Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year Begins

I am beginning this post on the 31st December, 2007 @ 9.52 p.m., Singapore time.

The weather has been well, though there is a little too much of humidity; the night sky is grayish, with clouds pressing down on the atmosphere. There may be rain in the coming hours, or the early morning of a brand new 2008 year.

1st January. What a beautiful day it is! It is a day that holds everyone's breadth and binding every human's attention altogether. It is a day that marks the beginning of a whole new year, a time that signifies the revival of a whole new self, and a moment that speaks of a whole new chapter in the history of humankind.

It is one single event that does not need explanation or elaboration. Everywhere one turns to, every person one meets, and every corner of every city, the first day of the first year always evoke unspeakable and unexplainable sentiments. It is a day which everyone wishes each other the best in the coming year, a time where everyone greets each other with smile and kindness, and everyone prepared to open his or her heart for each other, which may have been shut close all the while in the year.

It is primarily a time where humankind is ready to shed off her old, heavy self in replacement for a fresh, light and new one.

Introspectively, human beings are always attracted to matters that bring and bind them together. From ancient times till this moment, from the heavenly bodies of the Sun, Moon, clouds, lightning, to the natural manifestations like the blossoming of flowers, falling of petals, swaying of trees, descending of snow flakes, all of these mundane phenomenas capture and captivate the outer expressions and inner sentiments of humankind. There is a river in all of our lives, a garden with full blown lilies or roses, a mountain with majestic peak, a reverberation and echo of wings flapping or birds crying, all found and contained in the folded layers of our consciousness.

Similarly in nature, when the first day of a brand new year arrives quietly and serenely, it is of the most natural instinct that one would look up to the night sky, and all around him or her, that the heart beats a little faster, and emotions rushing up to the eyes and the mind. It is a time when one is connected to everyone and all.

It is of this significant moment in time that humans always come to return to their primal core; a centre-spot in their lives that they come to feel and sensitize the every single element around, above, below and inside them. It is a time that they return to their original identity as compassionate creatures of this planet that they are awakened to their own inner Universe - a Universe of Life.

It is with this realisation that one comes to remember and recall of that he or she is indebted to. It is with this wellsforth sense of gratitude that a fresh determination is born, concurrently arriving at one's heart as the day of the new year descends. It is a time when one is fully reborn with the new human year.

The world has not stopped revolving, and I have not stopped observing. From the United Nations to countries of United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan, they have all seen a new leader for themselves. Thailand has ousted their leader to just replace with another unwelcomed one, while the nuclear-held Pakistan came to experience one of their worst and most tragic loss of political leader in the final hours of 2007, with chaos and unsettled, raging hearts ravaging the land still of this moment. What stability one country is enjoying would just be a contrasting reflection to another country's karmic turbulence.

At a time when the world needs more awakened souls and enlightened lives than ever before, I pray tonight that the coming of this brand new year would mark a grand significance for the entire humankind to rise above her old, painful past to fully embrace the golden rays of a brilliant, happiness-filled future.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Praying In The Abyss Of Darkness

This entire period, from the month of October till the arrival of 2007 Christmas, has been a very testing one.

In the midst of arranging and settling my mind down for preparation of my assignments, toward the goal of my Masters academic level, I experienced my first ever love break-up. From the age of 27, I had met her and, walking side by side, hand-in-hand, we both travelled for four years, through the thick forests and thin trails of human emotions and sentimental memories. At the age of 32, seemingly unbelievable but genuine, my first heart-wrenching break-up occurred.

Ahh...what more could one ask for, where in this tumultuous and turbulent era, one life is dedicated to caring for another.

Retrospectively, I could perhaps now really come to understand why people would end their lives due to love, or the loss of it. It is one element that absorbs wholly the entire living force and consciousness of that person. It is one single huge force that one has to resist and fight it with his or her entire being in order not to be drowned and lost forever in the abyss of hopelessness and miseries.

While preparing my mind for the continuance of my long suspended and semi-completed assignment, I retreated into my aimless internet search for matters that would trigger a slight sense of excitement in me. By my fortune, I came across one article, which I deemed a special dedication to my current weak self.

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Byline: FROM HEART TO HEART By Chieko Robinson For The Register-Guard

My first big dream was to climb Mount Everest. After three years of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (or daimoku, the core practice of Nichiren Buddhism), my dream came true.

My boyfriend organized an expedition to climb Mount Everest. Just before leaving for Nepal, he confessed that he had another girlfriend, and later I found out he was actually engaged to her. I became desperate and felt deadlocked. All I could do was chant.

The next day, I saw a beautiful sunset. I felt I was absorbed into the vast universe. Then I felt a strong, pure life force arise in me. I felt that the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was limitless. The thought that I was in a deadlock was delusion.

I determined to challenge all obstacles to my life and dream again. I went on the climb, and the night I reached base camp at 17,500 feet, I wrote my boyfriend a letter to say "thank you." Because of him, I was able to realize my dream. I started to chant for his happiness. Appreciation completely purified my life.

On the way back, I got high altitude sickness and almost died. The sherpa, sherpani and kitchen boys took care of me. My ex-boyfriend realized his dream to reach the summit of Mount Everest, but he never came back. He died on the mountain. I chanted that he would attain Buddhahood, and through my agony over his death, I determined to change my karma.

