Saturday, 22 April 2017

Walk the Wight & Wesak

Hi Everyone,

As you all know by now our Wesak celebrations here at the West Wight Sangha are currently scheduled for Sunday the 14th of May. Wesak, traditionally falls on the night of the first full moon of May which this year is on Wednesday the 10th. For convenience we hold our celebrations on the following Sunday (from 12:00 to about 3:00 p.m.) which this year coincides with the Walk the Wight festival, the unique sponsored walk in aid of the patient care at the Earl Mountbatten Hospice.

  walk-the-wight-620x350

Needless to say a lot of you are taking part in this incredible event which raises so much money for the island’s favourite charity and as such wouldn’t be able to join us on the 14th.

So my question is would you be able to make it if we move our celebrations back a week to Sunday the 21st of May?

Please let me know as soon as possible so we can decide whether to change the date or not.

(As the date of Wesak follows a lunar calendar and different schools of Buddhism celebrate the Buddha’s birth, his enlightenment and death on different dates, I don’t feel guilty about moving it, it’s not like changing the date of Christmas!)

Be well, Steve

Friday, 21 April 2017

New Series of Dharma Talks



As regular followers of this site will know some of us also attend the weekly meetings of the Newport Soto Zen group and I usually take along a Dharma talk to share. we have just finished an excellent series on the Noble Eightfold Path by Jill Shepherd. It is well worth a listen and can be accessed on our Audio Section - The Noble Eightfold Path by Jill Shepherd

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

FULL MOON - Containing Anger

I say that those who contain anger
as a charioteer controls
a speeding chariot
are fully in charge of their lives;
others are merely keeping
their hands on the reins.

Dhammapada v. 222

When anger arises we can make an enemy of it or we can view it as energy which needs to be contained. No judgement! Fighting anger with anger will likely lead to more anger, or even hatred. The Buddha's image of a charioteer controlling a speeding chariot speaks of the risk of being heedless. When we experience an upthrust of anger, it is our responsibility alone to make sure that this energy is skilfully handled. The Buddha isn't suggesting we should fight it. Nor is he saying we should just let go and allow it to happen; that is, indulge in it. The teaching on the middle way tells us there is another possibility, beyond indulging and repressing.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Triratna's 50th Anniversary

This weekend the Triratna Buddhist Community will be celebrating its founding 50 years ago on the 6th of April 1967.

Formerly known as the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO), Triratna is an international fellowship of Buddhists founded by Sangharakshita in the UK in 1967 describing itself as "an international network dedicated to communicating Buddhist truths in ways appropriate to the modern world". In keeping with Buddhist traditions, it also pays attention to contemporary ideas, particularly drawn from Western philosophy, psychotherapy, and art.


The group has more than 100 branches around the world affiliated with the community, including in North America, Australasia and Europe. In the UK, it is one of the largest Buddhist movements, with some 30 urban and retreat centres.

Its largest following, however, is in India, where it is known as Triratna Bauddha Mahāsaṅgha.

This Buddhist group has its roots in the scattered contacts that Sangharakshita had in the 1950s with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

Dr. Ambedkar was an Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, anthropologist, historian, orator, economist, teacher, editor, prolific writer, revolutionary and a revivalist for Buddhism in India. He was also the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. Born an "untouchable", he converted to Buddhism and is credited with providing the inspiration for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Dalits or untouchables to Theravada Buddhism. In August 1947, the new Congress-led government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation's first law minister. The constitution that he drafted provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination.

Sangharakshita, then still a bhikshu, participated in the conversion movement from 1956 until his departure to the UK in 1963 where he founded the FWBO recently renamed Triratna.

A little known fact is that Roma gypsies trace their origins to the Dalits of India and several have followed the lead of their Indian compatriots and converted to Buddhism, often as a response to discrimination. There is a sizeable Gypsy Buddhist community in Hungary, they take their inspiration from Dr. Ambedka and are officially affiliated to the Triratna Buddhist Community.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Virtual Reality Meditation

This story, by Dan Ackerman, appears in the spring 2017 edition of CNET Magazine

The first thing I see is sunlight glistening off the gently rolling waves in the distance, while I stand on a small foliage-decked island so green it almost glows. Later, I'm standing on the balcony of the kind of aggressively minimalist luxury apartment only seen in movies and television shows. I can imagine a soft breeze flowing through these expansive spaces, but it's only that: imagination.

