Economics, Sex, Love, & Buddhism

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

E. F. Schumacher, author of the landmark book “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered”, once wrote an essay titled Buddhist Economics.

Fellow economists asked: “What does Buddhism have to do with economics?”  To which Schumacher replied: “Economics without Buddhism – without spiritual, human, and ecological values – is like sex without love.”

In his book, he called for an economics based on human values and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Of the modern economist, Schumacher wrote:

“He is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less.  A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational.  Since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption.

“Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity.”

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Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's ChallengesJames Hilgendorf is the author of  eight non-fiction books: “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The New Superpower”; “A New Myth for America”;  “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”, “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, and his latest, “Forever Here.”

His books are available through bookstores, or online in paperback or e-book format through the following online booksellers, and other online retailers.

Amazon.com
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords



Death, and The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel – what is it?

People on their deathbed, slipping into the coma of never-ending night, tell much the same story when they return.

In their descent into death, they move down a long dark tunnel, and at the end there is a light – an incredibly warm, brilliant light, embracing them with arms of overwhelming love and compassion.

Is it God we have come face to face with?

No, only ourselves.

The light is the core of ourselves, that is always there, though we do not recognize it.  In dying, we meet up with who we truly are.

We reach eternally to the outer edges of the universe, holding the light of a billion billion suns within our five or six foot body, and it goes unnoticed as we trudge through the chores of the day, the repetitive sunrises and sunsets of months and years, the wandering and wondering what we should be doing, who we are, what life is all about, never for an instant aware of the enormity of all of creation stirring and beckoning from within.

The Buddha sat beneath the bodhi tree, and perceived this light at the core of his being.

We also are the Buddha, you and I.

We are immense, and the light at the end of the tunnel is that immensity, that brightness, that compassion.  It is not separate from us, but is our true being.  We are that great.

The task is how to realize this, and bring it forth.

—- From “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”.

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Poems of Death: Time for Eternity. Books on Buddhism

Poems of Death: Time for Eternity

James Hilgendorf is the author of  “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, and seven other non-fiction books: “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The New Superpower”; “A New Myth for America”;  “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; and “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”, and “Forever Here.”

His books are available through bookstores, or online in paperback or e-book format through the following online booksellers, and other online retailers.

Amazon.com
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords

 

Vincent van Gogh – Jubiliation in the Midst of Misery

Vincent van Gogh.  I cannot help but feeling deeply moved by his life and letters.

Of course we know him now as the great artist and genius he was; but during his lifetime, he knew intense loneliness and struggle and a world that lent him no recognition.  His was a battle at times for the very sanity of his soul.

Yet in the very midst of misery, he finds a purpose and a strength, and inner harmony.  He writes:

Self-Portrait, Spring 1887, Oil on pasteboard,...
Self-Portrait, Spring 1887, Oil on pasteboard, 42 × 33.7 cm., Art Institute of Chicago (F 345). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person – somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low.  All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric,such a nobody, has in his heart.  That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion.  Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me.  I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners.  And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

And again:

“Success is sometimes the outcome of a whole string of failures.”

“What preys on my mind is simply this one question: what am I good for, could I not be of service or use in some way?”

Achieving the greatest of dreams  entails encountering the greatest of obstacles.  Joy is born out of great struggle.  Joy is forged through the tempering of our own determination and perseverance.

True joy and success are beyond our commonly accepted definitions of these terms.  The purpose of life is to become happy.  But there are two kinds of happiness spelled out in Buddhism – relative, and absolute.

Relative happiness is found in realizing our desires, such as a fine home, a good partner, money, financial success, etc.  These are worthy goals; but they are all also subject to decay and loss and change, and if they disappear, we fall into despondency and even despair.

What is the happiness that can never disappear.  This is the power and hope within your life that can never be defeated – which can grow and develop under any circumstances, turning even the most daunting of challenges and change into benefit and victory.  It is the ongoing  development of a magnificent state of life.  This is absolute happiness.  This is the goal, and around this the objects of relative happiness take their proper place.

Vincent further writes:
“As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed”

“In spite of everything, I shall rise again; I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.”

