Showing posts with label London and Buddhism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London and Buddhism. Show all posts

Thursday, 9 April 2009

What's like to be a Buddhist in London: To Trust or Not to Trust

Practicing Buddhism in London, is just like practicing anywhere else in the world.But,I believe that a practice will take on the mores, values,mental landscape of a country.In the recent March 2009, Art of Living magazine (The U.K Nicheren Buddhist Magazine),there was a discussion about a survey that was taken place all over Europe.

In it was discussed the following questions:
1) Generally speaking would you say that most people can be trusted, or that you can't be too careful in dealing with people?

2) Do you think that most people would try to take advantage of you if they got the chance, or would they try to be fair?

3) Would you say that most of the time people try to be helpful
or they are mostly looking out for themselves?

The research found that the UK had the lowest levels of trust
and belonging for every age bracket from 15 -50.Among the factors
which emerge as having a big negative impact on a country’s wellbeing
score are a general fear for crime and a lack of trust in institutions.
Also, the more time is spent watching TV, the more unhappy the country appears
to be.

So,how does a Buddhist practicing in the United Kingdom, reconcile itself in a country where people do not trust each other?
Do you trust people or do you not trust people? Are you damned if you do or damned if you don’t? To trust or not to trust, that is the question. So what do you do as a Buddhist in a country where people are untrustworthy? Where people hardly smile or talk to each other? And, if you do talk to someone on the tube they think your nuts. I say go ahead let them think your nuts. Smile. Talk. Who cares ! What do you have to lose! You can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take California out of the girl ! I am friendly and open. Talking to people, especially strangers gives me immense joy and pleasure. Plus, I am good at it (Lol)! One of my friends once said, I could talk to the person that called that had the wrong number. She's right. So why should I stop being friendly now? Should I think and behave as “When it Rome do as the Romans”? Maybe a little. Should I think yes, I’ll try to be less Californian and more a cynical Londoner.

Don’t you think when you don’t trust people you miss out on opportunities of sharing your life. In your paranoia, you might consider their good intentions, ill. I believe in balance. I believe having the wisdom to know who and when to trust is the best formula for a sane, happy and healthy life. My father always taught me be "spiritually discerning", wherever you are at. Meaning keep your antennaes aware. Most importantly, wherever I am at,"I am the Buddha!" Being the Buddha, I am the best version of myself. So, if the situation calls for it, I trust or don't trust, it depends on the situation.

The other day a woman in the tube station was balling her head off, she sounded so heartbroken, she made me sad. I went over to check up on her.Most people just ignored her, or seemd to be concerned but just did nothing. I thought maybe she had gotten raped or gotten in a big fight with her boyfriend. I went over to her and just said, "Hi are you ok?".I just let her know that I was there and she could talk to me if she wanted to. She kept saying, " Yes, I am alright". But, then she'd keep balling. I rode with her the whole train ride and she was crying the whole time.I asked her again if she was alright? "She said, yes, I am alright." But still kept crying hysterically.

Another similar situation occured at once again the tube station. As I sat down waiting for my train, I took a swig of my water from my big Evian bottle and the girl next to me, asked me," Can I have some of your water?" I said, " I am sorry, no!" She kept asking me like 3 or 4 times.Then,under her breath, she called me a "selfish bitch".I almost slugged her, but I thought to myself she's just pathetic and unhappy girl. My anger or retaliation would not have made things better. So I decided just to summon my buddha nature and be compassionate. I got on the train with her and sat across from her. She started to apologize, " I am sorry, I am so sorry, I am so sorry. I should not have called you that".I went and sat next to her,and befriended her. I told her," It's ok,forget it!" Followed by, "Listen, sister,I don't give anyone my water, not you, not my boyfriend not even my own mother. So, get over it!" She complained to me how unhappy she was( duh!),and how she didn't have money etcetera.Not even to buy a 79 pence bottle of Evian water. I am thinking to myself,yes I can give her my bottle of water, but that won't solve anything.It will not solve her water karma- (which could be taken as a metaphor for her thirst for happiness). Again, she said,"Your so nice and I am so sorry!I gave her a Nam Myoho Renge Kyo card and told her, if she chants she could have all the water in the world, and then some ( LOL !)She said, that she had chanted before.I told her,"keep it up Girl", and walked out of the tube onto the platform. Whoosh !

