion” and gave a talk in a little tent on the need for wisdom – the wisdom of emptiness or openness – as the basis for the arising of sustainable compassion.
If you are interested here’s the gist of what the talk was based around.
Dualistic, false–relative, compassion… where I am going to act compassionately towards you – where I, you, and the action are all three seen as entitative – is a big step up from ‘I just care about me and mine’ but it maintains the sense of separation, of solidity, even superiority … and, because of its effortful nature, transient effect, and the desire (and often frustrated desire!) involved it can be exhausting. Jumping in to help a drowning man is great if you can swim and are strong enough to get him safely out without getting yourself into the same predicament…knowing the variable nature of your capacity and working within that is essential at this point.
So different dharma teachings gesture to the way through this via another approach to suffering.
If we take the bodhisattva vow, as in Mahayana Buddhism, then the intention is to ‘develop’ the mind of the buddha. Understanding that the compassion that goes with this intention involves a wish to attain enlightenment in order to benefit all ‘others’… to bring them happiness and freedom from suffering in the short term and enlightenment in the longer term…whilst accepting that this longer term may indeed be very, very long!
It seems likely that in the sustained and concentrated effort of altruistically attempting to attain the perfections of generosity, morality, vigour, patience, concentration and wisdom of a bodhisattva, somehow the custard–like skin of self-referential thoughts holding us in a particular shape thins to the point where there is an understanding of non-duality in the relative sense and perhaps the realisation of prajna as revealed in the Heart Sutra shines through. At this point compassion is fearless rather than courageous.
The view of Tantra is that of (an initially intentional) transformation of all that is manifesting by viewing it through the lens of the pure relative. Compassion then, as the liberation of all sentient beings, is that of not taking them prisoner, and relating to them as entities in the first place!
The encouragement is to practice until we have integrated the view. I think it was Gampopa who said to his students who wanted to bring their retreat to a premature conclusion in order to go and be helpful… ” Do you think there will be nobody left in need of your help down in the valley if you wait until completion of your practice?”
After the initial introduction, the practice of dzogchen is that of absolute compassion arising spontaneously… not being impulsively or thoughtfully contrived but arising naturally from the ground nature, freshly in each moment. So rather than using different strengths of detergent to eventually clean the window, or looking through a different window, its a matter of … throwing the window wide open!
If we overheat or get stuck in the practice of relative compassion we may not get to ask…What is the nature of this self, this other, these thoughts, this mind?… it is the answer to this that the buddha was seeking… and found and, in deep dharma, taught.
Of the different levels of compassion arising from the different views – false relative, pure relative and absolute… these are explained by Patrul Rinpoche in Chapter 7 in the book Simply Being by James Low.
Chapter 3 on the development of bodhicitta is also recommended.
It’s not a film which I would have thought of going to see… but a friend wanted to and I was in town…so i did and was glad.
It’s not in fact about which country America is really about to invade next…. but about comparing some of the best of humanitarian attitudes in other countries, for example with regard to education, workers rights, attitude towards criminals ( bankers and others!) and contrasting them with what generally happens in the USA.
I had heard of the prison off the coast of Norway where maximum security offenders are treated with respect and rehabilitated in such a way that the rates of recidivism are astonishingly low compared with the U.K. and U.S. and it was a treat to see the quality of the relationships, both between the inmates and the inmates with their guards…. violence being meted out by the police is unimaginable to prisoners and guards alike. Here prisoners are trusted with the use of large sharp kitchen knives for food prep. in the kitchen…and they are used just for that! I remember hearing that the training for those working with offenders in prison is lengthy, often at degree level, in countries where there is a genuine interest in rehabilitation and re–education rather than punishment…the training in our country can be just a matter of months. Recently there was mention of an intention of making prisoners in this country work productively and there is footage of American prisoners doing just this which is so dispiriting. Their living conditions and working conditions are so poor and they are paid maybe as little as $.37 an hour for franchised work…the contrast is stark.
Having heard a bit about the educational system in Finland it was delightful to see the faces of the teachers in whose aim is to facilitate the growth of healthy happy communicative citizens, and who feel that our method of ‘education to pass standardised tests’ is deadening and diminishing to the potential of teacher and the child. These children have no homework… home time is for friends, family, living life.. not bowed down by hours and hours of homework, in fact they have almost none – yet their educational system is producing students with some of the highest functioning in the world.
