Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Success and Happiness


Idea 1: Happiness precedes success not the other way round.
Idea 2: Letting go releases tremendous freshness and clarity.
Idea 3: Accepting & giving praise creates a cycle of positive reinforcement.
Idea 4: Learning from mistakes without guilt is part of loving and trusting your self.
Idea 5: The will is a dynamo that must be directed wisely.
Idea 6: Connecting with people is easier if the mind is still.
Idea 7: Efficiency comes from a calm mind, self-knowledge and self-control.


Idea 1: Happiness precedes success not the other way round.

(Chicken Farmers) Teaching in metaphor, the ideas stick in the mind. So it is easier to learn concepts from moral tales. Once upon a time there were two farmers who both owned many chickens. One of them woke up in the morning, collected all the chicken droppings in his basket and brought them home. The other woke up and collected the eggs in his basket. Guess which one was successful? The first stunk up his home with the droppings. The second made some lovely omelette and made his family very happy.

Moral: This is a metaphor for what we bring from the past into our present. Which are you? Do you bring eggs into your present or shit? We learn much much more from past successes than from failure. This is the fundamental lesson: positive attitude.

Idea 2: Letting go releases tremendous freshness and clarity.

(Calculator) Every moment, clearing like a calculator and starting new with empty mind. This is important for teachers to not hold on to opinions of their pupils, so they are aware quickly of the efforts and improvements they make, and the pupils can tell that it does not go unnoticed.
(Prisoners) For those who work with prisoners, they must learn to treat them not as murderers and rapists, but as people who have murdered and raped. Prisoners unable to discard the label from around their neck will more likely re-offend when released.
(The New Buddhist) Someone had just converted to Buddhism and was visiting a friend. He refused a drink saying now he couldn’t drink. “But you’re Buddhist,” said the friend. “That means you can let go!” “Ah, but it’s a different kind of letting go.”

Moral: Success is easy. It just requires a change in perspective. Not “letting go” meaning doing as you please, but letting go of negative emotions and labels, and striving for compassion and goodness.

Idea 3: Accepting & giving praise creates a cycle of positive reinforcement.

(Award) When receiving an award, the humble winner said, “It’s what I do. I don’t deserve it.” The following year, he turned up to the ceremony and the winner used exactly the same words in his speech. But objectively, he could see that the person did deserve it. Why is it so hard to receive praise, while it is so easy to accept criticism?
(Schizophrenic patients) Remarkable success has been had by putting energy and effort into the times when schizophrenic patients are well instead of focusing on the “problem”.
(Dog training) When the dog does the right thing, the trainer jumps up and down in ecstasy and rewards it. The dog can’t help but notice.

Moral: Try the reverse: receive praise with an attitude that you do deserve it and let criticism go. This isn’t being big-headed, it’s being big-hearted. It’s saying that those who chose you were not wrong-headed to do so, and moreover receiving awards is good because it acts as motivation to work hard and do it again. Equally, learn to praise to reinforce desirable behaviour. Make criticism constructive and in a form that is easily digestible.

Idea 4: Learning from mistakes without guilt is part of loving and trusting your self.

(Fertilizer) A man stepped on dog poo. He went home and scraped it off under his apple tree. When he ate the apples the following spring, they were juicier than ever.
(100 strokes of the cat) Punishment for Buddhist monks in Australia.

Moral: The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success. Turn your mistakes into fertilizer for your apple tree and remember when you succeed that it was a direct result of all the things you went through. Fall forwards not backwards. Replace bad habits and thoughts by good habits and thoughts. This is not to say you don’t regret, or feel remorse, but you feel it once, and straightaway you develop strategies to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The regret is not something continuous and wasteful of all the positive energy that could have come from it. Efforts after failure bring true growth. Stimulate all the successful thoughts of the past until they are revitalized. Don’t let others take away your happiness. Laugh at yourself. Sometimes people feel unable to forgive themselves. Confessing and not doing it again are not enough. For them, they must learn compassion, to allow themselves to be happy. This is especially important in relationships, to love and trust and feel worthy and deserving of happiness, and so create a cycle of positive reinforcement, not negative.

Idea 5: The will is a dynamo that must be directed wisely.

