Sunday, 26 December 2010

What a Buddhist does for Christmas

As a Buddhist I'm sometimes asked what I do for Christmas. Well, the simple answer is much the same as everybody else in the U.K. I enjoy all the traditional stuff, we have so much of it here. Legends, stories, myths, food and traditions borrowed and assimilated from other cultures, countries, creeds and other times.

So I enjoy listening to carols, banned in the past by the puritans during the commonwealth and at other times by church authorities for being too "folksy".

I enjoy Christmas pudding the association with Christmas of which goes back to medieval England with the Roman Catholic church's decree that the "pudding should be made on the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction", we got ours from Sainsburys.

We have a Christmas tree (very small and alive) following the tradition brought from Germany by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III (not prince Albert, although he and Victoria popularised it).

We have holly, ivy and mistletoe courtesy of our Druid forebears. We have a celebration of the Winter solstice, the turning of the year which in our Northern climes here must go way back into pre-history.

We missed the village pantomime this year, these come from the continental tradition of Commedia dell'arte, originally from Italy. The pantomime horse is thought to be related to the Grey Mare of the British cult of the goddess Epona.

And then we have the festival of Sol Invictus on the 25th, yet another thing that the Romans did do for us.

Oh, and we had snow this year, although most of it had melted by yesterday.

(The picture is of a festive Victorian scene staged at Osborne House, Victoria and Albert's house here on the Island).

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

FULL MOON – Tuesday 21st December - 2010

Here's another "fortnightly reflection" from Ajahn Munindo, this time on the occasion of the full moon.

Truly it is ourselves that we depend upon; how could we really depend upon another?
When we reach the state of self reliance we find a rare refuge.

Dhammapada verse 160

By pointing out that we are, ourselves, our only true refuge, the Buddha is showing us that the direction we need to look for real security is inwards. We can’t afford to lose ourselves in outer activity. To be freed from perpetual disappointment in life we need to know ourselves fully. When we know ourselves we can forget ourselves.
Having been released from the prison of selfishness our hearts and minds are liberated and available to truly serve reality in each moment. Generosity, kindness empathy all occur naturally when our being is one with truth.

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Unduwap Poya

Today is the first full moon of December and as such is Unduwap Poya, the celebration of the arrival in Sri Lanka of Sanghamitta, the only daughter of the emperor Asoka and sister of Mahinda, from India in the 3rd century B.C. to establish the Order of Nuns there.

The same festival also celebrates Sanghamitta brining with her a sapling of the sacred Bodhi Tree from Buddhagaya.

Many Sri Lanka women , headed by Queen Anulā, wished to enter the Order of disciples and therefore emissaries led by the king’s nephew Arittha were sent to the Emperor Asoka to obtain the help of female disciples in enabling the women of Sri Lanka to obtain ordination.

Sanghamittā, the sister of Mahinda , who had entered the Order and had received ordination, was sent out to Lanka at the request of the king and the people and on the recommendation of her brother.

Emperor Asoka decided to send a token of the Great and Enlightened One to the land of Lanka and prepared a branch of the Sacred Bodhi Tree under which the Lord attained enlightenment. He planted the branch in a golden vessel and, when it had taken root, placed it on a ship to send to Sri Lanka. He also sent a large number of attendants to accompany the tree. The chronicles mention that these were selected from the brahmins, nobles and householders and consisted of 64 families. Sanghamittā Therī and her attendants embarked on the same ship as well as the ambassadors and messengers who had come from Lanka.

Also today, Amateur and professional astronomers were searching for a clear view of a rare full lunar eclipse which was obscured from most of the country by thick cloud.

Although full lunar eclipses are relatively frequent — the last was almost three years ago — today's event was of interest to astronomers because it occurred just as the moon was setting and the sun rising on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. The effect of this was to colour the moon a deep orange red.

The best view was in areas free of cloud in Northern Ireland and parts of western Scotland. It was also visible in North and Central America, parts of northern Europe and East Asia.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Warehouse for Cows in Lincolnshire

Following immediately on the heels of the previous post I received an email from one of our Sangha members drawing attention to the proposal to build an American style cow factory farm here in the U.K. This is all about maximising food production to feed our own ever-growing population.

The businesses behind the deal have just handed their new planning application to the local council in Lincolnshire. They seem to be trying to be clever with their timing. They're worried that if enough people can be alerted to sign the petition against this, it could scupper their plans.

According to a representative from Nocton Dairies, one of the firms behind the plan, “Cows do not belong in fields.” If, like me, you are appalled and disgusted by this and the proposed factory warehousing 8100 cows in one building please consider signing the petition at

To read more about "zero grazing" systems and this story visit the Compassion in World Farming website.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Mother Earth

I was asked the other day what it was that attracted me to Buddhism. My immediate, unthinking response was the elegance of the Buddha's teachings, the awe inspiring intellectual sophistication of the architecture of the dharma. When I'd stopped enthusing and waxing poetical I realised that no, what had connected for me when I encountered Buddhism was the Buddha's total, uncompromising, all encompassing compassion.

The biggest tragedy facing the beings of this world is that inherent in the ever increasing numbers of its human inhabitants compassion demands that we recognise this. The following short film is about that and how we need to honour Mother Earth.....................

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

More on the Blogisattva Awards

Further to the previous article on the 2010 Blogisattva Awards I posted a link to one of the items from "Sweep the dust, Push the dirt", winner of "Post of the Year" onto the Women and the Forest Sangha facebook page. The piece is from another Buddhist blogger "Angry Asian Buddhist" and is entitled "On white women and Buddhism".

Following this I received the following from Thanissara Mary Weinberg,

Hi Stephen,

"tnx for posting this.. Along with 3 other facilitators, I am co facilitator of the Community Dharma Leader Program at Spirit Rock - a 2 year leadership training. One of the central focuses of the training is diversity and inclusion of marginalized communities. It's taken a lot of hard work by some POC (People of Colour) Dharma leaders and community - to make conscious some of the issues raised in this article. It takes a particular kind of focus to explore bringing accessibility to Dharma, and visibility, to those communities who are marginalized because of race, sexual orientation, class, economic income - at present in the West, Dharma teachers, resources, power, narrative, tends to be very much in the white middle-upper class domain. As we can see from the dialogue around gender equity in Buddhist monasticism, it takes a lot to educate about the impact of assumed entitlement - how that tends to exclude, dis-empower and undermine the growth of leadership in those who are not offered the same levels of support, encouragement, resources and respect. Entitlement makes huge amounts of the lived reality, of those who struggle as a consequence of disparity, entirely invisible. I see Awakening not only a transcendence of our conditioned views about those who appear different - but Awakening is a process that directly uncovers and makes conscious our learned individual, cultural and collective prejudice's. This is painful work and requires much inner honesty and reflection."

