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‘Kindness’ – the new ‘Spirituality’ in the global village?!

June 18, 2012

It took a long time for me to become a confident writer on the subject of spirituality after becoming a resident in the Western society (UK).

Why? I was born in Sri Lanka and as a Buddhist. In that culture the word ‘spirituality’ had a deeper meaning of ‘respect – peace and harmony’. But in the West I noted the word was tarnished by terror, anger & suspicion. (When I blog on Spirituality – am I ringing the bells at secret spy operations?!?!).

In a multi-cultural world of the West, I noticed convergence of different religions are not happening to the same degree of convergence of humanity for freedom. We tend to associate with labels of religion than the true meaningful religious practice. Then we begin to identify differences between each other than the commonality. The result is promoting anger, aversion and disrespect for not being a part of x & y religion or culture. Conundrum in the word of ‘spirituality’! (I lost!).

‘It is the human nature to have both positive and negative elements. And it is human capability to empower positive elements to dis-empower negatives!’ – Aung San Suu Kyi (accepting noble peace price, 2012, Oslo).

Over the time, I managed to recognize the bright side. Our common aspirations (aspire for better education), collective creativity (World Wide Web), richness we seek in diversity (master piece of an art work), positive energy in a healthy competition (Olympics), readiness to embrace happiness together (elated crowd at a Football stadium). In that backdrop, how people empower positive spirit: kindness (action of a stranger in the street), act of charity (donating while paying for a beer at the pub), volunteering (sharing labor for common causes).

The word ‘kindness’ is more appropriate in my learning now to express ‘spirituality’ in this evolving multicultural global village. We humans can understand that word – respect it – and connect with it, regardless of our skin color, birth place or language and belief system. Every religion promotes kindness. We are born enjoying the warm kindness of a mother (& a farther). We are protected in the streets by the discipline of kind majority (isn’t that why streets are more secure in day light than lonely nights). Isnt that ‘kindness’ the new word to replace ‘spirituality’ in this global village!?!?!

(You are most welcome to share your insight. Thank you for helping my learning curve!)

Transcending frustrations – (detoxification of minds)

August 11, 2011

I returned home from Geneva, after a happy – busy – successful business visit. The International Conference that I was invited was full of promising events, and had the opportunity to meet with promising multi-national organisations. But, out of all busy meetings, most interesting one was meeting with Gaya – Lalani and Laskshman, the Sri Lankans living at Geneva. Our long dinners always ended up in spiritual discussions.

As usual, I was about to start a follow up mail chase with potential leads, clients….and friends. But, for some unknown reason, I started feeling that I should slow down…(some fear starting accumilating inside my mind without any reason though)..while my logical  mind was counter arguing to continue with momentum that seems to be heading for success.  It was like putting breaks into an express train. But, I was determined that I should slow down, thus started to engage with gardening, seeing a film with family…and making reasons to put away computer and internet (my  office & personal secretariat).

Then I notice following morning all the ‘green lights’ of my Gmail chat space is empty. Those green lights are my fellow team members of Fusion, whom I used to see every morning, when I wake up at Canterbury UK to check the mails…as I see green lights…I visualise the office the busy faces …and the way they spend busy hours in mid day Sri Lanka, wathching the green coconut canopies from third floor of Fusion office. But, I could not find any help, every inquiry mail I drafted ended in a black-hole. (Alarm bells ring…!!?!?).

Work of Serendipity

My mind was still fresh with Lalani and Lakshman and I thought I should buy Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step for them…especially to share my gratitude for the delicious sandwitches that Lalani made for me just before dropping at the Airport. And my google search ended up in beautiful readings about Thich Nhat Hanh’s life story. The book I bought at amazon.com arrived at door steps two days later, and that has become a peace builder immediately within my teenage daughters.

