Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Friday, June 29, 2012

Leaves on a tree: Life-condition

Both during and after participating in the first ever Ikeda Youth Ensemble National Competition for taiko - I've had quite a few observations, breakthroughs, and experiences to say the least.  This one found it's form after a conversation with Mint and Jen O. about how leaves look before a storm.

[from a trip to Joshua Tree, I'm always amazed that flowers bloom in the desert...]

Life-condition.  It's a term a lot of SGI Nichiren Buddhists use to describe how one feels in not just a mood-ring kind of way, but also spiritually (ecumenically?).  If one says, "I have a low life-condition"; that could be taken to mean I'm cranky, whiny, maybe angry or sad - and maybe you'd be better off not talking to me, or maybe I don't want to talk to anybody.  It can be a rather solitary state, either purposefully or not.  If one says, "I have a high life-condition"; don't confuse that with the state engendered by the use of recreational pharmaceuticals.  A high life-condition is rather a state of being when we can see our problems in perspective and know that our situation doesn't define us; both the good and the bad are met with strength, tact, and grace.  Part of how we introspect and talk about Buddhist practice has to do with an honest evaluation of our life-condition and the practice we undergo to raise this condition and help others do the same.

[trees grow in the desert~]

The tree of life...

Coming out of the aforementioned conversation and thoughts on this much used word came some imagery...

In Buddhism we often talk about the inherent and infinitely complex interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things, we call this dependent origination.  And in the natural world:

In the fall when the leaves change color, they die.  They fall off the trees and onto the earth.  A fallen leaf is brittle, dry, and singular - easily blown about by the wind.  A dry, brittle leaf is crushed to dust under my shoes.  When we reject the interdependence of all life, when we have a low life-condition we are like this - brittle, frail, easily blown about by our circumstances.  Alone.  

When we delve into and take joy in the interconnected nature of life, when we have a high life-condition - we are as the leaf in summer.  A green leaf is connected to a larger whole, it is both nourished and nourishes.  The individual leaf performs photosynthesis and contributes to the larger living entity, and yet cannot perform its function without nutrients sent from the roots.  A green leaf is supple and strong.  When the winds blow the branches move and the leaves flutter - but are not destroyed.  The wind moving the branches may be the obstacles that influence our lives, but when connected and contributive we are not destroyed.

Other notions that one could continue off from the above parallel...

Trees don't get around much, they must grow where they are.  Sometimes we don't like where we're at and begrudge it, ignore it and so do not advance.  A plant has no such choice.  When we make the determination to start growing right where we are, it is amazing the things that we can achieve, the dreams we can manifest, even when resources seem to be nonexistent.

You can grow a plant from the cutting of an old one.  Sometimes great winds rip branches off trees and decimate the organism.  New growth often climbs out of an old stump.  A shorn off branch can begin a new tree.  Just because our circumstances may seem to have taken everything from us does not mean that it is impossible to grow again anew.

"Even places that have been shrouded in darkness for billions of years can be illuminated.  Even a stone from the bottom of a river can be used to produce fire.  Our present sufferings, no matter how dark, have certainly not continued for billions of years - nor will they linger forever.  The sun will definitely rise.  In fact, its ascent has already begun." -Daisaku Ikeda

Monday, June 18, 2012


Just how versatile are you?  Things are going well, and we’re at the top of the world – well, maybe if not the top of the world, at least things aren’t so bad.  So we go through the days.  But what happens when things don’t go according to plan?  When you can’t do something you’ve been trained to do, have done elsewhere, have the tools to complete – and even people willing to help you – and it doesn’t work.  And no matter how hard you try, or what creative way of approaching it you think of next. It. Still. Doesn’t. Work. 

What then?  If you’ve got the training, the tools, the manpower, the gumption, the guts, the will to work.  But it still doesn’t work.

How versatile are you?  Can you adapt to changing, unhappy, unfulfilling, constantly challenging situations that make you question your own worth?

Can you do it, can you keep going even then?

That, in truth - of course, is really only a question that each person has to answer for themselves, but the point is, to keep willing, to keep daring, again and again and again – even when it starts to look like insanity, even when it starts to feel like insanity – and winning through because you haven’t been defeated by the constant efforts without reward, then that is true versatility.
Versatile come to us from the postulated Latin roots of
versātilis - revolving, many-sided, equivalent to versāt ( us ) (past participle of versāre,  frequentative of vertere  to turn; see verse, -ate1 ) + -ilis -ile

Turning and multi-sided....

How many sides do you have?  Are they all true?  Are they all you?
When we’re pushed beyond what is comfortable into what is necessary for our growth we can get cranky, and suddenly a functioning adult wants to have a temper tantrum like a small child.  But can we turn?

In Buddhism, Buddhahood is liked to a many faceted jewel of limitless worth.  The term human revolution, meaning a fundamental transformation in the life of an individual being contributive to a transformation of society and the times  - also has a turning semantic aspect.

There are many facets to the human life, there is deeper stuff here than the frustrations of what we cannot do right now.  (And that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to do them someday!)

So rather than have the temper tantrum, as momentarily satisfying as that might be; stand up, fight on -  never give up, show versatility – show the many faceted jewel of limitless worth that is the human condition, that is you.

By never giving up, we win. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Fond Farewell

(Yes the title of the post is the title of an Elliot Smith song... but this is a happy thing....)

Charlie says goodbye to his parking spot, and the friendly vacuum cleaners.

Today is our last day with the jolly Saint, after almost seven years from when I first walked in the door, today we say our fond farewells.

Tomorrow shall be Charlie's second birthday, with me that is.... he's not telling his age, so don't ask.

More than 7,500 miles together in two years, how the time does fly!

On Monday onto new adventures, into the land of the bicycles....
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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License