Saturday, 31 October 2015

A Buddhist "Halloween"?

What with this being Halloween I thought a display of Buddhist demons and wrathful deities was in order.

 Mara, the Buddhist Devil, who represents temptation, sin, and death.

Hell demons. Buddhist "hell" (it's all in your own mind anyway) is not forever - everything is impermanent, even devils and gods.

Yama the Lord of Death. Although Yama is frightening, he is not evil. As with many wrathful iconic figures, his role is to frighten us to pay attention to our lives -- and the divine messengers -- so that we practice diligently.

In Buddhist lore, Hariti was originally a demon who slew human children in her desperation to feed her hundreds of children. In order to put a stop to this way of feeding, Gautama Buddha hid away one of her sons under a rice bowl, then pointed out to her that the suffering she was experiencing from losing one out of her hundreds of children could not be compared to that of the human mothers whose few children became her victims. Remorseful for her deeds, Hariti pledged to become the protector of childbirth and children. From then on, she and her brood fed on pomegranates as a substitute for human flesh.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

An End to the Purple Poppy

With Rememberance Day on Sunday the 8th and Armistice Day only a fortnight away you may have been considering also wearing a Purple Poppy this year to commemorate all of the animals killed in war. However Animal Aid, who produce the Purple Poppies, have decided NOT to continue producing them. Below is their explaination as to why they have reached this decision...................

When we launched our purple poppy initiative - to commemorate the animal victims of war - no other organisation seemed to be addressing the issue. Our aim was to make it clear that animals used in warfare are indeed victims, not heroes. They do not give their lives; their lives are taken from them.

But too often the narrative promoted by the media has been one of animals as the valiant servants of people in violent conflict. This is precisely the opposite message to that which we intended. An equivalent situation would be if animal victims of laboratory research were to be presented as brave heroes in the service of human beings - with Animal Aid's name attached to that idea. Having said that, many of our poppy sellers have worked extraordinarily hard and with great passion on this campaign.

Certainly, our message, via their work, has to a degree got through. But the dominant narrative (animal victims of war are heroes who died for us) is so deeply embedded that only a huge effort (costly in every way) can uproot it and lay down something that will benefit the animals. We considered the massive-effort option but decided that Animal Aid's finite resources are best used on other urgent, more productive campaigns. 

We are, therefore, replacing the purple poppy with a badge that will commemorate all animal victims of human exploitation. It can be worn all year round - at special events or day to day. Rest assured that we will continue to promote our victims-not-heroes message every year in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday (but without the purple poppy), and we will continue to produce our Animals: the hidden victims of war booklet and other resources.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015


Tedious is the company of fools,
always painful,
like being surrounded by enemies;
but to associate with the wise
is like being at home.

Dhammapada 207

We don't need to pretend we enjoy the company of those who challenge our commitment to integrity. We can be honest with ourselves that at times it is tedious. Such honesty in fact contributes to strengthening equanimity. Even equanimity however, won't protect us from from feeling undermined or uncomfortable. It will mean though that we are not so drained by our preferences – liking and disliking. The wise already know this, which is one reason why their company is so appealing.

Monday, 26 October 2015

As the Zombie Population Rises

You might be interested in the new short film on our Video Section "As the Zombie Population Rises".

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Xian'er the Robot Monk

I can give up and go home, Robo Monk is here..........................

Longquan (Dragon Spring) Temple in Beijing has a new Buddhist monk called Xian'er. He's a robot that stands about 50cm and is dressed in a yellow robe. The AI-enabled robot is able to sense his surroundings and engage in basic Q&A - based discussions about Buddhism.

The temple publishes its own cartoon series called Trouble, You Seek for Yourself that dispenses little nuggets of Buddhist wisdom in a way that laypeople can easily understand and the well fed-looking robot is modelled on its chief protagonist.

He even has his own account on Sina Weibo, the leading microblogging service in China.

Master Xuecheng, the abbot of Longquan Temple has founded a website in Chinese, English and Japanese, a personal blog, a personal microblog, a blog and microblog for the temple and a charity foundation blog as well as maintaining a personal Twitter account in English and instant messaging groups and microblogs on and in eight different languages.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Our Visit to Cittaviveka, Chithurst Buddhist Monastery

Last Sunday a group of us from several of the Buddhist groups on the island travelled to the mainland to visit Cittaviveka, the Buddhist Monastery at Chithurst. 

The nuns meditation hall and khuti at Āloka. The khuti is also used by visitors.

Down by the lake in the centre of the wood..............................................