“In our busy society , it is a great fortune to breath consciously from time to time……while we practice our conscious breathing our thinking will slow down, and we can give ourselves a real rest” – (p11 Hanh)

Flower bed

I started doing a long flower bed, as a way to distract me from office work. All the day long, I dug the soil and removed heavy piles of concrete pieces, left overs from new house construction.  My hands are too soft and not ready for heavy digging. They were so painful. And suddenly I noticed I am breaking an ant colony. My youngest family helper  – Asini, reappeared telling…’shall I throw some suger to attract ants?’. How come I did not get that wisdom, when I was struggling to dig the holes without breaking their colony. I was too late, and still feel sad…that I did not consult others to find a solution to get away from ants.

My google calendar remain blank, as I felt I should not plan. Still the ‘green dots’ are dormant, so does inbox. It took another two days to realize five members of the team are sick, and two are admitted to hospital. I felt sad, alarmed and unhappy…as I cant do much from the distance. It is unpleasent feeling..but I felt I should read it carefully and treat it carefully.!

“If we face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection and non-violence, we can transform them into the kind of energy that is healthy and has the capacity to nourish us”. (p52 – Hanh)

As usual, I sat for meditations, and continued distributing mettha to all of them.

(This lead to the Fusion’s Happiness Programme! I will blog about Happiness Programme later).

Family gathering – Fusion space of Sarvodaya life

July 21, 2008

Sun was setting, as ripples of lake around scenic Bandaragama (Sri Lanka) sarvodaya education centre, turned red. It was true reflection of our minds, after a long day of a lengthy review meeting of Fusion team, after first year of survival. We all realized Social Enterprising had torn our hearts and sapped all our energy. Few of our revenue centres were about to close down, which certainly a killer blow to few of our brothers and sisters who had strived to manage them. And tomorrow is the decision day for them. Yet, all of them were getting ready to organize a Family gathering.!

(How wonderful to see this family spirit. That was my inner mind).

Family gathering – is a unique tradition in Sarvodaya. It is an event lasting for an hour minimum where everybody, despite rank, age or gender, sit together on the floor and spend some time together to build up the common spirit. Its impact is such by the end of the gathering, nobody wants to leave the place. They all feel bonded with an inner fabric of humanity – friendship – happiness and spirituality.

Usually one person volunteers to lead the Family gathering which begins with a few minutes of meditation. Some times, this follows a  small religious speech. One may speak of a Jataka Story (of Buddhist scriptures) or else, one may run a Bible story. (Not specifically labelled to religion). That infuses a bit of a spiritual surrender to the gathering.

Then follows a key speech. mostly by an invited speaker – which can relate to the theme of gathering. Such speeches may last for 10 – 15 minutes, and expected to carry a depth and diversity added with oratory skills to touch the heart of the community.

Cultural activities breaks the monotony. One may play a guitar or a drum encouraging others to sing together. Small dramas, pantomimes are performed by children and youth as they find the stage to demonstrate their unexposed talents.

Such aspects add the vibrancy and evoke sentiments, which gradually lead into open discussions of participants.

It becomes an evening camp fire at times when  it is being organized during Shramadana camps.

Family gathering is a true Fusion space – of culture, spirituality, humanity and development. (I am sure one may add more descriptions – as the outcome of family gatherings are truly difficult to define).

Silence – a noble enjoyment

July 9, 2008

When I visit Sarvodaya Vishva Niketan – years ago (2000), I noticed the sign posted by Dr Ari, – ‘please maintain noble silence’. It reminded me multiple readings .

‘Learn to enjoy Noble Silence’ – Rev Thich Naart Haanh.

Yet, I could not fully comprehend it. But I noticed one thing, every time I walk with somebody to Vishva Niketan (meditation centre of Sarvodaya), we all tend to automatically switch into silent mode, closing all our chatter. Then we tend to walk through small paths, through the woods, and when we arrive at the statue of Load Buddha, we tend to fall dead silent (despite considerable noise from the nearby road).

Over the years I used to enjoy this …..walking through silence.