Sunday, 12 December 2010

2010 Blogisattva Awards Announced!

The Blogisattva awards for 2010 have just been announced. Just as in years past, these awards are about recognising excellence in blogging about Buddhism, to introduce blogs that many may not know about to others and to help build a sense of community (we're in their blog directory under Sangha websites!)

Check out our posting for the 2008 awards!

The winners in the various categories are:-

Best Achievement with Humour in a Blog or Blog Post
Sweep the dust, Push the dirt - Blogger: John Pappas

Best Achievement in Wide Range of Topic Interests Blogging
Buddhist Geeks - Blogger: Group Blog

Best Achievement in Design
21awake - Blogger: Rohan Gunatillake

Best Engage-the-World Blog
Smiling Buddha Cabaret - Blogger: Marnie Louise Froberg

Best Achievement Blogging Opinion Pieces or Political Issues
Dangerous Harvests - Blogger: Nathan Thompson

Best Achievement in Kind and Compassionate Blogging
Discovering the Divine Connection - Blogger: Emily Horn

Best Blogging on Matters Philosophical, Psychological or Scientific
Wandering Dhamma - Blogger: Brooke Schedneck

Best “Life” Blog
Cheerio Road - Blogger: Karen Maezen Miller

Best Buddhist Practice Blog
Mind Deep - Blogger: Marguerite Manteau-Rao

Best Achievement Blogging on Buddhist Practice or Dharma
The Meditative Gardener - Blogger: Cheryl Wilfong

Best Achievement in Skilled Writing
Wandering Dhamma - Blogger: Brooke Schedneck

Post of the Year!
Sweep the dust, Push the dirt - Post: Point of Contact - John Pappas

And, finally,

Blog of the year, Svaha!
The Jizo Chronicles - Blogger: Maia Duerr has been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1993, and exploring the question “What is engaged Buddhism?” since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, she was lucky enough to meet many teachers and practitioners of engaged dharma. Now she directs the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program along with Roshi Joan Halifax, where they forge new pathways of everyday engagement.

Her spiritual lineage includes Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, and more directly, some wonderful, strong women teachers: Shosan Victoria Austin and Roshi Joan Halifax.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Fortnightly Reflection

For a while now I have been receiving regular "Dharma emails". One such comes fortnightly on the new and full moons. It is by Bhikkhu Munindo and the verses used in this fortnightly Reflection are taken from, 'A Dhammapada for Contemplation'. Thought that I would start to post them here as well......

NEW MOON - Monday 6th December 2010

There is no tension
for those who have completed their journey and have become free from the distress of bondage.

Dhammapada verse 90

There is a path and we have a journey to take. The goal is freedom from the experience of being bound by habits. If we try too hard, grasping at the idea of the goal and bypassing the reality of this moment, we merely generate stress. If we don’t try at all, losing ourselves in sense stimulus over and over again, we only generate more stress. Knowing the right amount of effort takes skill. And it is a skill we can develop: we lose our balance, but instead of habitually judging ourselves, we get more interested in the lesson before us.
Practising with the right amount provides the optimum chance of completing the journey.

(Bhikkhu Munindo was born in Te Awamutu, New Zealand in 1951. He received bhikkhu ordination (upasampada) first under the Venerable Somdet Nyanasamvaro in 1974 and then under the Venerable Ajahn Chah in 1975. He came to the UK after 5 years in training monasteries in Thailand.
After several years at Cittaviveka Monastery in Chithurst, West Sussex, he moved to Devon where he led the community in establishing the Devon Vihara. In 1990 he became senior incumbent at Aruna Ratanagiri, Northumberland, UK.)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Vishvapani on Cloning, the Skhandas and Ethics

Hear the latest "Thought for the Day" from Vishvapani Here in our Audio Section. He talks of the latest advances in cloning, how they relate to the five skhandas and what they mean from a Buddhist ethical perspective.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Wikileaks, Truth & Right Speech

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. ~Thomas Jefferson

So Wikileaks have done it again and are putting America's dirty laundry out for all to see. Wikileaks bases it's raison d'etre on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers".

But, in Buddhist terms, are these revelations "Right Speech"? Right, or skillful speech is the third of the eight path factors in the Noble Eightfold Path, it is speech that does not harm another being. "And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech."

The key point here is that of divisive speech and does the "fault" lie with those who "spoke" it and/or with those who repeat it? From a Buddhist perspective, intention is all important. Is there an intention to harm in either the original comments or in the reporting of them?

"One should speak only that word by which one would not torment oneself nor harm others. That word is indeed well spoken.

"One should speak only pleasant words, words which are acceptable (to others). What one speaks without bringing evils to others is pleasant."

"Truth is indeed the undying word; this is an ancient verity. Upon truth, the good say, the goal and the teaching are founded."


Saturday, 27 November 2010

A Challenge to Buddhists

I've just come across this piece by Bhikkhu Bodhi from Buddhadharma magazine. It directly addresses the question of how engaged with the problems of the world should we, as western Buddhists, be?

A Challenge to Buddhists
By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Each morning, I check out a number of Internet news reports and commentaries on websites ranging from the BBC to Truthout. Reading about current events strongly reinforces for me the acuity of the Buddha’s words: “The world is grounded upon suffering.” Almost daily I am awed by the enormity of the suffering that assails human beings on every continent, and even more by the hard truth that so much of this suffering springs not from the vicissitudes of impersonal nature but from the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion raging in the human heart.

Seeing the immensity of the world’s anguish has raised in my mind questions about the future prospects for Buddhism in the West. I’ve been struck by how seldom the theme of global suffering—the palpable suffering of real human beings—is thematically explored in the Buddhist journals and teachings with which I am acquainted. It seems to me that we Western Buddhists tend to dwell in a cognitive space that defines the first noble truth largely against the background of our middle-class lifestyles:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Yet another Buddhist "Thought for the Day"

Vishvapani was featured again on the Today program's "Thought for the Day" this Saturday (20th November). This time he was reflecting on the tribulations effecting the Irish economy and went on to say......

I am very interested in the Buddha's reflections on how a crisis can be an opportunity for understanding.

