Q. I cannot understand how impressions can be food?

Taking in impressions means that a certain energy comes in with them. All energy that you receive is food. The food you eat is coarse material, air is finer, impressions are the finest and the most important food. Man cannot live a single moment without impressions. Even when he is unconscious there are impressions.

— P. D. Ouspensky

Q. What is the purpose of man’s existence?

A. Man and even mankind does not exist separately, but as a part of the whole organic life. The earth needs organic life as a whole — men, animals, plants. The Ray of Creation is a growing branch, and this communication is necessary in order that the branch may grow further. Everything is connected, nothing is separate, and smaller things, if they exist, serve something bigger. Organic life serves planetary purposes, it does not exist for itself. An individual man is a highly specialized cell in it, but on that scale an individual cell does not exist — it is too small. Our ordinary points of view are very naive and homeocentric; everything turns round man. But man is a very insignificant thing, part of a very big machine. Organic life is a particular cosmic unit and man is a unit in this big mass of organic life. He has the possibility of further development, but this development depends on man’s own effort and understanding. It enters into the cosmic purpose that a certain number of men should develop, but not all, for that would contradict another cosmic purpose. Evidently mankind must be on earth and must lead this life and suffer. But a certain number of men can escape, this also enters into the cosmic purpose.

So individually we are not important for the universe at all. We cannot speak even about humanity in relation to the universe — we can only speak about organic life. As I said, we are part of organic life, and organic life plays a certain part in the solar system, but it is a very big thing compared with us. We are used to thinking of ourselves individually, but very soon we lose this illusion. It is useful to think about different scales; take a think on a wrong scale and you lose your way.

— P. D. Ouspensky

extinguishing the karma that perpetuates atrocities

[based upon an experience to be given at a discussion (subject: “perseverance”) meeting for the Somerset chapter of SGI-UK.]

“we are only human,” and we are psychological time-bombs. If something bad happens…, our girl-friend leaves us…, our parents send us to bed without any supper…, we are liable to lash-out…, this being a way to vent our emotions, for it is the nature of emotions that they have a seemingly irrational nature to them for which we, as individuals, must create a “toolbox.” A toolbox in order to facilitate a socially acceptable means of dealing with these emotions. If this toolbox is not complete or not accessible, there may be a seemingly aggressive or violent display which, in reality, serves to share the emotion, as it is too much for the present carrier to contain.

This lashing-out may be verbal or may be physical. This lashing-out may be a very spontaneous collision with an object, be it inanimate or a person. There are occasions when this emotion is not resolved and the assumed issues become entangled into the genes, the family heritage, the karma, the culture; and then, the tool becomes the lashing-out…, even becomes socially acceptable (to a degree) … which leads to prejudice, persecution, racial and religious profiling etc…

As above, so below. As within (Microcosm), so without (Macrocosm). This scientific and philosophical premise is useful to form an illustration. The cells within our body are living entities, which, if provided with an appropriate environment, are capable of feeding, thinking, and duplicating independently; but they have become associated, and modified through this association, with other cells within the body, to specialize and serve a specific function within the body.

There is the larger body of Planet Earth. We are some of the individual cells of this larger body. We have specialized to serve a function along with the animals, the trees, the flowers, the birds and the bees, etc.

Just as in the body, if a sufficient number of specialized cells are lost or damaged, the body, as a whole, will become diseased (i.e. in a state of dis-ease).

A cancerous growth within the body may be equated to the Borg attacking one planet of a federation of planets. “You will be assimilated, resistance is futile.” The cancer affectively changes the genetic signature of the “attacked” cell and then that cell becomes an unwilling ally.

If the individual cell is working properly for its specialized function within the body, that is well and good. If all of the cells within the body served their specialized function properly, then the body, as a whole, is well and good. When a rogue cell within the body is attacking another cell, which is functioning properly in the context of the body, then that rogue cell is affectively, a cancer.

Extend this illustration to our political condition today. There are forces beyond that which we are willing to acknowledge. They have been sucking the history which we only reflect upon in passing conversation. Indeed, these forces have written the history as-we-know-it. The knowledge is in-plain-view for those willing to look. Some say it is a blood-line of Christ, or a Secret fraternity with satanic rituals. Put a name to it if you wish; but in the end it is excessive wealth, leading to power, leading to fear and control, leading to corruption and Imperialism. This is a cancer for it recruits by stealth and slander. This is the Devil King and his daughter.

Our society is in a state of ill-health. What is the remedy. Do we treat the symptom or the cause. If we treat the symptom, we reduce the suffering; but the problem is bound to return.

So what does this have to do with perseverance. I propose to give an experience which addresses the antithesis of perseverance. That is, my experience is about procrastination — in a weird-sort-of-way.

One day I was sitting peacefully on a park bench in Taunton. The sun was shining, the day was warm, and I hadn’t a worry, yet something unbeknownst to me was about to transpire, and it has something to do with karma, and cancer, and emotions, and compassion, and politics, and love and hate, and desperation, and “poison to medicine.”

David [fellow SGI member] proposed a scenario in the discussion of Buddhism and the justification of killing. A sniper is about to shoot into a crowd of people and you have the tools to prevent the potential deaths. … by killing the sniper. What do you do, and is it the Buddhist thing to do?

