Who was the 15th Dalai Lama?

My faourite quote from the 15th Dalai Lama is:

People object when coerced down a particular path, even if they know it is for the better. It is primeval; they feel trapped and cannot get passed this feeling. You have to make them want to go; make the lead so soft they forget it is there.

PS. FICTION WARINING!!!

The current Dalai Lama (the 14th one) trancends the idea of a religeous leader and is almost an architype to himself. I’m no longer surprised when I come across him as a character in fiction. This by no means denigrates His Holiness, it is because he has touched so many of our lives. The drawers at my writing desk are filled with his quotes and advice on little peices of paper or desk calendar tear offs:

“Sometimes we feel that one individual’s action is very insignificant.  Then we think, of course, that effects should come from channeling or from a unifying movement.  But the movement of the society, community or group of people means joining individuals.  Society means a collection of individuals, so that initiative must come from individuals.  Unless each individual develops a sense of responsibility, the whole community cannot move.  So therefore, it is essential that we should not feel that individual effort is meaningless- you should not feel that way.  We should make an effort.”— His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from ‘The Dalai Lama’s Book of Love and Compassion’, available from Snow Lion Publications.

This quote empowers the individual and comes to my mind whenever I hear people lament their “one” vote or slip into apathy. I keep it close.

The quote at the start of this blog appeared in a short Sci-Fi story I wrote entitled “Panacea” set around the middle of the twentyfirst century. In the story I needed to insert a spiritual element in an attempt to “softly lead” the readers mind to a particular conclusion that I left unsaid at the end of the story.

This fictional Dalai Lama (I remind you of this again) I once desribed to a writer friend as the 14th Dalai Lama on crack. He was less predictable than the 14th Dalai Lama. I felt that if His Holiness had any failing it was that he was so archetypal, so good, and therefore predictable and open to manipulation by subversive groups.

My 15th Dalai Lama never held a gun but he was militant and as Murakami wrote in his book 1Q84:

“Once a gun appears in a story, it will be shot and someone will die”.

D is for the “Dalai Lama”

The Cunningham Classic – one of Australia’s Spring Cycling Classics

I’m making lighter post today for day three of the April A to Z Challenge.

Saturday 6 August 2011 was the 29th annual Cunningham Classic but for me, only a three year cyclist it was my first. The race was held soon after Cadel Evans won his first Tour de France so it was hard not to get caught up in the  huge buzz of excitement about cycling in Australia.

The race, for all but the elite riders, was 96km from Gatton to Warwick in Southern Queensland. The main climb looks hard on the profile but it is only the last few kilometers that hurt.

Cyclists are split into two main groups by their physiology; either sprinters or climbers. I’m definitely more of a sprinter so I was not entertaining any aspriations of wining the King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey.  Professional riders all talk about riding through the pain and that the climbs don’t hurt them any less than us mere mortals, it’s just that they can go faster.

The race started at a slow pace and it was only some hard words from my teammates that stopped me from attacking even though we had 70km to go. My team had set a goal for me to be about fifth wheel coming in to the last km as that would be the best position heading in to the final sprint.

In hindsight I may have been better off attacking and racing 70km solo.

So I did as I was told and stayed in the pack. Eventually the pace increased to what you would expect in a race and when we hit the climb all of those vying for the KOM jersey were up the front while I just wanted to stay close enough that I could make contact again once the road leveled off. I was keeping pace with most of the riders until someone passed me on the outside. I dug in and got on to his wheel. It hurt and kept hurting but something clicked and I was able to stay with him right to the top.

So now I was about 5 minutes behind the lead group. No one left with me looked like trying to catch them so just put my head down and rode as hard as I could. There were about twenty riders on my wheel the first time I looked around but about twenty minutes later when I finally caught up with the lead group there was only two left. “Now for a rest,” I thought and sat in the middle of the pack. Eventually a few of us took turns at the front and a rider in red told me that there was someone who had broken away and we had to try and catch them. Later we found out that he was in the C grade race behind us so we had no need to chase him down.

This “red guy” kept the pressure on though and I was doing a little too much work on the front, while the other “smarter” sprinters sat in the pack.

About three kilometers from the finish the speed increased and the lead group was suddenly down to just six riders with me on the back; I had achieved my team objective – now I had to win it. One km out we hit a slight rise and everyone got out of the saddle; the sprint had started. The rider in front of me, “red guy”, was slow to start and a gap of two lengths had opened up in front of him. I was about to go around him when he jumped out of the saddle and accelerated. I was pretty tired already so I slipped back into his slipstream and was right on his wheel; there was at most a few inches between us – the perfect spot to slipstream.

Except at that instant he “sat up” (that’s cyclist jargon for giving up) and as we were on a slight rise it was as though he’d put on the brakes and my front wheel clipped his rear wheel and my bike was pulled out from underneath me.

I’ve been training in the martial arts for over twenty years so I naturally tucked my head in and “rolled” forward. Seemed like a good idea at the time and there was not a scratch to my helmet but this type of roll is not meant to be performed at 45km per hour. I hit the bitumen shoulder first and tumbled over and over, while “red guy” rode off, probably unaware what had happened.

The Cunningham Classic is superbly organised and every lead group of riders had a medical and support car following them so I had an off duty Ambulance officer at my side within seconds.

