A shallow person will have only shallow relationships. Real love is not one person clinging to another; it can only be fostered between two strong people secure in their individuality. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince wrote in a work called Wind, Sand and Stars, “Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead together in the same direction.” from Buddhism Day by Day–Wisdom for Modern Life, by Daisaku Ikeda, February 14.
The tagline of Views from Eagle Peak is “Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions.” That’s something that takes wisdom, which is something that comes from time and faith. Faith in something that works. Eagle Peak is an allegorical reference to a place where the Buddha lives and practices. In one sense it’s an actual place. More generally, anywhere one practices Buddhism is Eagle Peak. A place where one can see how and why things are the way they are. Cause and effect.
Today is the 40th anniversary of my commitment to practicing Buddhism. Looking for hope, a methodology and a means to achieve my goals and dreams. I needed to overcome indecision and procrastination. Almost without noticing it, I did. All a part of what Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Daisaku Ikeda calls “human revolution.” An inner transformation of character. One that enabled me to overcome so much and achieve so much. I could go on for many pages describing the good fortune and joy this practice has brought me, but I won’t. Instead, here’s a short list.
I am in a happy and successful marriage, now in its 36th year, after two failed ones. In so doing, my wife and I overcame the death threat of her father, who after just a couple years welcomed me into his home and later said, “just call me Dad.”
After a year in Vietnam which began ten years before I encountered Buddhism, my illusions were shattered about America’s virtues and my innocence was lost. My faith and practice couldn’t bring back the innocence but it gave me the means to make the world a better place by making myself a better person.
From a lazy person contemptuous of authority—something three years in the Army fostered, I became a trusted employee at a local government agency. Upon my retirement, the agency director (a retired full colonel from the US Army) said this, “Whenever I wanted something done right and on time, I gave it to John.”
Nearly ten years ago, I recounted the experiences which led me to Buddhism and the benefits that resulted from that human revolution in a memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland.
Now, I am finally on the way to writing fiction, my goal from childhood. A short story collection, The Fountain, went on sale July 10th on Amazon.
We live in a dream house, high atop a hill in southwestern New Mexico. A house I designed on a computer. A far cry from the home I grew up in, foreclosed on when I was 11. My mother could not pay the mortgage after my father died four years before. She died five years later.
From the poverty of my youth, my wife and I have taken many wonderful vacations with two children—now grown and on their own. We continue to travel, now more often on our own. In the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, this financial security is called, “treasures of the storehouse.”
We have had a few health problems now and then, but by and large we are not inconvenienced greatly by them and have overcome them. Similarly, in our Buddhist faith, this is called “treasures of the body.”
Of the three treasures, “treasures of the heart” are the most valuable or important. These too, we have in abundance. The certainty that we can achieve anything, that we can overcome any adversity. That our happiness is absolute—not relative, like winning the lottery, a wonderful car or a wonderful home that could be destroyed by fire or flood.
One doesn’t need to practice Buddhism to be successful in life—to have a happy marriage or a good job. One doesn’t need to practice Buddhism to be financially secure or able to overcome illness. But it certainly helps immeasurably. If it didn’t, if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t still be doing it 40 years later. I would be happy to share more of my own experiences with you about this practice or refer you to sources of information about it—should you be interested. But today’s post is not a paean to draw you in, it’s a commemoration of my personal anniversary.
One more important note: the path to becoming a Buddha, an enlightened human being, runs through the world of the Bodhisattva. In other words, the practice of Buddhism entails practicing for others as well as oneself. It’s not a greedy, self-realizing endeavor that you keep to yourself. Oh no, it’s a practice that involves helping others find happiness, hope, courage and more through the compassion of a Bodhisattva. An essential element of the beneficial results I’ve obtained over my 40 years of practice stems from that commitment.
Happy Holidays to all—whether you celebrate a secular or non-secular occasion this time of year with family, friends or fellow believers of your faith. For some it’s a time of hope and renewal. For others it’s a trying time given personal setbacks, memories of lost loved ones or even political turmoil. For myself, my circle of family and friends, it’s a little bit of each. While we had no personal setbacks this year, we empathize with those who did.
Most years, including this one, there is conflict in locations around the world. Yet hope remains in the hearts of people with faith in a religion or in humanity itself. The Buddhist scholar, philosopher and peace builder Daisaku Ikeda says this:
Peace and culture are one. A genuinely cultured nation is a peaceful nation and vice versa. When conflicts multiply, culture wanes and nations fall into a hellish existence. The history of the human race is a contrast between culture and barbarity. Only culture is a force strong enough to put an end to conflict and lead humanity in the direction of peace.
I hope you will have a safe and joyous encounters this season. Share in a peaceful culture in whatever way best suits you. Triumph over any challenges or obstacles to happy holidays.
Forty years ago today, shots rang out in Memphis, killing the Reverend Martin Luther King. I was in Hawaii that day, on R&R from Vietnam. I returned to my unit in Bearcat, the 9th Infantry Division basecamp 25 miles east of Saigon after the riots had spread across America. Things were not much more wonderful there. Tensions between blacks and whites were already high. Continue reading Martin Luther King→