Now, sitting at home (in UK), most of my mornings are periods of lengthy silence. I realize this is the most joyful part of my day.

Am I enjoying birds? no, any other subtle noise…hidden inside silence? no. But this silence has a power to awaken certain spiritual faculties. It cuts down certain unhealthy emotions (eg unnecessary excitements, aversion), and nurture concentration (Sathi). Thus allow me to be watchful on my own mind, while engage with work. (working meditation?).

It is not that easy to train the mind to enjoy the noble silence. But once you train it – you may find the noble silence even sitting next to a jet engine!

Sand castles and controled ambitions

May 1, 2008

Human civilization moves forward because of the ambition. Ambition fuels greed, persistence, creativity,energy to translate imagination into realization. Children pass exams, poor become rich, people build empires, cities, super powers,…even land in other planets.

When I visited Microsoft head office at Seattle, pass through Boeing’s plane delivery station on the way to Seattle airport, I could not help being overwhelmed by the the power of American dream. They were evidence of the ability to translate ambition into reality by two individual human beings, (our contemporaries).

When I was listening to eloquent descriptions of tour guide about the water fountains, air-conditioning systems, artistic illustrations of 500 queens, fascinating architectural masterpieces made by King Kashyapa at Sigiriya Rock, 1500 yrs ago, I still could not help being overwhelmed by the power of human ambition to make impossible the possible.

Yet, as a meditator, I cannot help seeing the unseen behind all these overwhelming illusions of man kind. Truth of impermanence. Arnt these the sandcastles build over the shore of time? None of these ambitious materialistic realizations can last for ever. They all remain impressive till the next tide comes to take it back into history books.

Still, I myself, though being a meditator, cannot help building ambitious sandcastles. So does Fusion, Eco-Fusion, etc…etc..!

Am I contradicting myself. Probably yes and no..!

Even load Buddha cannot attain Nibbana without having ambition. But this ambition is called ‘Chanda’ in Buddhism. That is different from the ‘ambition’ in worldly terms. How?

‘Chanda’ is free from ‘Thanha’ (Desire). That means ambition to become a Load Buddha is derived from the strong willpower to seek salvation of other human beings. Thus it is not subject to defilement of ego, craving, wrong judgements, selfish motives.

Can we distinguish between Ambition (worldly) and Chanda (spiritual).?

In my understanding, we cant. As human beings, when we engage in worldly affairs, it is almost impossible to maintain our pure focus (concentration power) to judge every decision and action. Thus we are subject to do errors, confuse between Ambition and Chanda.

But, as an ascetic in a monastic life, there is an environment for this.

Compassion – the supreme power

April 27, 2008

When the policeman took me to the remand cell inside Police station at Thalahena, (Colombo, Sri Lanka), I felt bit uneasy. This person, whome I supposed to see in few minutes, changed my entire life experience in a single night. He has intruded into my house during the midnight, and stole every valuble item (including the wedding neckless of my wife) remained inside house. When I realized, he had roamed around our bed room, when we were in deep sleep, I felt horribly helpless. And for more than a week, I could not sleep.

Months later, Police caught him (during another midnight intrusion). And now, I am in front of this terrifying individual, behind the bars.

He is stout and shot, dark and humble. Smiling, despite the fact he is under police custody. When Policman ask certain questions, he explained how he entered our house, and spend the time there.

I felt sorry (and questioned myself, is this the deamon who made myself so scared). He is another human being, very much helpless in his ability to stand on his own in this society. He is extremely poor, cannot pass a day without having drugs. Theft is the only skill he posses. He use it for his own living.

‘How can I get him out of the prison?’ – that was my question to Policman. ‘Mithuru Mithuro’ – Drug rehabilitation center is the best place for him (not the prison). That can transform this extremely distorted individual into a normal human being.

This is the revelation of Compassion. (in a matter of senconds, my mind has transformed from Aversion to Compassion in front of this humble individual – called thief).

