Thursday, 30 June 2011

4-Fold Sangha Group to Close!

I have just received this from Thanissara....

Dear Friends,

As admin of the current 4-Fold Sangha group (formerly Women & the Forest Sangha group), we have come to the place, in relationship to the life of this group, where we each feel its time to move on.

Right from the groups early beginnings, when a few of us as ex nuns, talked of the consequences of the 5 point process within the UK Forest Sangha, this group has been an offering. It has been an offering of an open space which held a public conversation that was not possible within the walls of the monastery.

The groups intention has always been to maintain that open space to help process the pain and disappointments of the 5 point process and the fall out from the bhikkhuni ordination in Perth in October 2009.

We feel very honored to have shared this journey with those, and each one of us within the admin, who have been truly authentic to their (and our) inner truth while grappling with the consequences of our profound relationship with a community that many of us have given years of our lives to help nourish and build.

During this time we have met wonderful fellow practitioners from all over the world, and have been able to alert people to the growing and unstoppable Bhikkhuni movement. We have also been able to reflect on the Dharma together and the on going challenges of its placement within our contemporary world. Those of us in admin, and many of you who have fed back to us, have experienced this as an enriching and precious process. It has also been very difficult, sometimes contentious, time consuming and sometimes heart rending.

More recently, after experimenting with a change of name and direction, in response to the upgrades in the Facebook group format, it has become clear that the admin of this group have now come to the end of their wish to continue the group and be responsible for its content. We were already at that juncture, of letting the group finish, when Facebook was changing its formatting process.

However it wasn't clear that it was the right time to do that. We now feel it is. To honor the group and each one of you, and each one of us, the original intention, the time and effort to maintain the group, the authenticity and depth of sharing that has been contained within it, we wish to sign off in a wholesome and appreciative way. So we truly thank all of US for our contributions.

We will be holding a simple ceremony on Friday on the new moon,
after which we will wind up the group.

It is possible that some of the great energy that has come through this shared discussion may emerge in a new form or forms... But for now, it's time for a pause.

Again, we wish everyone truly well and extend ourheartfelt thanks to all for the willingness to share and contribute to the process and discussions.

Former W&FS - current 4-Fold Sangha Admin

Buddhist Monks are Planning to Open a Meditation Cave Under Nottingham

This story from BBC Nottingham......

The cave below the Buddhist centre on Derby Terrace would be a place for people to be completely alone, said a spokesperson for the monks.

There are about 450 man-made sandstone caves in Nottingham dating back to the medieval period. The caves have been used as dungeons, beer cellars, tanneries and air-raid shelters but there are no records of them being used for meditation before.

Venerable Edo Shonin and Venerable William Van Gordon opened the Bodhayati Vihara Buddhist centre near The Park in May. The pair said the centre was home to what they believe is the only monastic temple in Nottingham. Buddhists using the temple said they previously travelled to Birmingham to practice together.

The monks begin each day with chanting and meditation at 5am which is then repeated throughout the day in various forms. The monks also give regular talks on the teachings and practice of Buddhism.

"The idea of the cave, which will be open to everybody, is to try and provide a very particular ambience that will enable meditation practitioners to simply be with themselves," said Venerable Van Gordon. He added that traditionally, it was not uncommon for a meditation practitioner to spend many years living in a cave or forest. "The cave in Nottingham will provide a flavour of what it might be like in such a setting. The only difference being that we will recommend practitioners meditate in the cave for one or two hours rather than one or two years," he said.

The monks said they moved to the city because of the non-religious meditation programme they had developed in conjunction with Nottingham Trent University.

The monks hope the meditation cave will be open to the public by August.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Aung San Suu Kyi Delivers Reith Lecture

Today Burma's President elect, Aung San Suu Kyi delivered the first of her two Reith Lectures.

Examining the themes of dissent and freedom, Suu Kyi will share the five-lecture series with former MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller, whose talks will mark the 10th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks on America.

