Tuesday, 31 December 2013

NEW MOON – Tuesday 31st December 2013

One Word

A single word of truth,
which calms the mind,
is better to hear than a thousand 
irrelevant words. 

Dhammapada v. 100

Listening to many hours of Dhamma talks might be helpful, but the Buddha says even one word can be enough. What matters is whether that word truly touches our hearts. Does it ring true? Truth is what heals us, not words. Living in a world that is distracted by materialism, we often assume, the more the merrier. Yet one little cheque that happens to be written out for a million pounds is worth more than a large truck load of old newspapers. They are both paper. What is the difference? We already know we need to attend to quality, not just quantity. This Dhammapada verse encourages us to take our understanding deeper.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

FULL MOON – Tuesday 17th December 2013

Beyond Control

Those who cease
setting up like against dislike,
who are cooled,
who are not swayed 
by worldly conditions - 
these I call great beings.

Dhammapada v. 418

Liking and disliking can happen so quickly, we feel we have no control over them. Somebody
says something pleasant and we find we like them. Another person says something hurtful and we dislike them. It might be true that we can't stop liking and disliking arising, but if we slow down a little, we might notice we do have a choice; whether or not to follow them – whether or not to make a ‘me’ out of them. When awareness is well established, liking and disliking can be seen as movement taking place in a larger reality. What is that reality?

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Buddhist Principles as Christmas Gifts

The following is taken from an excellent  article by Robert De Filippis on de-commercialising christmas and restoring the simple joy of living.

Buddhist principles as Christmas gifts to restore the joy of life to the Christmas season......................

The first principle is dependent origination, or we do not create ourselves. This is particularly difficult for the western mind, because individuality is a primary value in the West. But as I have written many times, individuality is an optical delusion of the ego.

The Buddha's awakening to the interconnected nature of life is foundational to the rest of his philosophy and can provide us much needed grounding in tempting times like these.

This awareness helps us to let go of grasping and craving, helps us not to reduce everything in the world to our own personal desires and fears, thereby justifying our acquisitive culture of consumption. Helps us deny our compulsion to waste the joy of the moment to acquire more and more of what we really don't need for the future. Helps stop our rushing headlong into the destruction of the web of life on this planet to exploit every ounce of our natural resources to produce trinkets and toys for our amusement. We can only do these things in the absence of awareness of how our lives are dependent on and interconnected to the rest of life on this planet.

Another principle is that we don't need to be "motivated by fear, attachment, hatred, jealousy, pride" because we are interconnected. We can celebrate the successes and mourn the losses of others. They are our successes and losses.

And the next principle is about action, "to bring into being a way in which you, as a member of this interconnectedness of life can think about, speak, act, work" to make it better for all: the real gift of Christmas.

Another useful teaching during the Christmas season is the "Buddha's emphasis on the cultivation of mindfulness regarding the specificity of experience. That's the aim of a kind of meditation. It is to be fully present to what is taking place right now." And what better reason than the realisation that NOW is where your life is happening: Not in regrets about the past or worries about the future.

Only by paying attention to the now of what Christmas has become do we see the suffering it causes by promising happiness, peace and satisfaction with the acquisition of material goods. We can find parallels in the commercialisation of Christmas, in how we allow the retail industry, our culture of acquisition and our society of conformance to tell us how to celebrate this holiday.

May you resist the temptations and have the intended joy of life contained in the Christmas mythology.

Robert De Filippis

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

New Dictionary of Buddhism Published

Thus read the first defined words in the new "The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism". Robert E. Buswell Jr., a distinguished professor of Buddhist studies in UCLA's College of Letters and Science, and Donald S. Lopez Jr., a distinguished university professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, have compiled the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of Buddhism ever produced in English.

More than a decade in the making, the dictionary also includes a chronicle of relevant
historical periods (empires, dynasties and kingdoms) and a timeline of Buddhism from the sixth century B.C. to the 21st century. Eight maps show both the Buddhist cosmological realms and the many Buddhist regions, marking the major cities, important monasteries, sacred places and pilgrimage routes spanning geographical sites in India, China, Japan, Korea and Tibet. The dictionary also includes an appendix of the many doctrinal lists that have proliferated in Buddhist materials, from the "one vehicle" to the one-hundred dharmas of the Yogacara school.

"We've gone back and asked, 'If you were looking at Chinese or Japanese or Tibetan Buddhism, what are the concepts, the places, the people, the texts that you should really know,'" said Lopez. "That was one of the questions we asked when deciding what terms to put in the dictionary. Even with more than a million words, there were still many things we could not include."

You can order your copy from Amazon for £27.87.

Friday, 6 December 2013

A Quote That I Like

The Ultimate Bliss

Blissful is solitude
for one who’s content,
who has heard the Dhamma,
who sees.
Blissful is non-affliction
with regard for the world,
restraint for living beings.
Blissful is dispassion
with regard for the world,
the overcoming of sensuality.
But the subduing of the conceit “I am”—
That is truly
the ultimate bliss.

The Buddha, Muccalinda Sutta, Ud 2.1.

