Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Worldly Passions - Desire

                         Very soon at December's end, countries from all around the world will celebrate the coming of a new year.  The exact date may vary for some nations, but it’s still an occasion where people will mark the passing of 365 days of time with creative and quite unusual customs.

                      In Latin countries, twelve grapes are eaten, one for each month in the year. It is meant to bring good luck and fortune.

                      Thai people throw water on each other in hopes that it will bring rain for their crops. They also release birds from their cages and return fish back into streams for good luck.

                      In Japan, the bells in temples are rung 108 times. This is because Buddhism teaches that we have 108 worldly passions. These passions are said to be blind because we are entirely driven by them, causing us constant trouble and torment. So a New Year's tradition arose that striking the bell 108 times banishes all the worldly passions that caused us suffering from the passing year.

                     However, we know from the Law of Cause and Effect, little rituals that promise luck are not true. In order to receive good fortune, we must first plant the good seeds ourselves.

                      In the case of a bell dissolving all our worldly passions, this is also untrue -- no matter how many people still practice it. It may be fun to ring in the New Year, but believing anything will follow your action besides a loud "GONG!" noise is surrendering yourself to a false superstition.

Original Photo by MIKI Yoshihito available on Flickr.com

                      What is true is that we are made up of worldly passions and nothing else. Buddhism explains that worldly passions never vanish within us as long as we're living, and attempts to remove them don't even leave a dent.

                      You can think about it like a snowman.

Original Photo by islandjoe available on Flickr.com

                      If you take away all the snow from out of the snowman, what do you have?

Original Photo by mrsdkrebs available on Flickr.com

                      You don't have anything. Without snow, a snowman loses form and ceases to be what it is supposed to be. 

                       It's the same with us. If you remove all of our worldly passions, there is nothing left.

                      Sakyamuni Buddha used the number 108 to represent the idea that our worldly passions are seemingly countless. 

                      Yet within this large number of passions, there are Three Poisonous Passions which are the most dreadful of all. These passions reflect the very nature of all the other 105 worldly passions. They are DESIRE, ANGER, and IGNORANCE

The Three Poisonous Passions


It's the constant longing we have to get something. 
If we don't have it, we really want it. If we have it, we want more of it. 
And no matter how much we are satisfied, we will still have new cravings arise within us.
There is no end to our limitless desire.

Original Photo by Ani Carrington available on Flickr.com

Our desire can be compared to the deep, blue sea. 
Our wants come to us like waves, one after another.
The deeper the water, the deeper the blue becomes in color.
If we always get what we want, we can endlessly drown in our own greed.


It's the fury within you of being denied anything you think you deserve. 
We can yell at people we love or curse strangers over the slightest offense.
Our anger can spread uncontrollably and become unpredictable.
The more we feel betrayed, the angrier we become. 

Original Photo by wwarby avaialble on Flickr.com

Anger can be likened to a fire, because it burns at high heat.
Flames span outwardly scorching everything it touches quickly.
We turn red when we're mad because our blood is boiling.
 Left unchecked, it can torch everything in our life like a wildfire.


It's the venomous feeling we harbor deep within us.
We secretly envy our superiors, curse those who cross us, and delight in others' misfortune.
Everyone else is to be blamed for our misfortune, and we resent them for it in our minds.
Not taking responsibility for our own fate is defiance of the Law of Cause and Effect.

Original Photo by Darco TT available on Flickr.com

Ignorance leaves us totally blind to the truth, and so it can be said to be pitch black.
These ugly feelings are dirty and filthy and spread like a disease or pollution. 
We distort the world with our own private, warped views.
The nature of ignorance is dark and ugly, because it is so hard to see clearly within ourselves.

               Now, let's take a look at the first worldly passion.


               Buddhism teaches that Desire can be further broken down into five categories. 

               They are Food, Wealth, Love, Fame, and Sleep

                They are known as the Five Desires.

