Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sticks and Stones May Break Bones But Words Can Kill

                     It doesn't take a shred of bravery to talk about someone badly behind their back. When someone we look down upon isn't around, our criticisms of them fly around the room freely, and we think that no harm can come to us from judgements shared privately amongst friends.

Original Art created by NeoYas available on

                    In an attempt to make our language more offensive and mocking, we start to imitate television and movies, passing off our nasty evaluations of people as "poking fun" or "just kidding." We give people monstrous nicknames, make fun of their looks, mock their intelligence, or craft humiliating jokes at their expense. Our sarcastic words can take on very threatening qualities, but we don't even take the time to realize it. We defend ourselves that we're just "blowing off steam" or that we are sarcastic by nature. That may be, but it doesn't stop us from having to pay for it later.

                    There's an old saying that goes, "The mouth is the gateway to calamity." In Buddhism, all our actions are subject to the Law of Cause and Effect. That means everything we think, say, or do... CAN and WILL be used against us. When we are are using thoughtless and heartless words, we are performing a bad action. Bad-mouthing as an action plants seeds of karma that will later come back to haunt us with terrible consequences. And we'd better be prepared, because it'll be equal to the negative feelings we projected onto the person we didn't like.

                     As we've learned from the Law of Cause and Effect, a good deed makes a good result. A bad deed makes a bad result. Everything we do determines each of our own individual results to come.

                    So if you talk badly about that guy at your work, it is you who will later have to face negative consequences. But you might be thinking, "Well, what I'm saying isn't that bad..." or "She deserved it. I don't care."

                    However, Buddhism stresses that various evils come out of our mouths as easily as a yawn. Most of the things we say about others goes unchecked and we think it's OK, when in fact -- those words are abusive

Original Photo taken by LauraLewis23 available at

                    Bad-mouthing someone is a form of abuse. It includes saying negative things, putting people down, and cursing at them. Sometimes in the movies, we become entertained by actors and comedians who skillfully word their clever insults about other people. It may be amusement for a couple of hours with a bowl of popcorn on a Friday night, but when we invoke the same foul language toward someone in our life, the negativity it creates will only bring harm down the road for us. Even if you don't mean the words you are saying, they are still hurtful and carry a negative energy.

             Why is it so easy to be critical of someone who isn't present? Haven't we all experienced moments where we've felt criticized? Yet in those moments, when we found out people had been saying "You suck" behind our backs, it didn't feel all that great, did it?

               Talking badly about someone is like killing them. Each negative word you're using against that person becomes like a murder weapon. In this way, our words continue to torment others unknowingly day in, day out.

             Here's a short story from the book, Something You Forgot Along the Way to use as an example.


             A very old woman, over 120 years of age, once had a visitor who commented, "You must have had many rare and interesting experiences over the course of your long lifetime. Will you please share one of those memories with me?"

            "I'm sure lots of things did happen, but my memory isn't what it used to be; I'm afraid I have forgotten them all," replied the old woman, shaking her head.

             The visitor sympathized, saying that was only natural for someone of her advanced years, but persisted, "Isn't there at least one thing you do remember?"

              "Well if you must insist, I'll tell you. I have painful memories of being killed 24 times." The old woman mumbled these mysterious words half to herself, her wrinkled face settling into a frown. When asked to explain, she began to tell her story bit by bit in a sorrowful tone, pausing frequently.

              "During my lifetime, I've seen the births of many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. But it is the way of life that death can strike anyone, young or old, and so it sometimes happened that a child or grandchild of mine would predecease me. We've had a total of 24 funerals in this house. Each time, I overheard people who came to offer their condolences say, 'If only the old woman had died instead!' They at least would whisper it in another room out of deference to me, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren would deliberately say such things to my face. Their words killed me again and again."


                        It's bad enough to know people are talking about you behind your back, but when you hear it directly it's even worse. These days because of the Internet, people criticize others and go on to say dreadful things about others in posts or comments. If we choose to ignore this problem, it can quickly escalate and even become lethal.

Original Art Photo by TRF_Mr_Hyde available on

                       Take what happened to Paris Jackson, 15-year-old daughter of the King of Pop Michael Jackson. Paris was cyberbullied on Facebook and various social media about rumors of her father mistreating children. Even though a court of law found Michael not guilty of these charges, many believed he was guilty of criminal activity. These people became so scornful and negative that they directly ridiculed Paris and her own childhood, slandered her father in grotesque ways, and demoralized her life so much so that the teenager even attempted suicide last June. This type of verbal abuse, even though the only sound to express them was the clicking noise from letters on a keyboard, still managed to cause a young girl so much internal suffering that she lost all hope for her future and along with it her own will to live.

                       How many careless jokes have we made about celebrities without thinking of them as human beings or even how their families might feel about hearing those uncaring remarks? When we speak badly of others, we must be so careful. Words have the power to kill.  

                        Just this month a committee in Ireland formed up to analyze the negative impact of cyberbullying on their local children. The report claims that social media substantially affects children's mental health using the incidents of four teenage suicides in Ireland that occurred in rapid succession. Officials are calling for child protection guidelines and age restrictions on social media. Read the full story from online news site --

                        What does that say about all of us making remarks, direct or indirect, about others and their misfortunes? Even to those who appear guilty or who we presume deserve our criticisms, we gain absolutely nothing by passing on our own judgements just to hurt them more and more.