Monday, 2 December 2013

NEW MOON – Monday 2nd December 2013

The Teacher

Disciples of the Buddha 
are fully awake 
dwelling both day and night 
in contemplation of the Awakened One.

Dhammapada v. 296

We can admire our Teacher, the Buddha, without abandoning who and what we are right now.
There are those who, when invited to dwell in contemplation of the spiritual master, betray themselves in their attempts to imitate another. The Buddha didn’t want us to ignore who we feel ourselves to be and pretend to be somebody else; rather he encouraged an open-hearted, clear-minded receptivity of ‘this’ person, here and now, including all of our limitations and obsessions. Taking on a new set of conditioned habits in an attempt to be free from suffering is not liberation, it is abdication. In practice we include all of ourselves in a vast field of awareness, free of discrimination and bias, and in so doing offer all of ourselves in service to Dhamma.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Bible Fiction - Texas Text Book Ban

Here's a couple of stories from the States.........

Retailer Costco has apologised for labelling copies of the Bible “fiction” at a store near Los Angeles. A local pastor saw the bibles while looking for a gift for his wife.

Some tweeters vowed to boycott Costco, setting up the hashtag #BoycottCostco. Others said they saw nothing wrong with the label and applauded Costco’s labelling. In the end, Costco apologised and said it fixed the problem, which it said was an accident. (So what did they re-label it as?)

Meanwhile in Texas committees of volunteer reviewers — some nominated by creationists who are current and former Board of Education members — raised objections to some of the new text books that were to be used in the state's schools.  As a result there will be no new Biology textbooks, because they all cover the subject of Evolution................  (non-fiction)!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Buddha's Birth Earlier than Previously Thought

When was the Buddha born? Until recently opinion dated his death to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE, at a symposium on this question held in 1988, the majority of those who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death.

However, the discovery of a 2,600-year-old simple wooden shrine surrounding the ancient tree in Nepal to which the Buddha's mother clung as she gave birth looks set to revolutionise the understanding of the origins of one of the world's major religions.

Archaeologists digging beneath the sacred Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini have uncovered the first physical evidence to enable them to accurately date the nativity of Prince Siddhartha Gautama whose teachings are now followed by half a billion believers.

The extraordinary find suggests that the very earliest devotees -some 600 years before Christ - were vegetarian and eschewed material wealth in favour of spirituality as laid down by the prince who abandoned his high rank to seek out the path to Enlightenment.

A vast brick temple, which also predates the earliest known Buddhist structures, found at the same place suggests that the emerging religion enjoyed a wealthy benefactor before its adoption by the Emperor Asoka whose empire spread across most of the Indian sub-continent.

Professor Robin Coningham of Durham University, who co-led the international investigation with Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Pashupati Area Development Trust in Nepal, said: "This find completely resets what we are dealing with in terms of early Buddhist practice."

The failure to discover any physical evidence prior to a sandstone pillar laid by Asoka in 249BC marking the birth spot during- his visit, has long sown doubt over the chronology.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Doctor Who - the Buddhist Connection

On Saturday the BBC showed the 50th aniverserary edition of Doctor Who, "The Day of the Doctor". Over the years there have been quite a few Buddhist references in Dr Who, regeneration maybe? .............

At times religion has been addressed directly. For example, 1970s producer Barry Letts, a practicing Buddhist, worked ideas from Buddhism into the show's narrative: witness Jon Pertwee sharing a version of the Mumonkan's sixth Zen Koan with companion Jo Grant in the 1972 episode The Time Monster. In this story, the Doctor tells Jo of a Time Lord 'guru' who influenced him as a boy. The story the Doctor tells Jo, about climbing a hillside and his guru pointing to a flower, is based on a story from Buddhist text the Mumonkan, where the Buddha holds up a flower and Mahakasyapa understands Zen in that moment. Buddhist themes are explored again in the Third Doctor's final serial, Planet of the Spiders.

(Mumonkan - Case 6: Buddha Twirls a Flower

When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held in before his listeners. Every one was silent. Only Maha-Kashapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face.

Buddha said: "I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Dharma. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Maha-Kashapa.'

Mumon's Comment:

Golden-faced Guatama thought he could cheat anyone. He made the good listeners as bad, and sold dog meat under the sign of mutton. And he himself thought it was wonderful. What if all the audience had laughed together? How could he have transmitted the teaching? And again, if Maha-Kashapa had not smiled, how could he have transmitted the teaching? If he says that realization can be transmitted, he is like the city slicker that cheats the country dub, and if he says it cannot be transmitted, why does he approve of Maha-Kashapa?

At the turning of a flower,
The snake (his disguise) shows his tail.
Maha-Kashapa smiles, 
Every monk does not know what to do.)

When Jon Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker, elements of the episode were set in a Buddhist meditation centre, with a fellow Time Lord clandestinely living as a Buddhist monk in close attendance.

These themes continued in later episodes, for example in Christopher Bailey's Kinda in 1982 and in Snakedance in 1983 where once again the episodes were strongly hinged on Buddhist mythology. Kinda focuses on escaping the Wheel of Time and characters are named after Buddhist concepts such as Anatta (not-self), Anicca (impermanence) and Dukkha (suffering).

