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.

_________________

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.”

______________

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

Enhanced by Zemanta

Buddhism & The Struggle for Self-Empowerment

James Hilgendorf

 

If we are truly alive, there is never an end to challenges.

Buddhism teaches that these problems or obstacles are an integral part of life, and are actually the means by which we can expand and greatly develop our life.  They allow us to attain a life-state that can never be defeated – one in which life itself becomes a joy.

To face life with such an attitude requires strength, endurance, patience, and confidence in our own great worth, power, and potential.  Buddhism provides a means of developing these very qualities in each single individual.  Buddhism is about winning.

The Buddhism of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, provides a simple practice, combined with profound dialogue and study, that enables anyone to initiate a deep transformation in the depths of one’s life, to enter a path of personal happiness that will be reflected in one’s daily life and environment.

The video below is a reading of a passage from one of my books, “Forever Here”, on Buddhism and the challenge of self-empowerment.

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.

Thomas Edison & Thomas Paine: Kindred Religious Spirits

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

Thomas Paine, the great revolutionary activist and writer, was the author of the powerful pamphlets “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis”, which were extraordinarily powerful in 1776 in rousing the American colonists’ in their struggle for independence from Great Britain.  President John Adams once said that “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

Paine was one of America’s great patriots.  But Paine, later, in 1794, also authored another pamphlet, “The Age of Reason”, which earned him tremendous criticism.  In it, he railed against institutionalized religion in general, and Christian doctrine in particular.  He wrote:

English: Straighten, face brighter, dust, crea...
Thomas Paine

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of.  My own mind is my own church.

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

“The opinions I have advanced are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter.”

This writing brought great enmity, and made him an outcast in many circles, but Paine remained true to his beliefs until the end of his life.

The writer and orator Robert G. Ingersoll once wrote of Paine’s last years:

“Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life.  One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him.  Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul.  He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken.  He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death.  Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts.  On the 8th of June, 1809, death came – Death, almost his only friend.  At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display.  In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead – on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head – and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude – constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine.”

English: "Thomas Alva Edison, three-quart...
Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was one of the most prolific and influential inventors of all time, with the practical electric light-bulb, phonograph, and motion picture camera to his long list of patented inventions.  He is one of the icons of American business.

Yet Edison, in the arena of religion, was a free thinker.  And one of the greatest influences upon his life was Thomas Paine and his work “The Age of Reason.”

Edison wrote:

“I have always regarded Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans.  Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic.  It was my good fortune to encounter Thomas Paine’s works in my boyhood.  It was, indeed, a revelation to me to read that great thinker’s views on political and theological subjects.  Paine educated me, then, about many matters of which I had never before thought.  I remember, very vividly, the flash of enlightenment that shone from Paine’s writings, and I recall thinking, at that time, ‘What a pity these works are not today the schoolbooks for all children!’  My interest in Paine was not satisfied by my first reading of his works.  I went back to them time and again, just as I have done since my boyhood days.”

These were the little-known mutual feelings of two extraordinary and outstanding Americans.

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

Enhanced by Zemanta

A New Religion, A New Civilization

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

In 1947, the great historian Arnold Toynbee theorized about the future of mankind in a book titled Civilization on Trial.

He felt that historians in the future, looking back two or three thousand years from now, would see the one great defining event of our own times as the overwhelming impact Western civilization was making upon the rest of the world.  In the centuries and milennia to follow, this crushing impact would be followed by a counter wave and impact upon Western civilization by those cultures and societies affected, until both were ground down, changed forever, with the gradually emerging reality of a unified humanity and a new global civilization.

He felt that the foundation for this social unification of mankind would be found not in the domain of politics, nor economics, but, rather, of religion.

Indeed, this has become an imperative.

First of all, what is needed is world view, philosophy, or religion – whatever you want to call it – that can transcend the divisions caused by our current religions.  Our mainstream religions are still tribal in nature – only witness the morass in the Mideast, with Christians, Muslims and Jews pitted against each other.

Identity is at the core of the problem.  Who are we?  Are we Christians, Jews, and Muslims, or are we human beings, first and foremost, members of an evolving human family?  To be unable to get past our religious identity – viewing others outside our own camp as the “other”, is at the heart of so much of the hatred and war going on in the world today.

