Daisaku Ikeda says “Everything passes. Both soaring joys and crushing sorrows fade away like a dream. However, the knowledge of having lived one’s life to the fullest never disappears.”
My life has been quite full so far and yes, I have done foolish things too and wasted time. However, the time that I have spent following my heart have been the most joyful (including writing these blogs, which have helped me to understand myself). Yes, I can to look back at the foolish stuff I have done, yet they were learning experiences, even though they may have been sometimes unhappy. The present is the only moment to live, fully. We don’t know what the future may bring but as Alan Kay says, “The best way to predict the future is invent it.”
Happy invention today to all of you!
Yesterday, I wrote about following your heart while overcoming physical problems. I have also been thinking about how one can be creative while grappling with externally imposed severe mental and physical restrictions such as imprisonment and torture. I have a book, Another Sky: voices of conscience from around the world, which contains accounts of activists, poets, scientists, teachers and writers who were imprisoned for their beliefs. Like the Jewish prisoners from German concentration camps, these men and women from all over the world produced great letters, memoirs, poetry and even paintings. Some like Ken Saro- Wiwa paid the ultimate price and some like Aung San Suu Kyi were eventually released.
Despite being physically separated, our spirit can still connect and intersect with everyone and this becomes our source of energy and creativity. Whether we are physically free or not, our true freedom and creativity comes from within. We could be living with liberty and wealth but not following our hearts. Nichiren writes- “…when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge.”
Thich Tue Sy, a Vietnamese scholar and writer, was arrested in March 1984 and sentenced to death four years later on trumped up charges. The sentence was later commuted to 20 years imprisonment and he was finally released in 1998. In the poem below written in prison, he manages to convey his true and vast state of life despite the confinement-
Here in my narrow cell I am free.
I talk, laugh with myself,
casting a longing eye towards the Eternal sun.
(Lotus flowers in Kew Gardens. Photo credit: Author)
Earlier I wrote about the four universal sufferings that human beings experience, no matter what their status, wealth or fame. Buddhism says that these are the sufferings of life, illness, ageing and finally death. The lotus flower is especially significant in Buddhism. Mired in the muddy pond, beautiful blossoms bloom, undeterred. Life is like that- we live in world with evil, suffering, corruption and injustice but we can still blossom despite it. In fact, the ‘muddy’ world allows us to show our brilliance and creativity just like the relationship between the lotus and it pond; and the ‘muddy pond’ of our world supplies us with the right materials to manifest our highest potential.
Lotus is the only flower that carries the mature seeds inside it, signifying the simultaneity of ’cause and effect’ i.e. whatever you ‘sow’ you reap instantly in that it ingrains a particular effect on you. Thus, whatever you think or do, creates the instant effect of changing something inside you whether it is immediately visible or not. We can learn from the lotus flower that by having positive and creative vision and taking action, we are instantly changing ourselves and our world.
Daisaku Ikeda, the Buddhist philosopher, says-“…we can transform the sufferings of being born into this world into the joy of living life to the fullest; the sadness and loneliness of ageing into the pleasures of fostering the younger generation; the challenges of illness into an opportunity for elevating our state of life; and even the sorrow of death into a song of eternal triumph”.