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James Hilgendorf
James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of eight books.  He has been practicing Buddhism for over forty years with the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist lay organization with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories worldwide.

His books are available through bookstores, or online in paperback or e-book format from the following retailers:

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Smashwords

Connect with him on Twitter.


What is Happiness?

What is happiness?  Ask a thousand people, and you will probably get a thousand different answers.

Many think of happiness as freedom from work, or an abundance of money, so that one can lead a life of leisure.

Others look for happiness in another person, a dream relationship, a beautiful marriage.  Some want to travel and see the world.  Others want good health.

Perhaps the common demoninator in all of their answers – the thing they all wish for – is an absence of problems.

If we could somehow get rid of our problems – be they relationships, health, financial, etc. – we could become happy.

From a Buddhist perspective, all of these goals represent what we would call relative happiness.  In other words, these are fine objectives, and things we all work toward; but, at the same time, they are all subject to decline.  Any of these goals, once obtained, can crumble in the next instant, leaving us with nothing.  Financial prosperity can disappear, health can deteriorate, relationships can wither and even turn into their opposite.

What kind of happiness then can we find that will endure?  This is the goal of Buddhist practice.  And what does it look like?

For one thing, Buddhism strives to develop the treasures of the heart.  These arise from expanding our sense of compassion, not only for our own life, but for others around us, and indeed for all of life.   These are the only treasures that stay with us, throughout life and death.

But beyond that, Buddhism looks squarely at life in this world, confronting life’s problems head-on.  The world, and everyone’s life, is filled with problems, with challenges, with obstacles.  How do we become happy in such a world?

Buddhism finds its answer in the pursuit of absolute happiness.  Absolute happiness is a state of life, overflowing with life-force and strength, that allows us to face and overcome any problem we may be facing, and to be victorious in our lives.  It is a state of life that can never be defeated.

To develop such a state of life is the purpose of practicing Buddhism.

In this latest episode of the SGI-USA YouTube series, “Buddha Beat”, some Bostonians explore the meaning of happiness.

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James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

 

James Hilgendorf is the author of eight non-fiction books, and a long-time member of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories.  His books are available through bookstores, or online in paperback or e-book format from the following retailers:

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Smashwords

Connect with him on Twitter.


What is the Goal then?

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

What is your goal?  Things are not as they seem.

The luxury home, the girl or guy of your dreams, a padded bank account – all of these can fade and go up in smoke.

What remains then?  Your life.  Wherever you are, whoever you are, bold and bare for all to see.

What is the goal then?  Something intangible, unbankable.

To smile through all travail, blessed with knowing who you are, indomitable, forging a pathway into eternity.

We live forever – to forge that vision, that eye, to bless each moment raining down upon your life, aware of the infinite joy of being alive, of smelling the flowers, the feel of rain and sun and people, and the motion of the day, dropping into evening and dusk, forever poignant and afresh.

Meet everything with the power of invincibility.  Turn darkness into light, pain and sorrow to jewels of remembrance.

We are here forever.  Enjoy.

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Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's ChallengesJames Hilgendorf is the author “Forever Here”, and seven other non-fiction books, available through bookstores, or online in paperback or e-book format from the following retailers:

 

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Smashwords

Connect with him on Twitter.

Forever Here, in America

HERE AND THERE, NOW AND FOREVER

The hands of day and night sweep across the face of the cosmos.

Inexorable, preordained, we have counted out the periods of the moon.

Yet wild comets slash across the darkness, awakening tremors in the flesh of the heavens, the face of the unknown suddenly revealed.

We appear like clockwork, and our space is measured in a few years, and everything in that space and time is, at the end, like a brief, unmemorable dream.

Dogs and cats, too, live their lives and fill out a briefer time.  Ants perish hardly before we take another breath.  At the core of atoms, quarks and anti-matter live out their predestined arc of time in breathless abandon.

Here and there, now and forever, innumerable lives and deaths.

And a young man and woman appear on a park bench, and while fireflies perish and meteors blaze across miles of unforgiving space, they embrace and kiss and dream of forever.

—- From Poems of Death: Time for Eternity, by James Hilgendorf

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James Hilgendorf
James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of eight non-fiction books, available through bookstores, or online in paperback or e-book format from the following retailers:

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Smashwords

Connect with him on Twitter.

