The America That Has Never Unfolded Before

Even if we lose everything here n America that we have known up to this moment in time – the vast economic superiority, the money, the arrogance of power, the thousands of nuclear weapons, the tanks, the submarines, the stealth bombers, the opulence, television and big sports games and mega shopping malls – America and Americans can still be the greatest in the world, we can be the stars of a new era, the forerunners of a vision of life and of the heart that has never unfolded before in history.

This is our true mission here in these fifty states.  We are here to give voice and presence to the great dream that has lain dormant and suppressed and buried and trod upon for ages and millennia in the heart of humanity – the dream of equality and justice and compassion, the dream of a New World, this world that has escaped our grasp from the dawn of time but which refuses to die because it is the only true world, and it is a world which is imminently realizeable.  This is the great dream of America which is ours to realize.

—- From “The New Superpower

_________________________

James Hilgendorf
James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of nine non-fiction books, including “The New Superpower”.

A New Vision of Ourselves.  A New Dream of America.  A New Religion for the World.

You and Your Environment:The Mirror of Buddhism

Look around you.  This is your environment.

Relationships.  People.  Work.  Nation.  Family.

What you see is what you get.  From the standpoint of Buddhism, there is no need to blame the environment for your problems, your suffering.  It is all inherent within your very own life.

Your environment is a mirror of your life, what is going on, and what has been going on, forever.

The world is caught up in looking outside for the solution to problems.  Maybe if we changed governments, or social systems, or political systems, things would be corrected. Maybe if we changed our wife or husband, or our boss, or other people we deal with, things would be fine.

But, at bottom, there is no way to change our own problems, as well as the world’s, than through a reformation from within – through a personal transformation that takes one to a higher state of life and being.

Everything comes out of one’s own life.  The mirror reflects only the person who is looking into the mirror.  You cannot change the mirror.  In order to see a different environment, we need to change the person.

This is an old truth, but one that is very difficult to personally realize and put into practice.

From the standpoint of Buddhism, though, everything in our life can be changed through an inner transformation of self.  This is the purpose of Buddhist practice.

And through changing ourselves, we can transform the world around us.

_________________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf if the author of nine non-fiction books.


Drilling Down Through Layers of Karma, Our Patterns of Life

How deep does the pain go?

To change, to overcome, to transform ourselves – this is the great challenge.

Stuck in patterns of life that have endured, not only from the day we were born, but from primordial times, and even beyond – ways of looking at the sun and moon, at others, at ourselves, caught in visions of the very universe that fragment our lives and remain frozen in time – can we really become that which we imagine?

It takes a great drilling through strata of rock and granite, down to the very core of our dream world, busting up layers and tightly held notions of self, to reach an opening and a place of release.

There is a world there waiting for any dream of creation.  Our life, deep down, imagines unlimited worlds.

The pain is the sound of immovable strata crumbling.

Keep drilling.
—– From “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”

______________

Poems of Death: Time for Eternity. Books on Buddhism
Poems of Death: Time for Eternity
James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

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

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

Happiness – What is it?

Happiness seems to come in all shapes and sizes.

A new home, a lover become a marriage partner, a raise on the job.

Some would find happiness in a sense of peacefulness, withdrawing from the chaotic world around.

How to find the elusive elixir of happiness that never tarnishes or diminishes or disappears – this is the quest.

We chase after our goals and dreams, and achieving them, find that they do not stay, or can crumble overnight to nothing.  Love can change to hatred, prosperity can go up in smoke, our health can take a sudden turn in an instant, death robs us of everything in the end, friends, wealth, success, and life itself.

Is there a happiness that stays forever, like a forever flower and bloom?

This is the goal of Buddhist practice.  All the goals of happiness we dream of are happiness for sure; but they are forms of relative happiness, meaning they are subject always to change and decay.  Buddhism seeks a deeper happiness, that cannot be corroded, and expands and stays forever.  Buddhism calls this absolute happiness.

What does absolute happiness consist of?  It is the power to overcome any problem and challenge, to change all problems and challenges into benefit and growth.  It is a constantly increasing confidence in one’s own life.

This is not the kind of happiness people normally seek.  They wish to win a million dollars, lie on the beach, and never have to work again.  They want the easy way out.  They want an absence of problems.

But problems are opportunities and blessings in disguise.  Whatever comes our way is a chance to unleash a greater state of life, more overcoming, more joy.  It is to build an indestructible state of being that can never be defeated.

This is a state of life that transcends even death, and continues from lifetime to lifetime, expanding and building a life commensurate with the universe itself – the Buddha, or Thus Come One of Eternal Life.

______________

Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's Challenges

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

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

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


The Buddha, At Last

The history of humanity has not yet begun

Innumerable pages and volumes of stories from out of the past – individuals, cities, towns, and lands – but not one true revelation of all people moving unified into a new dimension of being.

This is our inescapable destiny.

