Thought for the Day

The following talks are taken from BBC Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" series. Most are by Vishvapani, a Triratna member and are given from a Buddhist perspective. Occasionally relevant talks by speakers from various other faith traditions are included.

"This brief, uninterrupted interlude has the capacity to plant a seed of thought that stays with listeners during the day. Thought for the Day is broadcast during the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 every morning at around 7.45am."

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Mindfulness and the Environment

I've included this piece by Professor Tina Beattie because of the reference to picking up and disposing of just one piece of litter a day as in our Daily Mindfulness Exercise.

(Professor Beattie is the Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton in London and Director of the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Religion, Society and Human Flourishing.)

Sixty years ago the Thames was declared biologically dead. Today it’s one of the cleanest urban rivers in the world. I live on a houseboat on the tidal Thames and I swim in the river throughout the year, surrounded by the plop and splash of leaping fish and gazed upon by curious grebes, swans, herons and coots. Colonies of seals are breeding in the Thames estuary, and porpoises have been spotted as far upstream as Richmond. This transformation needed policy change and laws to control industrial pollution, but it’s sustained by armies of volunteers who gather litter and keep records of the river’s wildlife and ecology.

The Today programme is listened to by over 7 million people every week. Imagine the impact we would have on our environment if every one of us picked up just one piece of litter a day, and resolved to avoid buying anything plastic one day a week. Such small changes won’t save the ecosystem, but they can be potent reminders of how, just because we can’t do everything, there’s no excuse for not doing anything. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

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Saturday, 18 May 2019

Vesak and Mental Health Week

Vishvapani offers the story of Kisagotami as a model for how we might respond to others’ mental
health struggles – something Prince William has done, referring to his own experience. But it goes further. Kisagotami's dead child represents the painful truths that we can neither face nor let go in all our fragile, impermanent, interconnected lives. Recognising her child’s death didn't just restore Kisagotami’s sanity. It connected her to others, prompting an insight into the human condition that was the Buddha’s real message.

The story ends as Kisagotami returns to the Buddha, bows and says: ‘The work of the mustard seed is done.’

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Saturday, 11 May 2019

The Loss of Biodiversity

Something important is happening when scientists start talking about the good life. In principle at least, science has left discussion of values to religion and the arts. But in the ecological crisis, the long-held distinction between facts and values is breaking down. The environment is seen as a vast feedback system that’s being reshaped by human behaviour. Our individual actions are magnified on a planetary scale and reflected back to us as environmental change.

That connection between actions and consequences is the heart of ethics, but it’s not the role of scientists to tell us what our values should be. So where can we find an alternative idea of the good life? And what social narrative offers an environmentally sustainable understanding of what makes us happy?

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Saturday, 26 January 2019

Global warming

Everyone wants to be happy; but when we look for happiness in immediate pleasures or prioritise our own interests over others, we turn happiness into an object that we think we can grasp. But Buddhism suggests that the grasping mentality is itself an important part of what makes us unhappy. If that’s true of individuals, it’s also true of society. In either case the alternative is fostering the conditions that support our long term wellbeing.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager, is admirably impatient and rightly demands that we recognise climate change as a crisis that requires urgent action. But acting in ways that are effective in the long term means recognising that we need to think freshly and think big..................

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Saturday, 19 January 2019

American poet Mary Oliver by Vishvapani

Many British people, even those who read poetry, might not have heard of the American poet Mary Oliver, who died on Thursday aged 83. But in the US she was loaded with honours and won a wide readership for poems expressing a distinctively modern kind of spirituality.

Her most famous poem is The Summer Day, which starts with the ancient religious question, ‘Who Made the world?’ Then the poet gazes at a grasshopper that’s landed in her palm as she walks through the fields, and reflects that the answer lies in engaging with what’s before her with care and curiosity. ’I don't know exactly what a prayer is,’ she says. ‘I do know how to pay attention’...........................

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Friday, 4 January 2019

The Space Race and Our Precious Earth by Jasvir Singh

This is likely to be an important year when it comes to the environment, be it by managing the impact of climate change, increasing the use of renewable energies, or reducing our reliance on single-use plastics. We have a short window of opportunity to change our own direction of travel when it comes to how we treat the world, and we should make the most of it whilst we still can.

As we enter this new Space Age with wonder and excitement, I believe that we would do well to keep at the front of our minds the precious and unique world we live on. After all, it’s still the only one we truly know.......................


Monday, 29 October 2018

"Wise Speech" by Professor Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh, considers the impact of "hate speech" on recent events.

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