In fact, I'm standing in my own living room and in a virtual reality creation, one especially designed to complement the practice of meditation, or at least one very specific version of it.

The program I'm using is called Guided Meditation VR, and I'm experiencing it through an HTC Vive virtual reality headset connected to powerful desktop computer. Besides choosing from about a dozen different locales to meditate in, I can listen to a wide variety of audio programs, called guided meditations, that run from 2 to 10 minutes and cover topics from breathing to compassion. (The app is $15 on the Steam platform for Vive, and a limited version is available for free for the phone-based Gear VR headset.)


Meditation in virtual locations isn't the most traditional way to approach the practice, but it may entice sceptics who aren't keen to sit in their living rooms with their eyes shut. "VR adds a really powerful, emotional ability to be in another place and to actually feel that emotional weight of another place," says Josh Farkas, CEO of Cubicle Ninjas, Guided Meditation's developer. "You can meditate anywhere, but at the end of the day, the ability to actually go to a virtual world and take a breather lowers the barrier to entry, and I hope gets people more excited."

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A Proposal for Peace - Buddhist Talk in Newport



(A better link is https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-proposal-for-peace-toward-a-more-humane-world-tickets-33147774887/amp).

A Proposal for Peace – toward a more humane world 

A talk by Robert Harrap 

This talk introduces the work of Buddhist Philosopher Daisaku Ikeda, who calls for greater efforts to protect human rights, safeguard the planet’s ecology, and the urgent need to ban all nuclear weapons. 

Humanistic scholar, author and peace-builder Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a worldwide lay Buddhist organisation, has written and published a Peace Proposal every year since 1983, submitting these to the United Nations as part of his lifelong commitment to dialogues supporting world peace and the realisation of human potential.

The Isle of Wight members of the socially engaged Buddhist movement SGI-UK* are hosting a talk, followed by question, answer and discussion about the ideas underpinning 2017 Peace Proposal: ‘The Global Solidarity of Youth: Ushering in a New Era of Hope’, by Daisaku Ikeda. Ikeda’s contribution has earned him profound respect and more than 200 honorary doctorates and awards from universities, educational institutions and peace groups around the world.

Each proposal focuses on key themes and global issues that concern politicians, policy makers and individuals alike. Through each he promotes the idea of a world in which ‘no one is left behind’, and suggests ways that individuals can contribute towards, and thereby participate in, shared action which will lead to greater solidarity and the elimination of suffering. This year he particularly highlights the ‘role of youth’; ‘laying foundations to overcome division and inequality’; ‘abolishing nuclear weapons’; ‘restoring hope in the hearts of refugees’ and ‘building a culture of human rights’.

The talk will be delivered by Robert Harrap, SGI-UK General Director since 2013, and a Barrister in the areas of employment, social housing and human rights. Robert also appears regularly on the BBC Radio 2’ Programme ‘Pause for Thought’.

When: Monday, 8 May 2017

Time: Talk 6.15 -7 pm, followed by Q&A 7 – 7.30pm (doors open 6pm)

Where: Island Innovation VI Form Campus Upper St. James Street, Newport, PO30 1LJ

This is a free event As places are limited please register your attendance in advance on https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-proposal-for-peace-toward-a-more-humane-world-tickets-33147774887/amp

For more information: contact: Harry Vernon 07854 005042
See www.daisakuikeda.org
Read a synopsis of the proposal
http://www.sgi-uk.org/global-solidarity-youth-ushering-new-era-hope
Read full text of proposal
http://www.sgi-uk.org/sites/default/files/peace-proposal/PeaceProposal_2017.pdf

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Quote That I Really Like

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

 —Philip K. Dick

Friday, 24 March 2017

Printing the Ancient Way Keeps Buddhist Texts Alive in Tibet

This from the New York Times by Edward Wong.                             点击查看本文中文版


DERGE, China — The dozen or so Tibetan men wearing aprons sat in pairs in low chairs, facing each other. Each pair bent over a thin rectangular wooden block and worked by sunlight streaming into the second-story room open to a courtyard.

