Monday, 30 July 2012

Cittaviveka Visit and The 2nd Annual International Bhikkhuni Day

Yesterday a group of us from the West Wight Sangha got together with the Newport Soto Zen Buddhist group for a day trip to Cittaviveka, the Buddhist Monastery at Chithurst. It was, yet again, a wonderfully peaceful and enjoyable day.

Most of the Cittaviveka Sangha were attending upasampada (full ordination) at Amaravati and thus were not at Chithurst while we were there. We were not, therefore, able to gauge for ourselves how things now are for the nuns community but this extract from the Forest Sangha newsletter by Sister Candasiri gives a good glimpse of the current situation.

"The Buddha often used similes from nature to illustrate basic truths of human existence. In that spirit we could liken the result of what has happened for our nuns' community in recent years to a plant that has undergone a severe pruning. Since 2008, over half of the nuns have left, including a substantial proportion of theris (nuns of over ten years). Some have disrobed, others have simply left the lineage to practise independently as ten-precept nuns or to pursue Bhikkhuni Ordination and training.

While such decimation could well have wiped out our Sangha altogether, the faith and determination of the remaining Sisters. together with the enormous sense of encouragement and good will - both from our monastic Brothers and from countless lay friends - seems (so far) to be enabling a sense of regeneration within our tiny community."

Coincidently, I have recently been in contact with Josephine Snell, who is a committee member for International Bhikkhuni Day and who has provided the following "flyer" for the event.

 Alliance for

The 2nd Annual International Bhikkhuni Day is on Saturday 29th September 2012,
from 9am - 5pm, and in the UK a meeting will be held at
The Buddhist Society, 58 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1PH.
Guest Speaker: Bhikkhuni Visuddhi

The Bhikkhuni Day is a global, grassroots effort, sponsored by the Alliance for Bhikkhunis           ( On this day, supporters gather at various venues around the world, to celebrate their spiritual legacy, learn about the history of prominent Buddhist women, meditate and raise funds to support bhikkhunis, via a meditation pledge-a-thon.

UK meetings are being co-ordinated by Josephine Snell (details below), who can be contacted for further information. All those who would like to attend the London meeting are very welcome. Those who would like to attend but who live too far away, are encouraged to set up a local meeting of their own, and can contact Josephine for details on how to do this.

Bhikkhunī Visuddhi was born in the Czech Republic. She practiced as a Buddhist for many years until she left for Sri Lanka in order to ordain as a nun. In 2003 she obtained the Samaneri Ordination. In 2006 she trained for 9 months in Taiwan at the English Buddhist College of the Fo Guang Shan Temple to prepare for the higher ordination. In 2006 she ordained as a bhikkhunī in the Tzu Yun Temple in Taiwan and returned to Sri Lanka. In 2008 she practiced in Germany in the Anenja Vihara and since 2009 she has been involved in various Dhamma activities in Europe – mainly in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Every winter she returns to her home temple in Sri Lanka to her teacher and Bhikkhuní sangha. She also regularly spends time in a Buddhist monastery of Thai forest tradition in Switzerland – Dhammapala.

Josephine Snell
(AfB committee member for International Bhikkhuni Day)
Email:            Mobile: 07786 516035

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Buddhist Monk Competing in the Olympics

One of the Olympic events today is the Equestrian Individual Eventing, look out for Kenki Sato who is competing for Japan. Kenki is a Buddhist monk from the Myoshoji temple in the mountains near Nagano, where his father, Shodo, is the 25th master of the 460-year-old temple and adjacent horse-riding club.

Kenki is following his younger brother Eiken, who also trained as a priest and rode at the Beijing Games. His sister, Tae, 24, is a five-time national show-jumping champion.

Here Kenki is pictured making a lap of honour with his horse Toy Boy and the two gold medals he won in individual and team jumping at the 16th Asian Games in 2010.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Creator Deity vs. Discoverer Dude

I've just come across this fascinating piece, by David Barash, posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education....................

"Early in my teaching career—sometime in the mid Paleozoic—I employed short essay exams in my undergraduate animal behavior class at the University of Washington. (Now that the enrollment has metastasized from 24 to 300, I’ve regretfully turned to computer-graded multiple choice questions.) One of those now-extinct short essays asked students to explain, briefly, Darwin’s primary scientific contribution. I still remember one student’s answer: “He invented evolution.”

Sorry, no cigar … and no credit. (The correct answer, btw, isn’t even that Darwin discovered evolution or that he presented abundant evidence in its favor; rather, he came up with the most plausible explanation for the mechanism whereby evolution proceeds: namely, natural selection. Others, such as Robert Chambers and Darwin’s own grandfather, had preceded him in describing some sort of historical, evolutionary connection among organisms.) In any event, I’ve been thinking lately about the difference between inventing/creating something on the one hand and discovering/revealing it on the other, regardless of mechanism employed.