Religion today – if it is to help humankind to continue its existence on this planet – needs to transcend these barriers, providing a foundation for a new global and universal identity and a truly global civilization.

People in all walks of life are moving in this direction – be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, or agnostic.  There is a move worldwide towards a common humanity.

The SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, is on the cutting edge of this change.  Respecting individuals of all backgrounds, and committed to world peace, education, and cultural and religious dialogue, the SGI is a Buddhist lay organization now encompassing the globe, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories all over the world.

The SGI’s current President, Daisaku Ikeda, is well known for his peace-building efforts, and has been honored by over 320 honorary doctorates and degrees from leading universities around the world.

Still in its infancy, the SGI is poised now to become a major religion for the 21st century and beyond.

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

Evolution, Creationism & Buddhism

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

Evolution vs. Creationism.  The battle continues.

On the one hand, you have evolution advocates like the English Biologist Richard Dawkins; and on the other hand, legions of religious followers, basing their convictions on the words of the Bible.

It all boils down to science vs. religion.

There is an ongoing rift between science and religion, one of the most famous examples being the persecution and trial of Galileo, the scientist and astronomer, by the Catholic Church for Galileo’s proposal that the Earth was not the center of our solar system, but instead circled the Sun. (By the way, it was only in 1992 that the Catholic Church officially reversed the verdict in Galileo’s trial.)

In Buddhism, there is no conflict with science.  The findings of science, rather, are supporting the views of Buddhism, and vice versa.  There is nothing incompatible with quantum theory or scientific views of the universe and Buddhism.  Actually, science is in many ways catching up to views held about life and the universe that were propounded long ago by Buddhism.

If there are truths to be discovered about Life itself and this world we live in, then the discoveries of science should be able to uncover and mirror those truths.  Religion should be able to work hand in hand to help unearth those same truths as applied to our individual and collective lives.

As Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum theory show, things are often not what they appear to be.  Space and time are interwoven, and electrons act in ways that seem to defy our usual concepts of reality.

As for evolution, to flatly disregard the scientific findings, as many creationists do, smacks strongly of blind dogmatism.  Yet, perhaps the findings of science are not quite what they appear on the surface to be either.

As certain scientists and other thinkers propose, perhaps time is a totality.  Time is neither past nor future.  Time is now, and has always been now, but our human perception somehow can only conceive time in terms of past, present and future.

Perhaps we are all – dinosaurs, mammoths, Neanderthals, ancient suns and stars – waiting in the wings somewhere, breathless to play a part, given the chance of time and space.

Buddhism tries to fathom these mysteries of the universe, as well as the workings of the unfathomable within the day to day functioning of our own individual lives.

_______________

Book on Buddhism, Life and DeathJames Hilgendorf is the author of 8 books.

One of his most widely read books is “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“.

Of this book, concerning SCIENCE AND RELIGION, one reviewer commented:

“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.

Reach James Hilgendorf on Twitter.



A Buddhist’s Handbook for Youth

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy of eternal hope.

And what are youth looking for today?  Hope.

Not hope for something that takes place after you die, but hope grounded in the most fundamental and stark realities of daily life.  Relationships, jobs, self-improvement, individual happiness on the one hand, and hope for a better world, a more compassionate and caring global environment, for actual peace, for the flowering of a humane world on the other hand.

Faced with what is happening around the globe – wars, religious strife, national feuds – and what is going on in their very own country, the overpowering dominance of money in our politics, political deadlock while people suffer and the general standard of living for many declining – many youth today have lost this kind of hope.

Buddhism offers to everyone – whatever their background, race, gender, sexuality, social standing, or ethnicity – access to an enormous transformative power already existing within each and every one of us.  It just requires a means for tapping this potential.

The lessons of Buddhism are the lessons of life.

In his new book, “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”, James Hilgendorf, writer and filmmaker, combines words of encouragement from famous people throughout history, and adds to them select short pieces from his own writing, to form a guideline and book of hope for the youth of today.  The book is written by a Buddhist, but the lessons here are for everyone.

This is one passage from the book:

THE MIRACLE IS YOU

“At the heart of the most pressing problem lies the key to turning everything around.