Their hands moved quickly. Over and over they went through the same motions, several times each minute: One man slathered red or black ink on the block, which was carved with Tibetan words and religious images. Then his partner placed a thin piece of white paper atop the block and, bending even lower, ran a roller over it. Seconds later, he whipped off the paper and put it aside to dry.

That bending was an act of prostration to the Buddha, said Pema Chujen, a Tibetan woman who was leading a group of ethnic Han visitors around the monastery. I stood at the back of the tour, having walked into the monastery during a two-week road trip across this part of Tibet.

“They are like this every day,” she said. “This is just the faith in their hearts. Of course, it’s good to make offerings to the Buddha using a lot of money, but it’s more faithful to make offerings using your body, mouth and mind.”


So went a typical afternoon in one of the most revered institutions in the Tibetan world, the Parkhang printing lamasery in the mountainous heart of the Kham region. On Chinese maps, it is in the far west of Sichuan Province, across the Cho La, a vertiginous pass at 16,600 feet.

The press, in the town of Derge, dates to 1729 and draws pilgrims from across the Tibetan plateau to the three-story monastery, its walls painted scarlet and its roof adorned with golden Buddhist icons. 

The printing press is the embodiment of a hallowed tradition and is one site where the Tibetan language is being preserved, despite the lack of government support for immersive Tibetan-language education on the plateau. It has more than 320,000 wooden printing blocks that are on average more than 260 years old, said Ms. Pema, a volunteer who cleans the monastery’s objects and guides visitors.

The monastery also houses collections of sutras, including 830 classic scriptures and copies of more than 70 percent of ancient Tibetan manuscripts, she said. The founder of the monastery, Chokyi Tenpa Tsering, embraced works from the range of Tibetan Buddhist schools.

“He was very open minded, like the ocean containing water from all rivers,” she said.

Besides trying to preserve the old blocks, the printing house has been making new ones since the 1980s. A decade from now, it is expected to have 400,000 blocks, Ms. Pema said.


The printing blocks are constructed from red birchwood in 13 steps. At an early stage, the raw pieces of wood have to be soaked in feces for a half-year. Those that do not crack or break during this period are then made into printing blocks, Ms. Pema said. Craftsmen apply an herbal solution that repels rats and insects.

The printing operations employ about 60 people. The men have been here for two decades on average, despite low pay, Ms. Pema said. Each day, they print about 2,500 pieces of paper, on both sides, to be collected as sutras and distributed across the Tibetan plateau.

At its height, the press employed more than 500 people, and almost all were monks from the neighbouring Gonchen Monastery. These days, the printers are laypeople.

The monastery is a warren of hallways and rooms. On the third floor, a few men sat with wooden boards in a small, dark room. Here they made simple thangkas, large hangings with Buddhist iconography.

Clipped to a string were thangkas showing popular aspects of the pantheon: the seated Sakyamuni Buddha, the fingers of one hand touching the earth; Medicine Buddha, holding a bowl; Mahakala, the fierce protector deity that appears in paintings as a blue, multiarmed, fanged demon.


In one corner of the room, an abbot sat discussing a text with one of the printers.

A few feet away, a tall Tibetan man in a black Arc’teryx jacket pointed out items in the room to a friend. He was Chime Dorje, a prominent doctor and advocate of traditional medicine who ran a clinic in the town centre.

He said the monks here had once operated a clinic. Now he and others were the inheritors of the tradition. Like the printing process here, the practise of Tibetan medicine had managed to survive the Mao era and the advent of a quasi-market economy.

“There were myths that Tibetan medicine contained a large amount of mercury and lead, but actually its ingredients are just normal,” he told me. “Some theoretical studies have also proven that Tibetan medicine is scientific.”