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Rapidly Developing Bhikkhuni Sangha

Regular readers will know that we have been committed supporters of full female ordination within all Buddhist traditions and have had a particular interest in supporting full Bhikkhuni ordination within the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah. The nearest monastery to the West Wight is Cittaviveka - Chithurst Buddhist Monastery which is part of the network of Thai forest tradition monasteries in the West and we regularly join up with the Newport Soto Zen group to travel over to the mainland and visit the monastery.

I recently received an email from the Alliance for Bhikkhunis and they mention their new website http://www.bhikkhuni.net/ which is well worth a visit (especially the library). Also on the site they catalogue all the Nunneries for fully ordained Bhikkhuni that are now available since that first "controversial" ordination in Perth. It has become an impressive list so I've reproduced it here......... (guess where's missing!) ...................................


Bodhinyana Monastery
Ven. Brahmavamso Bhikkhu, Abbot
216 Kingsbury Drive
Serpentine, Western Australia
6125 Australia
Dhammasara Monastery
203 Reen Road
Gidgegannup, Western Australia
6083 Australia
40 Chesterville Drive
East Bentleigh, Victoria
3165 Australia
Santi Forest Monastery
Ven. Sujato Bhikkhu, Abbot
100 Coalmines Rd
Bundanoon, New South Wales
2578 Australia


Panna Vihara
Phum Samroun Teav, Abbess
Sangkat Krang Tnuoung, Khan Dangkor
Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Sati Saraniya Hermitage
Ven. Medhanandi Bhikkhuni, Abbess
1702 McVeigh Rd. RR #7
Perth, Ontario K7H 3C9

Czech Republic

Karuna Sevena
Ven. Visuddhi Bhikkhuni
Slezská 3
796 01 Prostejov
Czech Republic
Find us on Facebook


Anenja Vihara
Ven. Sucinta Bhikkhuni, Abbess
Morgen 6, Rettenberg
87549 Germany


Bhikkhuni Viharas in Maharashtra


Ven. Santini Bhikkhuni
1. Dharma Rt 1/RW1 Kp. Cigalukguk
Ds. Cobodas, Maribaya,
Lembang Bandung, Indonesia


Dhammamoli Project
Ven. Dhammavijaya Bhikkhuni
c/o Friends of Dhamma Moli
P.O. Box 628
Yellow Springs, OH
USA 45387

New Zealand

Sati Arama Buddhist Centre
262 Otaha Rd
RD 2
Kerikeri 0295
New Zealand
NZ Bhikkhuni Trust
(in process of establishment)
Adhimutta Bhikkhuni,
J. Hill, S. Weerasinghe, A. Hoffmann
c/o nz.bhikkhunitrust@gmail.com

Sri Lanka

Ayya Khema International Meditation Centre 
Ven. Kusuma Bhikkhuni, Abbess
82/1A Stratford Avenue, Krullapona,
Colombo 6, Sri Lanka
Sakyadhita Training Center
President Ranjani de Silva
No. 50, Alwis Perera Mawatha
Katubedda, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
Dambulla – The Golden Temple
(bhikkhuni training, education & ordination facility)
Bhante Sumangala Sangha Nayaka, Thera
No. 130 Kandy Road, Dambulla,
Sri Lanka


Wat Songdhammakalyani Temple
Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, Abbess
195 Petkasem Hwy
Muang District
Nakhon Pathom 50160
Nirodharam Bhikkhuni Arama
Ven. Nandayani Bhikkhuni, Abbess
127 Mu 6
Tambol Doi Kaew, Amphoe Jomtong
Chiang Mai 50160
Suan Siridhamma Center
Ven. Poonsirivara Bhikkhuni, Abbess
109/1 Mu 10
Ban Paewn, Amper Ban Paew
Samut Sakorn 74120

United States

Aloka Vihara
Ven. Anandabodhi Bhikkhuni & Ven. Santacitta Bhikkhuni
1632 48th Avenue
San Francisco, California
USA 94122
Aranya Bodhi Hermitage
Ven. Sobhana Bhikkhuni, Prioress
PO Box 16
Jenner, California
USA 95450
Awakening Truth and Shakti Vihara
Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni
15 Columbia Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado
USA 80904
Dhammadharini Vihara ”Women Upholding the Dhamma”
Ven. Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni, Abbess
5010 Grange Rd
Santa Rosa CA 95404
Tel: (707) 583-9522
Email: santarosa.vihara@gmail.com
Dhamma Cetiya Buddhist Vihara
Ven. Gotami Bhikkhuni, Spiritual Director
91 De Soto Road
Boston, Massachusetts
USA 02132-6005
Great Determination Hermitage
Ven. Madika Bhikkhuni, Abbess
P.O. Box 204
Stewart, Ohio
USA 45778
Karuna Buddhist Vihara
Ayya Santussika
279 Aviador Ave.,
Millbrae, CA 94030
Lotus Meditation and Education Center
1446 Summitridge Drive
Diamond Bar, California
USA 91765
Mahapajapati Women’s Monastery
Ven. Gunasari Bhikkhuni, Abbess
P.O. Box 587
Pioneertown, California
USA 92268-1738
Minnesota Buddhist Vihara
3401 N 4th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota
USA 55412-2617
Samadhi Buddhist Meditation Center
Ven. Bhikkhuni Sudarshana
5908 67th Avenue
Pinellas Park, Florida
USA 33781