“When the problem will not go away, when it stares you unrelentingly in the face, when you think you cannot go on living even unless it changes, this is the turning point.

“But the problem will never change if you think something is going to magically happen, if you think the solution will arrive knocking at your door to give you relief, if you are waiting for the miracle to happen.

“The miracle is you.

“The miracle is summoning up totally new energies from within.  It is forging new determinations, and then acting and moving ahead with all your might.  It is do or die.

“The miracle is finally believing in yourself.  It is depending on no one and no thing.  It is making up your mind.

” It is calling forth infinite resources where you saw no resources.

“The universe is waiting for you.  The universe has given you this problem as a gift.  The universe will bend to your every whim, but only when you yourself move with implacable will and determination.

“It all depends on you.

“You are the turning point of a miracle.”

___________________

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeJames Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.  He is a longtime member of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organization of 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories around the world working for peace, education and cultural interchange.

Visit his website.

America: A Look into the Mirror

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

 

Mirrors tell us a lot about who we are.

Posing before the mirror, we see out image, eyes, mouth, laughter or frown, our character.

Buddhism allows us to see something more: the image of who we really are.  We look into the deepest, clearest mirror and we see that everything around us, extending to the farthest reaches of the universe, is in actuality our very own life itself.

The promise of America has always been about a lot more than jobs, homes, material progress.  It is about the flowering of individuals.

The early American Renaissance of Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman was about this flowering; and it is a dream that is still waiting to be fulfilled.

This is a reading from my book, “A New Myth for America”.

A New Myth for America, by James HilgendorfJames Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

Transforming Karma & Living a Joyful Life

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

 

Karma is the sum of all you have ever thought, said, and done throughout your life, and – from the perspective of Buddhism – throughout other lives as well.

Many people associate the word karma with something negative.  Oh, that’s my bad karma, we say.

Karma is based on the law of cause and effect.  What goes around, comes around.  We make causes with our thoughts, words, and actions, and we inevitably get the effects.

Actually, karma is neither positive nor negative in the truest sense.  Someone, for instance, could win the lottery, and we would think this is some kind of good karma.  But if the winner uses that money to lead an indolent life, using drugs, laying on the beach, doing nothing with their life, then the seeming fortune of a windfall actually becomes the cause for something negative in their life.  And, conversely, a person can suffer a real setback in life, but struggle against their adversity, and by so doing develop great qualities such as courage, perseverance, and confidence, and the apparently negative problem then becomes the cause for great good.

In other words, it is how we meet whatever comes up in our life – seemingly good or bad – that is important.

We are all totally responsible for our lives.  The point is to turn everything in our life into a benefit, and to continue growing, and to develop a life of true joy.

This is a reading from one of my books, “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, which is not about death at all, but rather about eternity, right here, right now.

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.


What is Enlightenment? What is Buddhahood?

What is enlightenment, or Buddhahood?

The conversation seems to go on and on, and around and around.

One idea that seems to have taken root is that enlightenment is a state of consciousness or being achieved through a process of rising from lower levels of consciousness or perception to some kind of final spiritual state of understanding in which one’s life is suddenly and forever transformed.

In other words, enlightenment is a destination, and to reach this destination, various practices and methods are employed.

In contrast, the most insightful description of enlightenment or Buddhahood I ever read was written by Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organization with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories.

He wrote:

“What does attaining Buddhahood mean for us?  It does not mean that one day we suddenly turn into a Buddha, or become magically enlightened.  In a sense, attaining Buddhahood means that we have securely entered the path, or orbit, of Buddhahood inherent in the cosmos.  Rather than a final static destination at which we arrive and remain, achieving enlightenment means firmly establishing the faith needed to keep advancing along the path of absolute happiness limitlessly, without end.”

Faith, in this context, means continuing to challenge our lives and to grow, no matter what we face in life.  Faith also, in the context of the SGI, means continuing  the practice of chanting the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo – a means for any individual to be able to daily enter that “path, or orbit, of Buddhahood inherent in the cosmos”.

______________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

An End to Division

There is no end to the division.

The Middle East and the Muslim world are being torn apart.  The Arab Spring seems to bring a breeze of a fresh new world into lands dominated for decades by authoritarian regimes, and hopes rise, a new vision of life seems within grasp.