My left leg, hip, arm and shoulder were cut and blood was flowing freely from a gash on my left knee. They gave me one of  those pain relief whistles, where you breath in on them to be administered pain relief and, boy, did I need it. X-rays at Warwick hospital confirmed that I had completely snapped my collarbone and would need surgery to put a titanium plate on it.

I was a bit vague about “red guy”s race number but I’ll never trust a rider in red again! Ouch! And no I don’t have a zipper on my spine, I wouldn’t let them cut off my jersey until there was no alternative, and they took the x-ray with it still on.

Thanks to Upperlimb.com (the race sponsors…mmm) for putting me back together.

I was off the bike for three months and still not back to the fitness, or the weight, I was last year but:

“Bring on the 2012 Cunningham Classic” – I have unfinished business!

“C” is for the Cunningham Classic

The first 95 kilometres of the 2011 Cunningham Classic was so much fun, my best riding to that date…

the next 10m,,, not so much fun!

What is the Beginner’s Mind?

The beginner is blissfully unaware of the pitfalls of this form or that; and so their mind does not stop and they move in a natural way. Unfortunately this beginner’s mind slips from our grasp no matter how much we try to hold on to it and may take years of diligent practice achieve, and for many it is never achieved again.

This could be why many people flitter from one thing to another; at first enthralled by their own extraordinary ability and then blaming one teacher after another for its loss.

When one practices discipline and moves from the beginner’s territory to immovable wisdom, one makes a return and falls back to the level of the beginner. -Takuan Soho

When you study an art, be it martial or otherwise, you are taught diverse ways to move and act; how to hold the sword, racket, bat, or paint brush, and where to put your mind and therefore it stops in many places. Then when you move you are extraordinarily discomforted. After many months and years of training and practice one’s posture or the clinical manner of holding this or that do not weigh heavily on your mind and the mind no longer stops and becomes as it was at the beginning; when you knew nothing and had yet to be taught.

The beginning therefore is the same as the end and is also known as the state of No-Thought-No-Mind. More on that on another day.

Again, we can speak with reference to your own martial art. As the beginner knows nothing about either his body posture or the positioning of his sword, neither does his mind stop anywhere within him. If a man strikes at him with the sword, he simply meets the attack without anything in mind. -Takuan Soho

The mind does not stop he simply meets the attack without anything in mind

“B” is for the Beginner’s Mind

A is for “A Fettered Mind”

Hiroshima Dome:

We’re all fettered by something, not least of which is our biological “gilded cage”.

Anyone who has had more than a passing interest in either the martial arts or zen would recognise that “A Fettered Mind” stems from Takuan Soho’s book The Unfettered Mind – Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master. But things for me are always more organic than just lifting a title from someone else’s imagination.

It was somewhere in the 2000’s that my writing focused switched from technical articles, mostly related to Spatial Science (my day job) and the martial arts experience particularly Aikido and Ki, towards more creative writing. My grandfather was an officer in the Second Australian Infantry Forces and served in a non-combat role in Europe,ack home in Australia, and later in East Asia. My mother was born after he enlisted but by the time the war had ended five years later he had not been home to see her. Rather than return home to his family though he chose to volunteer for the British Commonwealth Occupational Force (BCOF) in Japan. Most of this I discovered shortly after his death.

Why would a man I knew to be good and kind abandon his family?

It was a question I had failed to answer through research so I decided that I would literally solve it myself. At first this project wa entitled “Tex” the name he was known by, having been born in the small town of Texas, Queensland, Australia. Late one evening while researching the novel Takuan’s “The Unfetered Mind” fell onto my writing desk from the bookshelf.

“Now that is one saying I can’t use to describe you Tex,” I said into the darkness.

I browsed straight to my project and entitled it “A Fettered Mind”.

A is for “A Fettered Mind”

I have uploaded the short story Hanami, which is based on my grandfather Tex’s service with he peace keeping forces in Japan.

The sentient mind should not be underestimated

In over twenty years of training in the martial arts, specifically Aikido, the most valuable notion I have discovered is the untapped power of the sentient mind.

In general terms, how often have you felt your mind disturbed and looked up to see someone watching you. Just as in combat when we sense an opponent’s attack before they physically move, so can we sense another sentient mind’s attention on our mind.

The sentient mind is a powerful instrument and should not be underestimated

I’ve witnessed some Atheists get quite flustered and occasionally angered when other people pray for them. Although I tarried in this mindset for a short period I now value the act of prayer and meditation. It is a conscious act to extend positive energy to another being or set of beings.

I don’t believe in an interventionist God. But I know darling that you do – Nick Cave (Into my arms)

This is as good a place to start to describe my viewpoint on prayer. We are not products of the environment we exist in but we are influenced in many ways by it. I grew up in a staunchly Catholic family and school system but I was encouraged not to limit my viewpoint to those taught by religious leaders, or held by the society of the time. The most profound influence however was reading The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God (2006) by Dr Carl Sagan based on his Gifford Lecture under the theme The Search For Who We Are.

Dr Carl Sagan is known to have said that there is no scientific evidence that God exists but he also acknowledged that neither has evidence that God doesn’t exist been provided.

 It is the act of prayer or meditation that adds value, not the actor’s faith in some hirsute gentleman or any other vision of a divine entity.

So I encourage all sentient beings especially Atheists to practice the art of prayer or meditation.