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May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Sunday, May 17, 2009

chapter 18 - gratitude

Look at the people who complain most of the time, usually they have a good life and full of energy to be able to waste the time and energy in gossips and moan about everything all the time. There’s nothing wrong either. Everyone has the freedom to do what they want and how to spend their time. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and unhappiness, even if they are our family and friends.


Even though when we are so lucky enough to live in a war free and natural disaster free zone, some people are still not satisfied and not knowing how to appreciate the good condition of the environment that enable us to live easily and enjoy life. We have too much free time and energy instead of busy with living hood, and we will start to create some problems in life for ourselves and for others. Or else we will complain about being too bored in life.

Sympathy for those people who are living in a war zone and they are always in fear of their safety and have no time to think about anything at all.

As well as the people who are living in hunger all the time, their only concern is to have food in their stomach to stay alive.



But while we are living in a comfortable environment, we always complain about lots of things such as being very fussy on food. And some people who are too attached to their likes and dislikes of the taste bud, they will create so much unhappiness for themselves and other people when they don't get the food that they like or they don't like the food that is served to them. And some people complain about don't know what to eat even when there are so many choices and varieties of food in front of them just because they are bored with all these food already, while many people in the world out there are starving not having enough food to eat.


And some people are spending so much time and effort in arguing with themselves and other people about being a vegetarian or non vegetarian, and criticizing others who are not in their same category, while so many people out there have no choice at all about being 'vegetarian' or 'non vegetarian' because they are dying from hunger and malnutrition.

That’s why to cultivate gratitude and appreciation is very important in achieving peacefulness in the heart and happiness in life.


In fact senses are not a bad thing at all. It’s because of them we can see, hear, smell, feel, taste and think of so many good things and beautiful things in the world. We can experience so many wonderful things in life. We should be thankful and glad that we have all these senses that are working in our body.


Knowing that the mind is not us, the feelings and emotions are not us, the body is not us, the breathing, heartbeat, blood circulation, nervous system, hormone system and digestive system are not us, the mind is not us, the ego is not us, the intellect is not us.


We don’t own them. They certainly don’t belong to us. Because if so, they will be under our command as we wish all the time, but they don’t. But at the same time we need to thank them to enable us to have a wonderful life experiences.

But if we do not know how to stay detached from these senses and let them control over our mind, we will be in trouble and easily caught in suffering due to likes and dislikes, cravings and aversions.


For the people who are living in the dazzling city lights with their myriad temptations of sensual pleasures, it is difficult to be completely cut off from our senses. But having the correct understanding of how the senses work, and how they affect us in the mind, will help us not to caught up in any suffering due to the perception of the senses.

Such like we want to enjoy eating our food. Definitely it is not wrong and we should be enjoying all the food that we eat with gratitude and appreciation. But we should not be too attached to our taste of likes and dislikes. And if only certain food are available in certain areas at certain timing, we should not be too choosy and create problems and unhappiness for us and other people who help us to prepare and bring us the food.


We should be grateful and appreciate any food that is served in front of us, doesn't matter if it is vegetarian or not vegetarian, as long as it is edible and nutritious for our body and give us the energy to survive. Unless the food is unhygienic and poisonous then we certainly can not risk our health and lives, by thinking that we should not waste any food.


If we have the opportunity and convenience to have sufficient vegetarian food in our neighborhood, then we should try to avoid meat eating. Firstly, it compliments the idea of non killing - Ahimsa in Yoga practice. Secondly, it is more healthy to eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and nuts than eating meat, especially it is because most of the meat nowadays is full of injected hormones or has low nutritional value because the animals are being treated badly and they are malnourished and living in a very unhappy and unhealthy environment.


But if vegetarian food is not available in certain areas or it is difficult to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables, then meat products are unavoidable for the people to consume energy and to survive. Under these conditions, meat eating is excusable as long as when the food comes to the table, we should eat with gratitude and gratefulness to the animal that sacrificed its live for us.


At the end, it is not merely by eating vegetarian food that will lead us to enlightenment, but the real practice of self control, dispassion, wisdom, compassion, desire-less, no lust, no anger, the detachment from duality and detached from the fruit of action which lead us to attain enlightenment.


We should not put too much energy and effort into the argument of vegetarian and not vegetarian according to the availability, when so many people out there don't even have enough food to survive. Instead, we should be concentrating on other important practice of purification of the mind, detachment from egoism and duality, dispassion and self control, and practice real Ahimsa in our thoughts, actions and speech in everyday life, so that we will not generate any harmful and evil thoughts, action and speech towards other people.


There is no meaning if we are eating vegetarian food but at the same time we are full of anger, hatred, jealousy, lust, greed, arrogance, selfishness and ignorance. As well as if our thoughts, actions and speech are harmful to other people.


Some people even say that it is because there are too many people in the world, that's why there are not enough food for everybody, and they suggest that everyone should not produce any more new babies into the world, and some other people should die due to wars, natural disasters and diseases, so that there are less people in the world to share the limited food supplies with them.


What an ignorant thing to say like that and so selfish of them to think like that in order to keep enough food in the world for their own survival... Why not they sacrifice themselves to give their portion of food to other people instead of wishing other people to sacrifice for them? What make them so special? Who gives them the privilege to even think about some stupid ideas like that? What does selflessness and compassion mean to them?