Outside, pilgrims walked around the building to complete a kora, or holy circuit. Old women spun hand-held prayer wheels and hobbled along with walking sticks. The monastery was one of three pilgrimage sites in the Tibetan world, each representing the body, mouth and mind of the Buddha, Ms. Pema said.

One visitor, Sonam, said he saw more traditional dress in Derge than anywhere else in the region. He pointed to women circling the monastery with coral and turquoise stones entwined into braids in their hair. “They have money,” he said.


Chanting emanated from loudspeakers. In hills to the east of the monastery stood clusters of red three-story wooden homes, a traditional design around religious centres in Kham.

Even if the scene around the monastery evoked ancient customs, the town did not. Modern five-story buildings lined the valley walls along the river. Yellow construction cranes loomed above the skyline, a sight typical of cities big and small across China. At night, neon signs glowed.

Katia Buffetrille, a scholar of Tibet at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, said the sprawl of the town had surprised her when she visited last year. She had last come here three decades earlier. 

The monastery was in bad shape in 1985, she said. But the printing press was functioning back then, years after the end of the destructive Cultural Revolution.

“The operations of the printing press are today similar to what they were in 1985,” Ms. Buffetrille said. “It’s amazing how many pages they print every day.”

“That can explain the bad quality of the printing sometimes,” she added.

But the traditions endure. On the afternoon I visited, in a monastic building uphill from the printing press, monks held a dharma ceremony, which they do every few weeks. One monk walked around a crowded courtyard sprinkling drops of water on worshippers. Others sat on a dais at the front, reading aloud from scriptures that had been printed by hand next door.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Buddhist Poem for World Poetry Day

Here's a poem by Kenji Miyazawa – "Strong In The Rain" (Ame ni mo Makezu) for World Poetry Day.


Strong in the rain
Strong in the wind
Strong against the summer heat and snow
He is healthy and robust
Unselfish
He never loses his temper
Nor the quiet smile on his lips
He eats four go of unpolished rice Miso and a few vegetables a day
He does not consider himself
In whatever occurs…his understanding
Comes from observation and experience
And he never loses sight of things
He lives in a little thatched-roof hut
In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove
If there is a sick child in the east
He goes there to nurse the child
If there’s a tired mother in the west
He goes to her and carries her sheaves
If someone is near death in the south
He goes and says, “Don’t be afraid”
If there’s strife and lawsuits in the north
He demands that the people put an end to their pettiness
He weeps at the time of drought
He plods about at a loss during the cold summer
Everyone calls him “Blockhead”
No one sings his praises
Or takes him to heart…
That is the sort of person I want to be.


World Poetry Day is today, the 21 March, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to "give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements".

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

"Walk With Me" Premieres at SXSW

On Sunday the film "Walk with me", about mindfulness advocate and Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh had its world premiere at SXSW, otherwise known as "South by Southwest" which is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas.

Filmed over three years, at Plum Village monastery in rural France and on the road in America, the film is a meditation on a community grappling with existential questions and the everyday routine of monastic life.

As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit for a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.


Monday, 13 March 2017

FULL MOON - Training

Let the dread of endless mediocrity
spur you into great effort,
like a well-trained horse
encouraged by the mere touch of the whip.
Relinquish the burden of endless struggle
with unapologetic confidence,
with purity of action, effort, concentration,
and by conscious and disciplined commitment
to the path.

Dhammapada v. 144

It is appropriate to feel afraid at the thought of being endlessly caught up in delusion and suffering. It is a mistake to think that all feelings of fear are a symptom that we are somehow failing. Sometimes, feeling afraid may well be a warning sign that we are in danger and need to be extra careful. Fear can serve to protect us from harm. Like a good friend who points out something that we perhaps don't want to hear, but need to, fear can also serve as a motivator.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Women's Day & Bhikkhunis

Today is International Women's Day and the theme for this year is "Be Bold for Change" so it seems appropriate to have a look at the current situation for Buddhist nuns or Bhikkhunis who in many traditions are denied the same level of ordination as male monks.