Back to Taunton. The day was beautiful and everything was OK. The pigeons were cooing, and there was a small drove of people casually walking up and down the walk, in and out of various shops.

Do many of us realize the atrocities being committed by the authorities which we allow to run our lives? In the last four years the killing of 100s of thousands of people “in our name”, The holocaust pales in comparison. Yet we accept the political justification, just as we accepted the political justification of attacking Germany. And we neglect to attack the Hitler within our own governance! Have we learned anything from the holocaust?, for we are amongst one now.

MORALLY there is no justification for killing. …So I believe.

But when the Devil-King is so very pernicious and over-bearing. When his daughter is so very fertile and promiscuous. What is one to do? Is it enough to work on our personal transformation? It, verily, seems counter-intuitive. Mustn’t there be a more affective approach to rid the daughter barren and de-horn the Devil king?

Back to Taunton. The beautiful peaceful day was abruptly festered by a distraught young man (perhaps a teenager, or perhaps older) who must have had some very painful emotions welling-up inside him. What was it? Was he sacked from a job that supported his mother and sister? Whatever the cause he had to vent this irrational emotion and it turned to anger and an aggressive display. He summarily kicked a quietly cooing pigeon across the street and into the glass store-front. The pane was in pain; but I compassionately believe the pigeon had more cause for sympathy. My heart was lifted as several by-standers rushed to the scene with coddling arms for…, the possibly severely injured, … pigeon, …for the pane gave full resistance, and the foot had sufficient momentum to carry-it-on.

I countered David’s hypothetical scenario with one of my own. Suppose, as a child, you are among a group of children your own age whom you want to be-friend. Of course, to befriend these children you want to participate in their activities and, in return, feel that you are a part of their group, as it were. Your walking down a track meandering through the countryside with trees and ponds and streams. Your friends find a frog hopping across the road… and they all begin to stone-it-to-death. Do you participate in the stoning?

Would it make any difference if that frog were a woman who had committed adultery?

No answers required,… this is only food-for-thought.

Back to the pigeon in the pane.

When our child is in pain, emotional OR physical, we want to provide comfort and guidance. We tend to reflect this same compassion to our aged parents… and if our sovereign is misguided and confused, we will remedy this as it is our duty to correct the slander of the age.

The compassion of the bystanders to come to the aide of this injured pigeon… It is a meritorious thing to have such a compassion for the victim; and it would be unthinkable to ostracise such a meritorious behaviour… But why did we not come to the aid of the youth who had violated the peace of the pigeon, for it is he who is venting an unbearable emotional burden? He is also a victim, a victim of emotional weakness, a victim of circumstances, a victim of the karma which was passed to him before his birth, and perhaps also that which he is unknowingly creating in this lifetime.

But because he is the aggressor (arguably through no fault of his own); because he has not the proper tool-box to repair his internal strife in a socially-acceptable way; …he has become the “evil one.” We are attaching the deed to the person; …but these are separate things!

The Devil-King and his daughter is not the person; but the circumstances, the past karma, the social-conditions,… Some of us lack the proper tool-box to extinguish the Devil-King and his daughter; lack the ability to manifest our Buddha-nature.

As inspiring Bodhisattvas of the Earth, there is a duty to help others find their Buddha nature, and manifest this nature in their own actions. The Lotus Sutra is the tool-box for all ages; but it must be propagated, and propagation requires illustrations appropriate for the time, the place and the conditions of the person.

If we are victims; as Buddhists, will we be strong enough to understand this when others come to the aide of the perpetrator rather than to our own aide? Are we Buddhist enough to recognize the REAL victim in these circumstances?

In conclusion, if we come to the aide of the object of aggression and NOT to the aide of the person or persons who are unable to manifest their Buddha-nature, then we are procrastinators. If we shoot the sniper, we MAY have saved lives; but we have also sent this person’s negative karma to the place of incessant suffering where it will find nourishment and therefore become intensified in the next life-time.

We may save the adulterous from stoning; but have we stopped the karma which has led to the adulterous act. We may stop the stoning; but have we stopped the karma which is responsible for persons believing stoning is right… be it innocent frog or adulterous woman?

For the world-wide Social Ill-health, do we continue to trust our “elected officials” who continuously lie, cheat, and slander the Mystic law? Are they the victim, or the perpetrator? Is there a difference? We must adapt our propagation of the Mystic law to accommodate our current social conditions. This is a difficult thing to achieve and most certainly counter-intuitive.

I am glad the pigeon survived — for, after getting over the shock, it was able to fly away. But I could not help but reflect upon where our duty, as Buddhists, rests. Why the display of compassion for the victim of violence is considered socially correct is obvious; but perhaps considering how we can come to the aide of the aggressor (who is also a victim) who, by all appearances, has committed an “evil act”…, perhaps this would bring us a step closer to extinguishing the karma that perpetuates atrocities in the next life-time.

[Disclaimer: I am a lay-member of the Soka Gakki International (SGI) and my views do not necessarily represent the views of SGI or its members. Nor do I claim to represent SGI in any of my writings. In fact, I claim NOT to represent SGI in my writings.]