Seinfeld, Impermanence, Death, Grief, and the Parable of the Mustard Seed

Jerry Seinfeld Found Acceptance in His Father’s Death

Jerry Seinfeld This February-2002 article from the newspaper-magazine Parade quotes comedian Jerry Seinfeld on coping with the death of his father. Instead of recalling emotions of sadness and loss, Seinfeld declares he found acceptance:

His dad’s death at age 66, when Jerry Seinfeld was 30, was the first great loss of Seinfeld’s life. Did it crush him? Surprisingly, after a brief pause, he says no. “I tend to accept life as it is,” he says. “I’m not one of these ‘Life isn’t fair’ people. I tend to accept whatever the limits are, whatever the rules are.” He sits back. His love for his father is evident, but no more evident than his acceptance of the basic facts that the man is no longer around … “It’s okay,” Seinfeld says. And you get the feeling that it is.

Acknowledging Impermanence Can Foster Happiness

The above anecdote about Jerry Seinfeld invokes the Buddhist concept that everything—including life—is impermanent. The Buddha taught, “Decay is inherent in all component things.”

Life, Death and Rebirth in Hinduism Nothing in the world is fixed and permanent. Everything is subject to change and alteration. Life offers no control or consistency but rather impermanence and successive changes—youth changes into old age; the past changes to the present and then into the future.

Suffering, Buddhism teaches, is caused by unrealistic expectations of permanence—especially in relationships. Accepting impermanence can therefore lead to an existence with less suffering. Appreciating that everything in life is fragile and impermanent can foster an appreciation of the present.

Buddhist Parable of the Mustard Seed

Kisagotami and Parable of the Mustard Seed in Buddhism When faced with adversities you must feel and experience—not deny—your emotions, and then embark on a healing process by looking at the situation in a more realistic light.

The Buddha used a well-known parable to help a woman prevail over the death of her son. Here is the “Parable of the Mustard Seed” from British Pali scholar T W Rhys Davids‘s Buddhism: A Sketch of the Life and Teachings of Gautama, the Buddha (1894:)

Kisagotami is the name of a young girl, whose marriage with the only son of a wealthy man was brought about in true fairy-tale fashion. She had one child, but when the beautiful boy could run alone, it died.

The young girl in her love for it carried the dead child clasped to her bosom, and went from house to house of her pitying friends asking them to give her medicine for it. But a Buddhist mendicant, thinking “She does not understand,” said to her, “My good girl, I myself have no such medicine as you ask for, but I think I know of one who has.” “O tell me who that is,” said Kisagotami. “The Buddha can give you medicine; go to him,” was the answer.

She went to Gautama, and doing homage to him, said, “Lord and master, do you know any medicine that will be good for my child?” “Yes, I know of some,” said the Teacher. Now it was the custom for patients or their friends to provide the herbs which the doctors required, so she asked what herbs he would want. “I want some mustard-seed,” he said; and when the poor girl eagerly promised to bring some of so common a drug, he added, “You must get it from some house where no son, or husband, or parent, or slave has died.” “Very good,” she said, and went to ask for it, still carrying her dead child with her.

The people said, “Here is mustard seed, take it”; but when she asked, “In my friend’s house has any son died, or a husband, or a parent or slave?” they answered, “Lady, what is this that you say; the living are few, but the dead are many.” Then she went to other houses, but one said, “I have lost a son “; another, “We have lost our parents”; another, “I have lost my slave.”

At last, not being able to find a single house where no one had died, her mind began to clear, and summoning up resolution, she left the dead body of her child in a forest, and returning to the Buddha paid him homage. He said to her, “Have you the mustard seed?” “My Lord,” she replied, “I have not; the people tell me that the living are few, but the dead are many.” Then he talked to her on that essential part of his system the impermanency of all things, till her doubts were cleared away, and, accepting her lot, she became a disciple and entered the first Path.

Buddhism: Acknowledging Impermanence Can Foster Happiness

Swiss novelist Hermann Hesse wrote in Siddhartha, “I learned… to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it… Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.”

Idea for Impact: The key to finding equanimity and contentment in life is to develop a heightened acceptance of reality.