Before being released by Burma's military government in November, Suu Kyi had spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest in Rangoon, after her League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the 1990 election.

She said: "To be speaking to you through the BBC has a very special meaning for me. It means that once again I am officially a free person. When I was officially 'unfree', that is to say when I was under house arrest, it was the BBC that spoke to me – I listened."

You can listen to the lecture here......


Read about how the Beeb managed to arrange and record the lectures and the part played by Maggie Philbin HERE.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Two Major International Sports Events Come to the Island Today!

This post is not particularly Buddhist but it is very Isle of Wight! Today started with the annual Round-the- Island race leaving Cowes at 6:00.

As reported in the Isle of Wight County Press, "this epic event, dubbed 'Britain’s favourite yacht race’ has attracted a record number of entries this year, now standing at a phenomenal 1,908 since entries closed last Saturday.

Rod Nicholls, commodore of the Island Sailing Club (ISC), said: "We’re all very excited at the prospect of welcoming a record fleet on the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes early tomorrow morning.

"We’re hoping for good sailing conditions to help get everyone away on time and safely round the Island."

The first start is at 6am when the gun will be fired by TV personality Denise van Outen to commence a series of class starts lasting one hour 40 minutes, that sees 11 different classes of boat set off on their epic one-day racing adventure."

The North island may have the Olympics next year but this year the Isle of Wight is hosting the Island Games XIV. Later on today at 5 p.m. is the Opening Ceremony Parade in Ryde town and along the Esplanade.

The International Island Games were founded in the Isle of Man in 1985 and today include 25 member islands in, or associated with, the nine sovereign nations of Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK, plus the Caribbean.

The Island Games have become one of the largest international multi-sport events in the world, behind the Commonwealth Games and Olympics.

During the summer of 2007, the Isle of Wight secured its bid to host the NatWest Island Games 2011 which will be held from 25 June – 1 July. Around 4000 athletes and officials plus many supporters clubs will be attending.

We wish all competitors in these events the very best of luck. (Here's the Buddhist bit!) It's theirs and our chance to practise Mudita, sympathetic or vicarious joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being or success rather than begrudging it.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

All Beings are Interconnected, All Beings are Related

One of our Sangha members recently sent me this email, with her kind permission I'm posting it here........

Someone I know took their children this week to Howlett's Zoo in Kent. They were watching a gorilla who was standing by the wire (sort of heavy duty chicken wire) and he could just get his fingers through but not his arm. He kept pointing at the ground of the small space between his wire and the railings behind which the public stand. On the ground were small food pellets and someone realised that he wanted them to be picked up and thrown to him. They did. He then picked up the stick in his enclosure and was pushing more pellets, that he couldn't pull towards him, towards the public so that they could reach them and throw them to him. Finally, he passed his long stick through his wire to someone so that they could more easily reach the pellets to be thrown to him. Obviously his party piece, but as this person said it makes you think that perhaps it is us who should be behind bars and the gorillas free........

It also reminds me of Darwin and Jenny the orangutan.....

It was not until a year and a half after his voyage on board the Beagle that Charles Darwin first came face to face with an ape. He was standing by the giraffe house at the London Zoo on a warm day in late March of 1838. The zoo had just acquired an orangutan named Jenny. One of the keepers was teasing her--showing her an apple, refusing to hand it over. Poor Jenny "threw herself on her back, kicked & cried, precisely like a naughty child," Darwin wrote in a letter to his sister.

In the secret notebooks that he kept after the voyage, Darwin was speculating about evolution from every angle, including the emotional, and he was fascinated by Jenny's tantrum. What is it like to be an ape? Does an orangutan's frustration feel a lot like ours? Might she cherish some sense of right and wrong? Will an ape despair because her keeper is breaking the rules--because he is just not playing fair?

