Thursday, 22 January 2015

Government Volte-face on Meditation?

Recently I came across a story in the Guardian, "Meditation may prevent absenteeism by stressed public servants, MPs claim". The article goes on to say that, "Stressed out teachers, prison officers and nurses should be trained in ancient techniques of mindfulness meditation, a cross-party group of MPs and peers said on Wednesday.

An eight-month inquiry by the all party group on mindfulness found frontline public servants could be less likely to fall ill with stress, or quit altogether, if they engage in the increasingly popular meditation practice which involves increasing awareness of the present moment to help control anxiety and depression."

I was reminded that back in 2010 George Osborne took a pop at meditation, dismissing it as "Labour nonsense" – examples of "waste and bureaucracy" that are to be vigorously swept away.

In his speech to the Tory party conference earlier in October 2010, the chancellor took a dig at a range of "contemplation suites", a reference to the relaxation area that was part of a refit at the Department for Children, Schools and Families under Ed Balls.

"Osborne's throwaway remark highlights a bigger issue – in a world that thinks the solution to every problem is found in action, more introspective approaches are viewed with suspicion, or even contempt, perhaps because their value is more difficult to quantify, linked to nebulous concepts such as "soul" or "mind". We might recognise that many troubles come from the unchecked pursuit of material goals, but we still want answers that fit the materialist schema."

Monday, 19 January 2015

NEW MOON - Monday 19th January 2015


To honour, even for a single moment,
one who has attained self-mastery,
is of greater benefit than a hundred years
spent habitually performing ceremonies
based on a wrong understanding.

Dhammapada v. 107

Here, ‘habitually performing ceremonies’ referred to tending a ritual fire in anticipation of a better rebirth. It could equally well refer to compulsively checking social media accounts, consuming stimulants and shopping. Much of our energy is spent in activities that drain us. Since our energy resources are limited, wouldn’t it be wiser to do that which brings true benefit; to ourselves and to others. We’re fortunate to live at a time when we have ready access to teachings and teachers who have attained self-mastery. In honouring them, aspects of that within us which is honourable become stronger.

With Metta,
Bhikkhu Munindo

Monday, 12 January 2015

Finally, The Missing Thought

Here at last is Mona Siddiqui's thought for the day on the atrocities at "Charlie Hebdo".

`Je suis Charlie’ was all over social media yesterday in widespread condemnation of the tragic killing of the Charlie Hebdo journalists and policemen in Paris; a show of solidarity with the dead and the injured and an act of defiance against the Islamist perpetrators. This was a cold and carefully planned attack after years of threats against the satirical magazine for its cartoons of the Prophet.

The editor Stéphane Charbonnier, known simply as "Charb," was one of the victims paying the ultimate price for a magazine which refused to be silenced especially in its portrayal of religions. For some people the magazine was outrageously bold, overstepping the boundaries of decency and taste while others saw it as clever and inspirational, challenging anything and everything, central to the establishment, with its own history and ideals of the French republic. It’s been closed down before, it’s run out of money, warned for being too provocative but it stood resolute with the editor once saying, "When activists need a pretext to justify their violence, they always find it." And in 2012, he bravely told Le Monde, I would rather die standing than live on my knees.’ For Charb, there was never any intention of giving into fear, telling the New Yorker, that mocking Islam must continue "until Islam is just as banal as Catholicism." Ridicule against extremism was his weapon and it angered those who could only confront satire with guns. But in using the prophet as an excuse to kill, the gunmen chose to ignore the Qur’anic reprimand of Muhammad himself that he had no right to impose his belief on others.

The defence of free speech is again at the forefront and while freedom of expression may never be absolute, let it set its own limits rather than be frightened into submission. I've heard many say that just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should and at a purely pragmatic level that may sometimes be true. But it is free speech which gives minorities the right to practice their religion, groups to hold anti-war rallies and journalists to expose the tyrannies and hypocrisies of power. Freedom of expression with all its messy boundaries lies at the very core of liberal societies; if you lose this fundamental and hard fought privilege, you've lost the very soul of western freedoms.