                         It's in common practice today to send a nasty text message or IM (instant message) about someone who's in the same room. What does that say about our nature? We must reflect on all of our words, whether they're spoken or digital, and imagine if someone else was saying those same filthy words to us face-to-face. And having a thicker skin isn't always the answer to everything when you take into account that doing so is hurting other people.

                         The most casual joke or reference then has tremendous power to do us harm! Even if no one finds out about what you did, eventually you must face the repercussions of your own karma. It's definitely something to think about and to continue to take seriously.

                         Let's find the nice qualities in others and help people develop their talents. When we realize we're saying something in the wrong, we should correct ourselves and apologize swiftly. Because a word to the wise, we're not really all that wise with our words.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Know Gratitude, Feel Gratitude, Express Gratitude

               In an earlier post, we discussed the gratitude that we owe to our parents. Without them and all their efforts, we wouldn't be where we are today. Despite any hardships they have put us through, they helped shelter us, feed us, clothe us, and take care of us enough to experience the joy of life.

Original Art by woodleywonderworks available on

              Knowing gratitude is essential to feeling happy. The Chinese character for gratitude is on (pronounced: OH-nn). It contains two symbols, one represents "cause" and the other is "mind."

             We learned from the Law of Cause and Effect that everything has a cause. Throughout our lives we have received many blessings and benefits. Each one of these has a cause. Gratitude is the mind that knows that cause.

             Everything around us, the air we breathe, the trees that shade us, the plants, the earth we stand on, the animals. There is so much to be grateful for! We've all run under a tree either in sweltering heat or in a heavy rain. Likewise, we are sheltered and helped many ways in our lives.

             Our parents or caretakers played the largest roles of providing for our lives, but when we get down to think of it, countless other people come to mind as well. Family members who helped us through tough times, and friends who surprised us with gifts. Doctors helping us through medical issues, and nurses carefully monitoring our conditions. Our teachers and counselors instructed and offered us advice on how to succeed in life. Farmers and cooks labored to make and prepare us food. Builders and architects constructed the home we live in. Politicians and representatives try to provide us with a safe and prosperous society. Scientists and inventors made it possible for me to thank them directly with this blog!

               There's no end to the number of people we could thank for all we've received in this life. We think our lives and everything around us simply runs automatically. But for every beautiful flower in the park or on your street, there is also a gardener taking care of it. Our very survival depends on the help of others. Think about that -- your own survival.

                 Once this is understood, we realize that dissatisfaction in life comes from taking for granted the blessings of nature, the people around us, and everything we have. What if they suddenly weren't there anymore? Think about how much you rely on these things, and you suddenly can't help but be grateful for them!

                 Take a moment to thank the people in your life for things you may have taken for granted. The Buddha said that "An ungrateful person is worse than a beast!" He taught us the importance of knowing, feeling, and expressing gratitude. Here are the easy steps.

What to Do
  1. Know Gratitude -- We need to know what we're grateful for.
  2. Feel Gratitude -- We need to feel grateful.
  3. Express Gratitude -- We need to show it!
                 The Buddha taught that those who feel no gratitude are lower than beasts. But even animals can show great loyalty, love, and gratitude to their providers.

                  Recently, a man from Utah got a service dog to help him with his anxiety. The two formed a strong bond, but his dog, Shadow, began to panic every time his owner went away to work. Shadow would chase him every time he tried to leave on faraway trips and even while he was working with very high-profile clients.

                  Another point to mention, the man happened to be in the hang-gliding business.

Photo Courtesy of the McManus Family

                    Dan had decided that the solution was to finally take his K9 companion along. He and his Shadow have been soaring ever since. 

                   "They're here to teach us how to love unconditionally and without expectation," said Dan McManus, owner of Eagles Nest Hang Gliding. "I'm grateful to have that dog to remind me of that daily. They're here for such a short period of our lives."

                   Shadow was happy to be along with best friend, Dan, no matter what the altitude. 

                  "We meet their needs to have a pack. They're pack animals, social animals," Dan says. "They don't remember yesterday's argument or mistake or problem. They're just grateful you're there everyday."

                     We as human beings should consciously keep in mind what we owe to others, be grateful inside for it, and act on that gratitude. That's how we earn the trust, admiration, and respect of others.

                     An ingrate is someone who doesn't know or feel gratitude. No matter how much wealth or knowledge a person may acquire, if they don't have gratitude in their heart, they are spiritually broke and most likely to be untrustworthy. It is truly a shameful state, one that is to be pitied.

                     All the karmic blessings we have received in life are like payments. Because we have received these payments, we must repay these debts with kindnesses. Yet so often we neglect to repay our debt of gratitude in the slightest. Here are three steps to avoid completely.

What Not to Do
  1. Forgetting Gratitude -- Leads to Failure in Life
  2. Ignoring Gratitude -- Results in Loss of Trust
  3. Defying Gratitude -- Destroys Your Life
             Grateful people are the most successful. Those who take kindness for granted lose respect with others.  If you repay kindness with animosity, you yourself end up in ruins.