Firstly, as our illusions deflate, we are brought back to a sobering sense of reality in which we see that we've put our faith in things that are fundamentally insecure. Then he suggested we look at the traits that led us to be taken in..................................

Listen to the whole broadcast (2:55 minutes) in our Audio Section.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The 2011 Census - Say if You're Buddhist!

Having recently received a rather strange email from Census Recruitment Networking saying...

"One of the largest current campaigns in the UK has begun as recruitment gets underway to fill over 29,000 temporary part time and full time vacancies to make the 2011 Census a success – and we need your help!

We would really appreciate the help of Buddhism: West Wight Sangha, Buddhist Group in recruiting local people by spreading the word about the vacancies and directing people to our dedicated recruitment site:"

I thought it appropriate to quote this from the Buddhist Society,


The next UK Census takes place on 27th March 2011.

The previous Census, in 2001, was the first to ask people to identify their religious affiliations, if indeed they had any.

Buddhism was included as one of the 6 major religions represented in the UK.

This was the first opportunity to measure the number of Buddhists in Britain and resulted in 152,000 people ticking the Buddhist box—roughly 0.25% of the total population.

As before, the religion question is once again a voluntary one.

The Buddhist Society encourages all members and friends—whether they formally follow a particular Buddhist School, occasionally practice Buddhist meditation, or just feel a great affinity with the Buddha’s teaching—to take this opportunity to identify themselves as Buddhist.

This will help to give a balanced view of the numbers of people living in the UK who are inspired by the Buddha’s Path of wisdom and compassion, and ensure that the Buddhist community is properly represented in our national life.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Vishvapani on Aung San Suu Kyi

Listen to Vishvapani on Aung San Suu Kyi on our Audio page.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Britain’s first Buddhist College to open at Glasgow University

An inaugural one-year diploma course will be open to students from the start of the next academic year in September 2011.

One of the driving forces behind the College is Glasgow’s “Maryhill monk”, the Venerable K. Sri Rewatha Thero.

The Buddhist College UK will be modelled on the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, the Venerable Rewatha’s home country. The Venerable Rewatha is also Buddhist Chaplain to Glasgow University.

He said: “The course will provide an academic approach to Buddhism and open up inter-faith dialogue in Scotland. Setting up the college is a great achievement and I am delighted to be part of it.”

Tutors will include the Venerable Rewatha and Doctor Kenneth Hutton of the University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies.

Successful students can go on to take a degree course.

The Vice Chancellor of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist and Pali University, Professor Ittademaliye Indasara Nayaka Thero is in Glasgow for the launch. He said: “Buddhism is not confined to one generation, one country or even one race.”

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

“Grain of Emptiness: Buddhism-Inspired Contemporary Art”

17th century Central Tibeten thanka of Guhyasa...
The following is an art review, by Karen Rosenberg, taken from the 4th of November edition of the New York Times. It refers to a Buddhist inspired exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art, the premier museum of Himalayan art in the Western world.

Also have a look at our previous post "Buddhist Exhibition at the British Museum".

The Buddhist influence on art of the past 50 years is, like much else in the Buddhist worldview, immeasurable. “Grain of Emptiness: Buddhism-Inspired Contemporary Art,” at the Rubin Museum of Art, wisely doesn’t attempt such a survey. Instead it offers up an eclectic, not-the-usual-suspects group of five artists: Sanford Biggers, Theaster Gates, Atta Kim, Wolfgang Laib and Charmion von Wiegand.

It may be a stretch to call Ms. von Wiegand (1896-1983) a “contemporary” artist, but never mind; her colorful abstract paintings from the 1950s and ’60s are revelatory and relevant. And in any case this show takes the long view, interspersing the recent art with Himalayan works that date from the 12th through 19th centuries.

None of the five artists consider themselves Buddhists, but they all lean heavily on the religion’s symbols, tenets and rituals. As implied by the show’s puzzler of a title, the concept of emptiness, or “shunyata” in Sanskrit, is particularly important to them.

That word requires some clarification, because non-Buddhists will be tempted to interpret it as “nothingness.” In Buddhism “emptiness” refers to the interdependence of all phenomena. To put it simply, reality as we know it is an illusion because nothing can exist on its own.

It’s also important, for this show’s purposes, to distance emptiness and the void from some of their formalist associations. With few exceptions, pared-down imagery has little place in the works at the Rubin. The museum’s chief curator, Martin Brauen, who organized the show, writes in his catalog essay that “fullness of form, as manifested for example in a mandala, is emptiness, and emptiness is this fullness of form.”

Ms. von Wiegand’s paintings, for instance, are extravagantly full: of colors, symbols and spiritual directives. This artist, a friend of Piet Mondrian’s who shared his interests in theosophy and neoplasticism, came to know Tibetan Buddhism relatively late in life. In the 1960s, while studying with the Tibetan guru Khyongla Rato, she started to incorporate mandalas, chakras and other Buddhist symbols into her abstract compositions.

At the Rubin you can compare the triangular designs in Ms. von Wiegand’s “Chakras” (1958-68) with those in a 17th-century bronze Nepalese yantra, a decorative object used to bring focus to the mind. The painting’s frenetic channels of multicolored squares, meanwhile, will have you meditating on Mondrian’s “Boogie Woogies.”

Mr. Biggers also appropriates Buddhist symbolism in “Lotus” (2007), an enormous glass flower that hangs over the museum’s spiral staircase. On its petals he has hand-etched rows of paper-doll-like figures, based on diagrams of slave-ship holds. In another place “Lotus” might evoke suffering and transcendence, but the Rubin’s plush, decorous setting makes it look benignly ornamental.

In contrast, Mr. Kim’s photographs articulate Buddhist thoughts without doing much in the way of art. His long-exposure photographs of hectic urban streets blur foot and car traffic while retaining architecture, an idea that’s as old as Daguerre. And his digitally layered “portraits,” which collapse hundreds of facial images into archetypal Tibetan men and women, make the idea of selflessness almost too accessible.

The singers shown in close-up in Mr. Gates’s video “Breathing” (2010) flow from Japanese mantras into African-American spirituals. All are members of Mr. Gates’s Buddhist/gospel chorus, the Black Monks of Mississippi, which he has been directing since 2008. Their cross-cultural chants fill the galleries, adding to, rather than distracting from, the other works. Performance also figures in the sculptures of Mr. Laib, which combine Minimalist forms with Buddhist rituals. “Rice Meals,” for instance, involves a row of brass plates holding small mountains of uncooked rice and hazelnut pollen.