These actions will only entrench social tensions about Islam in Europe. The irony of course is that more people will now see the very cartoons these gunmen wanted banned. And they will also see that their actions killed 12 but brought together thousands across the world, waving a pen in their hands holding vigils and showing that if gunshots try to divide us, the simple act of being with one another can still unite us.

The audio version of this can be found on the "Thought for the Day" page of our Audio Section where you can also download it.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Curious Case of the Disappearing Thought

As mentioned in the previous post there was an apparently (I only caught the tail end of it) sane and balanced talk by Prof. Mona Siddiqui on the events in Paris broadcast in the thought for the day slot of BBC radio 4's Today program.

Siddiqui, who is Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh gave her talk at 07:48 on Thursday the 8th, the day following the Charlie Hebdo atrocity.

Thoughts for the day  are usually available to listen to again, read the text thereof, obtain the embed code or to download as a podcast the next day - this all stopped following Professor Siddiqui's item as you can see by following the link above.

We will bring you the talk as soon as the BBC deign to make it available, as to why they haven't done so already a number of possibilities spring to mind (but then that's what minds do).

UPDATE, This finally became available mid-morning on Monday the 12th!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie - a Buddhist Perspective

Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hate alone does it end.
This is an ancient truth.

The Buddha – Dhammapada 5

The peaceful vigil Wednesday night in the Place de la Republique in central Paris.

First thing to say is that what follows is my personal take on the events in Paris and how the Buddha's teachings relate to them...............

A central theme of the Buddha's teaching is to recognise and avoid reactive, unskillful behaviour. Skillful actions, and words, are those that promote the peace, safety and wellbeing of others, unskillful words and actions are those that harm other beings.

Judgemental views and opinions are particularly unskillful. It is therefore helpful to look at everything in terms of being somewhere on a spectrum rather than being an opposite of something else; right - wrong, good - bad, righteous - evil, US - THEM. It's all the same spectrum and all of us place our words and actions at different positions along it.

On that basis the cold blooded killing of ten journalists and two police officers (one of them a muslim) because of some cartoons which upset some other people is way over on the unskillful side of the spectrum. But what about the cartoons themselves?

You could argue that causing offence to others is harming them and thus "unskillful", however what causes the harm is that person's reactive response to the perceived slight and affront to their belief in what they consider the "truth" and that leads us on to the whole mire of conflicting religious world views. This is not to say that it's all down to the other person and you can say and do what you like and it will be "skillful", the clue is in the description - skillful. 

What is needed is an openness for all of us to honestly and critically examine our beliefs and opinions and to acknowledge that they are just sets of ideas that we, as individuals, have i.e. they are uniquely ours anyway. If a provocative cartoon or written article promotes that assessment and enquiry I feel that, however "painful" the process might appear to be, ultimately it is beneficial.

There was an  impressive and commendable show of solidarity from all mainstream religious leaders in France. In the West there are often interfaith exercises in dialogue and togetherness but how many of the participants actually believe that the other's faith is right, as "good" as or better than their own. None, or they would surely convert to that belief system.

Moving to the further end of that "belief" spectrum the ideas that an individual has chosen to adopt in terms of their interpretation of reality are more likely to become entrenched, extreme and ever more intolerant and thus judgemental and unskillful in relation to the beliefs of others and lead ultimately to such outcomes as the recent events in France.

I was going to say that for a humane and sane comment on the attack on Charlie Hebdo listen here to Thursday's "Thought for the Day" from Mona Siddiqui, who is Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

For some "strange" reason the BBC still hasn't posted either the recording or the text of Prof. Siddiqui's talk................ 