Postscript: The Buddhist parable of the mustard seed is not to be confused with the identically-titled Christian parables in Matthew 13:31–32 of the New Testament: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” This parable also appears in Mark 4:30–32 and Luke 13:18–19.

Addiction to Pleasure is a Symptom of Fear

The Problem is Not That There is Pleasure …

Addiction to Pleasure is a Symptom of FearThe historical Buddha offered a profound analysis of the suffering that is an element of human existence.

The first of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths teaches that life encompasses “unsatisfactoriness”—or suffering. In other words, life, by its nature, is difficult, flawed, and less-than-perfect.

The second of the Four Noble Truths teaches that the origin of suffering is attachment—or craving and desire. Indeed, the desire to avoid pain and seek pleasure itself leads to suffering.

The key to understanding the Buddha’s diagnosis of human suffering is the concept of clinging to pleasure, and with that, creating a world of suffering. Whenever we seek pleasure, not only do we become dependent on the eagerness to find it, but also we create an existence of suffering, because pleasure is impermanent and fleeting.

… The Problem is That There is Clinging to Pleasure.

The third and the fourth of the Four Noble Truths teach that the way to become enlightened is to purge ourselves of our attachment to pleasure or to any source of satisfaction that could trigger distress in seeking to make it permanent.

Discussing the reality that clinging to pleasure always brings pain, the meditation teacher and author Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

'The Buddhist Path to Simplicity' by by Christina Feldman (ISBN 0007323611) The other great obstacle to mindful attention is our addiction to pleasure; an addiction that holds within it our fear of being overwhelmed or paralyzed by the unpleasant, challenging thoughts, encounters, feelings and sensations that are part of the fabric of our lives. By filtering our senses and minds with food, sound, information, and entertainment, we also numb ourselves. Increasingly, we find it difficult to embrace the unpleasant events or challenges that life brings to us. We forget the simple truth that freedom relies upon embracing the whole of our life and world. Busy with pursuing, avoiding, and modifying we attempt to convince ourselves that we are safe from the unpredictability of a life that offers no guarantees. We try to build sandcastles before an oncoming tide.

Our life will continue to bring us the sweet, delightful, even glorious moments, but it will also bring the sour. We cannot command the world or our mind to deliver to us only the pleasant and shield us from the unpleasant. Bare attention teaches us to find balance and steadiness; it protects us from fear and offers a reliable refuge in a changing and fragile world. Mindfulness is always available and we are invited to help ourselves to the peace and freedom it offers.

The stillness and calmness born of bare attention are not ends in themselves but a door to liberating wisdom. They are the foundation upon which understanding is built. Wisdom is an understanding of the nature of life and ourselves, deeply seeing what is true on a cellular level. Listening to the story of the present moment invites us to understand the story of all moments.

Books I Read in 2016 & Recommend

Personal Finance: Thomas Stanley and William Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door summarizes anthropological research from the ’90s on the attributes of unassuming wealthy Americans. The authors discuss the fancy trappings of affluence and the high cost of maintaining social status. They explain that prosperous individuals prioritize financial independence over a high social status. Key takeaway: It’s easy to get rich by living below your means, efficiently allocating funds in ways that build wealth, and ignoring conspicuous consumption. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'Taking Advice' by Dan Ciampa (ISBN 1591396689) Decision-Making / Problem-Solving: Dan Ciampa’s Taking Advice offers an excellent framework on the kind of advice network you need on strategic, operational, political, and personal elements of your work and your life. Taking Advice offers important insights into a seemingly obvious dimension of success, but one that’s often neglected, poorly understood, or taken for granted. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Creativity / Decision-Making / Teamwork: Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats describes a powerful problem-solving approach that enriches mental flexibility by encouraging individuals and groups to attack an issue from six independent but complementary perspectives. Key takeaway: The ‘Six Thinking Hats’ method can remove mental blocks, organize ideas and information, foster cross-fertilization, and help conduct thinking sessions more productively than do other brainstorming methods. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Presentation / Communication: Edward Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint argues that presentations reduce the analytical timbre of communication. In other words, presentation slides lack the resolution to effectively convey context, “weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis.” Tufte contends that, by forcibly condensing our ideas into bullet point-statements, phrases, and slides, we break up narrative flow and flatten the information we’re trying to convey. Key takeaway: Well-structured and succinct memos can convey ideas comprehensively, clearly, and meaningfully. {Read my synopsis in this article. Also, learn about Amazon’s ‘Mock Press Release’ discipline and Procter & Gamble’s ‘One-Page Memo’ practice to communicate ideas.}