In our country we work long hours (though not as long as the USA) and our productivity is a lot lower than in many countries which work shorter hours. The film shows employers in other countries who actually care about the happiness of the workforce and appreciate the positive impact resulting from involving them in decision-making… and also having them on the board of directors.
There are countries with eight weeks paid leave, generous maternity/paternity leave; countries where those who are stressed can go to a spa on prescription…. it is cheaper than treating people with depression ( way back in 1990 this cost was $44 billion in the USA of which drug treatment was 10%, one quarter was due to treatment and the rest to absenteeism and premature death… I haven’t looked but I should imagine it’s a great deal more now)
I have heard a senior official in the drug squad pleading for decriminalisation… I don’t think many people wanted to hear what he had to say even though it was clear that he was in a position to know what he was talking about.
In Portugal drugs are not an issue, not a matter of concern for the police, but rehabilitation is freely available. The Portuguese police who were interviewed appeared horrified and saddened at the lack of humanity in the use of the death-penalty in the USA.
French children, even in deprived areas, who all sit down together for an hour and enjoy a very high quality school meal at lunchtime. Passing food and drink between each other and chatting….lovely!
Yes… this is a quick breeze across the upside of many countries.. yet the relaxed faces speak volumes about the healthy impact of the humanitarian attitudes shown. It was a pleasure just to listen to and see the faces of people around the world who were concerned for the welfare of those around them and were prepared to orientate their lives away from ‘looking after number one’ to looking after the welfare of the wider community.
A Tunisia woman who had been educated in Paris (and knew much about the USA) was filmed begging for an interest from the USA in that which was good about her country….
Perhaps this is not representative but it stuck in my mind… In 1981 I was in the State Department office in Houston, Texas asking to buy a visa for Guatemala… and I was asked which state that was in? “Well,it’s the country down from Mexico…two down from the USA!” Many states in America are vast, and the news in each state was mainly about state happenings with some information about national happenings… but as far as international happenings there was very little.
Other countries have other problems and for sure there’s no quick fixes, as you shift one thing it has an impact on others (written pre-referendum!) … but there is much non-fattening food for thought for both the UK and the USA about how to live well in this film… if you’ve a mind to see it.
He is about to hit him in the face with his ringed fist but does this man hate this monk?
Well, he’s angry for many many reasons – only one of which is that the monk reported to the police that the demonstrators (of which he is one) had assaulted another man… but he knows nothing about the monk apart from that. He has his opinions and beliefs ….some quite different from those of the monk and some will be quite similar yet the monk has become a symbol onto which he can project all the stored frustrations and sense of injustice that he has faced in his life so far.
As Milarepa said ” you menace others with your deadly fangs but in tormenting them, you’re only torturing yourselves.”
He’s projecting the bad out, onto the other … tightening up his heart, his mind, his body, to mete out ‘just desserts’…. in this case onto someone who would not fight back. Taken over by his afflictive emotion the result of his action is a photograph which has the effect of arousing sympathy for the monk (not what he intended) and this action will do nothing to diminish his own suffering.
The thinking is often that ‘things aren’t working out the way I think they should…and who’s fault is that – well it’s their fault’… So if we punish them or get rid of them that will make things better… right?!!
Has this ever worked?
No…. because it’s never just one person’s or groups’ fault that a situation as it is. In relative reality each situation arises due to a concatenation of events, many many factors have to come together for its occurrence…. and it is then interpreted through our own mental filters and mixed with our concepts and prejudices.
Opinions arising from this process cannot be taken as reliable. The ‘alien other’ has the same nature as ourselves and deep buddhist practice is very much about working with the enemy within… the grasping onto a fixed sense of ‘I’ with all that arises from that.
As that felt sense of separation, feeling oneself to be a separate self–existing entity, starts to dissolve then tolerance of difference increases and aversion decreases, and situations become more workable. There is more appreciation of the showing of different forms – the radiance of the mind, empty of inherent self–existence.
…here’s a bit more from Milarepa
If hate reigns supreme, it chains us to hell.
Great avarice opens the gulf of eternal hunger.
Dulll ignorance makes us no better than animals.
Growing passion ties us to the world of men.
If jealousy takes root, it leads to the realm of warring gods.
Overbearing pride traps us in the land of the heavens.
These are the six fetters that chain us to samsara.
…and maybe if you have time check out the latest vimeo Seeing clearly and acting gracefully where the internal definitions and anxieties leading to a contraction – as with the result of the recent referendum – are explored.