Who Are You When You Die?

Who are you when you die?

There are all kinds of answers:

You become clay.
You meet your Maker.
You live in paradise forever.
It is all over forever.
You are a wave on the Ocean of Life.
You meet 70 virgins.
You burn in hell.
You take it easy in heaven.
You become a dog or a cat or a rat.
You try again.
You are a character in another story.
You finally get out.
You meet the Light.
You meet your father and mother.
You become good compost.
You live in your children.
You live in your books.
You live in your works.
You wait in purgatory.
You become atoms and quarks.
You live in Love.
You live here and there.
You live nowhere.

You don’t know where you live, but you want to live SOMEWHERE.

—- From The Buddha and the Dream of America.

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James Hilgendorf
James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of eight books, available through bookstores, or online in paperback or e-book format from the following retailers:

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Smashwords

Light Up The Galaxy

You come upon people, here and there, and their lives are weighted down with cares, decisions to be made, hungers, dreams, desires, hatred, love, regrets; and there are seven billion of us walking the planet, turning corners, beginning their lives, ending their lives.

Can you imagine the immense power harnessed if we could activate these already existing connections, jump start the globe, put the world into gear and light up a corner of the galaxy?

Atoms split, bombard each other, releasing light.

Together, we could create a star.

—– From “Forever Here”.

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James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's Challenges“Forever Here” is available in paperback or e-book format from these following retailers:

Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble

Amazon.com

Smashwords.com

Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective, Now Available on Apple iBooks

Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective, by James Hilgendorf, is now available as an e-book download from Apple iBooks.

The popular book starts out with a short history of Buddhism, and then interweaves a wide range of subjects and writers, including modern psychology and psychiatry, near-death experience research, quantum physics, Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Carl Jung, Daisaku Ikeda and many others, to explain how Buddhism works in our daily lives and the perspective this sheds on the most fundamental problem of all – the issue of death.

Some comments by readers:

“If I were to teach a basic college-level course in religion, philosophy, or metaphysics – call it Spirituality 101 – this book would be required reading.  In fact, it would be the first week’s assignment.  Having read all or parts of nearly a thousand books dealing with spiritual matters, I cannot recall another that so simply and effectively blends the fundamentals of religion and science.” – Michael E. Tymn, Journal of Religion and Psychical Research.

“A must-read!  I am serious when I say that reading James Hilgendorf’s “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective” was a life-changing experience.  It has changed the way I will live the rest of my life.” – Lisbeth Gant-Britton, author of “African American History, and UCLA adjunct professor in African-American Studies.

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James Hilgendorf is the author of eight books.  He has been practicing Buddhism for over forty years with the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist lay organization with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories worldwide.

 

 



 

Karma is Neither Good nor Bad

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

Contrary to what we usually think about it, karma is neither good nor bad.

People say, oh, it’s my karma, meaning something negative.  But karma simply means action.  You make a cause, and you get an effect.  With our thoughts, words and actions, we are constantly shaping our lives.  We have created the person we are, and we are continuing to create the person we will be. This approach to life empowers people, because it puts the responsibility for our lives directly in our own lap.  There is no one to blame.

We can look at karma as either positive or negative.  We can view the situations that come into our life as either good or bad, but actually they are neither.  What makes them good or bad is how we react to them.

We win the lottery, and feel that this is a very positive thing.  But what if we now take vacations and lay on the beach, get into drugs, generally let the force and direction of our life slide downward to the point where we eventually squander or gamble away the money, lose it all, and end up with a weaker state of life than when we first began?  Then winning the lottery – a stroke of good karma, we might say – actually becomes the cause for our unhappiness.

Or take someone who becomes ill and loses their job. This might appear to be a case of bad karma.  But if that person tackles their illness, develops a new and healthier diet and lifestyle as a result, goes back to school and develops skills in another area that allows them to get a better and more fulfilling job, then the original illness and loss of work actually becomes the source of great benefit.

Everything depends on how we view things.