During the show’s installation Mr. Laib was a monkish presence, sitting shoeless on the gallery floor as he spooned the pollen from a jar. “If you’re not careful, the pollen is sliding down like lava from a volcano, and you have to start all over again,” he told the museum crew.

The setup of his latest “Milkstone” (2010), a slightly hollowed white marble slab covered with a thin film of milk, was just as exacting. After pouring milk from a small ceramic pitcher onto the center of the stone, Mr. Laib used a moistened fingertip to drag the liquid out to the corners.

The whole process, which will be repeated daily by trained installers, was austere yet sensuous; it brought to mind not only the history of white monochrome paintings, from Malevich to Robert Ryman, but also Vermeer’s milkmaid. “If art is really good it can include everything,” Mr. Laib says in one of the catalog’s many koanlike statements.

That’s food for thought. Still, it’s probably best to think of “Grain of Emptiness” as an unorthodox sampling of Buddhism in recent art — one that supplements (but doesn’t replace) well-known works by John Cage, Yves Klein, Agnes Martin, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman and many, many others.

“Grain of Emptiness: Buddhism-Inspired Contemporary Art” continues through April 11 at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, Chelsea; (212) 620-5000,

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A Female Lineage in Zen

The following is an article by Norman Fischer, Soto Zen Roshi, poet and author.

About 15 years ago, when I was abbot of the San Francisco Zen Centre, a woman came into my formal interview room early in the morning, sat down and burst into tears. This was surprising, considering she was a pretty rough looking woman, with lots of leather, piercings and tattoos. I asked her why she was crying and she said, "Today in service, like every day, we chanted the Zen lineage and it was all men! I feel such pain for all the women left out over the generations."

For me this was as big an enlightenment experience as I ever had. It changed me immediately and completely. Of course, I had been well aware that the lineage we chanted every day was entirely male. And I realized that this was not right.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Buddhism's alternative path

Talking about great articles on Buddhism in the Guardian, there is also this one by Jaya Graves from Thursday 28th of October........

Buddhism is often defined as a religion. Books on the subject are tumbled into religious sections of libraries and bookshops. Occasionally, they appear on philosophy shelves. But how does it define itself? Buddhists refer to the "dharma" – the way. Buddhism is not a theistic religion. There is no creator god issuing commandments, judging or punishing. Nor is there anyone who promises salvation. Salvation is possible, even inevitable, but we will reach it through our own efforts. Neither is Buddhism a philosophy. It aims to go beyond concepts, the domain of western philosophy. To do this it uses a rigorous investigation of inner and outer phenomena that include ideas, emotions, actions and interactions. Phenomena are unstable and impermanent – a dance of particles – an instability we are unable to control. We cannot create permanence.

Imagining we can control phenomena creates many of our current delusions and anxiety. And from this stems our conflicts with ourselves, with each other, between neighbourhoods and nations. Since the data of our human situation are subject to continual change it follows that our investigation must also be continuous and our conclusions must be adjusted. This personal investigation is central to Buddhist practice. There are no laboratories. No contrived replication. For this reason the process is sometimes dismissed as subjective and unscientific. It is not "evidence-based". I argue that it is in fact tested and evidence-based but not necessarily within the western framework of investigation. It is personal but it is not subjective. We have the support of teachings and commentaries. Investigative practices have been explored and established. Skilled and wise researchers have "peer reviewed" these over millennia and continue to do so. But in the end it is our own inner tenacity, our passionate intention through which we must judge our path and progress.

This core practice is undertaken not only to create a degree of ease in ourselves but through a commitment to everything that lives. The development of compassion for all things is part of being human and cannot be conditional. It must include those with whom we agree, whose belief systems are congruent to our own as well as those we may traditionally see as enemies, whose belief systems challenge our own or whose interpretation of life is alien to ours. We need to be judicious but we cannot judge the person, only the action.

Buddhism is moving from the fringes to centre stage. It offers strategies to deal with fraught lives. Meditative practices can be oases of calm at home or in centres. It is not a continuous assault to make choices, make judgements, accumulate information, juggle loyalties. It turns the attention inward.

The binary frameworks generally used to explain or explore our experience are flawed. Contradiction is is the stuff of our human condition. We are not asked to repress and destroy this. Instead it is suggested that they obscure our true nature. We are urged to investigate these obscurations and are offered methods to transform them. So anger can become energy. Pain can teach us sympathy and concern for all.

Buddhism recognises that suffering is our inheritance and will be our legacy. It makes demands in how we locate ourselves in the world. For me, in this context, it raises questions about the infliction of a model of infinite growth on a finite system; of our assumptions of entitlement to resources; our profligate use and treatment of land and water. It challenges the notion that our main concern is "the family". It isn't. There is a family beyond the family, beyond the neighbourhood, beyond the state, the country. Nuclear families are only a microcosm of this. Our care has to be embedded in the wider context. It is not a competition. It is reconfiguration.

Tried and tested methods of making an inner journey are offered. These enable us to change our own responses to a world in flux. Beyond worldly flux with which we must engage there is a timeless truth.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Chancellor Attacks Meditation!

The following is taken from an article by Ed Halliwell in yesterday's Guardian.

In his speech to the Tory party conference earlier this month, George Osborne took a dig at a range of contemplation suites", a reference to the relaxation area that was part of a refit at the Department for Children, Schools and Families under Ed Balls.
"Labour nonsense" – examples of "waste and bureaucracy" that are to be vigorously swept away. As well as "pointless quangos, poorly negotiated PFI deals and target chasing", the chancellor had a pop at "

The contemplation suite sally was an easy one to make, and somewhat lazy given the mounting evidence that contemplation training might be one of the best ways we have of protecting our world from future reckless consumption. The World Wildlife Fund has highlighted research that suggests cultivating mindfulness – long taught as a Buddhist meditation practice – can benefit the environment. Mindfulness is associated with a reduced desire for materialistic attainments and less materialistic values, while more mindful people engage in more positive environmental behaviours and have lower ecological prints. If we want to nurture behaviour that could prevent further financial crises and even save the planet,

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Britain's Largest Wild Animal Slaughtered for "Sport"

The Exmoor Emperor, a giant red stag which is thought to have been the biggest animal in Britain, has been found shot dead, with its antlers severed, in the West Country.

It is believed that a licensed hunter is responsible for killing the stag, which stood nine feet (2.75 metres) to the tips of its antlers.