(Powerful Image) A wish is a desire without energy. An intention is a wish with a plan, but will is action with intent until the wish is accomplished. Intent is like a powerful image broadcast from within, and one cannot help but notice its presence.
(Sailing) "'I don't care where we go,' I said, to my own surprise." (Erskine Childers, Riddle of the Sands) It is said that a good day's sailing needs no destination.

Moral: Everything we do comes from the will. Mechanical will is unthinking. Conscious will is a vital force that involves determination and effort, so should be directed wisely. As well as being constructive and feasible, always be sure in your heart that it is right for you or aligned with divine will. Then concentrate on it with courage and faith. The creative power of imagination gives initiative to set out on your path and open your eyes to the possibilities and do things that none have done before. Once you have chosen what to do, concentrate on how you do it and enjoy the experience and the opportunities it offers. Reward the process, not the endpoint. Success for a doctor is not in curing patients. It is in caring for them, and in caring for them they hopefully will be cured.

Idea 6: Connecting with people is easier if the mind is still.

(Stillness in Pauses) Suppose I were to speak this to you and in doing so pause unexpectedly, and … ask you to … observe……… your mind in…… the pauses between words. You ….. experience…… empty “waiting in the moment” mind, because you do not….. know when I …… will speak next…. you are in stillness.
(Australian counselor) An American lady had seen every counselor in Los Angeles without success. She went all the way to Australia to see a psychotherapist there, who knowing that everything else had been tried, figured she would need something unconventional. She stilled her mind and as the lady walked into the room, she said to her without knowing why, “I think you should take up playing violin.” The lady had wanted to play the violin as a little girl, but she was not allowed to. There’s a lesson in this: do what you want to do, not what is expected of you. She suggested other things too, and the lady went home and started work on some fantastic projects to help people.
(The Sponge) A dry sponge absorbs. A wet sponge can absorb nothing.

Moral: Be sensitive and mindful to those around you. Learn to be quiet. The mind like a dry sponge to pick up information around you, to take opportunities, widen horizons and connect with people and develop relationships.

Idea 7: Efficiency comes from a calm mind, self-knowledge and self-control.

(Staying in the Present) First we obsess over the past. This cannot be changed, so not worth worrying about. Then we worry about the future. The future is made in the present. Once we stop worrying about past and future, we might feel nerves or stress in the present. But this is a waste of energy and how sickness happens, though we often don’t notice it because we are so caught up in past and future. So, we let go of that too. And relax into inner tranquillity.
(The Glass) A glass of water is not very heavy, but the stress comes in holding it for a length of time. The solution is simple: put it down.
(The Menu) A man goes to an expensive restaurant and is presented with a beautiful menu with wonderful golden lettering. He eats the menu and walks out.

Moral: We often work long hours with little result to show for it. This is an inefficient use of the power of mind. Taking breaks makes us much more productive. Putting a problem down, you let the problem rest but you do not rest. You go deep within to realign with your higher Self and return to face the problem before your discrimination is lost. Recognize what works best for you. This is skilful action. Know your priorities. Success is in the doing. Living right is in the practice, not in books or academic theory of philosophy or religion. So now I’m saying all this was a waste of time, right? No, that was a negative thought, of doubt. So let’s put what we’ve learnt to good use immediately and replace doubt with trust. I trust that my writing up this little blog on success will turn out to be of enormous value to me, and even more so to you!

Source: This is adapted from a dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm.

On a related note, I also posted a blog called "On Doing Better" from a Buddhist perspective based on another talk I went to.

Friday, 23 October 2009

On Doing Better (BT)

Source: This is based on a talk by ... . See Disclaimer Below.

Over the summer, the Chinese government held a 4-day conference in China inviting Buddhist leaders from all over the world, everyone apart from, of course, the Dalai Lama. It was a huge event, and in typical Chinese style very well organized, but also very strictly regulated. Each speaker was invited to address the audience for 6 minutes only, and then bells would ring and signs would go up telling them that their time was up!

For the Buddhist leaders invited, you can imagine the dilemma they faced in whether going to such an event was a betrayal of their values, or whether one should have faith and trust even where there had been a history of animosity. Why would the Chinese government organize such an event? Is it the hand of friendship and with the good intention of bringing Buddhist communities together and engendering harmony and unity, or might there be a hidden agenda, and if so, what?