I will post them as soon as they become available.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Buddhist Chaplaincy Courses

The Buddhist Chaplaincy Support Group
An Initiative of The Buddhist Society
Kalyāna Mitra
“Ananda, loving friendliness is not a half of the holy life but the whole of the holy life” SN5 magga

Buddhist Chaplaincy Support Group: Kalyāna Mitra Chaplaincy Training

A warm invitation is extended to Buddhists interested in chaplaincy work within a wide variety of areas.
The aim of these training groups is to explore and share experiences that help develop skills, competencies and capabilities in offering and providing spiritual and religious support. During 2014 a series of seven one-day meetings, held in both London and Birmingham. Complete beginners to chaplaincy are most welcome.

Non-residential option: seven Sunday meetings during 2015 in London

Session 1 – Spiritual assessment and intervention (9.2.1) London: 12th April 2015
• He gives what is difficult to give (duddadam dadāti)

Session 2 – Religious assessment and intervention (9.2.2) London: 10th May 2015
• He does what is difficult to do (dukkaram karoti)

Session 3 – Practicing ethically (9.1.2) London: 7th June 2015
• He patiently endures what is difficult to endure (dukkhamam khamati)

Session 4 – Communication skills (9.1.3) London: 5th July 2015
• He reveals his own secrets (guyha-massa avikaroti)

Session 5 – Team working (9.3.1) London: 6th September 2015
• He keeps one’s secrets (guyha-massa pariguyhati)

Session 6 – Reflective practice (9.4.1) London: 4th October 2015
• He does not abandon one in misfortune (āpadāsu na-jahati)

Session 7 – Personal spiritual development (9.4.2) London: 1st November 2015
• He does not despise one because of one’s loss (khinena na-atimaññati)

Venues: The Buddhist Society, 58 Eccleston Square, Victoria, London SW1V 1PH
Times: 1000 – 1800

Cost: The programme (including Buddhist Society membership) costs £190 to London residents and £180 to those living outside of London. The cost to those who are already members of the Buddhist Society is £150.

Refreshments are provided, please bring along vegetarian food to share for lunch
If you wish to attend one of these groups please apply to
Please feel free to telephone with any questions Hogetsu Baerndal 07533 332776

The courses will cover material relevant to the accreditation of Buddhist Chaplains, including in-depth work on ‘the Seven Qualities of a Friend’ – Mitta sutta (AN VII 35). The training themes are taken from the ‘Developing a Healthcare Chaplains’ Capabilities and Competencies’ document produced by South East Strategic Health Authority. These themes are selected for their relevance to all areas of Buddhist Chaplaincy.

Please note: attendance at this programme does not guarantee en dorsement as a chaplain,
but the training may be used as part of an application for endo rsement.
Bursaries are available for people who are already involved in chaplaincy related work and are on low income.

(amended 12. December 2014 )

The Buddhist Society
58 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1PH
Company No: 5730715. Charity No: 1113705
Tel: 0207 8345858.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Just Something in the Paper

I finally got round to reading our local paper, the Isle of Wight County Press, yesterday and there was one small item that caught my eye.

Every week the paper runs a feature entitled, "Looking Back". This reprises some of it's stories from alternatively 10 years, 25 years, 50 years, 75 years and 100 years ago. This being the centenary of the First World War I looked at the entry for January 2nd, 1915.

It simply read, "The number of Island men who died fighting in the First World War that week was 72.

That was Seventy two young men, in just one week, out of a total population of less than 90,000 Islanders.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


The Heart

All states of being are determined by the heart.
It is the heart that leads the way.
As surely as our shadow never leaves us,
so happiness will follow 
when we act or speak with a pure heart.

Dhammapada v. 2

We all want to be happy. This is the Buddha's advice on how to arrive at happiness. The emphasis, he says must be on creating the correct causes for happiness to arise. If, instead, we emphasize the happiness itself, or at least our fantasies of what that will be like when we get it, then we miss the point. The point is that happiness is the natural consequence of the right causes being in place. Intending in the right direction determines whether we’ll reach the right destination.