Then power leads to power struggles once again.  The forces of change, strangely, turn into forces of domination and oppression and division.  So it has always been, from time immemorial.

It is the same everywhere you look in the world.

Everywhere you look, division.  By race, by ethnicity, by religion, by culture, by history, by tradition.

Religion is one of the biggest culprits.  We live in a tribal world still.  Identities forged millennia ago still shape our identities today.  Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Sunni, Shiite, Protestant, Hindu – identities forged by national boundaries and concepts and ideas that shackle our minds and lives, and suffocate our potential – our potential as the human race, of a global race of people, different in color and traditions and music and cultures, but finally reaching that pinnacle where we should all stand by now, where we can view each other, man, woman and child, as part of our one world, our one universe, as identical to ourselves as simple human being, as one humanity.

Our religions today are too small.  They cannot embrace everyone.  They forge an iron identity which divides and renders people different, all because of authority and dogma and an attachment to a dead and dying past.

Who are we?  Who are we really?  This becomes the overriding question of our day.  We must find the answer, or we will inevitably perish.

Years ago, I read a news report of a young boy who, through television and other media, had become aware of the state of the world, and the devastation that religion wrought upon human lives.

His comment was:  “I think we need a new religion.”

He was correct, and that new religion has arisen.  It assumes now a global dimension.  It is the Buddhism of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist lay organization of 12,000,000 members now in 192 countries and territories worldwide.

It is a religion capable of embracing everyone on the planet; a religion whose ideals resonate with all the great past religions of the world, with all the great thinkers, artists, writers and poets, with science, with the yearnings of the world’s peoples for peace and justice since the beginning of time.

It is a religion focused upon the world’s peoples, first and foremost, and upon their happiness.

_________________

James Hilgendorf

 

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

AMERICA & BUDDHISM: THE DREAM RESURRECTED

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

The American Dream?  More and more people seem willing to write off the grand Dream of America that held sway over the imagination of Americans and of the world during this past century.

That dream? – A land of opportunity, a place to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, be successful, move ahead, make money, even get rich, and buy a piece of American real estate.

A better life, in a word, available to the masses.

That Dream now seems in jeopardy.

There is another Dream of America, however, that has always hung in the background of this purely materialistic vision of this country.  This Dream was exemplified during the American Renaissance of the mid-nineteenth century by the works of such writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman.  It has been carried forward by one person here, one person there, one movement here and there.

It was a dream of another America, as yet unrealized, a spiritual continent of a different order, wherein the innate power and potential of the individual would finally be given full expression, and a new world of the spirit birthed upon the nation.

Whereas our usual understanding of the American Dream has come to mean progress in all outward appearances – status, money, buildings, and jobs – this other Dream of America spoke to a revolution engendered from within the minds and hearts of individual men and women, a grand inner transformation that would in turn – because of a fundamental change in people’s vision – utterly transform society and everything in the outer world around.

This second Dream has been covered up, overridden, almost forgotten in the rush to material growth and money.

Now, for many, the Dream seems tarnished.

A new time though is coming slowly to the fore.  It is felt by many, across the spectrum of our current religions, beliefs, philosophies.  It is a vision of humanity beyond dogma, beyond ancient authoritarian structures.  We are one race, one people.  It is an understanding also that many of those things we have raced after and hungered for do not lead to our own and others happiness.

At the heart of this new spiritual awakening – spiritual it has to be called, no other word will do – lies Buddhism.  The core of Buddhism exists beyond ritual and authority; and focuses directly upon tackling the great problems of human existence and happiness by a process of inner transformation and change.

Buddhism embraces all men and women and children, no matter the differences in race, ethnicity, gender, religion, social or economic status, because Buddhism gets to the heart of the matter:  We are all human beings.  This is our true identity.  This is where we all meet, and where we can come together.

On the very edge of this movement towards a revolution of peace, education and culture, and a better world, is the Buddhism of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International.  The SGI now spans the globe, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories.  In small towns and large cities all across America, and around the planet, members are striving to create a new future for humanity.

They are working to actualize the Dream of America – the true America that has been dreamed of and fought for for generations.