The Emperor was shot on Little Rackenford farm owned by Norma and Richard Frankpitt, but the two farmers have insisted that it was not killed by any of the people who have permission to shoot there.

Mrs Frankpitt said: “We have a number of people who shoot on our land and we’ve spoken to all of them and they have nothing to do with it."

An industry source claimed hunters would have paid up to £10,000 to the landowner for the opportunity to shoot the creature. The identity of the marksman remains a mystery, but it is believed to be one of the increasing number of wealthy sportsmen who are flooding to the area in search of a trophy.

"There are people who are prepared to spend quite ridiculous sums of money to have a trophy on their wall," Peter Donnelly, an Exmoor-based deer management expert, said.

The creature, which weighed more than 135kg (300lb) , was killed close to the busy Tiverton to Barnstaple road in the middle of the annual rut.

Red deer stags are the biggest indigenous land animal left in Britain and Emperor was the largest living example.

The Buddhist perspective on animals is very simple. The Buddhist position is that animals are sentient beings and should be treated with care and respect. This means that they should not be killed. They should not be eaten, experimented on, hunted, used to make fur coats or leather goods, or tortured for sport or any other reason.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Nobel Laureate's Wife Imprisoned

Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo, this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has been placed under house arrest in her Beijing apartment. She's been there ever since she visited her husband in prison to inform him about the award.

Liu Xia was permitted to meet her husband after the announcement of this prestigious award, reported here two weeks ago, and she told followers that her husband was dedicating the prize to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

But since returning from that visit, she has not been allowed to leave her apartment and her phone has been cut off. She joins more than 30 Chinese intellectuals who have been detained, warned or placed under surveillance since the Nobel committee announced that it was giving the award to Liu.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Protests at Chinese Attempts to "Wipe out" Tibetan Language

Chinese officials have tried to defuse discontent following days of student protests in ethnically Tibetan areas, saying a plan to teach classes only in Mandarin Chinese was not aimed at wiping out Tibet's native tongue.

Changes won't be forced in areas where "conditions are not ripe," the official Xinhua News Agency cited Wang Yubo, the Qinghai province education department director, as saying. The report did not elaborate on how officials would make that determination.

Thousands of middle school students had protested Tuesday in Qinghai province's Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in anger at being forced to study in the Chinese language, Free Tibet said.

But the protests have since spread to two adjacent Tibetan prefectures in the remote region, it said in a statement Thursday.

About 2,000 students from four schools in the town of Chabcha in Tsolho prefecture marched on Wednesday to the local government building, chanting "We want freedom for the Tibetan language," the group said.

They were later turned back by police and teachers, it said.

Students also protested on Thursday in the town of Dawu in the Golog Tibetan prefecture. Police responded by preventing local residents from going out into the streets, it said.

For the Chinese authorities, any sign of unrest among Tibetans is seen as a threat to national sovereignty and a reminder of past uprisings against China's often heavy-handed rule over the Himalayan region.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Buddhist Exhibition at the British Museum

Starting last Thursday and running on until the 3rd of April 2011 the British Museum is staging an exhibit entitled "Images and sacred texts: Buddhism across Asia". It is in Room 91 and, for the time being at least, Admission is still free.

The exhibition features depictions of the ‘three gems’ from across Asia. The ‘three gems’ consist of the Buddha himself, his teachings (dharma), and the Buddhist community (sangha). Despite regional variations, the ‘three gems’ show remarkable similarities, sometimes across hundreds of years.

Objects featured in the exhibition include exquisite gold sculptures and paintings of the Buddha, beautiful Buddhist texts on palm leaf and paper, and a selection of images of Buddhist monks.

The objects come from across the whole of Asia, including India, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Thailand, Cambodia, Korea and Japan. The earliest objects are from the 1st–2nd century AD, and the latest date to the 20th century.

Many of these objects have never been on display before, making this is a unique opportunity to view rarely-seen items from the British Museum’s collection. Due to the fragility of the paintings and texts, some items in the display will be changed after three months, halfway through the exhibition run.

This exhibition provides an insight into the key elements which hold the Buddhist world together in Asia and, now that Buddhism is a worldwide faith, across the world as a whole.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Our First Retreat Day

Yesterday (Sunday) we held our first ever retreat day here at the West Wight Sangha! It was something that I had planed to do for some time but the restraining factor has always been getting enough people together from our small group to make it worthwhile.

My thinking was that a retreat day held on a Sunday would attract those who couldn't make it on a week day due to work commitments and the problem of numbers was solved following a chat with Mark and Matt from the Lake and Ryde groups at the Island Buddhist picnic. With their contacts bringing in extra people we actually reached the point where we were having to turn wannabe participants away!

A big thank-you to everyone who came along, it was your engagement and enthusiasm that made it the fun and rewarding day that it was, Namaste.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

"Two" Quotes that I Like

While in the midst
of those who are greedy,
to dwell free from greed
is happiness indeed.

Dhammapada verse 199

We all have values which we hold to be honourable: honesty, selflessness, generosity, for example. However, when those around us are travelling in a different direction, it can be hard to live our lives aligned with these values. The Buddha knew it could be hard, but he says to dwell thus is the source of happiness. If we recall how it feels when we betray ourselves, we can consider how the opposite is the case when we make the effort to hold to integrity. Or consider how it feels to focus on gratitude, instead of indulging in the sense that we are lacking. Letting go of thoughts, not adding anything to this moment or taking anything from it, we incline towards an inner peace and contentment that is the ever-present nature of our true hearts.
Establish ourselves in this awareness and we are disinclined to be intimidated by others.

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo

Monday, 11 October 2010

Photos of Chithurst Monastery

Yesterday, Sunday, we were going to visit Cittaviveka, the Buddhist Monastery at Chithurst. Unfortunately we had to cancel as Wightlink could only get us on the 8:00 a.m. ferry and the numbers able to make that time were too few to justify the cost.

However, while Googling alternative dates I came across some excellent photos of the monastery by Simon Tupper, they can be seen at!doc/vstc6=monks pictures 13 to 20). Switch to full screen mode (F11) to really enjoy them.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Dalai Lama asks China to free Nobel Peace laureate

The Dalai Lama has asked China to release imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo who has been awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Tibetan spiritual leader says the peace prize is the international community's recognition of increasing voices within China for reform.

The exiled Dalai Lama also urged China's government in a statement Friday to free others "imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression."