This is the second time people have asked me for water in the subway. I am thinking to myself, do I have the words Sucker or Nice person on my forehead, because they really don't leave me alone.

Often, in my life, because of my naïveté in thinking everyone is pure
and kind hearted like me,( Not !),I often have been too trusting. In these
occasions, I have hurt myself. I have learned they‘re are weird, strange and
not nice people out there. But, I have also evolved and grown because of my trusting nature, I have had experiences that I normally would not have had if I had been too cautious or too afraid. Slowly, through hard lessons, I have learned that there is a balance to all things,trust included. I don’t regret anything, because it’s better to live your life with an open and trusting heart, rather than being so cynical, and mistrustful that you miss out on the richness of life experiences and the beauty of having known someone, even for just a brief time.

Most recently, I went to a Buddhist Discussion meeting in the Notting Hill area of London.The theme was, Taking Responsiblity for our Lives Enables us to Grow.As you can see the members are from all over the world: England,Brazil, Sweden,India, Poland, China, and America (me and Mary Cavallaro). Afterwards, I always feel really refreshed, optimistic and joyful, no matter
what problems great or small I may be facing. Here are photos of the happy Buddhist members and as you can see they trusted me long enough to take their photos.(Heeheh!)

To find out more about Nicheren Buddhism:

Stay Tuned for more LONDON DIARIES

Sunday, 29 March 2009

What's it like to be an American Buddhist in London. How is the practice the same and how is it different.

Being a Buddhist in London is not any different from being a Buddhist
in America. Remember that saying," you can run but you can't hide."
You carry your karma in a suitcase so it's with you wherever you go.
The Buddhist in London are lovely. Very well mannered. We have to sign
a log in book whenever we go to a Center. They want to keep track of
all the members, just in case there is a disaster or in London's case
a fire. Before meetings there is, what I call in case of a fire pep talk.
" Ok, just in case there is a fire everyone is to meet on the corner
of Hunter Street and Handel Street". I found it quite interesting and thought it was certainly because of the great fire of London in 1666 that wiped out most of the city. But when I had asked at a meeting everyone laughed and explained
to me it's most certainly not because of the Great Fire but
because of the Law. So there you have it.

Also, when the members get together to clean the centers. They do it in a very organized fashion. We put on uniforms and carry little carry all cases fully
supplied with rubber gloves, pine sol and sometimes eco friendly products
to clean our centers. Supposedly, cleaning the centers is a metaphor to cleaning one's karma. And, also a way of eradicating our ego and arrogance
that blocks us from achieving success in life. Nothing like cleaning the
toilets !I really look forward to it ! Seriously! It's quite humbling,
but it really feels great.

A thing I found most interesting is that our Monthly Kosen Rufu Gongyo sometimes takes place in people's homes or at a local community center.
Where in America we have big huge Kosen Rufu gongyo's where sometimes
up to a hundred people attend. In London it's quite different.
I went to Kosen Rufu gongyo at someone's house in Swiss Cottage-London, only to find only 4 people showed up.

The members in my group have visited me in my home and chanted with me.
The members in my Bayswater group have been quite supportive
and helpful. The Buddhist activity is called Keibi. The equivalent
of Byakuren( Young Women's Division- behind the scenes) are the Lilacs.
The Lilacs are quite diligent about giving you water as soon as your done drinking one glass they are their to serve you another one.

Being a buddhist in London is quite different from America.
I had to assimilate of course to fit in. There are Buddhist
members from all over the world in London. In the end, we are all the same
in our fight for happiness of ourselves and others.


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