As with all dilemmas, part of the problem is in not knowing all that we would like to know. So, how does one come to a decision? What is our guiding principle? How can one tell right action from wrong? I’d be interested to know what you think on these questions.

But the Buddhist philosophy seems to be one of forgiveness and trust and of trying to overlook the incongruity of one’s former enemy extending a welcoming hand. So many from around the world attended, and it was a very successful conference. It was followed by a 3-day meeting in Taiwan where the atmosphere was much lighter and more friendly, the stiffness of China replaced by great enthusiasm and chanting.

But whatever action we take, whether it turns out right or wrong, should we concern ourselves with that? It is after all the past. Perhaps we should. Or perhaps we can go beyond the duality of right and wrong? But either way, we should not be guilty about our mistakes. We should learn from them. Nobody is perfect. We can each do more. With strength and diligence, we can make an effort to be a good human being. Mindfulness is not just in meditation, nor for attaining a miracle one day of enlightenment. It is a continuous state of being in our effort to be a good human being. From birth, we should engage in this effort until death. Nobody is perfect, but with mindfulness we can all do better.

Along with devotion or concentration, and compassion or loving kindness, it is these three things we should pay attention to. Devotion, Mindfulness and Compassion. In so doing, we are always learning. Even if we should die tomorrow, we should still try to learn something today.

Disclaimer: This is merely written up by me, and any errors are mine. The purpose is spiritual & philosophical. I'd appreciate your comments on the ideas and questions raised and your own understanding.

Carrie said: Hi Okei, You have raised some interesting questions in your blog...
okei said: Thanks Carrie! I think there are two main questions... how does one make decisions?, and can we go beyond right and wrong? And perhaps the answer is within the blog, namely within ourselves, in mindfulness... okei :^)
Erica said: This is as tricky one, isn't it? I'm always of the mind that we and others can always do better. I am always giving people, second, thirth, fourth....chances. Devotion, Mindfulness and Compassion - yea those are the things - yet they are not always returned in kind. And how we handle those situations I think helps define who we are. And I think 'especially' because we could die tomorrow - it a good reason to learn something today! hmmmmm - I think the only way we can make decisions is my following our hearts and our instincts. Can we go beyond right and wrong? Yea - I think so - I tend to see things in shades of gray.
okei said: Erica, thanks for the change of perspective! Of whether we trust that the other will do better and "let go" of past opinions of them. To be guided by bitterness and resentment is no good, nor by perfect innocence or history will repeat itself. It's a difficult balance of magical trust without innocence.
And that's a beautiful attitude you have to learning! :^)
Can we go beyond gray even... no judgement, just in the now?
I think this reminds me of the question of whether "intent is all that matters" versus "the ends justify the means".
Erica said: A difficult balance indeed! I am actually striving for a sort of innocence - innocence is freedom - when we are not jaded by fear or preconceived notions. Yet I don't want to be naive either LOL How's that for a paradox?
okei said: Yes! I think it's worth striving for!!! :^)
Erica said: Can we go past gray? Hmmmm - I think some can - but it would be dishonest for me to say that I can. I always try to suspend judgement - yet I cannot completely do it.
Intent matters - intentions do not, IMO. There is a very subtle yet distinct difference.... And yes (geez - you're making my head spin lol) - sometimes the ends do justify the means....
okei said: "A goal without a plan is a wish" Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Erica said: Yes - in a sense - intent is the wish - intention is the specific plan of action to bring about the wish. Hence the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
True intent is the desire from within to manifest a certain change or event. To me this is pure - from the heart - power. When we focus our intent or something - it will manifest - our thoughts do shape our reality. That is the way of magic. It's when we try to intervene and force something to come about - our egos tend to mess it up. This isn't to say we just sit about and wish without any action though - but the action needs only be a level of awareness and openness for the possibilities when they present themselves - and the ability to seize those opportunities - without fear. Because (I use the word magic) will invariably give us what we need - although it may not always be what we think we want or present itself in the way we might imagine if we were to set out with an goal/intention. I find it best to focus my intent to the direction I want to go and allow the magic to handle the details.
okei said:
I haven't read this link yet, but the worry that comes to me is that we cannot know the ends. When making a decision, we don't know how things will turn out. Imagining some positive outcome and doing what we can to get there is to ignore all the other outcomes which could also manifest. I love positive but it seems in danger of being "too positive" in its approach.
Checking out the alternatives, there seems to be deontology which bases morality on the acts themselves which seems all wrong, and virtue ethics on the intentions which appeals most to me because it is the most "in the now" and you are "in control". Does there have to be a contradiction between intentions and intents... ? Not if "virtuous activity ultimately produces the best consequences", but then that would be the definition of virtuous in my opinion, so we're in a bit of a circle.
To use the example of mind... do we have the intent of pure mind, or should we have the intention of purifying the mind? Or both are equally good moral objectives and there is no difference, or the fourth option which appeals most to me this minute, .... both!
Erica said: Intentions are of the mind - our logic saying this is the best way to get from point A to point B. Intent comes from our hearts, our spirit, our essence. No there doesn't have to be a contradiction between intent and intentions - but it is awfully rare that there isn't. And I am not 100% certain that the virtuous activity always produces the best consequences - but I will concede that is the case most of the time.

