Monday, 29 December 2014

Review of the Year

Here are some of the stories that we covered in 2014...................

We "started" the year by wishing everyone A Happy 2014, 2556, 2557, 1435, etc. etc. etc.

In which we touched on the fact that not everyone uses the christian calendar.

Later in January we had the story of a certain Fat Figure NOT being the Buddha. This was linked to the broadcast of the BBC program, "The naked rambler", (that guy's face keeps reminding me of someone.....)

This was closely followed by the story of a teacher in Louisiana who told a Buddhist child that “You’re Stupid if You Don’t Believe in God.”

In February we featured the end of the world yet again. This time it was Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse.

This was immediately followed by a piece on the five times the world really did nearly come to an end, the Big Five mass extinctions.

On to March and how China didn't react to Russia's re-absorbtion of Crimea into the motherland and how that related to Tibet.

In April the New York Times asked its readers to write haiku about the city. This one struck a note after the then recent floods here in the UK.............

Beware the puddle
of indeterminate depth
that swallows boots whole

I also liked,

Coffee by myself
The wind whispers names of friends
Yet alone I sit

At the end of the month we quoted Thich Nhat Hanh on is Mindfulness Being Corrupted?

May brought the news that when Ajahn Brahm, was invited to deliver a speech on Gender Equality at the UN Day of Vesak Convention in Vietnam his speech was banned by the conference organising committee the day before it was due to be given at the Convention.

In June we featured Liao Yiwu's Poem "Massacre" about the events in Tiananmen Square.

Also in June we reported on Isle of Wight filmmaker and teacher Joe Briscoe planning to raise money for the Tibet Relief Fund by swimming the solent on July 6th. He swam from Hurst Castle on the mainland to the West Wight!

In July we reported that former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William does Buddhist Meditation.

On August the 4th, on the 100th anniversary  of the outbreak of the first World War we posted this picture Lest We Forget......

On Saturday, 6th of September, we celebrated the 4th International Bhikkhuni Day. Each year a women, or group of women are chosen to honour and discover more about. This year it was Yasodhara, the wife of Siddhartha Gautama.

The following day it was off to the Duver for the 17th Annual Isle of Wight Buddhist picnic.

This year the weather was much kinder to us and we had a glorious late Summer's day for it, consequently our numbers were up to 21 (including 2 children and a dog).

Not everyone is in this shot, some were exploring the Duver and others were "playing" footie (kicking a ball around for the children) and Alec was taking the photo!

In October we posted the item Buddhism and World Mental Health Day, drawing on "A Buddhist
perspective on mental health" by Caroline Brazier.

The Buddha’s teaching is all about the mind and how it leads us to suffering and the Buddhist practise of meditation allows us to focus on the workings of our mind and to peer beneath our conditioned behaviours and to see clearly what is actually going on. By settling our “monkey” mind our constant verbalisation and running self commentary are stilled and all of our “selves” can drop away. Put simply, Buddhist practice, drop by drop, changes the way our brains and thus our minds work – for the better.

We ended the month by presenting the first "half" of this Annual Review.....

For the West Wight Sangha the highlight of November was undoubtedly our visit to the Buddhist monastery at Chithurst.

Tragically, this was followed three days later with the sad news that Thich Nhat Hanh had suffered a severe brain hemorrhage.The latest bulletin, dated the 13th of December, states,

"In recent days Thay has been showing some indications of wakefulness, but he continues to remain in a coma. There have been times when Thay had his eyes open for more than two hours, and is responsive, but he is not yet showing clear signs of communication. The doctors remind us that it may be weeks or months before we can understand the damage caused by the hemorrhage and discover the extent of healing that may be possible."

At the beginning of December we critiqued Melvyn Bragg's Radio 4 program, "In Our Time" which was on the subject of Zen Buddhism. I expressed the opinion that if you had listened to the program you would "have learnt precious little about Zen or indeed Buddhism!"

Decide for yourself............

While on the subject of audio items, on the18th we featured Vishvapani's Response to the Peshawar Massacre.

Do have, whenever it arrives, a happy and peaceful 2557, 2558 or if wood sheep are your thing it will be 2142

Saturday, 20 December 2014

NEW MOON - Saturday 20th December 2014


The Buddha's perfection is complete; 
in him there is no craving that could drag him down. 
No measure is there for his wisdom; 
no limits are there to be found. 
In what way could he be distracted from truth?

Dhammapada v. 180

A clear vision of perfection leads to confidence. If the vision is in harmony with truth, our life will be oriented towards genuine wisdom and compassion. If the vision is a fabrication, perhaps containing partial truths, it could still give us confidence, but at the expense of well-being; our own and that of others. The vision of perfection recommended by the Buddha encourages inquiry into our here-and-now experience. It is not just pointing to another condition in which we should believe, but to an unshakeable reality which he himself realized and then invited us to realize. He called this perfection the unconditioned. It can’t be owned or interfered with. It’s what manifests when all clinging to conditions, the wonderful and the threatening, have been released. That is why it is a reliable goal.

With Metta, Bhikkhu Munindo

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Buddhist Response to the Peshawar Massacre

I wondered whether or not to respond to the mass slaughter of children in Peshawar and indeed how to without engendering even more reactivity but then I listened to Vishvapani's Thought for the day on the BBC this morning. He said it so much better than I could so here is what he had to say............

