H is for Hatred

Hatred, not a word I generally associate with either Buddhists or Quakers. Surely they are all nice, gentle folks who don’t hate anyone.

Not true of course. We are all just normal people doing the best we can. We are trying to increase our compassion, our loving-kindness, and to let go of hatred. Hopefully we succeed at least a little bit.

Hatred, like greed, is one of the three poisons. The sanskrit word dvesa can also be translated aversion, anger, aggression. This gives us a wider sense of the meaning.

So when do I feel hatred? Well, when my next door neighbour, in his over-enthusiastic garden ‘tidying’ has reached under the fence and damaged my plants. I am angry on behalf of my plants, I feel threatened by the intrusion into ‘my’ space. I want to react aggressively. I remember not to act in the heat of the moment. I try to see things from his point of view. I become a little more sad, a bit less angry. I work on developing compassion for him. I try to develop non-attachment – did you notice all those mys I was using? I did. Takes me back to greed too, doesn’t it? These poisons are inter-connected, even in this small example.

When we speak of anger, people will often say ‘but aren’t there things we should feel angry about?’ Well yes there are. Real injustices. Anger can give us the energy to fight against them and perhaps that can be justified. But how much better to act from love, from compassion, than from anger.

Let us cultivate metta and begin to change the world in a truly positive way.

H is for health

At an local SGI discussion meeting some years ago, someone said something that has stayed with me. He said that we often speak of the symptoms of illness, but it can be useful to think of the symptoms of health.

At the time I had a long-term, largely untreatable illness – ME/CFS. It was a great help to me to look at things from a different perspective and I made a list of those symptoms of health that occurred to me. I began to look out for them in myself. Much more positive and encouraging than dwelling on the symptoms of illness.


Here’s my initial list:


feeling energetic

sense of joy in life

enjoying healthy food


flexibility in times of eating and sleeping

succeeding in basic hygiene and healthcare (eg actually getting up and getting dressed each day)

honest acceptance of the current situation and capacity to work on improvements (eg dress to look good at current weight & plan ways to lose weight)


readiness to accept a challenge


being able to prioritise

being thankful

being able to communicate with people

finding time for spiritual practices


discussing/sharing things that matter


awareness of other people

2 colds/year


What would be on your list?

H is for Happiness

‘Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness & just be happy.’

This quotation from Guillaume Apollinaire filled the front of a handbill I was given in the town centre recently (on my way to my bus stop home from work) along with a piece of coconut ice and an invitation to join in the dancing and chanting of ‘Hare Krishna’. I can’t dance at present (walking is challenge enough), but I chanted for a few minutes, until I saw a bus coming – and I smiled all the way home.

A few days later I was on a bus going to meeting for worship. New posters on the bus shelters read:

Happiness in a new bottle. 1.75 litre Coca-Cola’.

Somehow I don’t think so, even if I liked Coca-cola. But it illustrates the ways that we are being bombarded with ways we could be happy, often ways that will make profits for someone else. Which they hope will make them happy.

It brought me sharply back to Advices and Queries 39 ‘Consider which of the ways to happiness offered by society are truly fulfilling and which are potentially corrupting and destructive.’ The same thought is also encapsulated in the five mindfulness trainings.

In my experience happiness comes along when I am doing something else, probably something that might be termed ‘work’, doing it with my whole attention, often doing it principally for the benefit of someone else, or when I am just being: stepping outside first thing in the morning, watching a bird in the garden, listening deeply to someone, preparing food.

As a Friend reminded me, when she h read my comments about the Hare Krishna handbill: ‘Man asked Buddha “I want happiness. ” Buddha replies,”leave out I then want & you are left with happiness.” ‘

Then just pause and enjoy being happy, and sing along with my young self whose favourite sunday school chorus was:

I am H A P P Y,

I am H A P P Y,

I know I am, I’m sure I am,

I am H A P P Y.

G is for Greed

Greed is one of the three poisons in Buddhist teaching; greed, anger and ignorance.

It’s also something I remember daily when I recite the five contemplations before breakfast: ‘May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat in moderation.’


I am always brought up short when reading the five mindfulness trainings by this sentence in the second training: ‘I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.’


Then from the Quaker perspective, Advices and Queries 39: ‘Resist the desire to acquire possessions or income through unethical investment, speculation or games of chance.’, and 41: ‘Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?’


From the bible, the so well known: ‘Love of money is the root of all evil.’ (1 Timothy 6:10) and ‘Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? … Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.’ (Matthew 6:31,34).


Greed is in part about eating too much, but that is far from the whole story. It is about wanting too much. It is about wanting to have things to make ourselves feel secure, because we all, at some level feel insecure. Insecurity springs from fear, fear of the future, the unknown future, and ,for some, fear (a logical, reasonable fear) that events of the past will repeat themselves. Buddhist teaching is that everything changes, change is inevitable, but that if we can accept that and realise that happiness is only possible in the present moment, and that it is possible in the present moment, we have ‘more than enough conditions to be happy.’


Greed, it seems clear to me, is also at the root of much that is wrong in society. It is easy to see that bankers’ bonuses and MPs expenses claims are rooted in greed, but there is also the lack of people being willing to share their ‘ time, energy, and material resources’ and arguments about who constitutes ‘those who are in need.’, instead of just getting on and sharing. It also seems to me that greed is part of the human condition, it did not need money or many material resources to show itself. I imagine even in early societies with simple bartering that someone would be trying to get the better part of a bartering deal when exchanging perhaps a sharpened flint for a portion of the recent kill, or a bunch of herbs for a basket of berries.


I go away now to work on ‘ not to possess anything that should belong to others’ – just what ‘should belong to others’, if I have clean water to spare to flush my toilet with, and yet other people do not have clean water to drink? And ‘ keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment’, such a complex topic to grasp that I must take it small step by small step.