The Five Desires


Original Photo by elsie.hui available on Flickr.com

 It's the pleasure we get from eating a delicious meal.
We love to eat at restaurants and have home-cooked meals.
People enjoy fad health diets or binge on holidays like Thanksgiving.
Even with dessert, we'll still be hungry for more.


Original Photo by epSos.de available on Flickr.com

It's the urge to stockpile money and not pay people back.
We want to brag about our new smart phones and cruise in our new cars.
Whether we're rich or poor, we revel when funds rise within our bank accounts.
There is no amount of cents that decreases our desire for more money.


Original Photo by kainr available on Flickr.com

It's the wanting intimacy from another man or woman physically and emotionally.
We watch attractive people on the street and get excited when we get to talk to them.
There's an intense feeling that burns to be near the person we love.
Our heart beats expectantly for the next burst of romance and passion.


Original Photo by Gareth.D.Jones available on Flickr.com

 It's the thrill of being praised and honored by someone special or a large group of strangers.
We want to have fans like a movie star or be held in high regard like a president.
Deep down we secretly just want everyone to think we're cool.
No man is an island; we always have the desire to be liked.
    SLEEP -

Original Photo by Matt Erasmus available on Flickr.com

It's that yearning to sleep in, relax on the sofa, and just be plain lazy.
We hit snooze to escape going to school briefly or take a sick day just to stay in bed.
All we want to do is just chill out and take it easy.
The longer we are awake, the stronger our need for sleep.

                      At the mercy of these five desires, we slave to them in some form or another. We will to go to such great lengths just to get satisfaction, even if it causes to pain those around us.

                       Now of course we should do serious soul-searching if we sense that we are greatly troubling others with our desires. Self-reflection can sometimes catch when we are being too lazy in our studies or when we've been taken over by the luring idea of an illicit affair. We may even overcome the temptation of stealing the last bite on the plate at the family dinner, but our worldly passions will keep flaring up despite our best efforts. They remain as a filter by which we perceive all of our experiences for every moment we're alive... up until our very last breath.

                        In the next post, we will take a look at the second poisonous passion, Anger.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Law of Cause and Effect -- The Three Worlds

                   We've learned so far from the Law of Cause and Effect, that every effect has a cause.

                   So of all the various ages, time periods, and decades we could have been born in... what exactly determines when is the moment we're born?

Original Photo Art by Alan Cleaver available on Flickr.com

                   Answer: the Law of Cause and Effect.

                 There are now more than 7 billion people alive today with nearly 200 countries in the world. We could have been born in so many different cities and places on this planet. So what determines where in the world we're born? Or how we even came to be born to our parents?

Original Photo by woodleywonderworks available on Flickr.com

                   Answer: It's still the Law of Cause and Effect.

Good Cause,    good effect.
Bad cause,    bad effect.
Own cause,    own effect.

                  Let's review briefly.

                  Cause refers to our deeds or actions.

                  Effect means our resulting experiences.

                  Good deeds lead to good results; bad deeds lead to bad results. Our own actions determine the good or bad experiences that happen to us.

                  So, for example, let's say you were born in United States. The cause for your birth had to occur before you were born.

                  The Law of Cause and Effect applies throughout all of the Three Worlds. In Buddhism, the Three Worlds represent time.

                 The Three Worlds are the Past World, the Present World, and the Future World.

                 The Past World includes all our lives from before our present life. 

                  The Present World is the span of our life from birth to death. 

                  The Future World represents our afterlife.

                  We've performed countless deeds in our past lives. All these past actions from before our human experience are what determined in this lifetime what our gender would be, the city we were born in, and even our date of birth. We could have been born at a time of war or a time of peace. Our family could have been richer or poorer when they had us. All of these karmic factors are determined by the deeds of our past life.

                   Children born to the same parents have different faces, personalities, and talents. This is because each one of them has their own individual karma.

                     Our destiny changes over time as a result of each choice we make in the present.