Khemārāma (Tịnh An Lan Nhã)
Abbess: Bhikkhuni Susanta (Như Liên)
Add. Thon Quang Thanh, Xa Nghia Thanh, Huyen Chau Duc, Tinh Ba Ria Vung
Tau, Vietnam
Email: nhulienbl@gmail.com
Suññatārāma (Ni Viện Viên Không)
Abbess: Bhikkhuni Viditadhamma (Liêu Phap)
Add. Xa Toc Tiên, Huyên Tan Thanh, Tinh Ba Ria Vung Tau, Vietnam
Email: lieuphap@gmail.com

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Monk with a Camera - Amsterdam November 24-30

A film documentary, on the photography of American Buddhist monk Nicholas Vreeland is having its world premiere on November 24-30 at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

Last year the Dalai Lama named him as the first Western abbot of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Vreeland has been raising funds for the institution in question, Rato Monastery, through exhibitions and sales of his extraordinary black-and-white photos.

The film traces Vreeland’s single-minded dedication to restoring Rato Monastery and his historic appointment. In the larger context, Monk with a Camera’s producers describe it as being “about life in the monasteries, about the future of the Tibetan communities, about the impact of Buddhism on American society, and about pursuing art in a world of impermanence.” Here are some of his images..............................

Sunday, 17 November 2013

FULL MOON – Sunday 17th November 2013


From endearment springs grief.
From endearment springs fear of loss.
Yet, if one is free from endearment,
there is no grief
so how could there be fear?

Dhammapada v. 212

One way of reading this text says we are wrong for holding things dear: family, friends, memories. Such an initial interpretation blames the feelings themselves for our suffering. But the Buddha is not just talking about the feelings, he is pointing to how we might be free. Is it possible to feel endearment and be free at the same time? When he heard that his two chief disciples, Venerables Sariputta and Moggallana, had died, the Buddha commented it was like the sun and the moon had gone out from the sky. That doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t feel anything. Knowing the truth of feelings means we no longer find identity in feelings. Letting go of feelings does not mean they disappear. In what are all these feelings arising and ceasing? That was the Buddha’s abiding, hence he could feel fully and freely, without suffering.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Friday, 15 November 2013

Note - Unseen Features

Just a quick note to all of you who follow us by email.

Although your email notifications contain all the text and pictures in a posting they DO NOT show any Video or embedded Audio items, as in the last post "Belgium Boy Allowed to Leave to Become Monk" or "Dalai Lama Speaks of Chinese Poison Plot".

If a post seems like it ought to have a bit more or is a bit short - check it out on the website, West Wight Shanga and enjoy the full Audio/Visual experience. Not to mention all the great stuff in our Video and Audio sections..........  it's what the Web's for.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Belgium Boy Allowed to Leave to Become Monk

Another story you may remember we reported on was that of Giel, the Belgium boy banned from becoming a Buddhist Monk in India.

Well the good news is that he won his appeal and left Brussels airport yesterday to "follow his dream".

Monday, 11 November 2013

Chinese Buddhist Frescoes Overpainted a'la Spanish Masterpiece

Do you remember the Spanish pensioner who painted over a 100 year old fresco in her local church?

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez has been on display in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza for more than 100 years.

Well now Chinese authorities have had a go at “restoring” centuries-old Buddhist frescoes in a Chaoyang temple with “cartoon-like figures from Taoist myths.”

The faded and peeling paintings were inside a 270-year-old temple in the north-eastern province of Liaoning, which is nearly 400 miles north of Beijing.

Years after it was created the intricate fresco, which dated back to the early period of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was left with only hints of its former glory, with large pieces scratched away and only scraps of colour left.

But they have now been completely painted over with cartoon-like Taoist figures in garish colours. The crude characters are dressed in pinks, greens, yellows and blues and bear no resemblance to the former painting that was in the Chaoyang temple.

Figures swaddled in robes can be seen riding ponies, mythical beasts and elephants.

Ren Xiuqi, an official responsible for the management of the Phoenix Mountain where the temple is located, said 'inspection and law enforcement' teams had been dispatched to the temple to prevent further damage.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

NEW MOON – Saturday 2nd November 2013


It is always a pleasure 
not to have to encounter fools. 
It is always good to see noble beings 
and a delight to live with them. 

Dhammapada v.206

The Buddha gave this short teaching referring to conditions in the outer world, and it is not difficult to agree. We can also contemplate the spirit of this teaching in reference to our inner world; our mind states. How does it feel when we encounter foolish thoughts? What happens when we cease indulging in them? What is the effect of witnessing our heart’s wholesome aspirations? Is it possible to dwell for extended periods in noble intentions?