Our own species has been talking, volubly and passionately, for at least 50,000 years,

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The "Hairy Cornflake" was my Lifeline says Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese President elect, Aung San Suu Kyi has said Dave Lee Travis' BBC World Service music request show gave her a lifeline while under house arrest.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is due to give two of the BBC's Reith Lectures - which have been secretly recorded - told the Radio Times: "I used to listen to all sorts of different programmes, not just classical music. I can't remember... the name of that programme... Dave Travis? Was it?"

After interviewer Eddie Mair, who presents BBC Radio 4's PM programme, asked if she meant Dave Lee Travis, Ms Suu Kyi said: "Yes! Didn't he have a programme with all different sorts of music?

"I would listen to that quite happily because the listeners would write in and I had a chance to hear other people's words."

BBC producers used the code name Maggie Philbin - the former Tomorrow's World presenter - to keep Ms Suu Kyi's involvement in the Reith Lectures secret.

Aung San Suu Kyi's Reith Lectures will be broadcast at 0900 BST on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 28 June and 5 July. Each lecture will also broadcast on the BBC World Service and will be available for download via the programme podcast. Follow the Reith Lectures on Twitter.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Dog Condemned to Death By Stoning by Jerusalem Rabbinical Court

A Jerusalem rabbinical court recently sentenced a wandering dog to death by stoning. The cruel sentence stemmed from the suspicion that the hound was the reincarnation of a famous secular lawyer, who insulted the court's judges 20 years ago.

Several weeks ago, according to the Behadrei Hadarim website, a large dog entered the Monetary Affairs Court near the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. The dog scared the court's visitors and, to their surprise, refused to leave even after they attempted to drive him away.

One of the judges suddenly recalled that about 20 years ago, a famous secular lawyer who insulted the court was cursed by the panel of judges, who wished that his spirit would move on to the body of a dog (considered an impure animal by Halacha). The lawyer passed away several years ago.

Still offended, one of the judges sentenced the poor animal to death by stoning, recruiting the neighborhood's children to carry out the order. Luckily, the dog managed to escape.

The head of the court, Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin, denied that the judges had called for the dog's stoning. But one of the court's managers confirmed the report to Yedioth Ahronoth.

"It was ordered by the rabbis because of the grief he had caused the court," he said.

Animals have always been regarded in Buddhist thought as sentient beings, different in their intellectual ability than humans but no less capable of feeling suffering. Furthermore, animals possess Buddha nature (according to the Mahāyāna school) and therefore an equal potential to become enlightened. Moreover, the doctrine of rebirth holds that any human can be reborn as an animal, and any animal can be reborn as a human. An animal might be a reborn dead relative, and if you looked far enough back in one's infinite series of lives, you would eventually perceive every animal to be related to you in some way. The Buddha expounded that sentient beings currently living in the animal realm have been our mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, children, friends in past rebirths. One could not, therefore, make a hard distinction between moral rules applicable to animals and those applicable to humans; ultimately humans and animals were part of a single family. They are all interconnected.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Happy Birthday Daw Suu

Today is Aung San Suu Kyi's 66th birthday and at least this year she is not spending it under
"house arrest".

She has been awarded the freedom of the city of Newcastle. The Nobel Prize winner is not allowed to leave her country so the honour was accepted on her behalf by Wai Hnin, whose father is a political prisoner and who represents the Burma Campaign UK.

Her name will now be engraved on the walls of the city's Civic Centre, where an official ceremony took place on Friday night.

This follows Aung San Suu Kyi being honoured at this year's Brighton festival with a series of arts commissions inspired by and intended to reflect her "extraordinary spirit".

Burma's opposition leader was named as this year's guest director, following Brian Eno last year and Anish Kapoor in 2009.

Aung San Suu Kyi sent the festival this statement: "It is especially pleasing for me to see, albeit remotely, Brighton festival taking shape this year, and to think that so many people will come together in May to celebrate great art and experience the inner peace it brings.

"It is wonderful too to know that there is such support for the effort to bring democracy and freedom to Burma, for which the Burmese people have been diligently working for so long. I wish everyone involved in Brighton festival this year – the artists and the audience – the happiest of times. Please continue to use your liberty to promote ours."