                   Now if someone chooses to take the life of another, they may face the death penalty for their actions. But why is it that if someone takes the lives of 10 people, or even 100 people, they can still only be put to death one time? Under ordinary law, the consequences for the other murders can't be prosecuted. 

                   But if a worker is paid a salary of $100 a day and then works for ten days straight, would it make sense to only get paid $100? No, of course not. Ten days work would deserve $1,000. One hundred days of work would merit $10,000 of wages. 

                   If the causes vary, then the results should also vary. 

                   A murderer can face the death penalty in this life only once. However, under the Law of Cause and Effect, they have to face the repercussions of every life they extinguished in a future life.

                   And just because a bad seed remains undetected does not mean that the person who planted it is safe. It may take time, but the bad effect will most certainly emerge for that person.

                   A seed that is planted will surely grow.

                  Let's review a scientific example of a cause with a delayed effect. More than 30,000 years ago, a squirrel buried the fruit of a flower in the arctic region of Siberia. Forgotten over the ages, it became covered over with an icy cold permafrost and remained perfectly preserved in sub-zero temperatures. Then in February of 2012, Russian scientists were able to grow a healthy, living plant from the fruit of that flower.

Original Photo by captainmcdan available on Flickr.com
Original Photo by tasaarni available on Flickr.com

                 Likewise, karmic seeds that we planted long ago before we were born can still become effects within this lifetime.

                   This means that all those bad things that we ourselves have done and kept secret in our hearts and minds for sure, will come back to us one day.

                   Every cause in the universe has an effect. According to Buddhism, this has always been and will always be the truth. 

                   In order to reveal to us how our destiny is shaped, Sakyamuni Buddha shared this insight within the Cause and Effect Sutra:

If you want to know the seeds of the past, 
look at the fruit of the present. 

If you want to know the fruit of the future, 
look at the seeds of the present.

                         What does this mean exactly?

                         The way to know what you did in the past is to look at what's happening to you right now. Whatever you're doing at present will determine what type of experience you'll have in the future. 

                          There are many practical examples where this can be witnessed easily. Someone with good grades now is someone who studied hard in the past. Someone who's lazy now and makes no effort can't expect good results in the future.

                            However, because of all the countless past causes contained within our Alaya-consciousness (storehouse consciousness) since the beginningless past, there are a vast, incomprehensible combination of consequences that can occur to us while we're alive. The only missing component preventing them from occurring is the right condition to bring them about.

                            The Law of Cause and Effect as it relates to concept of time and condition is known in Buddhism as the Law of Causality in the Three Worlds.

  Looking deeply 
into our present 
reveals both 
the past and the future.

    The present is thus the key to the past and the future.

This is the reason 
why Buddhism teaches 
the importance of the present self 
and being in the 

                           But did you know even the word "now" is in the past before you finish saying it?

                           When you say -- "Now!"-- as soon as you utter the sound "N-" from your lips, it enters the past by the time you arrive at the "-ow!" It's a tiny, one-syllable word, and yet with this example we can clearly see how time within the Three Worlds is all connected.

Original Photo by katerha available on Flickr.com

                           The more we strive to understand the Law of Cause and Effect, the more we strive to discard bad intentions and practice good intentions.

                           We aim at getting rid of bad thoughts, so that they don't occur to us later on. The result of doing bad things only brings more bad results into your mind.

                           We want to set our minds on positive thoughts, but then follow through with them so that they become actions as well. 

                           Because whatever we choose to do now... these choices will be the results we are going to end up harvesting for ourselves later. This is why we should fear evil and turn to the light with all our hearts.

Original Photo by _Virdi_ available on Flickr.com

                            If you don't want bad results, stop doing bad deeds. If you want to be happy, do good deeds.

                            This is the conclusion of this series on Law of Cause and Effect. I encourage you to read lessons on Law of Cause and Effect here on this blog. Continue to review and study it often, because this universal truth is both the foundation of Buddhism as well as the compass that points the way for all toward a happier life.

Source: Arctic Flower Article from New York Times