We all have labels for our self and others.  It is hard to live without picking up one or two as we progress along the merry yellow brick road of existence.  The most basic relate to our age, sex, nationality and ethnicity.  Others point to our job, relationship status, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.  When we meet someone we often ask key questions so that we can mentally place them in certain pigeonholes.  It helps us to learn something about people without having to ask the same questions over and over.  If we know someone if a fireman, we have a pretty fair idea about what he does in his job, likewise for a secretary, actress, farmer and accountant.

So, where’s the problem?

Well, there is none just so long as we don’t go confusing labels with reality or believing that our past experience of certain labels means that others sharing that label will have the same or similar characteristics.  But no one would ever believe that all people from the same country were the same, surely?  Or that there is no such thing as a nice Democrat/Jehovah’s Witness/Iraqi/Creationist/*insert your own prejudice here*.  Notice the effect each of those words have on your mind.  Some will have none, others might make you tense slightly.  And this is just a word with no person in sight. Continue reading

Seeing Things As They Really Are: the story of Kisa Gotami

In the time of the Buddha many people came to seek his advice for mundane matters as well as spiritual. One story of a lay person who sought out the Buddha has survived over the centuries and that is the tale of Kisa Gotami.

Thus I have heard. One day a woman carrying a child came to the place where the Buddha was staying with his sangha (spiritual community) of monks, lay seekers and attendants. She was granted an audience with the Buddha and, clearly in considerable distress, told him how she needed medicine for her baby son who had fallen into a deep sleep and would not wake up.

The Buddha asked the woman, named Kisa Gotami, to pass the child to him so that he could see what he could do. The Buddha was no physician but was willing to do anything he could to relieve suffering in anyone, be they his friend, enemy or a complete stranger. Upon receiving the child into his arms, though, it was obvious to him that the child was dead and had been so for some days. It was also obvious that to break this news to Kisa Gotami would have a devastating effect on her mind. Continue reading