Saturday, 18 June 2011

"Meditating in Silence as the Fire Draws Near"

Here's an interesting story I spotted in the New York Times......

Those living in the path of a huge wildfire typically express all sorts of emotions, but in one remote community in south-eastern Arizona, the reaction has been muted.

The 39 Buddhists living at the Diamond Mound Retreat Centre near Bowie, Arizona., are about six months into a three-year solitary retreat that includes a vow of silence. Ranging in age from their mid-20s to their late 60s, participants spend their days in intense meditation, living in basic huts that are separated from one another, in a spiritual exercise aimed at promoting world peace one person at a time.

Those administering the program are in regular contact with fire-fighters on the front lines of the Horseshoe 2 Fire, which has burned in excess of 200,000 acres in the Chiricahua Mountains since May 8, and say they are awaiting word from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department on whether an evacuation will be necessary.

“They can see the smoke coming over the hill,”

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Dalai Lama and the Pizza Shop

So have you heard the one about the Dalai Lama and the Pizza Shop?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

FULL MOON – Thursday 16th June 2011

Those who have renounced
the use of force
in relationship to other beings
whether weak or strong,
who neither kill
nor cause to be killed,
can be called great beings.

Dhammapada 405

We aspire to live with a heart of kindness and wisdom. And it is to these spiritual powers we need to turn when we seek resolution to conflict. On occasions when we don't get our own way we can feel tempted to use force. At an instinctual level part of us might want to fight, manipulate, even be unkind. For this reason we train to prepare ourselves, in advance, so that when the fires of resentment, frustration and disappointment flare up, we don't betray our commitment to reality.

With Metta,

Ajahn Munindo

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A Taster of the ‘Illusion of Life and Death’

Further to the previous post ‘Illusion of Life and Death’, there is now available an extract from the book comprising the introduction and first chapter.

Friday, 10 June 2011

A Poem that I Like

There's a fair amount of Dharma in this poem by Maya Angelou (it's also the title of her autobiography)..........

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

‘Illusion of Life and Death’

Mahasandhi Publishing has just published Christian A Stewart's translation of 'Illusion of Life and Death' by Kyabje Dzogchen Pema Kalsang Rinpoche. As the blurb says -

‘Illusion of Life and Death’ presents us with the complete path to enlightenment. It is a personal testament to the value and effectiveness of the Buddhist teachings and an empowering embrace of our own potential. Written to intrigue and inspire beginners, as well as nourish more experienced practitioners, ‘Illusion’ is essential reading for anyone interested in awakening to a happier, more enlightened world.
Kyabje Dzogchen Pema Kalsang Rinpoche is one of the most eminent Lamas in Tibet and master of the Dzogchen teachings of Great Perfection. In this, his first volume of writings for a non-Tibetan audience, Kyabje Rinpoche shares what he describes as his ‘entire teaching’ in a style that is as much an oral teaching as a formal written instruction. ‘Illusion of Life and Death’ makes many profound Dzogchen teachings widely available in English for the first time.

Rinpoche's book is available from Amazon

Monday, 6 June 2011

The West Wight Sangha Website is 4Yrs Old Today!

It's a hard to believe but the West Wight Sangha web site has been running for four years as of today. Back in 2009 I missed doing an anniversary issue but I'm determined to maintain the practice of an annual review. In this post I want to link back to some of the "major" stories that we have covered over the last twelve months (please follow the links for the full stories).

Back in June last year our first story was that of the "Jade Buddha Coming to Britain". That one is still to look forward to as between the 30th of July and the 7th of August 2011 the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace is going to be on display in Birmingham.

Next we had a whole crop of stories around the discrimination against women wanting to ordain as full Bhikkhunis or Nuns. First there was the report on a number of articles on The Inequality of Women in Buddhism followed by the story that an Amaravati Monk was leaving in protest over the "Five Points".