Compassion – is one of the best emotional states any human can experience. That makes us very comfortable in mind and body. When compassion dominates our mind, we feel very relaxed. It passes a soothing feeling through all our body muscles. It empowers our spirit to the point, that we tend to become supreme for a moment.

Compassion tends to radiate unique waves from our entier body, thus every living being around us tend to feel comfortable.

We all humans have compassion inside us, and experiences it random occasions, But awakening compassion skillfully at our will is not that easy. Most difficult is recognizing it from other diffiled emotional states.

At times, we tend to recognize our own love, affection and even some forms of desires as compassion. (as they tend to make our selves comfortable).

Following two examples may provide some help to gain clarity on compassion;

  • One day when I was travelling through the woods (in thick jungle) to meet my meditation guru, I suddenly felt the creeping leach on my left leg. In a quick impulse I caught him and started squeezing between my fingures (before throwing). Suddenly I felt how helpless this small creature, between my fingers. I saw how small it is – like a baby leach. Suddenly I felt like holding my own small daugter. Immediately I left him without incurring any more pain.

Spirituality in Fusion space

April 26, 2008

Spirituality!?

What we mean by the word is the human spirit nurtured by religious practice and wisdom, that is essentially peaceful and empowering.

Why it is important in the Fusion space?

Despite moden advancement of technology human civilization is losing its values and human qualities. Fusion envisages holistic approaches to ICT can avoid this negative development in the space of ICT technology advancement.

Fusion is seeking holistic ICT for develoment. It would not be wholesome just combining social, economic, ecological and cultural element without converging spirituality.

‘Individual’ being the building block of the communiy, this would primariliy aim to awaken the spirit of individual interacting within the Fusion community (Paurushodaya), that is to nurture the advance human qualities within the mind, body and action.

Advance human qualities>

  • sharing (dana) once time, energy, skills and intelect for the benefit of other humans and life forms.
  • self disciline to abstain from killing, stealing, disception, sexual misconduct and alcoholism.
  • respecting gender, culture, color, ethnic and religious diversity
  • cultivating compassion towads all human beings, other life forms and nature.

Cultivation and nurturing of Advance human qualities may awaken individual human spirit. That would nurture the advance qualities of the psychosphere of the Fusion community, thus creating a healthy enviornment of peaceful existance, harmless advancement and holesome development.

Handling Fear

April 26, 2008

I still remember the day that an intruder (thief) stole our valuble belongings from our home, while we all were sleeping. When I was driving the police officer to home I said;

‘ I never anticipated a thief coming to my house. Becuase we spend a very rituous life, helping people, giving whatever we could share….!’

Police officer started laughing at me.

‘You cannot escape from these mushrooming drug addicts!’

The following night was the worst ever experience in my life; I couldnt catch sleep. Every small sound raise my suspecion that thief is coming again. And I tend to grapple with horrible imaginations that he is threatening my kids…….and I kept walking up and down all the night’.

But theif had never come. It was the manifestation of fear in my mind.

The night before, when the thief intruded, walked into our bed room, spend hours stealing all our valuables…..I slept without a single worry. The next day, there isn’t any thief, night is very peaceful, but I am sleepless, worried and struggling all night.

What makes the difference?

Difference is not the thief. It is my mind. Fear in my mind create all the confusion.

Like all other emotions, fear too has its life cycle> birth – maturity – decay – death.

All these life cycles are pretty short, sometimes difficult to notice. We dont recognize we were in fear. Yet some times, we feel like we were completely disempowered.

That can be multiple emotional cycles occupying us simultaniously as repetitive cycles. For example, when before the first cycle of fear emotion ends, the next one begins. And it builds up into bundles of negative emotions (combined with other negative emotions too).

We have the controling window at the early stage (before it reaching the acute stage). The controle is nothing but the recognition of fear.

Nevertheless, handling of complex fear needs multiple approaches.

  1. realizaing the nature impermanence
  2. getting the blessings of Dhamma (truith)
  3. cultivating and nurturing Metta (Compassion).