Buddhism is a religion and a philosophy that is broad enough to cover everyone, and its ideals are the very ideals that resonate with the core of the original Dream and vision of America itself.

______________

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

Holograms, or We Are The World

Holograms are a development of science that show us an interconnected picture of reality.

Holograms are three-dimensional light images illuminated by lasers.  You may remember the cute little robot in the film Star Wars, U2D2.  U2D2 carried within its memory a picture of Princess Leia, which the robot would beam out in a plea for help.  This is a hologram.

There is a curious property of holograms.  If you take a hologram – say a picture of an apple – and cut the light image in half, each half stills shows a picture of the whole.  The whole apple is still there.  No matter how many times you slice up the hologram, the picture of the entire whole apple still appears.  The part, no matter how small, always contains the whole.

Our lives are the same.  In some strange way, each of us contains the entire universe.  Our life is separate, and yet it is the whole.

Similarly, Buddhism postulates that, although each of our lives appears to be separate, and separate from the environment or universe around us, in fact, we are all interconnected, and each individual actually contains the entirety of the universe within his or her own life.  By making a change within our lives, we can affect everything around us.  This is the key to individual and societal transformation.

_____________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age

Facing Death Each Moment

A woman I know came to a point one day, after her children were grown and living elsewhere, when she suddenly asked herself: “What is happiness?  If I continue doing what I am doing now for the rest of my life, will I be happy?  Will I be able to look back at the end of my life and say that I lived a fulfilled and happy life?”

She realized at that moment that she could not answer those questions in the affirmative.  Within days, she stopped leading the life she had led up to that point, and began searching for a new direction.  She is now doing a totally different kind of work, and feels happy and fulfilled with her new life.

What would you do if you knew that you had only one year left to live?  Would you continue doing what you are doing now?  Would you find satisfaction in continuing to live as you presently are?  Would your relationships with other people change?  How would you spend that year?

The point is, we are facing that theoretical situation each moment of our lives.  This is the reality: we are right now facing death.  To live in the moment, as though it were your last, to reflect and act upon your life from that perspective, gives life its meaning.  The more we can live from moment to moment with that complete awareness, the more fully we can truly live our lives.

_______________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf


James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“.
All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

 


Miracles, Determination & You

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

There are times when we seem to hit a wall, when nothing will move, when no way through seems to be found.

These are the moments of opportunity.  A turning point.

But as usual, the answer is never outside ourselves, we have to find the answers within.

This short video piece – “The Miracle is You”, from my new book “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age” – is a reminder and guide to get through those difficult times.  Hope you enjoy.

 

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeJames Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

A New Global Religion – Soka Gakkai International

Globalism is the defining trend of our times, and if this trend is to continue and flourish, what is needed is a brand new underlying spiritual foundation to provide the underpinnings of a new global civilization.

We are in a time analogous to the decline and breakup of the Roman Empire.  Christianity provided the spiritual framework for a new and nascent Western civilization.

But we coming into a totally different era, where Western civilization and Christianity finds itself confronted with other civilizations and cultures and religions, none of which are any longer able to provide an ethos broad enough or all-inclusive enough to embrace each and every one of the world’s peoples.  We are mired in tribal identities – Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu – and we profess the same lofty ideals, such as love and brotherhood and peace, but the reality is that we are at each other’s throats, as is illustrated most glaringly in the Mideast.

The Soka Gakkai International, or SGI, is an emerging global religion, a Buddhist lay organization whose principals and ideals are capable of uniting everyone on the planet.  This is truly a religion for the future.  The SGI is now active in 192 countries and territories around the globe, with a growing membership of over 12,000,000 people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicity, races, and sexuality.  Leaders from around the world are taking note of the SGI and its current president Daisaku Ikeda.

The SGI is a broad movement for peace, culture and education, but at the heart of this religion is a daily religious practice, open to anyone, based on the Lotus Sutra and chanting the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, capable of engendering a profound revolution within each and every person – a revolution aimed at bringing out the greatest potential for happiness within each human being.

The video below relates  just one experience from among millions of the enormous transformative power of this practice.

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

 

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.Visit his website.  The author has been a member of the Soka Gakkai International for over 40 years.


 

Peace in the Middle East: A Spiritual Transformation Needed

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

 

The dialogues for peace in the Middle East go on.