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Thursday, 31 October 2013

You Want a Physicist to Speak at Your Funeral

At our weekly sangha meetings and meditation members often bring along readings to share. This one is by Aaron Freeman and came via Dr Kate Granger's blog on 'Why you'd want a physicist at your funeral'. Although not directly Buddhist, it reiterates the interconnectedness of everything and the impermanence inherent in the very structure of the Universe.

"You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell them that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly."

Check out "Pr. Brian Cox - A Night with the Stars" for an explanation of the science.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Prince George Entitled to be Buddhist, says Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury says he has no objection to Prince George converting to Buddhism. 

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, speaking one day after he led the christening of the future Supreme Governor of the Church of England, said the prince is ‘perfectly entitled’ to change his religion should he so choose.

Although the remark is likely to alarm traditionalists it is however, in keeping with Prince Charles’s oft-repeated wish that he wants to be seen as the Defender of Faiths’ instead of ‘Defender of the Faith’, to more accurately reflect Britain’s multicultural society.

The Archbishop was asked by Channel 4 News what his reaction would be if George, the third in line to the throne, wanted to leave the Church of England to become a Buddhist.

He replied: ‘He’s perfectly entitled to be that, and we’ll cross that bridge if we ever get to it. Who knows?’

The remarkable statement came just 24 hours after he conducted the young prince’s christening at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace.

Wear a Purple Poppy

With Armistice Day only a fortnight away you may like to consider also wearing a Purple Poppy this year to commemorate all of the animals killed in war. The poppies can be obtained from the Animal Aid website with profits going to support the charity's work.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

More Dalits Convert to Buddhism

The Indian caste system was formed 3000 years ago and divides society into four main groups. Each caste division represents a social status and a generalized profession or employment.

The four castes consist of the Brahmins, (priestly and scholarly caste, designed to provide for the intellectual and spiritual needs of a community), Kshatriyas, (rulers and warrior caste, designed to rule and protect others), Vaishyas, (merchants and landowners designed to look after commerce and agriculture), and Shudras, (manual labourers and service providers).

A fifth group was formed more recently for those carrying out very menial and polluting work to do with bodily decay and dirt. This group is outside of the caste system and its members are labelled as 'Outcasts' - cast out from the caste system so to speak. Dalits fall into this category and are excluded from mainstream society, they are considered worthless and spiritually unclean.

At Vishal Hadmatiya village in Bhesan taluka, 21 km from Junagadh, a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar greets visitors. It's been a week since all the 60 families in this Dalit neighbourhood 'converted' to Buddhism at an event in Junagadh. The organisers of the event have claimed that a total of 60,000 Dalits converted to Buddhism.

Caste, which was a matter of vital importance to the brahmins of India, was one of utter indifference to the Buddha, who strongly condemned the debasing caste system. The Buddha freely admitted into the Order people from all castes and classes when he knew that they were fit to live the holy life, and some of them later distinguished themselves in the Order. The Buddha was the only contemporary teacher who endeavoured to blend in mutual tolerance and concord those who hitherto had been rent asunder by differences of caste and class.

B. R. Ambedkar was an Indian jurist, politician, philosopher, anthropologist, historian and economist. A revivalist for Buddhism in India, he inspired the Modern Buddhist movement. As independent India's first law minister, he was principal architect of the Indian Constitution.

Born into a poor Mahar family, Ambedkar campaigned against social discrimination, the Hindu caste system. He converted to Buddhism and is also credited with providing a spark for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of lower caste Indians to Theravada Buddhism. The Triratna Buddhist Community - formerly known as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) which was co-founded by Ambedkar and Sangharakshita continues to support and promote the Dalit Buddhist community in India.

Gujarat state officials have announced an investigation into the conversions, which took place in Junagadh district, as potential violations of the state’s Freedom of Religion rules passed in 2008 to restrict conversion.

Under the rules, prospective converts must obtain permission from district authorities before changing their religion. Any violation of the rules could invite legal action against the convert and anyone involved in the conversion. The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which runs the Gujarat government, is investigating whether the Dalits petitioned for such permission.

District Collector Alok Pandey, Junagadh’s highest government official, told local media that the organizers of the conversion event – Baudh Diksha Mahotsava Samiti – had not obtained “proper permission”.

It is also interesting how the Indian press put the word convert in quotes when reporting this story................................

Saturday, 19 October 2013

FULL MOON – Saturday 19th October 2013

Fooled again

One should not be considered worthy of respect 
because of birth or background or any outer sign; 
it is purity and the realisation of truth 
that determine one's worth. 

Dhammapada v. 393

A liberated being is never fooled by the way things appear to be. They know the difference between outer ‘form’, which the eye sees, and ‘actuality’ which the heart knows. They naturally feel respect for and take delight in the inherent beauty of the ‘real’. Our awareness, however, is limited because of fixed views and we must take care to not casually follow our mind’s conditioning. So long as we are unaware of Truth, we are susceptible to being impressed by outer forms. Transient beauty, intense emotions, wealth; all these and more, intimidate us into unhelpful desires i.e. we want that which brings no lasting benefit. Whenever we offer respect towards the Truth which is beyond intimidation, our affinity with that Truth increases.