A great new spiritual revolution is required to move our present world into this new dimension.  It only begins with a single individual transforming his or her life and mind at the core.

Is this possible?  Until now, it has never been even remotely possible.  An individual here, a group of people there, but on the broader scale of the whole of humanity, we have never witnessed such a thing before.

This is the challenge and potential.  This is the imminent possibility.

Bring forth the Buddha, at last.

—- From “Forever Here”.

_________________

Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's Challenges

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

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

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
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The Deepest Karma, 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 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 without our hearts, sits the Buddha, unawakened.

Summon him or her, with his or her name.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

—- From “Forever Here.”

__________________

Forever Here, a Book about Buddhism and Life's Challenges

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

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

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

Marriage of Jews & Arabs – Our Religious World Today

Jews and Arabs intermarrying?  Most Israeli Jews and Arabs are adamantly opposed to the idea, according to a recent study reported by JTA, the Global Jewish News Source.

According to a poll conducted by Haaretz and the Dialog Company, three-quarters of Israeli Jews and nearly two-thirds of Israeli Arabs would not marry someone from a different religion.

There are more details to the study, but the poll highlights a phenomena that is starkly evident not only in Israel and the Mideast, but throughout the world.  Religion, which should bring people together, is in many, many instances a divisive force of alienation, separation and conflict among the peoples of the world.

Sometime ago, a report surfaced of a young ten-year-old boy, who, after being exposed to continuing newspaper and television reports about the fighting going on all over the Middle East, involving Christians, Muslims and Jews, remarked:

“Maybe we need a new religion.”

What we need is a new identity, one that is beyond Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, etc.  What we need is a new vision of ourselves, of who we are at the very roots of our being.

The world is fragmenting everywhere, with people and nations wanting to withdraw into their own isolate identities, into groups of people with similar identities, histories, religions.  At the same time, there is a deep historical movement towards globalization taking place on all fronts that is breaking down old barriers.

If this transition towards a united humanity on a global scale is to be accomplished, the old rigid barriers that our current religions seem to impose have to go.  We need a new identity, one that encompasses everyone on the planet, a spiritual identity that goes to the very roots of what it means to be a human being.  This is the purpose of religion after all.

The SGI, or Soka Gakkai International is a modern-day movement that is providing such a broad-based religious identity.  The SGi is now the largest lay Buddhist organization in the world, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories worldwide.  It is a religion and philosophy that connects all people to each other, and at the same time provides a workable, down-to-earth approach and solution to peoples’ everyday problems.

The SGI is poised to become the next great world religion.

It is time that we open our arms and embrace the marriage of the world’s peoples.

________________

Maybe We Need a New Religion

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

 

James Hilgendorf is the author of nine non-fiction books, his latest being “Maybe We Need a New Religion”.  His other titles include “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The New Superpower”; “A New Myth for America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, 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

The Rapture & Last Judgment- Long Time Coming

Jacob de Backer, Memorial Triptych to Christop...

The Rapture – that grand and final ascension of the faithful into the stratosphere and thence into heaven, while the unfaithful and unbelieving lie below waiting in everlasting torment and hell for the Final and Last Judgment – is a story told it seems from beyond the reach of history almost.

Here is a partial list of dates and seers throughout history who have prophesied the end of the world, the coming of the Lord, the Day of Judgment, the end of the universe – you name it – many of the names very recognizable – and still we have not seen the grand event unfold.

The Rapture goes hand in hand and grows out of the spirit of the Apocalypse – that book of the Bible of John of Patmos – and its violence and apocalyptic vision of the end-time.

Let’s face it, the people breathlessly awaiting the Rapture do not want to be here in this world.  We can’t blame them, the world is in a stew of anger and murder and rage and war even at this moment.  But it goes beyond that.  They want the world to be wiped out.  They desire and lust for the end-time, and for final retribution upon the rest of the world, for their enemies, for those who do not think and believe as they do, that they be left behind in an everlasting burning hell of punishment.

It is all such a horrid vision.  It is an escape from this world.  It is a twisted religious vision that has never been fulfilled, and never will be fulfilled, because it is based on a skewered vision of reality.  Life is here and now.  Life will always be here and now.  Heaven and hell are not somewhere else, after we die, they exist right where we are, within our five or six foot body.

There is nowhere to go.  The world as you see it is what you get.  This world – and your individual world – can become a living hell or a living heaven, depending upon your state of mind and life.

Buddhism is about transforming ourselves, of becoming happy right where we are now, right in this world, in the here and now.  Buddhism is about transforming the hell and suffering of this world through an inner transformation of your own individual world.  Everything starts with you.  There is a Treasure Tower of absolute happiness within your very life that is waiting to unfold.

Forget about the end-time.  Every moment is the beginning-time.  Life is precious, not to be thrown away, not to be discarded.  This world can be a heaven or a hell, depending on you and I.

