Saturday, 30 July 2011

NEW MOON - Saturday 30th July 2011

Mistaking the false for the real
and the real for the false,
one suffers a life of falsity.

But, seeing the false as the false
and the real as the real,
one lives in the perfectly real.

Dhammapada verse 11-12

If with hindsight, we see we've been caught up in conceit, do we appreciate what awareness has revealed? Or do we despair, worrying that all these years of practice have come to nothing? In this verse the Buddha tells us we can feel good when we catch ourselves being false. Practice is working! Only when we learn to see 'the false as the false' can we let go, and live in the real.

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Meditation Course Ends - More to Follow

The introductory course in Buddhist meditation and mindfulness practise which was held in Sandown by the Lake Buddhist group has just ended. Mark tells me that it was a great success and that further introductory courses are planned and also more advanced meditation courses. Here's a photo of a recent session in the Broadway Centre.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The "Monkey Trial"

It was on this day, the 21st of July, in 1925 that the infamous "monkey trial" ended in Dayton, Tennessee in the United States, with John T. Scopes convicted of violating state law for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution and being fined $100.

This law was the Butler Act of 1922 which stated,

"That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the Story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."

And what does the nation that put a man on the moon believe now, 86 years on? Most Americans do not accept the theory of evolution. Instead, 51 percent of Americans say God created humans in their present form, and another three in 10 say that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent say humans evolved, and that God was not involved.

Here is the report from the following day's New York Times on the close of the trial.

Dayton, Tenn., July 21 -- The trial of John Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution in Tennessee, which Clarence Darrow characterized today as "the first case of its kind since we stopped trying people for witchcraft," is over. Mr. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, and his counsel will appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee for reversal of the verdict. The scene will then be shifted from Dayton to Knoxville, where the case will probably come up on the first Monday in September.

But the end of the trial did not end the battle on evolution, for not long after its conclusion William Jennings Bryan opened fire on Clarence Darrow with a strong statement and a list of nine questions on the basic principles of the Christian religion. To these Mr. Darrow replied and added a statement explaining Mr. Bryan's "rabies." Dudley Field Malone also contributed a statement predicting ultimate victory for evolution and repeating that Mr. Bryan ran away from the fight.

The end of the trial came as unexpectedly

Friday, 15 July 2011

Massive Revival of Buddhism in Russia

For four generations, the Soviets waged war on Buddhists, sometimes branding them “Japanese spies.” Now, 20 years after the collapse of Communism, Buddhism is experiencing a massive revival in its historic areas.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

No Tsunami if the Japanese had Been Christian!

According to the Rev. C. Peter Wagner, an extremist evangelical Christian preacher, had more Japanese turned to Christianity, perhaps the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami could have been averted.

“I believe that God has a Kingdom destiny for Japan,” Wagner wrote, “but the enemy has built seemingly impenetrable strongholds to prevent it from manifesting. God did not cause the natural disasters; satan and his forces did. They came to steal, kill and destroy. However, this time God did not choose to use His sovereign powers to prevent them from wounding Japan.”

So, the Japanese were punished for being Buddhists, ........and Satanists? Well, the Rev is from a Country where 30% of it's citizens take the bible literally, so no surprise there.

You can read more HERE.........

Monday, 11 July 2011

World Population Day out on the Isle of Wight?

Today is world Population Day, started on the 11th of July 1987 to commemorate the Earth’s human population reaching 5 billion. A mere 24 years later the World population is now 7 billion!

On Friday the Isle of Wight County Press reported the story of 16-year-old Grace Ireland, from Ripon, North Yorkshire, who has started a Facebook group encouraging the whole world to come to the IW on February 15, 2015, she has had more than 9,000 responses.

The idea comes from the proposition that it is possible to fit the entire human population of the Earth onto the island standing shoulder to shoulder.

At the time of writing the UN World Population Counter stood at 7,090,436,284, 27% of whom were under 15 years old.

This gives 5,176,018,487 adults and 1,914,417,797 children. One average adult can comfortably stand on a rectangle 500 cm wide by 400 cm deep ( 0.2 square metres), with the average child occupying half that area.


5,176,018,487 adults x 0.2 sq. m = 1,035,203,697 sq.m

1,914,417,797 children x 0.1 = 191,441,780 sq.m

Total area needed = 1,226,645,477 sq.m

= 1,227 sq km.

The Isle of Wight is the smallest county in the country (after Rutland). It is roughly diamond shaped and measures 23 miles from east to west, and 13.25 from north to south, giving a total area (including inland water) of 94,146 acres, 147 square miles or only 381 square kilometres!

So, no, you wouldn't all fit on the island. interestingly in 1927, only 84 years ago the worlds then population of 2 billion would have needed a mere 346 sq Km and would have easily fitted, even as late as 1953 the 2.6 billion of us could have got on, but only at low tide!

Why do I raise this? As a Buddhist my concern is for the suffering of other beings and population is the "elephant in the room". We and our fellow beings live on a finite planet with finite and diminishing resources. Our human population is devouring those resources and continuing to increase with an inevitable increase in both our own suffering and that of our fellow inhabitants of this world, look no further than the disaster overwhelming the people in the Horn of Africa right now. (You can offer your support at the DEC website)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Happy Birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Today is the Dalai Lama's 76th birthday, everyone here at the West Wight Sangha wishes his Holiness a joyful day and many happy returns.