Happiness / Relationships: Janice Kaplan’s The Gratitude Diaries. For one year, Kaplan maintained a gratitude journal and wrote down three things that she was thankful for each day. She also decided to “find one area to focus on each month—whether husband, family, friends, or work—and … see what happened when I developed an attitude of gratitude.” Key takeaway: A grateful heart is a happy heart. Stop whatever you’re doing, take stock of your blessings, and be grateful for everything you have in life. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'Man's Search for Meaning' by Victor Frankl (ISBN 1846042844) Psychology: Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. When subject to brutal treatment at Nazi concentration camps in Germany, Frankl changed his initial reaction from ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why is this happening?’ to ‘What is life asking of me?’ Such profound shifts in thinking, Frankl argues, could help you find meaning in life, regardless of what is happening on the outside. Key takeaway: The one power you have at all times is the freedom to choose your response to any given set of circumstances. Uncover a sense of purpose in life and you can survive nearly anything. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Psychology: John Tierney and Roy Baumeister’s Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. The book’s central theorem is the much-debated “muscle metaphor” of self-control, which states that willpower is like a muscle that tires out—or runs out of energy—as you use it, but can be replenished and purposely fortified through practice. Key takeaway: Budget your willpower and spend it where and when you need it the most. Eliminate distractions, temptations, and unnecessary choices. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) Biography / Leadership: Sam Walton’s Made in America is the Walmart founder’s very educational, insightful, and stimulating autobiography. It’s teeming with Walton’s relentless search for better ideas learning from competitors, managing costs and prices to gain competitive advantage, asking incessant questions of day-to-day operations, listening to employees at all levels of Walmart, and inventing creative ways to foster an idea-driven culture. Takeaways: ten rules of management success, learning from failure, cost and price as a competitive advantage, and Walton’s ‘Ten-Foot Rule’ to become more likeable.

Biography / Leadership: Deborrah Himsel’s Beauty Queen: Inside the Reign of Avon’s Andrea Jung offers an insightful tale of the spectacular rise to the top and the tumultuous fall from grace of the former Avon CEO. Jung initially led six consecutive years of double-digit growth and then presided over a series of operational missteps that led to her resignation. “Her story is a cautionary tale, one that suggests the critical importance of being aware of your weaknesses and how they can sabotage you.” Key takeaway: Spectacular success, especially those attributable to external circumstances, can often conceal on organization’s or an individual’s flaws. When the tide turns, the deficiencies are exposed for all to see. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

'The HP Way' by David Packard (ISBN 0060845791) Biography / Leadership: David Packard’s The HP Way recalls how Bill Hewlett and David Packard built a company based on a framework of principles and the simplicity of management methods. In addition to their technical innovations, Bill and David established many progressive management practices that prevail even today. Starting in the initial days, the HP culture that Bill and David engendered was unlike the hierarchical and egalitarian management practices that existed at other corporations of their day. Key takeaway: The essence of the “HP Way” was a strong and clear set of values, and a culture of openness and respect for the individual. {Read my synopsis in this article. Also learn about management by walking around and Bill Hewlett’s ‘Hat-Wearing Process’ for decision-making.}

Leadership: Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas’s Geeks and Geezers. The authors posit that all potential leaders must pass through a “leadership crucible” that provides an intense, transformative experience. Only after they “organize the meaning” and draw significant lessons from their “crucible experiences” can they become leaders. Key takeaway: Find your “leadership voice” by reflecting on transformative experiences in your life and examining what you’ve learned from them. {Read my synopsis in this article.}

Look at my articles on how to process a pile of books that you can’t seem to finish, and on how self-help books bring hope that change is possible.

Also, see a list of books I read in 2015 and 2014 and recommend.