Every soul has its own Karma and the rights to be born as a human being to be able to attain salvation and to evolve in the path towards enlightenment.


In Buddhism teaching, even animals need the chance for them to be reborn as human beings to be able to evolve in the path towards enlightenment.


No doubt that if we feed ourselves with Sattvic food like milk, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts and grains will help us to have a calm mind. And Rajasic food like salt, sugar, onion, garlic, coffee, alcohol, too much spice, hot and pungent food will make our mind very busy generating lust and desire. And Tamasic food like meat, fish, eggs, mushroom, drugs, overly cooked food, and unfresh fruit and vegetables will make our mind dull and lazy.


But at the end, if we are well trained in our self control, have strong dispassion and desire-less, have subdued our ego - became selfless and have eradicated lust, greed, anger, hatred, jealousy and arrogance, if we are truly detached from duality and are firmed in concentration and meditation, have purified our mind completely, then the different types of energy from different types of food will not be affecting our mind.


We eat food only to maintain this physical body for us to walk the path of spiritual enlightenment, and not attached to the taste, smell, eyesight, sound, touch and thoughts. Detached from praise and censure, happiness and suffering, success and failure, birth and death, heat and cold, likes and dislikes, comfort and discomfort, craving and aversion. Detached from all the names and forms. These are the real detachments that we need to practice.


Of course if we can have enough of vegetarian food in the world for everyone, then we don't have to sacrifice the lives of the animals to supply us with meat as food. And human beings don't need to hunt or kill animals for food.


Anyway, when we show compassion towards the animals, how many of us do show compassion towards small little insects as well and protect them from being harmed? Those little insects that are living in our homes, usually they are not welcome and are killed by us human beings intentionally and unemotionally. These insects also have the will and the right to live. They have the freedom to be anywhere on earth even in our homes. It doesn't mean that when we bought a house, we also own the space and the earth. These little insects have been living here at this space and on this earth for many generations long before there were any houses or buildings here. We think that these little insects are invading our property and space. But actually, we are the one who have invaded their space of living and destroyed their homes.


Shouldn't we respect these little insects and allow them to live harmoniously with us in our home, a place so called ''our house'' just because of a piece of document stating that ''we'' are the owner of this property and we have to pay lots of money to the bank.


Even though we do pay for the house, but we don't really own the earth and the space inside and outside this building. Because who is the real owner of the earth and the space at the very beginning? Not the developer, not the land office, not the government, not the people, not the animals, not the insects, not the plants, not the birds...

It belongs to nature, and it allows everything to be on it and in it, it allows every thing and every living beings to utilise its resources. Nature didn't sell this earth and space to anybody, so how come someone came to us and sold us the land, and told us it is ours now?

All the plants, insects, birds and animals were living here and occupied this space for a long, long time before we human beings explored this place and took the land, and built houses on it, and called it ''houses for people''.


How come now after we have invaded their space of living, we are merciless to these little insects that came into our homes, and we try to get rid of them or kill them with chemical and poisons? Are they not living beings too? Maybe they are not as intelligent as human beings, but they do have the sense of taking care of their baby insects and feed them. They know what team work is, collect food for their whole community, share their food and protect themselves from danger and harm. This is far better than many selfish and ignorant human beings, isn't it?


On top of non-harming (Ahimsa) to the animals and the insects, if every human being is selfless, wise and compassionate towards other living beings, then this world will be a truly Ahimsa place.


But unfortunately, even though there is enough of vegetarian food for everyone, most of the fruit and vegetables that we get from the market are full of chemicals and are genetically modified, which is not so healthy for us to consume also. Some of the Asian vegetarian food from the restaurants are full of deep fried fake meat which is full of artificial flavourings, colourings and preservatives. As well as most of the vegetables are overly cooked and seasoned with lots of salt, sugar and MSG. This doesn't really provide us with a healthy nutritious meal.


And so, we would prefer to eat organic fruit and vegetables. But unfortunately, the prices of these organic food from the market are much more expensive than non-organic food which is understandable due to the cost of production, but it is not affordable for many people and not really accessible in every places.


So we want to try to grow our own organic food, but it is only applicable if we have a piece of land with good soil and good water accessible to it. From the condition of the earth now which is badly polluted by us human beings, it is not easy to get a piece of land to grow organic food on it. And not many people are prepared to do lots of hard work on farming the land.


And for people who are living in the cities and in concrete apartments, this is almost impossible for them to grow any organic food, not to say to grow enough food for themselves.


But if we never try, we won't be able to make any positive changes for our well being and for the welfare of the environment.


When we eat, whether vegetarian or not vegetarian, we should eat with the awareness of gratefulness and thankfulness. It is because of the existence of plants and animals that sacrifice their lives to fill up our stomach, give us the energy and keep us alive.


We need to be grateful for all the food both vegetarian and non vegetarian that are available for us here on earth and may we all utilise this body meaningfully to do good and serve humanity, and use the opportunity of having a human life to work hard on attaining spiritual enlightenment.


We need to be grateful for our parents who brought us into this life to have the opportunity to achieve spiritual enlightenment.


We need to be thankful for all our teachers, good friends and everyone who helped us to go through different stages in life.


Let us show gratitude and respect to the earth, the air, the water, the sun and the space.


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My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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