Tag Archives: Nichiren

Stream of Consciousness: Planting

A bitter heart is fertile ground for the dream of revenge. It can extend beyond heart and mind, into body, into world. Enact the vengeance, and the recipient may agree, yes, this is justice.

Or she may not.

Her family may agree, or they may not. Her friends may agree, or not.

What if?

The wronged heart, too, grows bitter then. Poison cultivates a new dream of revenge. Imagination and courage dance, a perverse action.

Then.

Pain inflicted on another.

What if…

Newly wounded burn with anger, rot with pain, and poison the ground for a dream.

And so it is, the potential in actions born of bitterness.

With life comes pain. But in pain, do you seek restoration or destruction?

But what of a family, community, or nation? What is in the heart of those who act on behalf others? Does the seed inspire healing and wholeness? Or hurt?

How do you cultivate your heart? What fruits will it bear?

Artists for Peace

I think a lot about art for peace and scholarship for peace, and what it might mean to design a sustainable future. Lately it’s been a mostly private investigation, but I may explore these ideas more publicly in the coming weeks.

hancock-shorterToday I want to share a quote from an open letter by world renown artists, fellow Buddhists, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. The letter is meant to inspire and provoke artists, but the encouragement is food for thought for us all. They share 10 points, ending with the hope that we live in a state of constant wonder. They begin with this:

FIRST, AWAKEN TO YOUR HUMANITY

We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the desire to raise one’s life condition to a place where our actions are rooted in altruism and compassion. You cannot hide behind a profession or instrument; you have to be human. Focus your energy on becoming the best human you can be. Focus on developing empathy and compassion. Through the process you’ll tap into a wealth of inspiration rooted in the complexity and curiosity of what it means to simply exist on this planet. Music is but a drop in the ocean of life.

Read the letter in full here.

Getting Free

It’s such an amazing feeling – freedom. Freedom from my own thoughts of limitation. Freedom from an old path. Freedom from what no longer serves me.

I’ve felt this freedom in recent days, swelling in a joyful crescendo this evening. To celebrate and reaffirm my recent decisions, I started tossing and recycling items long outdated. Tomorrow I get to cart them away.

There’s new space in my garage where anchors used to be. There’s new energy and mental clarity where there was once clutter and dread. It’s wonderful.

Embracing my true self.
Embracing my true self.

Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure. Yet a hundred or even a thousand people can definitely attain their goal, if they are of one mind. ~Nichiren

Although many quote this passage from Many in Body, One in Mind to highlight the second half, I reference it most often for the first. More than once, I’ve found myself wavering about a decision. I have clear thoughts about where I want to go, but take steps at cross purposes with my own desires. It’s like stepping on the gas and the brake the at same time. You don’t go anywhere, and if you do, it’s a jerky, unpleasant experience.

It’s liberating to choose life over fear. Now it’s time to be who I’ve always said I wanted to be… 

The Ethics of Jazz

When I talk about leading through art, one exemplar comes immediately to mind: Herbie Hancock. Many of a certain age are at least familiar with the jazz great, but may not realize the complex ways in which he weaves faith, daily life and art. To that end, I’d like to share the first in a set of his Norton lectures.

Harvard University declares an annual Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry. Poetry, in this case, is broadly imagined, and professors represent various of the fine arts. In 2014, Herbie Hancock became the first Black American to receive the honor, and he titled his lecture series the Ethics of Jazz. (It’s worth noting here, Toni Morrison is the 2016 Norton Professor and her lecture series opens March 2, 2016.)

Hancock’s opening lecture is titled the Wisdom of Miles Davis. He begins by introducing himself, first by familiar labels – musician, spouse, teacher and friend. But then he posits a question:

What is the single factor that connects all those aspects of me? It’s the fact that I’m a human being.

He goes on to explain that this, being human, is not a trivial matter. He encourages us to make the most of that human experience, and purposely seek a life of expansion rather than stagnation:

Most people define themselves by the one or possibly two things they excel at and are recognized for – perhaps a job or a hobby. There’s a tendency to live inside these self-made walls and not be open to the myriad opportunities that on the other side of the fortress…

To develop wisdom that will foster creativity in every aspect of life, it’s essential to entertain the idea of being open to possibilities. Second, explore how you perceive yourself, and recognize and investigate opportunities that lie outside of your comfort zone.

He continues, moving now to explain his choice of ethics as the foundation of the series. Ethics, he confirms,  is a system of morals:

The study of right and wrong. Good and bad. The wise and empathetic. How we use our power to protect the rights and self respect of all people. It’s how we behave in the world among society – our brothers and sisters. And the values we hold dear and enable us to collaborate and interact with curiosity, compassion and righteousness. Without a moral code, the world would be overflowing with selfishness, apathy, greed, cruelty, environmental problems, violence…

He slows down here to note the irony, and goes on to proclaim our planet is on a slippery slope. Despite this, most people, regardless of race, religion or creed, “want to create ethical societies.”

Over the course of his life, Hancock has connected the values inherent in jazz with his Buddhist faith. He promises to share the lessons he’s learned in this multi-decades long project through autobiographical accounts.

A couple of things to listen out for as you watch this first one:

  • Don’t play the butter notes.
  • Listen to what you can leave out.

What other lessons does he share? What will you apply in your daily life?