Legendary Primatologist Jane Goodall on Spirituality

Preamble: This is the first in a series of articles I wish to publish on the religiosity of prominent scientists. See my previous article on why it pays understand religion and appreciate religious beliefs (or lack thereof) other than one’s own.

Legendary Primatologist Jane Goodall on Spirituality

British ethnologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, which promotes wildlife conservation and research, and a United Nations Messenger of Peace. As the world’s foremost primatologist and expert on chimpanzees, Jane Goodall observed Tanzanian apes for over 50 years and revolutionized mankind’s knowledge of chimpanzee behavior. Goodall has redefined our understanding of what makes humans distinct from animals.

Jane Goodall’s religious sensibilities favor the mystical. She is attributed with, “Thinking back over my life, it seems to me that there are different ways of looking out and trying to understand the world around us. There’s a very clear scientific window. And it does enable us to understand an awful lot about what’s out there. There’s another window; it’s the window through which the wise men, the holy men, the masters of the different and great religions look as they try to understand the meaning in the world. My own preference is the window of the mystic.”

In the May-2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Jane Goodall discussed her spirituality: “amazing moments—when you seem to know something beyond what you know and to understand things you don’t understand—can’t be understood in this life.”

When asked if she believes in God in an interview published in the Sep-2010 issue of Reader’s Digest, Jane Goodall said,

I don’t have any idea of who or what God is. But I do believe in some great spiritual power. I feel it particularly when I’m out in nature. It’s just something that’s bigger and stronger than what I am or what anybody is. I feel it. And it’s enough for me.

Jane Goodall is a dedicated vegetarian and advocates the vegetarian diet for ethical, environmental, and health reasons.

Farm animals are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our respect. And our help. Who will plead for them if we are silent? Thousands of people who say they ‘love’ animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been treated so with little respect and kindness just to make more meat.

In ‘Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey,’ Jane Goodall tracks her ambitions and accomplishments as one of the world’s foremost primatologist to her childhood roots, tenderly inviting young readers to follow in her spiritual footsteps. In the first chapter, she writes:

'Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey' by Jane Goodall (ISBN 0446676136) I do not want to discuss evolution in [depth], only touch on it from my own perspective: from the moment when I stood on the Serengeti plains holding the fossilized bones of ancient creatures in my hands to the moment when, staring into the eyes of a chimpanzee, I saw a thinking, reasoning personality looking back. You may not believe in evolution, and that is all right. How we humans came to be the way we are is far less important than how we should act now to get out of the mess we have made for ourselves. How should the mind that can contemplate God relate to our fellow beings, the other life-forms of the world? What is our human responsibility? And what, ultimately, is our human destiny?

It Pays to Understand Religion

Religion Plays a Major Role in Shaping Humanity

Religion Plays a Major Role in Shaping Humanity All along the arc of humankind, religion has controlled and transformed existence. It continues to arouse passion, inspire crusades, instigate controversy, and arbitrate values.

Whether you are deeply religious, an ecumenical, a nonbeliever, or hold indifference towards organized religion, it pays to understand religion, mysticism, and spirituality. Here’s why: a well-informed understanding of humanity entails an appreciation of the role that religion plays in shaping ideas, worldviews, and events that have an impact not only on the political, economic, social, and cultural memes of the collective but also on the attitudes and behaviors of the individual.

Furthermore, appreciating religious beliefs other than one’s own is a key element of wisdom, open-mindedness, and tolerance.

Religiosity of Scientists

Given the shifting relationship between religion and science, I’ve always been fascinated by the religious and spiritual opinions of scientists.

The collective perception of the interplay between religion and science has changed significantly over time, especially since the 16th century when Francis Bacon pioneered experimental science and unleashed the intellectual development of the scientific discipline. Francis, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, and other titans interconnected their science with their Christian faiths. Present-day scientists such as physicist Stephen Hawking (who is “not religious in the normal sense”) have offered alternative rationalizations of spirituality. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (who said, “not only is science corrosive to religion; religion is corrosive to science”) have aggressively criticized conventional religions.

I shall publish a series of articles where I gather views that prominent scientists hold on faith, God, and their religiosity. On Friday, I’ll feature Jane Goodall, the leading primatologist.