Buddhism teaches that the ultimate benefit is to develop a state of life in which we can enjoy our lives no matter what happens to us.  Buddhism calls this absolute happiness.  It is a powerful and joyful state of life which nothing can defeat.

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Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective

A long-time member of the Soka Gakkai, James Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books. including “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

The Individuality of Wildflowers

Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI

I came across this lovely piece about wildflowers, by Daisaku Ikeda, President of the Soka Gakkai, an international Buddhist lay organization, and wanted to share it.

“Wildflowers are neither vain nor haughty, neither jealous nor servile.  Living in accord with their unique mission, characterizing the Buddhist principle of the equality of cherry, peach, plum and damson blossoms, they neither envy other flowers nor belittle themselves.  They take pride in their individuality, knowing that each is a flower with a bloom like no other.  Even the prettiest and most delicate wildflowers are by no means weak.  They may seem fragile, but they are strong, unperturbed by rain or wind.”

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James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

The Buddhism for our Time

Waking the BuddhaAn awareness of and interest in Buddhism has been growing among all ages of people in this country.  A new book, just out, is making the case that Buddhism is about to become a major force on the religious scene of America.

Waking the Buddha” is a new book by author Clark Strand, and the subtitle of his book is “how the most dynamic and empowering Buddhist movement in history is changing our concept of religion.”

In 1994, Mr. Strand was hired as senior editor of Tricycle magazine, which has become a conduit for Buddhist religious thought from different forms of Buddhism all over the world.  Before and after that time, he has had an opportunity to come into contact with many kinds of Buddhism.  He himself studied Zen Buddhism for fourteen years, and eventually became a monk and a teacher at a New York Zen center in Manhattan.

It was only in 2003 that he came into contact with the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist lay organization of roughly 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories around the world.  He has since studied the SGI up close, and although he is not a member of the organization, he feels that the SGI is poised to lead a global revolution in the way we look, not only at Buddhism, but at religion in general.

At the first meeting of the SGI Strand attended, he was astonished, first of all, at the diversity of the people he saw there.  They were a cross section of America.  Secondly, he discovered that the religion of the SGI – Nichiren Buddhism – was focused on solving peoples’ daily problems.

He writes”

“Here was a Buddhist organization that represented American culture more fully and more robustly that any Buddhist group I had ever seen.  I was very struck by that.

“The discussion model was huge, too, because every voice is heard.  The SGI doesn’t create a spiritually idealized lifestyle where you’re supposed to become calmer, more centered and more enlightened before you can be said to demonstrate the fruits of Buddhist practice.  The Soka Gakkai says: ‘Bring us the life that you’ve got.  We’re going to help you find value, meaning and the truths of Buddhist philosophy in the midst of that life.’  There is no problem that you can’t bring to an SGI meeting.  It really is a full-bodied approach to Buddhism.”

Strand argues that the small, open discussion meetings format of the SGI can serve as a model for all religions.

His book is available through bookstores and Amazon.com.

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James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

A long-time member of the Soka Gakkai, James Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.


 

Bring Forth Your Beauty & Power

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

When things get really tough, you cannot weaken, you cannot give in.

Everything will conspire to stop you.

So this is the big one.  This is the biggest of the big ones you have encountered thus far.

Nothing seems to move.  You have to move.  With everything, every fiber, with utter determination.

It is all yours to have, but it has to come from within, the fierce resolve, the unrelenting action, as though to scale a previously unscaled ridge.

This is a great, great benefit.  You are about to grow beyond your old irresolute self, the one who could not believe in the range of your beauty and power; who tried to find a foundation of support elsewhere, not in your bare, naked self, your bare hands carving out everything you dream of and are capable of.

Honor and praise and appreciate yourself.

Then impact the world.

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Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's ChallengesJames Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books, the newest being “Forever Here”.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

Fate or Free Will?

Are we bound and destined to become someone?  Is our life laid out along the iron tracks of fate?

Plants grow to maturity and flower, but their fruit and blossoms were already foretold in the seeds of their beginning.  Are we the same?  Is everything that we are to be laid out beforehand at our conception and birth.

In Hinduism, everything is preordained and known by God.  One’s duty is to live out our life as it unfolds.  No changing from one caste system to another, no breaking the immutable design of the heavens.