Liu was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison on subversion charges after he co-authored a document calling for greater freedom, among other activism. He is the first mainland Chinese ever to win a Noble prize.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the 1989 peace prize.

Campaigns Officer, Wai Hnin from Burma Campaign UK speaks to Labour Party Conference

This is one I missed initially, party conferences are not top of my viewing favourites. This is a video of Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK, giving a speech to the Labour Party conference on Monday 27th of September.

Jump for freedom
On Saturday 16th October 2010 at the O2 Arena in London Wai Hnin is doing a 160 feet bungee jump to raise money for the Burma Campaign UK to support their campaign to free all political prisoners in Burma.

Please support her jump and make a donation at:

Friday, 8 October 2010

Don't Have Children You Can't Afford

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, suggested this week that the state should not offer unlimited support to large, workless families.

He went on to say that The number of children that you have is a choice and that long-term claimants needed to "take responsibility" for the number of children they had, adding that the "state shouldn't support" large families who receive more in benefits than the average family earns.

This raises the wider, far more important question of how many children can the planet support? Looked at this way the argument moves away from redistributing the nations wealth to support the needs of citizens and their individual responsibilities in relation to those needs and onto the "natural wealth" of the planet and how that can fairly meet all of our "needs".

Surely the same argument applies, if the state cannot afford to finance individual "irresponsibility" then the environment of our planet cannot "afford" to support the irresponsibility of us as a species given our numbers.

If it's right for an individual family to only have as many children as it can afford then the same applies to the whole Human family. As of June 2010 the world population was 6,790,062,216, predicted to rise to 9,400,000,000 by 2050 i.e. an extra 2.6 billion people in the space of only 40 years, half a lifetime.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Chinese Cyber Attacks on Saffron Revolution Commemoration

Further to our previous post "Massacred Buddhist Monks Commemorated" about the third anniversary of the "Saffron Revolution", it is reported that the Irrawaddy (a newsmagazine published by the Irrawaddy Publishing Group (IPG), founded in 1992 by Burmese exiles living in Thailand) suffered a cyber attack on Monday. (At the time of writing I still could not access the Irrawaddy site!)

The well-organized, massive cyber attacks that shut down The Irrawaddy came largely from Chinese internet provider addresses.

Three websites operated by The Irrawaddy along with websites operated by Mizzima and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) were also shut down. The ongoing attacks—called a Distributed Denial of Service (DdoS) attack—were more powerful than when The Irrawaddy was attacked in 2008. The attacks coincided with the anniversary of the Saffron Revolution in 2007.

Two weeks ago, unknown hackers who called themselves “Burmese hackers,” visited The Irrawaddy on-line store and left crude messages directed at The Irrawaddy.

One message said: “Due to the unstable political situation and for the good of national reconciliation, we declare cyber war on all government and opposition groups.”

A DDoS attack is defined as an attack in which a multitude of compromised systems attack a single target, thereby causing denial of service for users of the targeted system. A flood of incoming messages to the target system essentially forces it to shut down, thereby denying service to the system by legitimate users.

Toe Zaw Latt, the DVB bureau chief, said, “I think they [attackers] are preparing for the general election. They are now testing it. They may systemically operate the cyber attacks during the elections.”

Burmese journalists in exile have raised concerns about Internet restrictions in Burma as the Nov. 7 general election nears. The government has banned foreign election observers, and it has restricted visas to Westerners who try to enter the country.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Massacred Buddhist Monks Commemorated

Human rights activists, lawmakers and religious leaders took part in a sit-in organised by Friends of the Third World (FTW) to commemorate the massacre of Buddhist monks in Myanmar on 27 September 2007.

For about an hour, protesters sat silently in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Colombo, holding placards and banners with signs in English and Sinhala that said, “Free Political Prisoners,” “Listen to the People”, “Stop Killing – Freedom to report,” and “Release Aung San Suu Kyi.”

FTW Chairman Freddy Gamage told those present that the protest was meant to remember the third anniversary of the brutal 2007 crackdown on peaceful protests led by monks known as the "Saffron Revolution." In his address, he called on Burma's ruling military junta to restore democracy to the country.

US and Southeast Asian leaders meeting in New York last week should press the Burmese government to end an escalating campaign of repression, release political prisoners, and begin a dialogue with opposition groups ahead of Burma's coming flawed elections, Human Rights Watch said today.

US President Barack Obama and leaders of the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held a summit in New York on September 24, 2010, the eve of the annual United Nations General Assembly.

"Three years ago, world leaders meeting at the United Nations expressed outrage and repugnance over the brutal use of force to disperse Buddhist monks and other protestors in Burma," said Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This summit is an opportunity for the US and ASEAN leaders to send a clear message to Burma's rulers that their intransigence, denial of basic freedoms and cynical election manipulation harm the region's progress."

For an in depth analysis of the Saffron Revolution read this article from Burmanet News.....

Irrawaddy: An anniversary written in blood – Editorial
Mon 27 Sep 2010

On the third anniversary of the violent suppression of the “Saffron Revolution,” the international community should consider taking immediate concerted and focused actions to secure the human rights, dignity and future of Burma’s 54 million people.Three years ago, Buddhist monks overturned their alms bowls during their morning rounds of the streets of Burma’s old capital, Rangoon, and other principal cities and refused to receive offerings from the Burmese ruling generals

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Whatever Happened to the Qur'ans pastor Terry Wanted to Burn

Remember the Qur'an burning (about to) pastor in the United States?

Well the controversy may have faded, but Terry Jones now faces the cost of his proposed Koran-burning rally.

Authorities said security for this month's cancelled event -- originally planned on the anniversary of Sept. 11 has cost the city of Gainesville in Florida $200,000. And the 50-member church will likely be forced to pay up.

And if you think that it has nothing to do with us pastor Jones stated in a deposition he made at a trial in which he was a witness that,

"We would actually consider all religions of the Devil except Christianity".

Q. And you believe that everything that is not from god is of the devil. Is that right?
A. Yeah, I guess so. Uh-huh. Then again, it depends on what you're talking about. I don't believe necessarily baseball is from the devil because it's not from god. But I mean, basically in general, I believe that if it's not from god, it's from the devil. Right.
Q. Is Hinduism of the devil?
A. Yes, of course.
Q. Buddhism?
A. Yeah.
Q. How about Judaism?
A. Yes.

So that's us in the frame as well, something, that personally, I'm proud of given the circumstance, it's nice to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone else.