Just a few days later came the sad news that Sister Thitamedha from Chithurst Monastery was also to disrobe because of the "Five Points".

On August 1st we reported that Sister Kovida was also to leave Chithurst this following close on the heels of the piece on "Our Visit to Cittaviveka" on the 18th 0f July.

Happier news was to come in September of four Bhikkhunis being ordained in California.

In October we held our first ever retreat day here at the West Wight Sangha.

A week later we were reporting on the sad death of Britain's largest wild animal, the Exmoor Emperor, a giant red stag, gunned down for "sport". At the end of the same week came the news that our new government didn't approve of meditation.

As a counter balance to that, in November we reported on the founding of Britain’s first Buddhist College, which was to be opened at Glasgow University.

Another interesting story that month, from a Buddhist perspective, was that of the WikiLeaks revelations.

In December we had the announcement of the 2010 Blogisattva Awards!

In January we had an email from Daizan telling us about a retreat being run by his teacher, Shinzan Roshi. Talking about previous Buddhist visitors to the Island, we also ran a piece on the Tashi Lhunpo Monks at New York's Natural History Museum.

For February we had a photo-reportage of a Chinese lion dance to mark the Chinese new year here in Freshwater.

Following the devastating Japanese earthquake on the 11th of March we ran an article on the efforts of Tzu Chi, the Buddhist disaster relief organisation.

Later on that month brought the sad news of yet another Tibetan monk burning himself to death in protest at the Chinese authorities treatment of his people. 

At the end of March it was the date of the National Census and Earth Hour. Our story "Flick and Tick" highlighted the call to flick off the switches of our electrical goodies and to Tick the Box for Buddhism on the Census form.

Then in April, just when you'd think that in a sane world the story of Pastor Terry Jones was long dead, buried and forgotten about he goes and does it anyway.

Later that month I had an email from Anna from the Mahasandhi Buddhist group in Cowes about a teaching session in Southampton by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche on April the 30th.

April the 29th and it was the Royal wedding and the news that for the first time a Buddhist monk was to be an official guest.

The month ended with the story that went around the World of Simon Ledger, an Island musician who was arrested for signing the song "Kung Fu Fighting".... you couldn't make it up!

May started with the news that friends from the Lake Buddhist group were going to run a six week meditation course in Sandown, starting in a couple of days time on Wednesday the 8th of June.

News also came that the "Women and the Forest Sangha" group had revamped their Facebook page and changed the name of the group to "4-Fold Sangha".

On the 17th it was the full moon of Wesak, this year marking the 2,600th anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment!

And then it was the end of the World........... but it wasn't...........

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Vishvapani on Kharma and Bringing Wrong-Doers to Justice

Here's the latest Thought for the Day from Vishvapani.

He starts with the news of the arrest and bringing to trial of Bosnian Serb military leader, General Ratko Mladic responsible for overseeing the slaughter of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995.

Mladic is being tried by the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague. The indictment also alleges his forces tortured, mistreated and physically, psychologically and sexually abused civilians confined in 58 detention facilities in 22 municipalities. Mladic is also facing charges for the shelling and sniping of Sarajevo, during which thousands of civilians were killed and wounded.

NEW MOON - Wednesday 1st June 2011

If we thoroughly release ourselves
from such thoughts as,
"They abused me, mistreated me,
molested me, robbed me,"
hatred is vanquished.

Dhammapada verse 4

If we have held for a long time to thoughts of ill-will, we can forget how it feels to be simply happy. Our minds can become so accustomed to negativity that unhappiness seems to be the norm. But just as the essential nature of water is pure and clear, so the essential nature of our hearts is calm and bright. Painful things do happen in life and memories don’t necessarily disappear as we wish. However we do need to know that adding resentment to memories is adding something extra. It is not an obligation. Releasing ourselves from negative thoughts may not be as difficult as it appears. Honestly acknowledging to ourselves that we do have this choice, to allow memories to be memories - nothing extra - leads to letting go and moving on.

With Metta,

Ajahn Munindo