The caste system meant that if you were an untouchable, you always remain an untouchable.  If a brahmin, then that was your fixed place in the universe. This was mandated by the gods and especially by the powers that be.

Buddhism changed all that.  The Buddha broke all the entrenched rules, the way of looking at people.  He opened his arms and the arms of the universe to everyone, male or female, poor or rich, brahmin or untouchable.  He opened all people to the vast and common universe within their own lives.

We carry the past with us, we carry our karma, reaching back untold aeons, linking with our ancestors and their ancestors and their relatives and friends and their ancestors and friends to form an unfathomable geneological tree.

This is who we are.

But my waking this morning, striding out into the world, dreaming dreams and acting on those dreams – these all add to who I am, and those actions and efforts rebound into everything that I am and everything that I have ever been and cause ripples and changes and motions in the heart of all of life.

My words, my eye, my thoughts reshape the universe.

I bend and warp the rails of fate.

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James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

Free Kindle, Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age, May 3-4

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeA free Kindle e-book, Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age, by James Hilgendorf, is available from Amazon.com May 4 & 5.

Written to inspire youth to challenge and change the world they live in, and to become all that they can be and dream of, Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age is a collection of short pieces from the author, as well as writings from famous people throughout history, including Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Edison, Joseph Campbell, Victor Hugo,  and a host of many others.

The author writes:

“Our dreams are the dreams of Life.  They are there for fulfillment.

“Through pursuing our dreams, we learn to believe in ourselves.  We gain power.  We come to realize that nothing is impossible.

“Our world is a mirror of our determination, deep prayer, and resolute action.

“Our universe will definitely respond, but only after we have surmounted despair, doubt, unbelief, and come to know in the deepest recesses of our muscles and sinews, mind and heart, that we can win.

“We paint our life on the canvas of the universe.”

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age will be available for free download as a Kindle e-book on Saturday, May 3rd, and Sunday, May 4th, 2014.

On those days, click on these links according to your location:

U.S.
http://amzn.to/QW0WoL

U.K.
http://amzn.to/1m35DH9

India
http://bit.ly/1tWqG3A

If you do not have a Kindle reader, you can download a free Kindle reading app for Android, IPhone, Windows, Mac, Pc, etc, at http://bit.ly/QW2yyN

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

 

We Have Met Before in Eternity

WE HAVE MET BEFORE

What is loving, that we are bound and fated to this single round of life?

We have met before, and our merging within these few short years takes our lives to new unrevealed depths of time.

Eternity stretches out, holding us in its hands, and praise grows luminous in the hills and valleys of time.

We are here, forever, hand in hand, singing , warring, blessed with starry motion, leaving moons and suns in our wake.

I love you.  I love myself.  We are one.

Dancing through the halls of eternity.

—- From “Forever Here”.

Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's ChallengesJames Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

A Religion of the Future. A Spirituality of the Future.

A religion of the future.  A spirituality of the future.

Loving the animals.  Respecting each person as a flower of the universe.  Treasuring all, denying no one admittance to the broad circle of humanity.

Racking our brains and muscles to care for all.  Using our heaven sent talents to inspire others, to raise others, to bring forth and foster youth mightier and more talented than ourselves.  To care for nature, seeing in nature the mirror of ourselves.

Giving of our hearts to others.  Working for a generous, magnificent future.  Selflessly pushing ourselves so that others may live and breathe more freely.

Letting flow through our thoughts and deeds undreamed-of goals and visions hearkening from the core of the life itself.  Believing in our own unfathomable power to fashion a new reality.

—- From “A New Myth for America”.

A New Myth for America, by James HilgendorfJames Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

The Deepest Karma is Like a Deep-Rooted Tree

The deepest karma is like a deep-rooted tree.

Even if you cut through the trunk of the tree, and the huge body and branches go tumbling into the forest, the roots, – big, massive, immoveable claws gripping deep, deep into the impacted earth – remain.  They have to be painstakingly rooted out.

Because they are roots, they cannot be seen.  They stay hidden, still alive, sucking sustenance from ages and aeons of weather and fire and volcanic growth.

Our deepest karma, also, stays active and alive, never directly observed or seen or even imagined, but always there.