Don’t Reject Your Spiritual Traditions Altogether in Favor of Another

Don't Reject Your Spiritual Traditions Altogether in Favor of Another All over the world, organized religion is on a protracted decline. However, in Western societies, Buddhism is one of the fastest growing “religions” in terms of new converts.

In these Western societies, many people take to Buddhism because of the appeal of meditation and the substantial self-help benefits attributed to persistent meditative practice. Some Neo-Buddhists are motivated enough to warm up slowly but surely to the fact that Buddhism is much more than mere meditation. They come to understand that the Buddhist way of life is atheistic and emphasizes ethics. They draw inspiration from the realization that they alone are responsible for their own attitudes, intentions, decisions, actions, and behaviors. As University of St. Thomas’s Stephen Laumakis wrote in An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy,

The single most important or most basic insight of the historical Buddha is the claim that who we are and what we think exists is a function of our mind and its cognitive powers. In other words, it is our mind and our uses of it that determine how we see and understand our self, the world, and other things.

On the other hand, some new Buddhist practitioners have misgivings especially as regards the religious or esoteric philosophical aspects of Buddhism. They continue to seek and practice meditation techniques in a secular, non-Buddhist context.

Buddhism has never sought strength in number of adherents

As I have mentioned in my previous article, Buddhism is more of a philosophy of life—a “spiritual practice”—than a religion in the Abrahamic sense.

When Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, and other prominent Buddhist teachers started teaching Buddhism in the West during the ’80s, they did not intend to establish a beachhead. Rather, they intended to help educate enthusiasts and help Westerners return, with renewed spirit, to their own religions. In Teachings on Love, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote:

'Teachings on Love' by Thich Nhat Hanh (ISBN 1888375000) Many Westerners attracted to Buddhist practice have abandoned their own spiritual traditions. They reject the churches and clergy of their own traditions because they feel constricted and uncomfortable with the attitudes and practices they have encountered there. They have suffered within their own tradition and so have sought another. They approach Buddhist practice with the hope of replacing their own tradition and may wish to break away from their own tradition forever.

According to Buddhist wisdom, such wishing is in vain. A person severed from her own culture and traditions is like a tree pulled out by the roots. Such a person will find it hard to be happy. Buddhist practice can offer effective means to heal, reconcile, and reunite with one’s blood and spiritual families, in order to discover the precious gems in one’s own traditions. Thanks to the practice, people will see that Buddhism and their own spiritual tradition have many things in common, and therefore it is not necessary to reject their own spiritual tradition. They will see that there are things that need to be transformed in Buddhism as well as in their own tradition.

Idea for Impact: Forcefully rejecting one’s religious, spiritual, or cultural tradition in favor of another is not conducive to happiness and peace of mind. Buddhism encourages the Neo-Buddhists to employ insights from their Buddhist practices to find what may have been previously overlooked in their long-established beliefs.

The Buddha Isn’t God or Superhuman

Today is Vesak (or Wesak) in South East Asia, the most prominent of Buddhist festivals and a celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha. Vesak is celebrated on a different day in South Asia.

I’ll take this opportunity to clarify a common conception—or misconception—taken up during casual comparisons between Buddhism and the Abrahamic faiths. I’ll also shed light on Buddhist gods and deities.

Was the Buddha God or Superhuman

The Buddha Never Considered Himself Savior or the Guardian of Truth

According to foundational Buddhist scriptures, Gautama Buddha claimed to be an ordinary man—not a God, superhuman, or prophet. The Buddha even denied that he was omniscient, though he did emphasize that what he knew was all that really matters.

The Buddha presented himself as a philosopher, an enlightened human being. He was only exceptional in having deeply contemplated the true nature of reality. He claimed he had identified the sources of pain and suffering.

