Postcard 42 from Robina: Queensland, Thursday, June 26, 2014

2014-06-26 11:00:00

I was in Melbourne for a few days, until May 28. I didn’t do much there, besides the Catholic conference, just my sisters for a couple of days before flying up to Brisbane, where I’d spend the month of June.

Here with me are, from left, Marie, Julie, Jan and Polly at Julie’s house in Carlton. Judy was overseas and Tony our brother not in Melbourne.

Marie’s daughter Sarah, husband Nicholas, and son-in-law Mark Neald.

We always have a good time together. We’re all so different, but over the years we’ve all come to a point where we don’t criticize each other behind our backs and don’t discuss things we don’t agree with – I talked about this a couple of years ago, in Postcard 27.

At the first level of Buddha’s teachings he exhorts us not to harm sentient beings – a negative action for the Buddha is one that harms another – but the reason he says we shouldn’t harm others is because it’ll harm oneself: the basic rule of karma, which for the Buddha is a natural law that runs the universe, is that whatever we do or say, based of course on whatever we think, necessarily has consequences for oneself.

This sounds so simple, but it’s huge. Many of us might not go around killing and raping, or even stealing, but we surely use our speech to cause harm, especially in families and other close groups. The mind is the point, of course: everything comes from it, but if we can’t harness the energy of our speech and body – behavior, in other words – how is it possible to control the mind? Uncontrolled speech causes so much harm. The number of families that have split up because of it: it’s so sad. The bitterness, the hurt, the resentment, the confusion. Just a few words can cause so much damage.

Of the four actions of the speech that Buddha mentions not to do, I think the one of criticizing people behind their backs is one of the worst. And we don’t even think of it as negative. It’s easy to see how abusing each other out loud is harmful, but sitting there chatting away and talking about the mean sister, the unkind uncle, what your mother did to you – it all seems so harmless, especially if the listener is eagerly agreeing with you. But this is what can cause the breaks in families: people believing what they hear, taking sides, building up stories.

Not to mention the colleagues at work, and the politicians. We think it’s almost virtuous to criticize politicians!

But when we can first see the harm it does to ourselves – it feeds our own rubbish stories, our anger, our hurt, our jealousy – then we will determine not to do it. This is one of the hardest things about karma to see: that whatever we think and do and say brings consequences to ourself. It takes time. We think of it as something moralistic, something someone else tells us we shouldn’t do. But it’s not like that: it’s fundamental common sense. Who in their right mind would want to harm themselves?

When we think about being a Buddhist we think of meditating, but to hear that the first level of practice, junior school, is basically doing what our grandmothers told us: “behave nicely.” Sounds so boring! But unless we do, it’s impossible to meditate, to control the mind.

In Queensland it was another conference. My friend Linda Rago on Stradbroke Island organized her first Shiatsu conference and I gave a couple of talks. As always, I stayed in Kathleen’s house overlooking the ocean and got some editing done. This book of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s on how to help at the time of death is still happening. I thought I’d finished here, here at Straddie, in 2012. Last year: same. This year it WILL be finished.

This kookaburra would sit on my balcony in the morning.

And, as usual, the Stradbroke Buddhists had a weekend retreat.

At our now annual get-together with the Stradbroke Buddhists, on Stradbroke Island, just off Brisbane.

Then to Brisbane, where I stayed with Miffi and Eddie at Langri Tangpa Centre. From there I went to the Relaxation Centre in Brisbane, a place that’s been going for nearly 40 years. They do an amazing job: so many people over the years have started their spiritual paths there.

With Miffi and Buddha Amitabha in Langri Tangpa’s gompa.

Interrupting Eddie in his Corpse Pose before his yoga class at Langri Tangpa in Brisbane.

Besides Brisbane and Chenrezig Institute, my usual stops in Queensland, I went north to Cairns to a Sakya group and along the Gold Coast to Coolangatta, a little group there.

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