Cause and effect, burrowed deep down in our life and mind.

To tackle their removal is difficult indeed.  These are intractable stories written upon our being.

It all centers and moves about a denial of self.

We are great beyond imagining, but we have buried that, and spun other stories of guilt and sin and doubt and incapacity and fear that shackle the godlike motions of our heart.

Draconian measures are required.

Deep within our hearts, sits the Buddha, unawakened.

Summon him or her, with his or her name.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

—- From “Forever Here”.

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Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's ChallengesJames Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books, the latest being “Forever Here”.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

The Pope & Satan: Eternal Twins

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

The Pope warned today for his followers to beware:  Satan is still among us!

I wonder:  Where does he hang out?  Behind the moon?

Invisible, deadly, crouching through the shadows near our arm.  Wreaking havoc, division, drawing down souls into darkness and oblivion, where shall we build up our defenses?

Devil and God, goodness and evil, black against white, the war rages on.

What does Satan look like?  Sharp horns?  Villainous eyes?

No, the twin of our own life.  Blue or brown eyes, sweet smile, man or woman, five feet, or six feet, or seven feet tall.

Within, ever within, rages the demon.  We are the devil, we are the god.

The Pope holds all under his tall white hat.

He, and you, and I, are the one.

X marks the spot.

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Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's ChallengesJames Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books, the latest being “Forever Here”.

Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

Putin & Tolstoy at the Sochi Olympics

James Hilgendorf
James Hilgendorf

At the recent Sochi Olympics, Vladimir Putin put on a grand show highlighting Russia’s past. One of the main characters brought in by association with the show was the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.

Putin wants to link himself with a revival of some of Russia’s great past, but it is interesting to note that Tolstoy, were he alive today, would look upon Putin and the government he is heading, with the utmost disdain.

Tolstoy was an ardent pacifist, whose message of non-violence and non-violent resistance had a profound impact upon Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who followed.

Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy held Christian beliefs, particularly in Jesus’s teachings (though he saw Jesus as a man, not God) and the Sermon on the Mount and the admonition to “turn the other cheek”, which Tolstoy understood as one of the pillars of Christianity, and a commandment of non-violence and  non-resistance to evil by force.

Tolstoy felt that the Russian Orthodox Church – the established Christian Church – had totally corrupted the teachings of Jesus.  He spoke out against the Church, and, in turn, was attacked and excommunicated by the Church.  Tolstoy also denounced the government and its use of power and force and its waging of war as totally contrary to the teachings of Christianity.

If Tolstoy were alive today, he would once again witness the collaboration of Russian Church and State in the blatant use of power and force and violence to achieve their aims.  Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church are in collusion – bed fellows – and nothing seems to have changed since Tolstoy’s time.

For Putin to assume a mantle of association with Tolstoy is both ridiculous and disgusting.  He is the opposite of what Tolstoy would consider a great leader or a great man.  He shames the truly great spirit of Russia.

The question could be further posed:  Is violence and war and collective murder compatible with Christianity?  Tolstoy concluded that it definitely was not.  Tolstoy condemned Christians who said they believed in Jesus and his teachings, yet condoned and participated in violence and war as un-Christian.

Another writer posed a similar question in America – Harriet Beecher Stowe, in her great anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.  Is slavery compatible with Christianity?  Both she and Tolstoy held up an unflattering mirror to the societies of their times.

Tolstoy would damn Putin and the Orthodox Church as collaborators in violence and war.  But he would also damn much of the world and many of its governments, who wage war and prepare for war and expend enormous sums of money on armaments and the instruments of violence, and still call themselves Christians, or Muslims, or Jews, or Hindus, or whatever other label of religion they hold dear.  All violate the basic premises of their own religions.

I am sure, he would hold in contempt even our own government, this United States of America, which stockpiles and readies nuclear weapons capable of annihilating the human race, as complicit in utter evil.

In the end, the change that Tolstoy sought and advocated, and which is still the primary change needed to effect a transformation in the world, is an inner transformation.

Tolstoy wrote:

“There can be only one permanent revolution – a moral one: the regeneration of the inner man.”

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James Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books. Check out his website, or reach him on Twitter.

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