One of my current writing projects is a book about the parallels between biology and Buddhism, and in meditating on this, I came up with what strikes me as an interesting distinction, one that to my knowledge hasn’t been previously identified, to whit: Whereas the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) claim that their god literally created the world and along with it, the natural laws that govern its functioning, Buddhism promotes a very different perspective, namely that the Buddha—emphatically not a god, by his own insistence—didn’t create the Dharma (the way the world wags); rather, he discovered it. Thus, for Buddhists, reality  exists prior to any supernatural event; for the Big Three, it exists only because of it.

To me, at least, this distinction seems important … although I’m not at all sure where, precisely, it leads. Thus, unlike the Abrahamic triad, Buddhism encourages participants to explore for themselves, explicitly enjoining devotees to reject any teachings that seem incongruent with their own experience of reality. I’d think that there can, and should, be a world of difference between believing in a Creator God versus a Discoverer Dude when it comes to interacting with the known world, although the Bridgewater Treatises, for example, in the early 19th century, were inspired by fervent Christian-based desire to admire and worship God by laying out in detail an enhanced appreciation of his creation. Even if the world and every critter within it is thought to have been made by a Creator, the nature of his/hers/its supposed creation is still available to be explored by the rest of us (thereby contributing to yet greater admiration of the presumed Creator Creature). But a problem nonetheless remains, since the rules of that creation are necessarily assumed to be inviolate and perfect, which generates a problem when we consider, for example, the blind spot in the vertebrate retina, the lousy design of the human lower back, or the downright ludicrous structure of the urinary/reproductive system … especially in men.

Interestingly, a source of tension between science and religious belief seems to have been even more important in Islam than in Christianity. Thus, roughly a thousand years ago, the Sufi philosopher al-Ghazzali—whose writing was, and still is, highly influential in the Muslim world—argued strenuously against anything even approximating a “law of nature,” since this would by definition restrict the freedom of an all-powerful deity. Al-Ghazzali famously wrote, for example, that when a piece of paper (or maybe it was a ball of cotton, I can’t remember) was heated sufficiently, it changed color and gave off heat, flame and smoke not because it was burning according to its nature, but because it pleased Allah for this kind of transformation to take place and at this particular time. Had Allah been of a different mind at such a moment, the paper would have turned green, remained unaffected, or transmuted into a pot of tea, an ice cube or a giant ox …  whatever Allah willed, independent of any laws of nature or rules of science. Rules, schmules! Laws, schmaws!

For al-Ghazzali, and generations of Islamic thinkers following him, it was simply unacceptable for any “laws of nature” to exist, insofar as they would limit God’s options. To a degree, this parallels the traditional Catholic Christian view of the Pelagian heresy, which had claimed that people could secure for themselves a place in heaven by virtue of their good deeds; the problem with this (from the Pope’s perspective) was that it suggested we could twist God’s arm and achieve our own ends in response to our personal desires, whereas in truth, such “decisions” must be up to God alone.

By contrast, it seems to me that Buddhism promotes a worldview in which the Dharma simply exists: including gravity, strong and weak forces, photons and electrons and yes, Higgs Bosons—assuming they are real—along with the second law of thermodynamics and the phenomenon of natural selection and, of course, the laws of karma, such that our job is to reveal and understand them, without worrying that—like Galileo or Darwin—we might run afoul of prior assertions of “God’s will as revealed in his perfect and immutable creation.” And this, in turn, ought to lend itself to a more liberated, exploratory, and productive approach to understanding all that is, imperfect and unplanned as it may be.

Sounds reasonable to me, except for one problem: Why, then, has Western science—associated at least in part and in recent centuries with Judeo-Christian religious traditions—been so much more productive than has “Buddhist science”?"

Thursday, 19 July 2012

NEW MOON - Thursday 19th July 2012

We are our own protection;
we are indeed our own secure abiding;
how could it be otherwise?
So with due care we attend to ourselves.

Dhammapada v. 380

How do we exercise ‘due care’ towards ourselves without becoming selfish? Another expression for due care is right mindfulness. We train ourselves to watch, carefully. When caring turns into clinging, the heart grows cold; ‘me’ and ‘mine’ take over as kindness and balanced discernment fade away. We can trust in the power of mindfulness to reveal this process, as and when it is happening. And so gradually we learn to read our hearts: what does it feel like, in the whole body/mind, when the heart is open, receptive and interested? What does it feel like when the heart is closed with resentment, bitterness and fear? Carefully feeling our way into, around, over and under, the many moments of obstruction, life teaches us how to let go. If we could let go fully, we would feel secure totally.