If you are Therawada Buddhist following may be helpful>

When you are in fear – just recall following:

a). Repetitively pray – Buddha Vandana Gatha (Ethipiso – Bhagawa – Arahang…….!)

b). Pray – Karaniya mettah Sutta

These two will relax your mind.

Living through turbulance….!

April 26, 2008

‘Life is like a river, at times very calm and quite, at times very violent and rowdy..!’ – childhood reading.

violent phases are very unpredictable, too tough to pass though, extremely vulnerable. Until we come out of such phase, nothing is certain. Most of the time, we end up with lot of psychological wounds, losing our loved ones, losing our jobs etc.

We cannot avoid such phases. But we certainly CAN minimize the damage.

How?

1. Beware – that we are in a violent phase

2. Live with caution

How do we know we are passing though a violent phase?

Such phases are typically associated with repetitive Frustration, Dissatisfaction, Lose of hope, Unpredictability.

Typical eg: at work> ‘None of the initiatives we make, no matter how briliant they are, not working’

at society> ‘We feel like whole world is against us. No matter how much I care and share with them’

at family> ‘close ones or we ourselves fell sick, neither the doctors nor best medicine can help’

If such things happen just ones or twice, that is not an indication of a Violent phase. But, if they happen repetetively, for more than twice in a row, that is a sign of Violent phase. Be aware..! we are entering into a bad time.

So what?

Dont get panic. ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ – but challange is how to identify the silver line, without watching the big, dark, nasty cloud?

My recipe!

  • be optimistic – Every bad time is a blessing. They offer an opportunity to enter into a better phase of life subsequently (this is my personal experience in majority times).
  • return to basics – Avoid taking risks, try to maintain simplicity, avoid complex engagements, keep searching for calm & quite places.
  • be an obedient child – Turn to wisdom keepers (adults, friends, gurus, books) whoever believe to have pass through such tough experiences in life and who are ready to offer genunie help,
  • pass time momentorily – Just hang on to each minute, hour and day. Be happy that you managed to pass that moment without losing the nerve.
  • dont fall into traps – It is very likely that you may get exciting suggestions, options, offers from somebody or somewhere that is seemingly the answer to all the problems. Dont rush to take them up. In most of the cases, these are the gifts from Devil. They tend to escalate Violence, at the end.

How do we know, that the Violent phase is over?

You may gradually begin to see the light. May begin to notice smiles are again returning, people begin to admire, friends begin to call. Make sure such returns are gradual, not sudden. They tend to last long.

Supreme value of Pain

March 27, 2008

Pain has a true value. Despite the fact we all hate it.

One day my guru said – ‘it is only because of the pain this samsara is place of sadness. There is no place to get away from pain (Dukkha)’.

But, what is the value of Pain (Dukkha)?

Extreme pain does not have any value. It confuses all our mind and push the mind further deep into agony and misery.

But, pain at a tolerable level, has a very positive power to awake our mind into realization of truth. The truth of impermanence!

What is the trick?

  1. Nurture the perspective to recognize the value of pain (believe in its hidden value).
  2. Develop the skill to accept pain (avoid effort to get away from pain)

How to develop that skill of acceptance?

Pain has its own life cycle> ‘birth – maturity – decay – death’. Every pain has its birth and also its death. Learn to recognize the life cycle and how to live through that. That living through pain leads us to multiple meaningful realizations (awakening).

Recognizing this life cycle of pain is an art (one need to master). We hardly recognize the birth of pain, we recognize when it matures, then as natural human beings our body and mind tend to suppress the pain. (This is the point of rejection – which leads to aversion).

The more we reject the pain – more it aggravates.

The more we accept it (instead of rejection) the faster pain loses its grip.

What we need is to master the skill of

a) recognizing the pain (before it dis-empower us)

b). observe its life cycle (as a meditation)

This needs continuous effort and practice. But it is a very worthy effort.