P.S. It’s hard to see… but underneath the monks arm there is a rather disturbing figure (you can see this if you click on the photo so it comes up big), a little lady who is really happy and laughing to see such sport…
…its a very different kind of happiness that we wish for all beings!
The talk which James gave in Macclesfield in February “Buddhism and creativity” talk 17 in the series is now available for you to listen to.
The focus of this film is the vast ‘wealth divide’ where the top 0.1% of the population of the UK and USA have wealth equal to that of the bottom 90% – illustrated through a look at the lives of seven people.
It was very poignant to see footage of the lived situation of the people at the bottom of the economic divide, and their faces, as they spoke about trying to make ends meet and survive… but also the faces at the top – there is not much joy or freedom in their bunkered situations… manicured and deadened…
Heidegger said ethics is ‘first philosophy’…what is for the benefit of all? This is not operational here. One delightful female banker who had had qualms about the sub-prime market said that ‘when you remove ethics you become very efficient’. Perhaps in some ways it seems so… but the Walmart employee in the film had, prior to the changes within the company, loved her job, felt valued for her contribution both in ideas and behaviour. Through the changes which removed that culture of appreciation and included shifting to unknown flexible hours – the company itself was devalued. She was about to become homeless and did not look likely to survive for long.
The cinema was almost full but, as the man sitting next to me said, ‘unfortunately the people who needed to see this wouldn’t be watching’. But i thought, even if you could get them to watch many, because of their conditioning, would just see people who are a ‘hopeless’, a ‘waste of space’, a ‘drain on the economy’, ‘losers’.
Yet in the USA the ‘KIP’ schools, which operate in in hugely deprived areas and whose overriding focus is to get their students into college, succeed with 33% of their kids…compared with, i think it was, 8% for other schools in these areas of deprivation and a 32% national average …also their students tend not to drop out…
There are many stories of prisoners who turned their lives around with the help of the genuine love and support of others, and people whose lives have changed as a result of being seen to have value – having this different way of seeing themselves reflected back through someone else’s eyes.
You might enjoy this episode of desert island discs with John Timpson and the enlightened attitude to ex-offenders shown by his son, himself, and the firm.
Behaviour patterns tend to insist but have the potential for transformation if they are recognised as such and given space to resolve under a light and kindly attention. There is a beautiful quote which i paraphrase(having lost the original) as……..
” Birds that live on golden mountain take on the colour of the sun”.
So many many factors, causes and conditions, bring about the circumstances in which people find themselves…from a dharma perspective, in ‘relative reality’ karma is operational. So whilst hoping to equalise the ability to utilise the opportunities available is unrealistic… the attitude that genetics or social circumstances are definitional and that it is acceptable to ” fiddle away that which has come to you while Rome burns” does a violence to the potential for people to grow and to show themselves in many different ways… and ignores our interconnectedness. Everybody has ‘buddha–nature’ and to be indifferent to the state of others is to diminish ourselves.
A 70-year-old venture capitalist raised a laugh in the cinema as he explained very determinedly (after a long list of his activities, assets, and achievements…ending with having three children under 13) that he was a ‘Creator’…he was far from thinking that ‘all this will end’, that this ‘self’ is insubstantial and ‘disintegration’ is also on the list.
The possibility of awakening was never part of his game plan…a plan conditioned by his family, mental aptitude, the culture of the time…influenced by so many factors.
Prior to the crash the words ‘greed is good’ were heard without much if any irony; being ‘something in the city’ was admired, and when times were ‘good’ some of these people felt that they could walk on water…and some still do…but it’s ‘for a while’…and was it only the bankers who were greedy or is there some projection going on here?
Life is short how shall we be? We are lucky to know we have choices…and whether or not to judge others may be instinctive, a choice influenced by virtuous intention or, in awareness, no-choice.
A while ago I spent some time with people living in poverty… they had mostly flour and water to eat and drink. The flour was mixed with water to make the major part of their meals and the water was not running water but they had to fetch it in big plastic containers from a tap some distance away. They lived in little caves, just one room, no ensuite!
So these people are near the bottom economic heap and need our help to raise their standard of living…I wonder, shall we create a charity?
I am joking… these were some of the happiest people that I’ve met in my life… no amount of money would make them happier, they were practising the dharma…life had meaning well beyond self-concern.
To be able to practise for the welfare of all beings continuously one doesn’t need a cave…just a heart that’s open to suffering and a desire to practice according to our capacity ….decreasing the divisions created in the mind.