As to the actual condemned Qur'ans themselves, they've been picked up by another bunch of evangelists. Reverend Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition (CDC), plans to distribute the Qur'ans to churches and Christian leaders who promise to keep them as a reminder to pray for Muslims and share with them the love of Christ.

Mind you, who is this devil character anyway and as for the god one I haven't a clue.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Binara Poya day

Today is known as Binara Poya day and celebrates the inauguration of the Bhikkhuni Sangha by the ordination of Queen Mahāpajāpatī, the Buddha's foster-mother and her retinue.

When her husband, Suddhodana, died, Pajāpatī decided to renounce the world. The Buddha was at Vesāli and she waited for an opportunity to ask permission of him. Pajāpatī was already a sotāpanna. She attained this eminence when the Buddha first visited his father's palace and preached the Mahādhammapāla Jātaka. She was predicted by sages to be the one who causes Buddha to allow women to join his holy order. Her opportunity came when the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu to settle the dispute between the Sākiyans and the Koliyans as to the right to take water from the river Rohinī. When the dispute had been settled, the Buddha preached the Kalahavivāda Sutta, and five hundred young Sākiyan men joined the Order. The Sakiyan wives, led by Pajāpatī, went to the Buddha and asked leave to also be ordained. The Buddha refused and went on to Vesāli. But Pajāpatī and her companions, nothing daunted, had barbers cut off their hair, and donning yellow robes, followed the Buddha to Vesāli on foot. They arrived with wounded feet at the Buddha's monastery and repeated their request to ordain as monastics. The Buddha again refused, But, Ananda interceded on their behalf and Buddha granted their request, subject to eight strict conditions.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Buddhist Global Relief

I'd like to bring to your attention the aid charity "Buddhist Global Relief" which runs projects in the Buddhist homeland countries as well as Afghanistan & Pakistan, South Africa, the United States and Haiti.

Following an essay that Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote for Buddhadharma magazine on the active dimension of Buddhist compassion expressed through programs of social engagement, several of his students resolved to form a Buddhist relief organization dedicated to alleviating the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged in the developing world, Buddhist Global Relief.

Here is Bhikkhu Bodhi explaining the founding and aims of BGR.

The mission of Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) is to provide relief to the poor and needy throughout the world regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Bearing in mind the Buddha's statements that "hunger is the worst kind of illness" and "the gift of food is the gift of life," BGR especially focuses on providing food aid to those afflicted by hunger and lack of food security. Its long-range goal, however, is to combat all the manifestations of poverty that detract from the inherent dignity of human life.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Today is World Peace Day

The International Day of Peace, also known as the World Peace Day, occurs annually on the 21st of September. It is dedicated to peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. It is observed by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. The first year this holiday was celebrated was 1981.

To inaugurate the day, the "Peace Bell" is rung at UN Headquarters. The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents. It was given as a gift by the Diet of Japan, and is referred to as "a reminder of the human cost of war." The inscription on its side reads: "Long live absolute world peace."

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Latest News from the Saranaloka Nuns’ Community

Saranaloka Foundation, based in San Francisco, was established in 2004 to support nuns from Chithurst and Amaravati monasteries to go to the United States to teach. Since that time, and numerous visits later, enthusiasm for the presence of women monastics has been tremendous and is the driving force behind an invitation to the nuns' community to set up a permanent monastery in the United States. Effectively it is an opportunity for "nuns" from the Thai Forest tradition to practice away from the male authority structures that dominate back home here in the U.K. and that are causing so many problems.

The following is a news update on what's been happening there...........

Now for the news! Ajahn Thitamedha expressed our current situation so well, when she said (I’m paraphrasing) that the foundation had to crumble so that something even better could arise out of the ashes. This update covers both the crumbling and the conscious consideration of a new way forward.

In June, Anagarika Santussika and lay woman Hitesi both decided to leave the vihara to pursue their spiritual paths in other ways. Their leaving opened a door of reflection that is proving fruitful to the community.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Dalai Lama condemns Battery Farming

Some of you may have missed this one. On the 1st of September the Dalai Lama condemned battery hen farming and urged consumers to switch to buying eggs from free range chickens.

"Turning these defenceless animals into egg-producing machines with no consideration for their welfare whatsoever is a degradation of our own humanity," said his Holiness.

"The abuse we inflict on hens has always been particularly disturbing to me and I have always been particularly concerned toward how these animals are treated in industrial food production, switching to cage-free eggs would reduce the suffering of these animals".

The British Hen Welfare Trust (formerly the Battery Hen Welfare Trust) is a national charity that re-homes commercial laying hens and educates the public about how they can make a difference to hen welfare. They find caring homes for thousands of commercial laying hens destined for slaughter each year and have hen collection points all over the country. You can re-home some hens, check out this LINK.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Buddhist Take on "Book Burning"

I've been reluctant to say anything on the threatened Qur'an burning by Terry Jones (the pastor not the Python) on the basis that he's already had way too much publicity. At the time of writing the "event" is on hold as the pastor arrives in New York to talk to Imam Abdul Rauf who has said he would make no deal with the fringe fundamentalist preacher over moving the Islamic centre further away from Ground Zero and that there were no plans to meet with him.

From a Buddhist perspective the action of burning the Qur'ans would be unskillful in that it causes hurt and suffering to others but more to the point the speaking of the intended harmful act is itself unskillful and harmful.

From a Western and more specifically a European stand-point burning books has a long and ignoble history. It inevitably reeks of the barbarian attempting to destroy knowledge and civilisation. What matters here is the intention behind the words and the actions and our REACTION to them. The pastor's aim appears to be to cause offence and thus harm. On the other hand they're "just" books, paper, ink, cardboard the destruction of which hardly justifies the death of another human being (as if anything could).

The most measured response that I have come across is this from a British Muslim....

I'm a Muslim and to be quite honest the physical action of burning the Qur'an doesn't bother me. People over the world could be doing worse to copies of it and I would be none the wiser. What bothers me is the media attention it's being given. This group is attempting to incite the wrath of passionate (and some may say extremist) Muslim's the world over. They more than likely have no idea of the contents and meaning of the Qur'an yet they are being given the chance to send Muslim's around the world a "message" by publicly burning a copy of our holy book. The Qur'an and it's messages are in my heart and soul and there is nothing an ignorant group of people can do to destroy that so why should I give it more than a second of my attention. That's what they want. Muslim's around the world should send a "reply" of forgiveness which will be more effective than retaliation and doing harm to innocent people as is being threatened.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Bhikkhunis Ordained in California

Sylvia Boorstein writing in the Huffington Post:-

Ordination of Bhikkhunis in the Theravada Tradition

At 6:15 p.m. on August 29, 2010, at a secluded mountaintop hermitage overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma County, California, four women, all long-time dedicated practitioners, were declared fully ordained as bhikkhunis, Buddhist nuns, in the Thai Theravada tradition. It was the first such ordination ever in the Western hemisphere, and it was epochal since their preceptors were nuns in their same tradition.