With Metta,
hikkhu Munindo

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Western Science and Tibetan Buddhism

From the New York Times.......................

Quantum theory tells us that the world is a product of an infinite number of random events. Buddhism teaches us that nothing happens without a cause, trapping the universe in an unending karmic cycle.

Reconciling the two might seem as challenging as trying to explain the Higgs boson to a kindergarten class. But if someone has to do it, it might as well be the team of scholars, translators and six Tibetan monks clad in maroon robes who can be spied wandering among the magnolias at Emory University here.

They were joined this week by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, who decided seven years ago that it was time to merge the hard science of the laboratory with the soft science of the meditative mind.

The leaders at Emory, who already had created formal relationships with Tibetan students there, agreed, and a unique partnership was formed.

For the monks, some of the challenges have been mundane, like learning to like pizza and trying to understand Lord Dooley, the university’s skeleton mascot.

For the team of professors involved in the project, the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, there are the larger issues, like how to develop methods to quantify the power of meditation in a way the scientific world might actually accept.

But for the Dalai Lama, an energetic 78-year-old who rises at 3:30 every morning for four hours of meditation, his pet project is kind of a no-brainer.

Buddhist teaching offers education about the mind, he said in an interview after lunch Thursday at the home of James W. Wagner, the university president.

“It is quite rich material about what I call the inner world,” he said. “Modern science is very highly developed in matters concerning the material world. These two things separately are not complete. Together, the external and the internal worlds are complete.”

The first batch of six monks, who arrived on campus on 2010, have gone back to India, where much of the Tibetan exile community lives, and started teaching. Dozens of monks and nuns have taken lectures from Emory professors who traveled to Dharamsala, India, to instruct them, and 15 English-Tibetan science textbooks have been developed for monastic students.

The university pays about $700,000 a year for the program, which includes tuition for the monks, who then go back and teach science in the monasteries.

It has not been a smooth road. It took until last year for Buddhist leaders to accept science education as a mandatory part of monastic education. It was the first major change in 600 years.

But as anyone who has tried to carry out an idea from the boss knows, the real work is in the details.

Many of the toughest battles have come down to seemingly simple but vexing issues of lexicon. How does one create new words for concepts like photosynthesis and clones, which have no equivalent in the Tibetan language or culture? How does one begin to name thousands of molecules and chemical compounds? And what of words like process, which have several levels of meaning for Tibetans?

So far, 2,500 new scientific terms have been added to the Tibetan language.

“Much of our work is to make new phrases novel enough so students won’t take them with literal meaning,” said Tsondue Samphel, who leads the team of translators.

Still, some concepts are quite easy to translate.

“We understand impermanence of things as simply existing through our traditions,” said Jampa Khechok, 34, one of the new monks on campus. “We are now challenged to understand the nature of impermanence through the study of how fast particles decay.”

Learning has gone both ways. Professors here find themselves contemplating the science of the heart and mind in new ways. A student presenting a report on the cardiovascular system described the physiological reaction his own cardiovascular system might have if he were told the Tibetan people were free.

Debate is a constant, said Alexander Escobar of Emory, who has gone to India to teach biology. Monks have wanted to know, for example, how he could be so sure that seawater once covered the Himalayas. (The answer? Fossils.)

Western scholars have had to look at their work with a new lens, too, contemplating matters like the nature and origins of consciousness.

One result has been the development of something called cognitively based compassion training, a secular mediation program proven to improve empathy.

The partnership has had other, more practical applications.

Linda Hutton, a social worker, has a longstanding clinical practice treating sexually abused children and families in Greenville, S.C. She drove to Atlanta this week to attend a private luncheon with the Dalai Lama, who was making his sixth visit to Emory.

She teaches her young victims and their families to practice mindfulness and how to use meditation and breathing to cope with trauma.

“I draw from a lot of medical research,” she said, “but what I have found here transcends that.”

Monday, 7 October 2013

Bhante Bodhidhamma Visits West Wight Sangha

We had the great pleasure of a visit by Bhante Bodhidhamma to the West Wight Sangha yesterday.

Bhante, whose brother is one of our sangha members, was interested to know how our group had originated and how it has developed over the years. He was particularly keen to get contact details for Geoff who produced our large Buddharupa statue.

For his part Bhante regaled us with with some fascinating tales of his time in Sri Lanka, I particularly liked the one about Luigi the polecat.

Listen to a Dhamma talk by Bhante; The Buddha's World View by Bhante Bodhidhamma

Saturday, 5 October 2013

NEW MOON - Friday 4th October 2013

Here and hereafter
those who live their lives well
abide in happiness. They are filled with
a natural appreciation of virtue, 
and they dwell in delight. 

Dhammapada v. 18

There is nothing special about Dhamma. Dhamma is what is natural. That we live such unnatural lives means we can miss what is in front of us. When we are balanced and at ease our faculties function to serve well-being. When we are wound-up and confused we lose perspective. It is then that we tend to forget we are in charge of our destiny. If we do good, goodness comes back to us. If we do bad, suffering comes back to us. This is not being naive, this is being natural. But being truly natural is not easy. Ultimately we aim to go beyond good and bad and dwell in unshakable peace.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A Quote That I Like - by Sylvia Plath

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.