How many years, how many gestures and plans have come and gone to dust.  But still the efforts go on, seemingly interminable.

No matter how much the parties talk of peace, still there is no resolution.  Even if a peace deal is finally brokered, the underlying tensions remain.  And what are they?

They are religion.  They are the cultural identities which bind the parties – Palestinian, Israeli, Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian – and the religious identity which goes with each culture.

Try as we might, we cannot as yet seem to get beyond the tribal focus which shackles our identity.

Why is this?  Because the religions which enfold us are in themselves tribal in nature.  I am a Hebrew, you are a Muslim.  Look at our faces, our stature, our men and women and children, and there are shades of difference in color, eye shade, hair, vocal sounds, but basically we are all human.  But we are separate.  If I am this, you are that, and there is a divide.

This world is proceeding in all directions towards globalization, yet at the most fundamental level – and the level that matters most for the future of our race – we are all human beings.  We can talk about this, and assent to this, and talk of brotherhood and peace, but we are bound and prevented from actualizing these ideals because we are imprisoned in concepts about ourselves that erect walls.  These are concepts about our most basic identity.

Our current religions, for the most part, are stuck in tribal identities that have persisted and ingrained themselves in our lives for millennia, deep into human history.  Until we elevate our view of ourselves, and find a story or myth that can transcend these tribal identities, our fate as a species on this planet is limited and doomed, because our power to destroy ourselves has now gone beyond mere skirmishes and limited battles.  We are in the era of the Bomb.  The biggest and baddest of Bombs.

What is needed is a fundamental spiritual transformation taking place at the very core of every man and woman on the face of the planet.

How is this to be accomplished?  This has never taken place throughout the long annals of recorded history, so how is it to occur now?

Religion has to go beyond itself.  This is happening throughout the world, among Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics.  We are coming to terms with the fundamental reality of our identity: human being.  But it is still on a small scale compared to what is required.

Dogma and authoritarianism and creaking attachment to the past are on their way out.

We need a broad, fundamental, earth-shaking spiritual transformation to jolt us into the future of humankind.  It is definitely possible.

It is happening. It is here and now.  It is the future.

_________________

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.Visit his website.

 

Kindle Free e-book Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age, a new book by author James Hilgendorf, is available as a free Kindle e-book download three consecutive days, Saturday, November 16, through Monday, November 18th, 2013 on Amazon.com.

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeCombining insightful and uplifting short pieces from the author and quotes from famous international figures throughout history, the book provides an inspiring roadmap for youth to navigate the turbulent and often chaotic world of today.

From the cover:

“Youth of America and the World –

“At a turning point in all of known and unknown history, the world needs you.  You are the fulcrum by which history can leveraged and changed.

“Nothing is as powerful as one person drawing upon the vast powers of the universe.  This has to be you.  This book is a book of voices, my own among them, urging you on.  Be an instrument of overcoming and victory and change.”

The book will be available as a free download on Amazon.com, Saturday, Nov.16; Sunday, Nov. 17; and Monday, Nov.18.

On those dates, click on the country below for your download:

UNITED STATES

U.K.

INDIA

If you enjoy the book, please post a review on Amazon, and and please let your friends know through Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Would appreciate. Thanks.

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”.    He is the author of six other books: Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

James Hilgendorf

,A New Global Religion – Affirming our Common Humanity

Two trends stand out in today’s world:  An emerging globalism on the one hand, and, on the other, a fracturing into intense, identity-bound factions.

Religion – or the way we look at ourselves and the universe around us – is at the root of much of all this turmoil.

Religion, which should be providing a spiritual foundation for the unity of all of humankind, is, instead, in today’s world, many times the root cause of much of the disunity and hatred and war we see around us.

Some major existing religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism – have cordoned us off into opposing tribal camps.

The problem is identity.  These religions are not providing an identity large enough and all-compassing enough to embrace the entire human family.

As we move into the 21st century, a new global civilization is being born, and this civilization cannot come into full fruition without a corresponding global religion as its spiritual foundation.

This new religion is even now coming into being.

It is a religion in which we recognize ourselves in others – recognizing in ourselves and others the same profound potential of life – a vision reaching beyond all boundaries of enthicity, race, gender, nationalities, sexuality, and even religion itself.  It is to get beyond all dogmas, all superficial distinctions.