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

More Animals Experimented on.

The latest figures released by the Home Office in its annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals report show the number of animal experiments performed in the UK are at the highest they’ve been in 25 years, with a rise of 68,100 procedures in the last year alone.

Tests involving cats went up 26 percent, pigs 37 percent, birds 14 percent and fish 15 percent. Testing of rats was down by 11 percent, guinea pigs by 16 percent and dogs by 21 percent. The number of experiments being done on primates also declined.

According to the Home Office, more than 3.79 million experiments were started in 2011. In 1987, 3.5 million experiments were reported. The increase is at odds with government promises to reduce the overall number of animals used in research.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Giant Prayer Flag Installation in the West Wight

Over the weekend, not only did we have the Olympic torch here in the West Wight , we also had a giant art installation of prayer flags in the shape of a huge Olympic flame on High Down.

It is a 60-metre flame-shaped symbol of hope and good will created by local artist Eva Wolfram with the help of hundreds of people of all ages who wrote their hopes, wishes, prayers and messages on each and every one of these flags over the past few months.

"The field is visible from the sea, the UK mainland, the road and car park at Alum Bay and the Lymington to Yarmouth car ferry. To greet the arrival of the Olympic Torch to the Island, we have installed it high up on West High Down close to the Needles New Battery. The field nestles into breath-taking scenery and landscape and can be visited for the coming two weeks while the Olympic Games are on."

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Olympic Torch comes to Totland (home of the West Wight Sangha)

Today, Saturday 14th of July, the Olympic Torch relay came to the Isle of Wight. Starting with the torch convoy's arrival in the West Wight at Yarmouth ferry terminal it travelled directly to Totland where it was carried through the village by :-

Hattie Gould, Jim Morris, Mark Roberts and Yingliang Zhu

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

World Population Day

With today being World Population Day it's good news to hear that the U.K. government is to pledge to donate more than £1 billion to help family planning services in the developing world.

In a bid to help 24 million girls and women in the world's poorest countries, British aid will be doubled for eight years, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell announced.

Reproductive health problems remain the leading cause of ill health and death for women of childbearing age worldwide. Some 222 million women who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy lack access to effective family planning. Nearly 800 women die every day in the process of giving life. About 1.8 billion young people are entering their reproductive years, often without the knowledge, skills and services they need to protect themselves.

As the world population reached 7 billion people this year (up from 2.5 billion in 1950), it has had profound implications for development. A world of 7 billion is a challenge with implications on sustainability, urbanization, access to health services and youth empowerment.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Note - New Vishvapani Talk

I've posted the latest Thought for the Day by Vishvapani onto our Audio Section.

In it, Vishvapani talks of the misery of serious depression, the commercialisation of this illness by the drug companies and how Buddhist meditation and mindfulness practice can significantly help in addressing the condition.

You can listen to it by following this LINK.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Lords Reform and the Dhammapada

I have a program that displays a random quote from the Dhammapada on my desktop every time that I fire up my computer.

Occasionally it comes up with one that is pertinent  to current events, today's is

"No one is noble
merely because of what they inherit.
Nobility comes from cleansing oneself
of all pollutions and attachments."

Verse 396

With the debate as to the future of the House of Lord's about to start this seems particularly relevant. The bill to reform the upper chamber, which will lead to far reaching changes, begins its parliamentary passage today.

Read more here.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

FULL MOON - Tuesday 3rd July 2012

It is hard to live the life of renunciation; its challenges are difficult to find pleasant.

Yet it is also hard to live the householder's life; there is pain when associating with those among whom one feels no companionship. To wander uncommitted is always going to be difficult; why not renounce the deluded pursuit of pain?

Dhammapada 302

The Buddha uttered this verse to a monk who had been indulging in deluded feelings of self-pity: Surely nobody is having as hard a time as I am. Fortunately for him, this monk received a wise reflection in just the right way at just the right time so he could see what he was doing, and let go. When we are not attentive in the present moment we tend to blame our misfortune outwardly. Or we blame ourselves, inwardly. Either way we increase the pain by forgetting to expand awareness and fully accommodate the suffering. Suffering is the right response to our resisting reality. If we don’t cling, we don’t suffer.

Suffering is the message. It is not something going wrong. We don’t have to get rid of suffering; we need to understand it.

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo

Sunday, 1 July 2012

New Video

I've just come across this delightfull film, Dhamma Dana by Lowpressurefilms

Best Domestic Documentary, Queens International Film Festival, New York City.

Official Selection: Tel Aviv SPIRIT Film Festival, Israel.

Official Selection: Wesak International Film Festival, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

You can watch it on our Video Section by following this link.............  Dhamma Dana