The Buddha taught that humans are fundamentally ignorant about the nature of existence and that everything in life is unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) caused by ignorance (avidya) and selfish craving (tanha.) As a teacher, the Buddha was deeply interested in the ethical remaking of a person and declared that it lay within anybody’s capacity to follow his life experience to achieve awakening. The Buddha insisted that his teachings should not be accepted on blind faith—Buddhism is therefore a ‘religion’ of reason and meditation.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Historical Buddha

Do Buddhists Believe in God The entire philosophical edifice of Buddhism centers on Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment. He was born into royalty as Siddhartha Gautama during the sixth century before Christ. According to tradition, at Siddhartha’s naming ceremony, Brahmin astrologers predicted that the newborn was predestined to become an extraordinary ruler of humans, as a great king or holy man. His father desperately wished the former for his long-awaited heir. He isolated Siddhartha within their palace’s protective boundaries and took precautions to ensure that Siddhartha would never experience any trouble, sorrow, or suffering that could cast even the slightest shadow on his happiness.

At age 29, Siddhartha strayed from his palace’s simulated paradise and chanced upon an old man, a diseased man, and a corpse. He also encountered an ascetic who strove to find the cause of human suffering. Depressed by his encounters with human suffering, Siddhartha resolved to follow the ascetic’s example. Leaving his wife and infant son behind (they later became initial disciples), Siddhartha left his affluent palace and lived as a beggar. After pursuing six years of ascetic practice and arduous meditation, he attained new depths of understanding about the nature of life, ego, consciousness, and reality. He achieved enlightenment and thus became the Buddha, the “Awakened One,” or the “Enlightened One.”

Theism is Incompatible with Buddha’s Teachings

The concept of an omnipotent God does not feature substantially in Buddhism. Indeed, scholars quote verse 188 of the Dhammapada, “Men driven by fear go to many a refuge, to mountains, and to forests, to sacred trees, and shrines,” and state that the Buddha believed that the concepts of religion and godliness stem from primal fear, just as sociologists and psychologists have recently posited.

Unlike people of other faiths, Buddhists believe neither in a creator God nor in a personal God entitled to their obedience. Consequently, Buddhism does not derive its system of ethics from any divine authority, but from the teachings of Gautama Buddha.

Buddhism: Gods and Deities

Buddhism: Gods and Deities

Buddhist doctrines have evolved over the centuries. In some schools of Buddhism, the worship of the Buddha is merely an act of commemoration for the founder of their ancient tradition. Others defy the foundational Buddhist teachings that the Buddha is not an object of prayer or devotion and worship him as a deity who holds supernatural qualities and powers.

Gods in Buddhism Religion - White Tara To account for the misconception of a Buddhist God, the more-religious forms of Buddhism added gods to serve as objects of meditation. According to these schools, living beings can be reborn into various realms of existence, one of which is the realm of the gods. The Buddha was said to have taken various animal and human forms and reborn as a god several times. The gods (those born into the realm of the gods) are mortal and impermanent—i.e., they are born and die like other living beings. These gods do not play any role in the creation or sustenance of the cosmos. Adherents can meditate upon these gods and pray to them for practical (but not spiritual) benefits.

The Mahayana schools of Buddhism also believe in many supernatural beings that feature prominently in Buddhist art: various Buddha-figures, ghosts, demons, and bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are would-be Buddhas who represent various virtues of thought and action. In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, the Sitatara or the White Tara (‘star’ in Sanskrit) is a female Bodhisattva. She is a meditation deity who embodies compassion, longevity, and tranquility.

Buddhist God or Deity - Pu-Tai or Budai Finally, the Laughing Buddha (Pu-Tai or Budai in Chinese and Hotei in Japanese) is a holy person per Chinese folklore. He represents a future bodhisattva and epitomizes contentment. His popular image is often mistaken for that of Gautama Buddha. Rubbing Budai’s belly is said to bring good luck and prosperity.

Recommended Books & Films

  • English poet Edwin Arnold’s “The Light of Asia” (1879,) a book that deeply inspired Gandhi. The Light of Asia illustrates the life of Siddhartha Gautama, his enlightenment, character, and philosophy.
  • German theologian Rudolf Otto’s classic “The Idea of the Holy” (1917) explores the mystic, non-rational aspects of the idea of God and contains abundant references to foundational Buddhist teachings.
  • Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha” (1993) includes an remarkable visual retelling of the life of Prince Siddhartha Gautama. Bertolucci also made the epic “The Last Emperor” (1987.)