One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Friday, 27 September 2013

Film About the Ordination of Women Within Buddhism

You may remember a story that we posted back in January 2011 entitled "Bhikkhuni: Revival of the Women's Order", a documentary film which saught to explore the issue of female ordination in Buddhism, and shed some light on the injustices which were, and are, occurring within the tradition."

Filmmaker Wiriya Sati has announced the online release of "The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns", as the film is now called. Ten years in the making, the documentary explores the attempts to revive the order of bhikkhunis, or fully ordained nuns, created by Shakyamuni Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. Asking two questions — “Is Buddhism a religious movement based on equality? Or is it rooted in a male-dominated culture found in most other world religions?” — Sati travels throughout Asia and the West, discovering both intractable conservatism and those intent on pushing beyond cultural barriers. The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns is being made available to stream and download at Vimeo on Demand.

The Buddha's Forgotten Nuns from Bhikkhuni Documentary on Vimeo.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Belgium Boy Banned from Becoming Buddhist Monk in India

A 15-year-old Belgium boy who wants to be a Buddhist monk, is to appeal against the youth magistrate's ruling banning him from leaving the country to start training in India.

Giel from Sint-Laureins in East Flanders attracted the attention of Ghent public prosecutors when he announced his intention on independent TV.

The East Fleming hopes to embark on training to become a monk in a monastery on the border with Tibet. The training will last for 15 years. Giel wants to make a radical break with western life. He told VRT Radio that this was his choice: "The idea came to me when I was six. I cried to have a monk's robes."

Giel opted to train in India and not in Belgium because he could then devote all his time to his studies. Lessons are taught in Tibetan, but that shouldn't be a problem because Giel is already busy learning the language.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

FULL MOON – Thursday 19th September 2013

Whoever is intent on goodness
should know this: 
a lack of self-restraint is disastrous. 
Do not allow greed and misconduct 
to prolong your misery. 

Dhammapada v. 248

The Buddha knows life is not always easy. He knows that even the practice of observing precepts can be difficult. The story associated with this verse involves a group of five lay disciples who are each observing one or two of the five Buddhist precepts. They each insist that theirs is the most difficult to cultivate and therefore, by implication, the most worthy. Arguing amongst themselves they approach the Buddha. Each disciple wants the Buddha to praise their own practice and support the fact that the precepts they are keeping are most important. Instead, the Teacher admonishes them, saying none of the five is easy to keep, nor are any of them unimportant and that everyone should train themselves in all five.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Buddhist Picnic

It's becoming a tradition that it pours down for the annual Buddhist picnic and this year was no different. However for those few brave souls who made it to the Duver in St. Helens there was a clear (ish) slot in the weather for us to enjoy the event.

As always this is a great chance to meet up socially with people from the other Buddhist groups on the island and was enjoyed by new members and those for whom it was their first visit to the Duver venue. Being my first visit, it was a relief to find the "famous" oak tree which is the meeting point, it's not very big but it's the only one managing to grow on the sandy spit that is the Duver.

Some of the hardy picnickers, we did get some strange looks from passersby but hey, we're British!

Monday, 9 September 2013

A Benefit to Suffering?

This from the New York Times...................

Hundreds of Syrians are apparently killed by chemical weapons, and the attempt to protect
others from that fate threatens to kill many more. A child perishes with her mother in a tornado in Oklahoma, the month after an 8-year-old is slain by a bomb in Boston. Runaway trains claim dozens of lives in otherwise placid Canada and Spain. At least 46 people are killed in a string of coordinated bombings aimed at an ice cream shop, bus station and famous restaurant in Baghdad. Does the torrent of suffering ever abate — and can one possibly find any point in suffering?

Wise men in every tradition tell us that suffering brings clarity, illumination; for the Buddha, suffering is the first rule of life, and insofar as some of it arises from our own wrongheadedness — our cherishing of self — we have the cure for it within. Thus in certain cases, suffering may be an effect, as well as a cause, of taking ourselves too seriously. I once met a Zen-trained painter in Japan, in his 90s, who told me that suffering is a privilege, it moves us toward thinking about essential things and shakes us out of shortsighted complacency; when he was a boy, he said, it was believed you should pay for suffering, it proves such a hidden blessing.

Yet none of that begins to apply to a child gassed to death (or born with AIDS or hit by a “limited strike”). Philosophy cannot cure a toothache, and the person who starts going on about its long-term benefits may induce a headache, too. Anyone who’s been close to a loved one suffering from depression knows that the vicious cycle behind her condition means that, by definition, she can’t hear the logic or reassurances we extend to her; if she could, she wouldn’t be suffering from depression.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

NEW MOON - Wednesday 4th September 2013


The protected and guarded mind
leads to ease of being.
Though subtle, elusive and hard to see,
one who is alert should tend and watch over this mind.