Of all the horrors we’ve seen in the international conflict with radical Islam, Wednesday’s massacre at the army school in Peshawar must be among the most ghastly. When defenceless women and children are targeted on this scale, we’ve reached a new level of barbarism.

How did we get here? Without detracting from the attack’s distinctive horror, it stems from a spiral of violence and escalating conflict. When did it all start: the Pakistani army’s campaign against the Taliban? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? 9/11? The legacy of occupation and empire that stretches back over centuries? The causes are endless: perhaps that’s the nature of conflicts. And the solutions are doubtful. The Pakistani army may be victorious, but at what cost, and with what consequences? Perhaps this war will spread, or merge into the region’s other conflicts; or perhaps the barbarism will just continue to escalate.

Reflecting on the conflicts of his own time, the Buddha alighted on a singular term for what he observed: proliferation. Causes multiply into diverse effects, especially when ideology and beliefs magnify them. He made sense of this by noting the parallel with what happens in our minds: one irritable thought begets another, which becomes a compelling narrative about what’s happening; and, soon enough, we act.

This psychological approach led the Buddha to locate the ultimate causes of war and conflict in the minds of individual human beings. We’ll do anything to banish unpleasant feelings and put things right when we feel they’re wrong, even if that leads us to act in ways we’d otherwise condemn. That’s how otherwise decent people come to justify the use of torture. 

In the Buddhist view, nothing good can result when we’re driven by hatred, anger and the desire for revenge. Blood will have blood. This doesn’t mean that force should never be used or that wars are never justified; but it’s a strong caution to check the impulse to act out of anger, to note the moral distortion that rigid ideology can bring, and to allow space for other wiser responses that come when we put anger aside. 

Proliferation ends, the Buddha suggested, when we learn to tolerate pain, rather than reacting to it, and when patience and forgiveness give us the mental space to act with love. For me, that’s the ultimate challenge of the barbarity in Pakistan. The world is good at creating warmongers. Peacemakers have to make themselves. 

(You can listen to Vishvapani's talk and download it HERE)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Doing Without an Army

I'm not a huge fan of Facebook or indeed social media in general but I will concede that it's a way of keeping track of what old friends are up to. Having, over the years, reconnected with old classmates at school reunions I was interested in a posting by one friend on the subject of not having an army.

Graham, who is a Quaker, wrote, "Just discovered that on 1st December 1948 Costa Rica abolished its military! What a great thing! And when I researched it further I found there are 21 countries that have done the same thing. Lietchenstein abolished its army in 1869 because it was too expensive. If one can do, so can all! Imagine the good that could be done in the world with all the money we spend on armed forces!"

In fact fifteen countries have no armed forces:-

Costa Rica
Marshall Islands
Federated States of Micronesia
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Solomon Islands
Vatican City

While six nations have no standing army, but do have limited military forces. They are:-


Saturday, 6 December 2014

FULL MOON – Saturday 6th December, 2014


If you perform an evil act, 
then do not repeat it. 
Avoid finding pleasure in its memory. 
The aftermath of evil-doing is painful.

Dhammapada v.117

Overwhelm is what happens when we lose touch with our refuge: we become absorbed in the activity of the mind and lose perspective. Our refuge is well developed mindfulness, embodied mindfulness, tried and tested through sitting, standing, walking and lying down. If a foundation of right mindfulness is not firmly established, habits tend to take hold; habits like the mind dwelling unskilfully in the past. If we make a mistake, practice means holding the memory in awareness just long enough to learn what we need to learn, then dropping it, letting go and beginning again. The momentum of negative emotions swamps us usually when mindfulness is not strong. Consciously, regularly, redetermining our commitment to our refuge is one way of protecting ourselves from overwhelm.

With Metta, Bhikkhu Munindo

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Zen "In Our Time"

Some of you may have heard Melvyn Bragg's Radio 4 program, "In Our Time" this morning in which the subject discussed was Zen Buddhism. If you did you will have learnt precious little about Zen or indeed Buddhism!

The whole program was a bit of a mishmash not helped by the fact that Bragg was obviously suffering from a ferocious cold. The guests, Tim Barrett, Emeritus Professor in the Department of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London, Lucia Dolce, Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism at SOAS, University of London and Eric Greene, Lecturer in East Asian Religions at the University of Bristol failed to get over some key points. The most central one being the nature of Zen meditation, Zazen. Constantly reiterating that it meant "just" sitting was singularly uninformative so I'm quoting from the "Rules for Meditation" from the Soto Zen tradition...........

"You should meditate in a quiet room, eat and drink moderately, cut all ties, give up everything, think of neither good nor evil, consider neither right nor wrong. Control mind function, will, consciousness, memory, perception and understanding; you must not strive thus to become Buddha. Cling to neither sitting nor lying down. When meditating, do not wear tight clothing. Rest the left hand in the palm of the right hand with the thumbs touching lightly; sit upright, leaning neither to left nor right, backwards nor forwards. The ears must be in line with the shoulders and the nose in line with the navel; the tongue must be held lightly against the back of the top teeth with the lips and teeth closed. Keep the eyes open, breathe in quickly, settle the body comfortably and breathe out sharply. Sway the body left and right then sit steadily, neither trying to think nor trying not to think; just sitting, with no deliberate thought, is the important aspect of serene reflection meditation."

As you can see there is a little more to it than "just sitting" but as always I'll let you listen and decide for yourselves.................

I have also placed this on the Miscellaneous page of our Audio section where you can download it.