However, after a physical medical examination, I was told I had a diseased ovary and that if I did not have surgery, it could get worse and I might die. I did three 10-hour chanting sessions.

During that time, a longtime friend asked me to go to Japan with him in order to see family. While there, I had another exam, and no illness was found. There would be no surgery! Now I am happily married to that friend and have finished my second dream to get a master's degree from the University of Oregon.

In Nichiren Buddhism, we seek the solution to our problems or sufferings inside ourselves. When we tap our inner wisdom, compassion and courage through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we open our unlimited potential and are able to see the truth. Using our innate wisdom, we can correct our negative ways of life to a positive and better direction. We are in harmony with the rhythm of the universe.

After surviving Mount Everest, I shared my Buddhist practice with friends in Nepal. When I saw them become happy through this Buddhist practice, I felt great joy. In Nichiren's writings, he says, "Joy means that oneself and others together experience joy."

Now my dream is world peace. My mentor, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda (the third president of Soka Gakkai), through his tireless dedication and efforts for world peace and happiness for all humanity, opened my eyes. I have great confidence that all my future dreams will be fulfilled and we human beings will achieve world peace.

(Chieko Robinson is a member of Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist lay organization. She chants with other members at the local SGI Buddhist community center).

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When all is said and done, and at the end of the day, it will just be me and my inner conscience in facing the question of 'how would you move on from here'. The appreciation for life's upheavals and downfalls could not be stronger in saying a 'thank you' to those who have hurt us the most. In that respect, the act of chanting for that single person whole-heartedly would mark the exact compassionate spirit that is so needed for the hurt soul and broken heart to heal and beat again.

It is one act that befits the entire entity of Buddhahood residing in the depth of our existing beings.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pain of Love and Flight of Freedom

Love is a four letter word. Yet it carries one of the largest seed of human suffering and pain. It contains unseen limbs and tentacles, reaching far and deep into one's soul and strike a deadly blow of pain and misery when the person is of the most vulnerable, weakest and unguarded.

It is such a seizing sensation that millions of people worldwide, everyday, every moment, come to fall for it: they know fully the negative consequence and outcome, the almost unbearable heaviness of weight and pressure, but still they would step up and forward, ready to commit their whole being into falling in love.

It may be as much the pre-historic adventurous, wild, emotive and animalistic nature as the ancestral tamed, refined, logical and scholastic selves we inherited from our ancient forefathers that we are all spurred and agitated, propelled and compelled, to find that single, matching and eternal-bound life-partner amongst the five billions of human population residing on this beautiful planet.

It is such a journey, in this world, in this lifetime, that millions would come to conclude that with this undying love found, life is thus worth living for, and at times worth dying for.

To fall in love with someone! To be loved by someone! To be cared for and nurtured, like a child in warm, protecting arms! How much of a beautiful entity can one's life be, the moment he/ she is falling in love? In that life-changing and soul-exchanging episode, nothing else matters anymore. In both of their eyes and lives, their union of hearts at that moment contains the entire fleet of human passion and beauty, logic and emotions, beginnings and destinies. For once, they would care for someone not because they are asked to; they would be refined and contained not because they are required to; they are beautiful and joyous not because they are instructed to. From the depths of their lives, everything suddenly has its meaning sprouted; everything has its beauty shines forth; and everything has its happiness illuminated.

Those who have fallen in love are indeed happy people. To love, and be loved. What more would one ask for, in this lifetime?

Against all odds, and however, it is always in the midst of such happiness that suffering and pain seeps in, disrupting all senses and capturing all hearts with disarrayed orientations. It is one moment which is most heart-wrenching, most heart-piercing, most heart-suffocating. It is almost as if the world is coming to an end, and that there is simply no more hope in the next moment. It is one moment that one would consider meeting death in order to release that unbearable, unbreakable, unforgiving pain spiralling in the innermost core of the heart. Certainly, physically shattering the flesh-and-blood heart is surely one way to free all built-up and pent-up tormenting weepings and torturous cryings. It is where one would consider freeing his suffering in order to free his soul.

How magical yet dangerous can love be? It is one ancient question no philosopher can answer.

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International, ever said this:

We can lose ourselves in romantic attachment, but the truth is, the euphoria is unlikely to last for long. Indeed, the likelihood of undergoing suffering and sadness only grows over time. As long as we remain unable to redress our own weaknesses, we will be miserable no matter where or to whom we may take flight. We can never become truly happy unless we ourselves undergo a personal transformation.

True to this words, life is in actual fact like a mirror, a magnet. It attracts what is stored in its own inner realm, reflecting selectively by what is found in its own shell. Thus we see lovers of all sorts of types, coming together happily but yet ending up miserably or even tragically. It is because they would only choose what they wish to see - be it the other person's strengths or weaknesses. It is during occasions of happiness that one's strengths and positive side arise; similarly it is during moments of negative downhill that weaknesses are detected and surfaced.

The illusion and distorted visions of love generated befits exactly the eternal saying, " love is blind". No one can escape this, and no one would disagree it.

To love oneself, to love one's parents, to love one's family, to love one's environment, to love the community, to love mankind, and to finally love the world-at-large. How magnified can one's love be? It will all be depended by the depth and width of one's heart. It is the exact hallmark in determining the fundamental spirit of being a human. It is from there that genuine, undying and life-space penetrative love can be given birth and grown.