_____________________

Maybe We Need a New Religion

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of nine non-fiction books, his latest being “Maybe We Need a New Religion”.  His other titles include “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The New Superpower”; “A New Myth for America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, 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

Our Dreams are in Our Hands

Dreams die, too.

They can grow to an enchanting vividness, flowers in bloom, then in the next instant go up in smoke.

We awaken.  Harsh, harsh reality.

What is required is a constant, unbending vision of the dream.  Let nothing derail our hopes.

Our mind is a mirror of our universe.  Our very thoughts, our vision, determination, hopes, despairs and doubt lie perfectly mirrored in our world.

People come to us as we stand up alone.  Try leaning on someone else, something else, and all support vanishes.

Life is teaching us all the lessons.

We have within us all powers, all the necessities.  Our dreams are in our hands.  Be bold, never give in.

Dream big.

—- From “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age.”

____________________

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”, as well as eight other non-fiction books, including: “Maybe We Need a New Religion”; “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The New Superpower”; “A New Myth for America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, 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

Heart to Heart, Forever Here

People and faces slip through our lives. The houses of the past are darkened and empty.  There is no one there.

We long to be bound heart to heart, forever remembered, forever here.  Yet time lets nothing remain.

The preciousness of the moment presses in upon us.

Take hand in hand your friend, embrace each other, look into forever in their smiling faces. The moment will never come again, and only mute images will remain.

We pass on.

______________

Maybe We Need a New Religion

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of nine non-fiction books, his latest being “Maybe We Need a New Religion”.  His other titles include “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The New Superpower”; “A New Myth for America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, 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

Doors Opening Everywhere

The doors are opening everywhere.

Floods of people turn down from the mountain in rivers of attestations, they bring their affidavits, they have been waiting, their stifled voices bursting forth in a roar, a frenzy, an acclamation, a declaration of here and now, the farmer, the bus boy, the magician, no titles and royalty here, the nurse, accountant, secretary, salesman, shoe shine boy, taking their places without any fanfare, growing from the common earth and ground, here to bring forth eternity, to make it shine in the supermarket, elementary school, hamburger shop, dentist’s chair, we see each other now, we tip our hat, we wave our hands, we bow, we salute our friends, our cousins from Siberia, our long lost brother from the Sudan, the reindeer herders, the worshippers of ancient suns, now come to here and now, the only place that ever was, to play another tune, to craft another story, illumined by the light of the stars and sun of forever.

We rise up.

We rise up here in America.

_________________

Maybe We Need a New Religion

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf is the author of nine non-fiction books, his latest being “Maybe We Need a New Religion”.  His other titles include “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “The New Superpower”; “A New Myth for America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, 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

Who Are You When You Die?

Who and where are we when we 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.

______________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Maybe We Need a New Religion”.  He is the author of eight 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”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, 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

New Vision, New America, New Religion

A new book out by James Hilgendorf begins:

“Sometime ago, I read a report of a young ten-or-eleven year old boy, who, after being exposed to continuing newspaper and television reports about the fighting going on all over the Middle East, involving Christians, Muslims and Jews, remarked:

“Maybe need a new religion.”

Maybe We Need a New ReligionThis is a book about just such a new religion.  But it is a story also of the still unfulfilled dream of America, and of the author’s personal lifetime odyssey through the spiritual wreckage of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

This new religion is appearing everywhere – among followers of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and those with no religious affiliation at all.  It is above all, a vision of the world and its people that recognizes and supports the sanctity of life itself.

Hilgendorf writes:

“Today, this religion is being most prominently spearheaded by the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist lay organization with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories around the globe.  You may never have heard of the Soka Gakkai, but the Buddhism of the SGI is on the threshold of becoming the next great world religion.”

In a previous book, “The Buddha and the Dream of America”, the author wrote that such great American luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman – writers and poets of the original American Renaissance – were the progenitors of the real American Dream; and that their vision was borne out of a deep acquaintance with Eastern thought and Buddhism.  Buddhism, and its revelation of the innate root-identity of all people and the sanctity of all of life, provides a natural spiritual foundation for the realization of the great principle of American Democracy.

Hilgendorf writes:

“The dream of America is more than the huddled masses coming to our shores.  It is more than a flag waving in the wind.  It is more than the opportunities to get a job or make money or start a business or freedom of religion or liberty bells.  It is something deeper than heretofore imagined.

“It is a single soul emerging from the crucible of the deepest fires of the heart of the universe itself.  The dream of America is the dream of the universe itself, coming to fruition.  It is the fulfilled self, at one with its universe, indivisible, drawing on its deepest potential.

“You are the center.  Realize it.”

This new book, “Maybe We Need a New Religion”, is about all of these things: new vision and transformation of the self; a new Dream of America; and a new global religion.

___________________

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf

James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Maybe We Need a New Religion”.  He is the author of eight 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”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, 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

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.”

_________________

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”.

____________________

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.”

_______________

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