Exiled Tibetans living in Nepal were prevented from celebrating the birthday. Following pressure from its northern neighbour to prevent any anti-China protests
during the festivities, Nepali authorities made stringent security arrangements at places where Tibetan refugees reside.

Police personnel closed the main entrance to Namgyal School, the main venue of the celebrations in Kathmandu, early on Wednesday morning preventing the entry of many well-wishers who had turned up for the celebrations.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Aung San Suu Kyi's Second Reith Lecture

Burmese President elect, Aung San Suu Kyi, examines what drives people to dissent in the second of the 2011 Reith Lecture series. 'Securing Freedom'.

Reflecting on the history of her own party, the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, examines the meaning of opposition and dissident. She also explains her reasons for following the path of non-violence.


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Meditation Flashmob in Trafalgar Square

Naseem Khan wrote recently in the Guardian about joining a "Flashmob" to meditate in Trafalgar Square.

I've never been too drawn by flashmobs. If people chose to gather clandestinely and suddenly burst out into song en masse or into a dance routine, it seems harmless enough. Maybe a burst of a surprise activity in a public place is a good thing, momentarily shaking people's assumptions of what is normal, and maybe raising their spirits.

But the idea of a flashmob of people meditating? In Trafalgar Square? I didn't care for the idea. It seemed to either present meditation as a display of the weird and wonderful, or be making an ostentatiously pious comment about the dehumanisation of urban contemporary life. Weirdness or smugness, why go for it?

I have a history of unease about meditating in public places. It has never seemed to be putting out clear or useful messages. When I lived in New Mexico, a group was organised to meditate near the base at Los Alamos where the atomic bomb had been developed. It felt as if we were sitting there as an overt display of an alternative: the good outside the gates and the bad inside. But what did we achieve? Whom did we convince, or whom did we sway? Coasting along on a cloud of conscious virtue is often too easy a ride.

At Los Alamos there was, it must be admitted, a sense of gravitas. Ambling in a long line after Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh felt plain silly. "Tai" had given a talk in Caxton Hall, with his usual gentleness and luminosity. He then proposed we all follow him out of the doors in a slow walking meditation to St James's Park. It was the end of a warm summer's day, as I recall, and office workers were spilling outside out onto the pavements outside crowded pubs. We walked past them eyes, downcast, past pubs, over zebras, along busy roads, a long slow column of folk. The contrast between the loudness of the drinkers and the soberness of the walkers gave the impression of a criticism that was surely not intended by Hanh.

So what to do about the suggestion that came into my email inbox to go and meditate as part of a flash mob in Trafalgar Square? It could be exhibitionism, or – at worst – a glib use of what is a profound and extraordinary discipline. There was an awful lot against it. And yet, dear reader, I went.

I went because I wasn't sure. I could see that I had been embarrassed in Los Alamos traipsing after Tai. Part of me had been uneasy about breaching conventions and had felt vulnerable and exposed. But if I had felt undefended in a public space, then surely, I thought, I ought to explore that.

And come down to it, it is true that I do believe without a smidgeon of doubt that meditation is an unmitigated good. So why be shy about physically standing up (or rather, sitting down) for it?

I went along expecting unease, and expecting challenge. I was wrong on both counts.

Trafalgar Square, 10 minutes before the secret lift-off, was full, as usual, with summer crowds and precious few people that I could clock as potential meditators. It was warm and I sat on a bench to wait.

I didn't hear the lone woman singing at 6.30pm who was the signal, but I saw something even more startling.

Across the square, from all sides, apparently uninvolved idlers strode forward purposefully to the designated area between the two large fountains. It was like Superman suddenly emerging from unobtrusive Clark Kent – or rather, around a hundred or so Supermen.

It was simple to be impelled along on that sudden wave and to just sit down among the throng. And a deep silence immediately arose. I was astonished. There was a sense of naturalness and openness. The steady sound of the water in the two fountains, the grumble of traffic masked behind them, and a light hither and thither breeze. It felt not so much a comment on mad commercial London but more a coexistence with it – unifying in its effect rather than polarising.

After 20 minutes, the low growl of chanting "Om" began and it rolled back and forth in waves, rising and falling until 7pm struck. And then it was all over. Standing up, the world felt different. I would have liked to have made eye contact with someone, or even hugged someone. But being British, I reverted to the conventions of public space. I picked up my things and left to catch my bus.

I don't know if the exercise showed anybody anything or made any point at all. But I do know that for me it was a half an hour of purest sanity.

Friday, 1 July 2011

NEW MOON - Friday 1st July 2011

Few are those who reach the beyond.
Most pace endlessly back and forth,
not daring to risk the journey.

Dhammapada verse 85

To imagine anything truly new is not really possible. Most of it is a rearrangement of the past. We need a
distinctly new approach if our goal is ‘the beyond’ - freedom from suffering. The predictability of the familiar makes us feel safe, even if it is tedious. This is the endlessly pacing back and forth. This is how we live with clinging, but what would it be like to not-cling; to trust in here-and-now awareness, informed by Dhamma? It takes courage to let go of the familiar and open to the unknown. Our commitment to precepts and our training in mindfulness are our protectors, so we can dare to take this new journey.

With Metta,

Ajahn Munindo