That being said - purifying the mind is indeed a good objective - that is honing and taming the ego. We can never completely let go of the ego - we need it to stay sane and be able to function in this place we collectively call reality. But a well trained ego is not to be confused with an intent that comes from within - from the heart - from the spirit - beyond the mind all together.
okei said: I have a vague intention of learning Chinese one day. It is pure "air" and nothing driving it, no passion or plan. So to use this as an example... If I really decide that I want to learn Chinese, I need to take that intention and hold in my mind and make it an intent, light a "fire" of desire to actually do it. Then maybe, the direction set by the intent, some plan will materialize.
So what I've described is a kind of cycling between intention and intent.
Erica said: Wanting to learn Chinese is indeed an example of an intention. But in my opinion there is no way to turn that into intent. Learning something specific like a new language - is strictly 'of the mind' - it's a 'want' and not a 'need' - and intent comes from the heart - it fulfills need and not desire. Lighting a fire of desire to actually do it doesn't turn it into intent - it just simply gives you the motivating incentive to take the action to get it done. Now I know what's coming next - and that is - "give me an example of intent" :-)
Many years ago I had this gut feeling that 'something' was missing. I was spiritually suppressed and there was this deep longing in my soul to connect with something even though at that time I had no notion as to what that something was. I began my questing for knowledge - and at this point it was strictly an intellectual endeavor. But as I found myself focusing on that quest - all kinds of strange occurrences began happening. It would take me a really long time to describe all the details - but the gist of it is - I put my intent 'out there' that I was in need of spiritual guidance. And I received it - in all sorts or strange and magical ways. There was no specific intention to follow a specific path or learn or do a specific thing. And the path I ended up on was way different than the one I would have imagined for myself. But I followed the signs and things manifested the way they needed to -albeit a far cry from what I expected.
My level of understanding is far from perfect and I still lapse into my old ways from time to time. In fact I was 'dead' for a few years - up until about 5 months ago actually. I made a conscious effort to open myself back up again - which in turn lead to a whole string of strange occurrences that lead me back onto my path where I left off. Again what ended up happening is far different then what I thought would happen. That is the power of intent - a longing of our inner selves that projects our need and magic/the universe/whatever you want to call it responds and shows us the way - if we only have the eyes to see it - and keep our own selves out of the way to allow it to manifest.
There - how was that for talking in circles? :-)
okei said: No, you described it brilliantly. It's interesting you're using the term "power" to describe this intent because power which I equate with passion is something which has been on my mind the past couple of weeks as what allows us to raise above ourselves in some way, and I've been struggling without success so far to find what the Buddhists have to say about it. I'll just leave a link to my post about it on BT in case anyone is interested.
Roddy said: Discover True Self. The purification of the mind will happen naturally when this is the intent. 
okei said: I had a dream immediately after this conversation, of which I can remember nothing apart from some vague idea of intent being a "broadcast from within" that one cannot help but notice its presence... like Harry Potter, that when he is among a group of people, anyone might sense his presence among that group so the group can never hope to go incognito. [actually this isn't true in Harry Potter, it's true though for the dementors or Lord Voldemort that wherever they go they have a chill around them that can be sensed, whereas Harry Potter can and often does go around incognito, under his invisibility cloak, but who said dreams were logical? But I think the idea stands, in summary that intent is a broadcast and lends a "presence".]