Although the Buddha ordained both monks and nuns, the order of nuns disappeared a thousand years later when it became clear that there were no nuns available to ordain new nuns. Keeping strictly with tradition (and in keeping with patriarchal pressures) the rule that nuns needed to be ordained by nuns brought the order of nuns to an end, and women were able to join a community and practice in only an inferior status. The pressure brought by women ardent to practice and have roles and recognition comparable to men has enabled some women, trained in the Theravada Thai tradition, to be ordained by nuns with Sri Lankan ordination. The nuns ordained Sunday join the now small group of recognized bhikkhunis in the Thai Forest tradition that can now continue to grow.

The formal ceremony began with a procession of monastics entering single file though the gathered community to take their places in a simply constructed pavilion that had been decorated with flowers. Members of the community shared rose petals from prepared baskets lining the way so they could strew the petals along the path as the monks and nuns passed by. I thought of the similar use of flower petals at weddings understood how in both cases the flowers are marking holy space in preparation for a sacrament.

I was awed by the hours-long ceremony of asking for admission, being granted permission and being blessed. The part I sense in myself -- I think we all must have it -- that longs for inner peace resonated in joyful participation as the new nuns bowed to their sister nuns, and then to the twelve Theravada monks who had come from monasteries and retreat centers all over America to add their blessings. Bhani Henepola Gunaratana, the eldest of the monastics, offered words of teaching and blessing. Ruth Dennison, at eighty-eight a most venerable lay teacher in the tradition, also added her words of delight and blessing.

It's probably fair to say that not many people outside of Buddhism have been aware of the exclusion of nuns from equality in monastic practice in the Theravada tradition. Nevertheless, I felt the event as an epochal one, and not only for women in Theravada practice. Each time equal opportunities are afforded to women where they had not been before, each time gender barriers are eliminated and women are emancipated, all women benefit. All people benefit. The world is made more harmonious.

The Buddha's final teaching emphasized "avoiding schisms in the community." Sunday's ordination is a ratification of that teaching.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Cherish the Nuns

I've just received our copy of the Insight Journal from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. This is the Summer 2010 edition and, at the time of writing, is not yet available online. The "Editor's Essay" by Andrew Olendzki is entitled "Cherish the Nuns" and examines the whole question of "Seniority" with a fascinating proposal at the end.

"After his awakening the Buddha made a return visit to his home town of Kapilavastu. An influential Sakyan chief (and cousin to Siddhartha) named Mahanama had the thought that, since many young men of good families had gone forth to join his growing monastic community, it would be good if some youths from the Buddha's own family joined also. So before long a contingent of six Sakyan princes, including the well-known cousins Baddhiya, Anuruddha, Ananda and Devadatta, snuck away from town and met up with the Buddha at a place called Anupiya. They were accompanied by their barber Upali, who was initially sent home with all their valuables, but who then decided that he too wanted to go forth into the life of the wandering mendicant. At this point the princes made a remarkable and generous gesture.

They knew that the Sangha of monks was organized entirely on a system of seniority, wherein people of all castes and all socio-economic backgrounds would defer to one another solely on the basis of the order in which they joined the community. They addressed the Buddha, saying, "We, Lord, are Sakyans, we are proud. This barber has been our attendant for a long time. May the Lord let him go forth first. We will greet him, rise up before him, salute him with joined palms, and do the proper duties. Thus will the Sakyan pride be humbled in us Sakyans."

It was done as they wished, and Upali went on to become one of the most important members of the community, the one who memorized all the monastic laws and led the recitation of the Vinaya at the first council. It was a tribute to the Sakyan princes' integrity and commitment to the ideals of the movement that they were willing to humble themselves in this simple but highly symbolic way.
Sometime later Pajapati, the Buddha's aunt and adoptive mother (taking over all maternal duties after the death in childbirth of her sister Maya), also asked to join the monastic community, which up to that time had monks but no nuns. The Buddha at first hesitated,

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ajahn Brahm talk on Bhikkhuni Ordination

Don't know how I missed this one, but here is Ajahn Brahm's Opening Talk to the Bhikkhuni Seminar at Santi Forest Monastery back in 2008.

Friday, 27 August 2010

A Quote, "for Today"

I came across this quote from this mornings edition of Radio 4's Today program. There was a report by Mike Thomson on the double humanitarian disaster in Niger, the world's poorest country, which is appealing for international aid as floods devastate a country stricken with famine.

At the end of the report Today's presenter, Justin Webb said,

"a report on appalling suffering..... I was going to say that it's another world,(slight pause).. it's not another world, it's our world"

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

More "Firsts" for Women in Buddhism

A couple of stories caught my eye recently. The first "first" is the Dalai Lama who said at a talk in Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul district on Friday that, there is no gender bias in Buddhism and nothing prevents a woman from becoming his successor. He then goes on to say that the woman should be attractive in order to be more "effective". As his holiness is talking about "his" reincarnation I think we can cut him some slack on that one; the tongue was definitely in the cheek!

The second "first" was from a piece from CNN on Myokei Caine-Barrett who is the first woman of African-Japanese descent, and the only Western woman, to be ordained as a priest in the Nichiren Order. She is the resident priest and guiding teacher for the Myoken-ji Temple, home of the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas.

"My journey of faith began at age 11 when I began to study the Bible, inspired by Audrey Hepburn in "The Nun's Story" and enamoured of Jeffrey Hunter in "King of Kings."

I yearned for the passion and devotion of faith, as expressed Hollywood-style, to deal with my isolation as a child of mixed ethnicity in a black and white world. I did not fit anywhere, and the path of faith seemed to offer the greatest sense of belonging.

My African-American father, a lifelong Methodist, and my Japanese mother, without a particular faith, insisted that my siblings and I attend church regularly -- even if they didn't. Because we were in the military, we were exposed to various religions: I explored Catholic and Protestant traditions, as well as Judaism. I had many questions and could not accept faith without understanding. Then, when I was 13, my mother's friend invited me to a Buddhist meeting.