"In the spring of 1978, one of those small miracles happened that stop the mind's rational expectations. Keeping to the apparently pointless routine of going out for alms every day, as prescribed by Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho encountered a lone jogger on Hampstead Heath whose attention was arrested by the bhikkhus’ appearance. This jogger had acquired an overgrown forest in West Sussex called Hammer Wood, out of the wish to restore it to its former glory – but he also understood that this was work for more than one man and one lifetime. Although not a Buddhist, he had the openness of mind to appreciate that an order of forest monks might be the perfect wardens for his woodland. Subsequently, he attended one of the ten-day meditation retreats that Ajahn Sumedho held at the Oaken Holt Buddhist Centre near Oxford, and later made an outright gift of the forest to the Sangha. This marvellous act of generosity did of necessity involve a lot of legalities, as local bye-laws prevented the construction of any permanent structures on forest land, so in this situation the Sangha gratefully accepted the invitation to stay instead at Oaken Holt for the ‘Rains’ of 1978 and let the Trust sort things out.

Early in 1979 Ajahn Chah was invited to England to see how his disciples were making out; it was also about this time that George Sharp (Chairman of the English Sangha Trust), hearing that a large house near Hammer Wood was up for sale, agreed to purchase it. This was Chithurst House, and its purchase was a gamble that did not meet with unanimous approval. Buying the property had necessitated selling the Vihara and the adjacent town house whose rent had provided the basis for support for the Sangha – in order to purchase an unsurveyed and ramshackle mansion. In May, Ajahn Chah arrived, somewhat disturbed by rumours of his disciples’ activities, to find a monastic community that actually had nowhere to live. The new owners allowed the Sangha to use the Vihara for a couple of months to receive the Venerable Ajahn and to effect their move. In this atmosphere of insecurity, Ajahn Chah added one more doubt by intimating that he was going to take Ajahn Sumedho back to Thailand. While the Sangha members watched their minds, he went off to America for a visit and there was nothing else to do but go ahead. On 22nd June 1979, having bundled as much as they could into a removal van, the Sangha left London for Sussex."

From How the Buddha Came to Sussex by Ajahn Sucitto

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

NEW MOON - Meeting Darkness

Transform anger with non-anger,  
badness with the good,  
meanness with generosity  
and deceit with integrity.

Dhammapada 223

Light always conquers darkness. This holds true however long darkness may have reigned: once light enters, darkness is dispelled. Our training talks of the need to be ready so that when required we can meet darkness wisely. If we are well-prepared and we are confronted with anger, we respond with non-anger; if we encounter stinginess we give a gift; if we experience dishonesty we show integrity. The power that light has over darkness is a principle in which we can afford to trust.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

A Buddhist Poem for National Poetry Day

As it's National Poetry Day today I thought I'd post a Buddhist poem. This one is by Dharmavadana who is poetry editor of the Buddhist arts magazine Urthona.

His own poetry has appeared in the magazines Haiku Quarterly, Brittle Star, Ambit and in the anthology The Heart as Origami: Contemporary Buddhist Poets (Rising Fire Press 2005), as well as previously in the Buddhist Poetry Review. He lives in London.

I am not different from the unconscious stars,
the clouds that blot them out,
the grass, the trees in veils,
this hut, the steps in front of it, my pillow.

No different from the fire in the wood burner
or the candle flames swimming beside me
on the table. I can’t understand myself,
never will. I am not.

No childhood, no adulthood,
no future. No sorrows, no dreams.
There never were any. Look,
I’m already gone. I sleep the sleep
of one who knows he was not created, ever,
and is not here to die.

National Poetry Day is a British campaign to promote poetry, including public performances. National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart. It takes place annually in the UK and Ireland on the first or second Thursday of October. Since its inception, it has engaged millions of people across the country with live events, classroom activities and broadcasts.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Wightlink, The Buddha and Mars

Living here on the island there is one thing that unites all residents and that is the exorbitantly high cost of the ferries and of the companies involved Wightlink comes in for particular criticism.

Next Sunday we are getting together again with the Newport Zen group to travel over to the mainland and visit Cittaviveka, the Buddhist Monastery at Chithurst near Petersfield. Two months ago we attemped to book our usual mini bus onto the 9:00 Sunday sailing from Wightlink's Fishbourne terminal over to Portsmouth only to be told that the boat was full! (We have been told by someone in the know that it's because the bus has to be on the lorry deck and it's too much trouble to fit it in, although this has never been a problem before).

As a result we are having to take three cars over, incurring three crossing charges instead of one!

When you couple this with the news that NASA has discovered water on Mars you can understand Rupert Besley's cartoon in this weeks Isle of Wight County Press!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Note - Latest Vishvapani Talk Now Available

The latest "Thought for the Day" talk by Vishvapani on "Our Assumptions and Biases" is now available in our
Audio Section.

........ Looking at these seemingly intractable issues as a Buddhist, I reflect, firstly on the importance of self-scrutiny. Buddhism stresses that we tend to see the world in a way that confirms our assumptions and biases. What's more, belief systems and ideologies can objectify and justify those assumptions, presenting them as the objective truth and creating fixed, dogmatic views of ourselves and the world. 

That's why Buddhism stresses holding our views lightly and listening, openly and with compassion, to those we might otherwise dismiss. But it also warns that the past can be a trap. We can't change history, and dwelling on grievances can in fact reinforce them.