Gandhi on the Doctrine of Ahimsa + Non-Violence in Buddhism


Non-Violence in Buddhism

“Thou shalt not kill.” This command forbids committing murder—specifically slaying a fellow human. The seventh of the Torah’s Ten Commandments (the Decalogue) allows for the execution of animals.

Non-Violence in Buddhism This specific tenet can be interpreted as comparatively lenient, even indulgent, compared to the mainstream Hinduism and the derivative Jain and Buddhist philosophies. Within these contexts, non-violence is a fundamental building block of ethics. Naturally, this idea of refraining from cruelty proscribes murder, but it also surpasses that guideline. In fact, practicing pacifism deters all varieties of violence against any sentient being, be it a human or an animal. Under the rule of non-violence, these creatures are protected from aggression, hostility, cruelty, sadism, and savagery—all unacceptable forms of conduct.

In accordance with the concept of anatta (the idea of there being no self,) Buddhism teaches us that, should we cling to the illusion of possessing autonomous ‘selves,’ we will fail to fully comprehend non-violence. Upon removal of the sense of the individual self, inflicting damage on another in turn damages the perpetrator. Should you inflict violence upon another, you too will suffer its effects.

Gandhi on the Doctrine of Ahimsa

Violence is the utmost form of asserting oneself over another. An alternative to aggression is Ahimsa or non-violence. This peaceful method was recognized as an entirely credible ethical code when Gandhi adopted it. He took up non-violence in his struggle against injustice and oppression, first as a peace leader in South Africa and then as the leader of India’s independence movement. Gandhi’s own definition of Ahimsa is as follows:

'Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections on His Life and Work' Edited by S. Radhakrishnan (ISBN 1553940261) Literally speaking, Ahimsa means “non-killing.” But to me it has a world of meaning, and takes me into realms much higher, infinitely higher. It really means that you may not offend anybody; you may not harbor an uncharitable thought, even in connection with one who may consider himself to be your enemy. To one who follows this doctrine there is no room for an enemy. But there may be people who consider themselves to be his enemies. So it is held that we may not harbor an evil thought even in connection with such persons. If we return blow for blow we depart from the doctrine of Ahimsa. But I go farther. If we resent a friend’s action, or the so-called enemy’s action, we still fall short of this doctrine. But when I say we should not resent, I do not say that we should acquiesce: by the word “resenting” I mean wishing that some harm should be done to the enemy; or that he should be put out of the way, not even by any action of ours, but by the action of somebody else, or, say, by divine agency. If we harbor even this thought we depart from this doctrine of Non-Violence.

Source: ‘Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections on His Life and Work’ edited by S. Radhakrishnan

Inspirational Quotations from the Holy Bible [#356]

In observance of Christmas, I present teachings from the Holy Bible, the principal scripture in the Christian faith.

Merry Christmas! May you all have a day filled with peace and joy.

Jesus Christ status in La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris

Christmas and the Season of Goodwill

Christmas is widely celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of the Christian faith. Christians believe that Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph, a Jewish couple in Palestine in the first century AD, was the Christ (from the Greek word Khristós meaning “the anointed,” or “the chosen one of God”.)

To be precise, in the Christian tradition, December 25 is the first of the twelve days of Christmas. Traditionally, this twelve-day Christmas celebration ends with the feast of “Epiphany,” held on January 6 or on the first Sunday after Christmas.

Over the years, Christmas has transformed into a secular holiday. Historians and religious scholars believe that the December date for the birth of Christ was set around the time of the winter solstice to fit in with pre-Christian pagan traditions of feasting during the occasion of the sun’s annual rebirth, in late December. Besides, the Church of Rome (now the Vatican) did not establish the festival as Christian until the middle of the fourth century.

Christmas Spirit in Action

Christmas Spirit in Action No other holiday boasts a richer variety of rituals, traditions, and customs. Christmas celebrations vary around the world in length and style. The Christians attend midnight or Christmas day Church services and set up a Tyrolean crib at home featuring the town of Bethlehem and the manger to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

The season of good will is marked by exchange of gifts and greeting cards, sumptuous dinners, familiar hymns and songs, brightly lit trees, red-ribboned wreaths, ornaments and decorations, Santa Claus, and stockings. During the last few decades, the “Christmas shopping season” has become economically imperative as the time of new product introduction and hectic shopping.