I said in the above blog of the three things that mattered: devotion/concentration, mindfulness and loving kindness, but I had the idea that although these three are separate things, they should be seen as one. The mindfulness is compassionate, it does not frown at undesirable thoughts, feelings, sensations disturbing the peace, but as in meditation, it smiles its awareness. So it is compassionate mindfulness, and this mindfulness, lest it drift into boredom or daydreaming or doubt is concentrated... in every moment concentrated so there is no room for doubt and sharp like the edge of a blade so there is no room either for boredom or daydreaming. So all three in one and we have concentrated compassionate mindfulness, and that is the desired state in every moment. :^)
Roddy said: Yes.. it is not easy to always be mindful. It takes being in the immediate present, without fear of what the next moment, or the next day, may bring.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A Question about Love (BT)

Here are two poems. The first (by me) is about a state of almost baby love, of peaceful bliss, loving kindness, inner peace and joy, yet without power and passion. The second (my version of a translation of a poem by Goethe) is about pure yearning, of desire and self burnt up in the fire of passion, yet without loving kindness, inner peace and joy.

Buddhist philosophy, as I understand it, would say that desire is destructive and that expectation leads to disappointment, but might it not be that destruction and disappointment are necessary to make space for their opposites in creativity and happiness, in order for love to be productive and powerful? Do we not need desire and ego as fuel for the fire of passion? Or is peaceful love and bliss a better love and if so, how to harness its hidden power?

Blessed Bliss

I sit beside a smile
And soon I’m smiling too,
The smile becomes a laugh
And then I’m laughing too
Down to the naked breast
Where I lay my head
And nestle in its shade.
In this state of bliss,
Desiring nothing more,
I softly fall asleep.


Blessed Longing

Tell it to none except the wise
For the common crowd will sneer.
I wish to praise the dancing eyes
That sparkle for death’s final tear.

When the calm unfolds the love-night
That created you, where you create,
An unknown yearning comes alight,
A candle that will be your fate.

Darkness now no longer snares you,
Shadows lose their ancient force
As this deep desire tears through you
To soar to higher intercourse.

Now no distance checks your flight.
You come on wings enchanted, rash
To meld yourself into the light
And like a moth you’re burnt to ash.

So long as you’ve not met this test
Of living death and then rebirth,
You shall remain a gloomy guest
On this dark earth.

—Goethe (1814)

Addendum: I now offer you a third poem, representing another type of love, of friendship, which both has the Buddhist qualities of
loving kindness, inner peace and joy, but also the productive qualities of power and passion that motivate action.

Blessed Friendship

Up the branch he makes a dart,
Flicks his tail and looks around,
Down at the girl who made him start
Dropping chestnuts on the ground.

Cautiously he does descend,
Grabs a nut, then jumps away,
But soon the girl becomes his friend
And how she wishes he could stay!

But he must go and gather nuts
And hide away from winter’s frost.
Her fingertips still bear the cuts,
Love bites that were friendship’s cost.
So for her friend one early morn,
She fills her bag with nuts she's found
And empties them onto the lawn
And hopes in spring he’ll be around.

This post was originally published at Buddhist Travelers.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Milk & Honey (Hollie Cook)

Every day
In the morning paper you
You got the news of the world
You gonna make changes
It's time to laugh all alone in your room
If only you could shine through the darkness, Yes

And the day and the night you dine
And so far
The reason you feel lonely
You should try
You should try
The milk and the rice with
Just a bit of honey

Every day in the evening paper you
You see the boys and the girls
They wanna be famous
They talk and laugh
You don't care for the rules
You know that nothing
Nothing really changes, Yes


Monday, 12 October 2009


Hand in hand in the deep blue sea
Where the waters are warm and kind
Two mermaids swim in company
Sworn to each other, tails entwined.

Their friends meanwhile glide wild and free
Bodies flowing and spirits lined
With passionate curiosity
Discovering fun in all they find.

It is a mermaid mystery
Of why this pair do not unwind
Nor with a merman become three
But take by choice of will this bind.

Love we know must be the key,
Love told in tales of humankind
Of lovers wrapped in one body
Who parting for each other pined.

And witnessing how love can be,
We mermaids are alike in kind,
For we know well of ecstasy
That fills the heart and clears the mind,

So love like focused passion's glow
Must wake one deep within to know.


There are three more poems in the discussion below, which may be viewed at