Buddhism and Political Action

 

Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

Henry Thoreau

Perhaps some Buddhists who read this can help me by critiquing my concern that I personally need to continue to act to improve the world, despite Daoism’s prescription that we should not, and cannot, act to change our world for the better. Comments are welcome.

Continue reading “Buddhism and Political Action”

Pi’s Lullaby

This is a challenging piece to play and learn, but, if you have a good musical ear the chords aren’t hard. I dedicate this effort as an essay in hope.

The timing from line four on is 7 beats per bar. Once I figured that out the learning became easier. The song is in Tamil and sung by Jayashri Ramnath, one of India’s most hypnotic and drop dead beautiful voices. It is an example of Carnatic music in a classical south Indian style and does not easily lend itself to Western notation. I have sometimes indicated the timing of a chord using dots after the chord – three dots equals three beats, four dots equals four beats, etc. This is a common Carnatic usage, so I thought it appropriate. I have indicated the ornamented syllables by typing them in red. The song is in concert A flat major, so I have used the chords in the key of G and if you capo up one fret on your guitar you will be able to play along with this YouTube version from the soundtrack of the Life of Pi film based on the great book by Canadian, Yann Martel. The film’s music was the responsibility of the Canadian film composer, Mychael Danna, who interpreted this piece with wonderful sensitivity and skill. If you listen carefully you will be struck by the genius in the orchestration and timing that sets off “Bombay Jayashri”‘s magnificent rendition of her song.

By the way, I have used this piece to accompany my tai chi 24 method, which I combine with Tonglen meditation. It is the very best background for what I do!

I thank Metrolyrics for the Tamil lyrics. Enjoy! If you have any suggestions or just appreciate the job I’ve done please send my a comment or take the time to “like” this post.

Pi's Lullaby Lead Sheet
Pi’s Lullaby Lead Sheet

Tonglen with Tai Chi?

On the wall at Xi’an – “Monster Trip” – 2008

I have been combining Tonglen breathing as described by Pema Chögrön with Tai Chi (24 form) and with my strength exercises.

Tonglen is a simple process of breathing in dark things like pain and suffering (yours, that of those close to you, that of friends, strangers and, ultimately, that of all sentient beings), assuming this suffering, and breathing out healing and peace.

Physical Exercise: My personal trainer at the local gym after my heart attack(s) in February 2000 showed me how to breathe in prior to performing an exercise and breathe out while you are performing the strenuous part. This is safer for the heart. So, for example, I breathed in while I descended in a squat and breathed out while ascending. I breathed in before pulling on a rowing machine and breathed out while pulling. Now I breathe in slowly while resting between sets of an exercise and breathe out slowly during the entire action.

My morning program now consists of:

  • Treadmill walking for 30 minutes while listening to CBC podcasts on (mostly) philosophy or literature (simply walking on a treadmill is so incredibly boring otherwise for me)
  • Squats and dumbell exercises combined with tonglen breathing in my own home while listening to restful, oriental music
  • One performance of tai chi 24 method combined with tonglen breathing meditation while listening to restful, oriental music

Tai chi is supposed to be done while breathing in the chi (energy) and pushing it back out.  I had thought of the chi as positive energy, so it seems counter-intuitive to be breathing in “hot, dark and heavy,” (i.e. suffering), and breathing out “cool, white and light,” (i.e. healing and peace). Somehow, for me, this works really well to give me a feeling of peaceful healing.

As for the strength  exercises, at first it seemed weird to be breathing out peace and healing while one is doing the strenuous part of a physical exercise, but then I thought:

Bringing about peace and healing in the world, beginning with yourself, is hard work.

It makes sense to me now.