Dhammapada v. 36

When we watch over this heart/mind we cultivate inner light. When light in our outer world is dim, we are inclined to trip over things. Perhaps we mistake a piece of rope for a snake and run away in a completely unnecessary panic. A lack of inner illumination similarly causes us to react in crazy ways, destroying our heart’s natural sense of ease. It is because we don’t see states of mind clearly that we react and make things worse. For example, perhaps we feel hurt by something which happened years ago and have dwelt on bitterness ever since because we didn’t see the truth of our reaction.

Forgiveness is not a synthetic virtue with which to paste over our bruises. Although the memory of what happened might remain, we always have the choice of whether or not to invest that memory with resentment. This practice is subtle and hard to see but it is worth the effort.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Friday, 30 August 2013

Note - New Audio Talks

We've recently had a number of new talks added to our Audio Section. Firstly, a couple of weeks ago we had a new "Tought for the Day" by the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks. In it he talks of the impact of "cyber bullying" and goes on to discuss the importance of "Wise Speech".

Next, we had a talk by Vishvapani in which he discusses the value of democracy in the light of the conflict in Egypt and Syria. "Democracy forces us to debate with people with whom we disagree........ and prehaps to listen to them".

That was followed the very next day by a piece by Hardeep Singh Kohli which was transmitted live from the Edinburgh Festival on Saturday. Hardeep speaks of our divisions and how we can come together sharing food as in the Sikh practise of Langar.

In between all of this we added an excellent talk, "Your Best Brain" by Rick Hanson, to our Miscellaneous page within the Audio Section. Rick is a neuropsychologist and is an authority on self-directed neuroplasticity.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

US Atheists (and Atheistic Buddhists) get Religious Tax Breaks

How does the U.S. government respond when atheists allege that tax breaks for religious organizations are unconstitutional? By declaring atheism a religion and extending the tax breaks to atheist organizations, too. That raises a couple of big problems, however: many atheists don’t want to be labeled a religion or receive the financial incentives that go along with that distinction.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, the chair of Freedom from Religion Foundation, has headed a lawsuit to eliminate a longstanding “parsonage exemption”. The rule permits “ministers of the gospel” to a tax-free housing stipend from their salaries. Since it provides perks only to religious groups, the atheist organization alleges that it defies the Constitution. It’s an issue that has been a point of legal contention for more than a decade now.

Courts have tried to resolve the situation by extending the same tax-exempt privileges to people like Gaylor, as well. According to the Justice Department, atheism qualifies as a religion, meaning Gaylor has a minister-like status as the head of her group and can declare a similar tax break for housing on her forms. Officials point out that Buddhism and Taoism are considered religions even though they don’t believe in a god either.

Gaylor, however, finds this distinction ridiculous. Declaring atheism an organized religion shows a lack of understanding of what atheism is. Besides, the point of Gaylor’s lawsuit was not to earn herself a tax loophole, but to limit the special powers granted to religious groups. Freedom from Religion Foundation is also pursuing lawsuits to mandate that churches file taxes in the same way as other charities and to block ministers from endorsing certain political candidates.

Religious advocates concede that, while the First Amendment does allow religious groups certain privileges, it is done in order to prevent the government from infringing on religious freedoms.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Tibetan Nuns Project, Art Auction - Contemporary Tibetan Art Exhibition

Miya Ando, a New York based artist who is the descendant of a samurai sword maker, has donated a series of unique aluminium plate paintings to The Tibetan Nuns Project. The paintings—five in total—are inspired by the colors of Tibetan prayer flags. The backs are coated with phosphorescence, which absorbs light throughout the day and at night emits a soft halo around the paintings. “Prayer flags emanate blessings into the air,” says Ando, “and I wanted to create artworks which similarly emanated light into darkness.”

Now until tomorrow, the 23rd of August , you can bid on Ando’s Prayer Flag series via Paddle8.com.

100% of the sales from this special benefit auction will be donated directly to The Tibetan Nuns Project, which provides education and humanitarian aid to refugee nuns from Tibet and Himalayan regions of India.

Also, check out the contemporary Tibetan art  currently being exhibited at the  Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, at the State University of New York. The show is entitled "Anonymous," and explores the exchange between art and the self, a dialogue which is always in motion.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

FULL MOON - Wednesday 21st August 2013

Verifying Faith

In one whose mind is unsteady,
whose heart is not prepared with true teachings,
whose faith is not matured,
the fullness of wisdom is not yet manifest.

Dhammapada v. 38

This Dhammapada verse may describe how many of us are: mind locked in thinking mode,
brought up with minimal spiritual education, and incapable of giving ourselves, whole-heartedly, into anything. Yet we do trust real wisdom exists and that we have a chance of realizing it. It is this ‘initial’ type of faith that got us started and brought us thus far. Now we must build on it. Once we have tasted the benefit of practice, faith is ‘verified’ and manifests quite differently. It becomes a reliable source of energy. In the beginning we were motivated by an idea or intuition. Now we are invited to trust in an awareness informed by experience. It feels like spending money earned by our own efforts; rather than that which came from Mum and Dad.

With Metta,

Bhikkhu Munindo