             Today try to find as many people as you can, and try to 1.) know gratitude, 2.) feel gratitude, and 3.) express gratitude to each person.

Original Art by adihrespati on

             If times are really tough right now and you can't find anything to be grateful for, I offer you this quote that's helped me. They are words to reflect deeply upon.

"The unhappiest person in the world is one who has no sense of gratitude."
--Takamori Kentetsu, author of You Were Born for a Reason

              As soon as you find one thing, even something small, your entire mindset and outlook can improve dramatically.

              Lastly, if you wish to receive more blessings to be grateful for, you must always remember to focus your efforts first on giving.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Trip to Heaven and Hell

              There is an old Chinese parable with roots in Buddhism that tells about the difference between heaven and hell. The story varies with many different embellishments and translations, but essentially its timeless lesson remains the same.


             Once upon a time, a man decided to go sightseeing to the Land of Utmost Bliss and the Land of Incessant Suffering on a day trip.

            It was just about lunchtime in the Land of Suffering when he arrived. Before him he saw a bounteous selection of delicious foods, beautifully arranged on each of the dinner tables.

Original photo taken by available on

             "What the...?" the man looked around in confusion. "Can this really be the Land of Suffering?"

              At that very moment, all the inhabitants of the Land of Suffering arrived for their meal, looking pale, starved, and fatigued. They sat down with sour expressions and scornful looks in chairs at each table.

              The attendants in the Land of Suffering carried to each of the guests a set of very unusual chopsticks. Curiously, each chopstick was gigantic. They were approximately three feet in length.

Original Photo taken by alamodestuff available on

              All the unfortunate guests of the luncheon grabbed their large chopsticks greedily and reached for the best foods that they saw. Then they tried to devour each bite... but because of the extremely lengthy chopsticks, all the delicacies kept falling to the floor or were just out of reach from their mouths.  

              Witnessing such a desperate and pitiful scene, the man decided it was time to continue on with his next destination.

               Later in the day, he arrived in the Land of Utmost Bliss, just in time for supper.

               "Welcome! I'm so glad you could stop by!" said one of the guests. "Share in some of our wonderful meal!"

               The healthy, well-fed residents of the Land of Utmost Bliss seated him at a rich banquet, exactly as the one in the Land of Incessant Suffering.

                 "Well, your chopsticks here must be smaller I'm sure!" exclaimed the man.

                  "NO, that would be silly! They're about three-feet-long here too!"

                  The man couldn't figure it out -- how can that be possible?

                  The attendants in the Land of Utmost Bliss then carried in the large chopsticks to each of the guests.

                  "You see, although the food and chopsticks in the Land of Utmost Bliss are similar to the Land of Incessant Suffering," said the smiling guest next to the man. "Here we feed each other! See!"

                   The smiling guest then fed the person across from him.

                  "Here you go!" said the guest across from the man. "Try this one. It's my favorite."

                  "Yum!" said the man. "Would you care for some of these tasty dishes?"

Original photo taken by A. Lau (Palaez Photography) available on

                   "Of course! Thank you very much."

                    The man began to use his chopsticks to feed the guest across from him. All around the table, the guests continued to feed each other in this way.

                     "Here you go! Are you ready over there?"

                     "Yes, I am! Mmmm, great. Thank you!"

                     The difference between the Land of Utmost Bliss and the Land of Suffering is merely a difference in mindset. When we give in to our own selfishness, we create all sorts of negative situations in our lives. With that kind of attitude, no one can be happy.


                      In Buddhism, selfishness is seen as self-interest. A person who seeks his own interest at the expense of others is greedy and bound for misfortune. We need to constantly examine ourselves and reflect on our nature to make sure we aren't being selfish.

                      Often times we can think that we are already the perfect images of kindness and that we deserve more than we are being given at the time. However, this is similar to the mindset of those in the Land of Incessant Suffering. To receive more, we must give more. Without awareness of this nature, we are unable to observe ourselves clearly and our misfortune continues as a result.

                      Other times, without even knowing it, we put on airs or give generously only so that others will praise us for it in the end. This too is also geared toward self-benefit. We must instead direct the idea of benefit away from us and focus on the benefit for those around us. The unselfish mindset of giving to others becomes the greater source for happiness. (See Relative Happiness and Absolute Happiness.)

                     Offer happiness to the various people who form a part of your life. All that kindness that you direct at them will come back to you and make you happy. This phenomenon is all explained within the founding principle of Buddhism, the Law of Cause and Effect. Good causes yield good results. Bad causes yield bad results. Your own causes yield your own results.

                    It's simple, and it's also the universal truth. You do something good for someone else, and you get a good benefit for yourself. However, seeds that are not planted can never grow. So get out there and put it into practice! There are even the Seven Good Deeds that Don't Cost Anything to get you started. Smiling is of course one of them. :-)

                   The simple difference between suffering and joy in this life is only a mindset, just like in this story. By helping others out as much as we can and giving them happiness, we celebrate a brighter and brighter outlook which then leads to a happier and happier life.