This religion is growing all around us, worldwide.  It is emerging from among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists.  It is a going beyond all the old tribal definitions and distinctions.

But it is a religion that still needs to come into actual being – not theory, not abstractions, but in a way that is actualized by the common human heart.

The Buddhism of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, is a religion now taking the lead in bringing this new civilization onto the world stage.

Daisaku Ikeda
Daisaku Ikeda (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many have never heard of the SGI.  Its lay organization now encompasses 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories all around the world.  The SGI’s President, Daisaku Ikeda, has been honored with more honorary doctorates and degrees from universities and colleges worldwide- over 320 – than any other person in history, for his efforts towards peace, culture and education.

I could go on, but let me present an assessment of the SGI and Daisaku Ikeda from a third party source.

In 1998, the great Krygyzistan writer and U.N. ambassador from his country, Chingiz T. Aitmatov, a close friend of former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, gave the following assessment of the SGI in a speech.

Chingiz Aitmatov, Kyrgyz writer
Chingiz Aitmatov, Kyrgyz writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Humanism is an extremely important word.  Until now there have been systems of thought that served to bring people together in unity within a given ethnic group.  But the kind of unity whereby people open their hearts to all others and forge bonds of trust based on friendship is a completely new spirit of unity that has never before been seen.

“Such unity cannot be realized without a supreme philosophy.  This philosophy must be spread by an outstanding individual who is a product of the age.  Through my long association with President Ikeda, I have come to believe that he is the very person who is promoting just such a philosophy.

“If I were asked to describe what kind of age the twentieth century has been.  I think I would have to say it has been a century of war and frightening brutality.  Some might characterize it as the age of the rise and fall of communism.  Others might describe it as the age of mass culture born in the West.  In other words, a great many would likely describe the twentieth century as having been the age of Westernization.

“I would distinguish the Soka Gakkai movement as an undertaking that has transcended all of that, that has gone beyond the ideologies and politics of the past century.  The Soka Gakkai emerged during the twentieth century, and it has advanced and dveloped while overcoming all manner of ordeals and obstacles.  It is because of this continuous effort that we have been able to learn of a fresh perspective on the world.  Let us all have great pride in this.

“Globalization is proceeding as the overall trend of the times.  This is true in economics as well as in the areas of technology and communications.  But it is my belief that unless this is accompanied by a spiritual globalization, humankind will perish.

“Lastly, I would like to share my thoughts on the Soka Gakkai itself.  In addition to enjoying utter freedom, the members of the Soka Gakkai believe in and strive to realize the ideals upheld by the organization.  Ordinarily, religious doctrine tends to restrict in some way the individual’s inner realm.  But the Soka Gakkai has no such limitation.  While each member is free as a unique individual, all are brought together by a common philosophy.  Never before have I seen such a wonderful phenomenon.”

______________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age“.  He is the author of six other books: “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.

Enhanced by Zemanta

 

 

 

The Heart of Everything

Ten thousand years ago, a man and woman stood by their cave, and wondered at a full moon beaming bright light through the trees and passing clouds.

It was all around them, the darkness and the light, looming shadows, and stars scattered across the sky.

Then a ball of fire rose in the morning, with blinding light, and heat radiating through the air.

There was nothing they could hold onto with their hands.  It was all around, and nothing but change.

They must have wondered: Why am I here?  What is this world?

Animals, hearts beating like their own, and blood, and huge plants moving from the ground, flowers blooming from nowhere then retreating back into the dark earth.  Worlds revolving, and day and night, then everything was gone, no hand could stop the death and dying and movement all around.

At the heart of everything was fear.  Where was the heart of everything?

They stood there and wondered.

Today, we also stand there, but no longer wonder.  Clouds are clouds.  Rain is rain.  The moon is the moon. Planets are planets.  We know them.

But one thing remains a mystery: Our movement into the dark.  There is no way to hang onto this world with our hand and stop the sun from dropping into the night, nor the animals nor plants nor humans nor stars.

What is this world?  Why am I here?

Where is the heart of everything?

________________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“.    He is the author of five other books: “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.

Visit his website.