The Holy Bible

The Bible (from the Greek word ta biblia, for “the books”) is a compilation of scripture in Judaism and the Christian faiths. It is the most widely read literature in the world.

The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contains nearly all of the same writings as the Hebrew Bible; the New Testament is a collection of writings dating from after the life of Jesus. The New Testament includes the Gospels (the central message of Jesus Christ and the promise of salvation for the faithful,) the Acts of the Apostles (the stories of the few years after Jesus’ death,) the Epistles (details of the Christian faith), and the book of Revelation (a vision for the end of time.)

Inspirational Quotations from the Christian Bible

Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
The Holy Bible

God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
The Holy Bible

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
The Holy Bible

The entire law is summed up in a single command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Holy Bible

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
The Holy Bible

You cannot serve God and Mammon.
The Holy Bible

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
The Holy Bible

Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
The Holy Bible

He who attempts to resist the wave is swept away, but he who bends before it abides.
The Holy Bible

The waters wear the stones.
The Holy Bible

The kingdom of God is within you.
The Holy Bible

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
The Holy Bible

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
The Holy Bible

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
The Holy Bible

Wisdom from The Talmud (Inspirational Quotations #353)

Hanukkah, Jewish 'Festival of Lights', 'Festival of Dedication'

In observance of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, I present wisdom from the Talmud, a sacred text of the Jewish faith.

Hanukkah, “Festival of Lights”

This year, the eight-day Hanukkah festival began at sunset on December 1 and concludes on December 9. Hanukkah was established in 165 BCE by the warrior-leader Judah Maccabee to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following a past desecration of the temple by invaders. Hanukkah (‘Dedication’ in Hebrew) is also known as the “Festival of Dedication,” or the “Festival of Lights.”

Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah by kindling the lights of a nine-branched candlestick called the ‘Menorah‘. They kindle one light on the first night, two on the second night and so on. Each night, they also kindle the ninth light, the ‘Shamash‘, for kindling the others. The Shamash is usually higher or lower than the other eight in the Menorah.

The Talmud

Wisdom from the Talmud, Inspirational Quotations The word Talmud is short for ‘Talmud Torah,’ which means “study of the Torah” in Hebrew. The Torah is the Hebrew term for the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.) The Talmud is composed of several volumes of rabbinical discussions about the interpretation of the Biblical text related to Jewish history, philosophy, ethics, and customs — the meaning and conduct of life, in general.

The central part of the Talmud is the Mishnah, a record of the core teachings of Jewish faith that were previously preserved only orally. Surrounding the Mishnah is the Gemara, the interpretation and commentaries of the Mishnah. The Talmud has no single author. Rather, it is a collection of several volumes, to which Jewish scholars have added their accumulated knowledge over the course of time since about 220 CE.

For an introduction to the significance and the development of the Talmud, I recommend the excellent video documentary, “The Talmud” (available on NetFlix.)

The world’s most recognized dictum, the “golden rule,” is based in the Talmud: “Do not unto others that which you would not have them do unto you. That is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary.”

29 Inspirational Teachings from The Talmud

Silence is consent.
The Talmud

He who lives by the work of his hands is greater than he who indulges in idle piety.
The Talmud

Even for the rebuilding of the Temple the instruction of the children must not be interrupted.
The Talmud

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.
The Talmud

No Israelite is allowed to lend usuriously to a non-Israelite.
The Talmud

Sinful thoughts are even more dangerous than sin itself.
The Talmud

As a tree is known by its fruit, so man by his works.
The Talmud

All ailings, only not the ailing of heart; all evils, but not an evil wife.
The Talmud

A miser is as wicked as an idolater.
The Talmud

When the castle goes to ruin, castle is still its name; when the dunghill rises, still it is a dunghill.
The Talmud

A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.
The Talmud

First correct thyself, then correct others.
The Talmud

Learn first and philosophize afterwards.
The Talmud