The excuse that is usually offered is that to be fully ordained as a nun you need, according to the Vinaya, the rules governing the monastic community within Buddhism, to be ordained by an existing ordained nun.

As the nun's lineage died out in all areas of the Theravada school, traditionally women's roles as renunciates were limited to taking eight or ten Precepts. Such women appear as maechi in Thai Buddhism, dasa sil mata in Sri Lanka, thilashin in Burma and siladharas at Amaravati and Chithurst Buddhist Monasteries in England.

However, back in October 2009, Sisters Vayama, Nirodha, Seri and Hassapañña were ordained as Theravada Bhikkhunis, or nuns, in a dual ordination ceremony held at Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Western Australia. Ayya Tathaaloka, from the United States, was the Preceptor. Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato performed the certifying acariya chanting in the bhikkhu's (monks) part of the ceremony.

But, despite this, change has been very slow in traditional Theravada countries such as Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand died at the age of 88, on 13 October 2016, after a long illness. A year-long period of mourning was subsequently announced.

As millions of people across Thailand mourned the passing of the widely beloved King and Thais flocked to pay their respects at Bangkok’s Grand Palace, where the late monarch lies in state, one segment of society in this Buddhist kingdom has been blocked from visiting the royal funeral ceremony — bhikkhunis, or fully ordained female monastics.


A recent commentary in the Bangkok Post notes that in December, a group of bhikkhunis from the central province of Nakhon Pathom were turned away from the Grand Palace and reprimanded for wearing the saffron robes of Theravada monks. In a similar incident in November, a party of bhikkhunis from the southern province of Songkhla were also denied entry. Both groups were confronted by officials from the National Office of Buddhism and Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya, a Buddhist university, who are in charge of screening monastic visitors.

It is still illegal for women to take full ordination as a Buddhist nun (Bhikkhuni) in Thailand because of a 1928 law created by the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Books, Books, Books

Back in the middle of November last year we received the following email...............

I stumbled across the West Wight Sangha website and thought I might send you some of the books published by our organization. You can see some of them here. http://www.bhantedhammika.net/ If you would like some copies for yourself and your friends and you give me a postal address I will happily send you some copies. Kind regards Bhante Dhammika.

The books were ordered and duly sent on their way by ship.

The books arrived yesterday and coincidentally today is World Book Day! It is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.

Bhante's books will also be a great addition to our already large and comprehensive library. They are:-

Good Question, Good Answer (which covers the following)

1. What is Buddhism? 2. Basic Buddhist Concepts 3. Buddhism and the God-Idea 4. The Five Precepts 5. Rebirth 6. Meditation 7. Wisdom And Compassion 8. Vegetarianism 9. Good Luck and Fate 10. Monks and Nuns 11. The Buddhist Scriptures 12. History and Development 13. Becoming a Buddhist 14. Some Sayings of the Buddha






Like Milk And Water Mixed

Introduction What is Love? - Two Hearts Beating as One - All in the Family - Until the Mountains are Washed to the Sea - I was a Stranger and You Took Me In - Firm Friends and True Self-sacrificing Love - Forbidden Love - Furred and Feathered Friends - That Love of Which there is None Higher - The Brahma Viharas - Breaking Down the Barriers - More About Metta Meditation - Kind Heart, Clear Mind - An Adorned and Beautified Mind - Images of Love - Appendix I. Instructions for Metta Meditation - Appendix II. Instructions for Mindfulness Meditation - Appendix III. Love, Kindness and Compassion in Early Buddhist Literature - Abbreviations
Good Kamma! Bad Kamma! 

What Exactly is Kamma?
Kamma and Rebirth in Buddhism
So what is Kamma?
Kamma and Rebirth
Collective Kamma and other Misunderstandings
Appendix I: The Buddha on Kamma and Rebirth
Appendix II: The Tsunami, A Buddhist View




To Eat or Not to Eat Meat

Vegetarianism in Ancient India
Buddhist Arguments for Vegetarianism
Motivation and Meat
The Last Link in the Chain
Problematic Vegetarians
Meat in the Buddhist Tradition
How I became a Vegetarian
The Buddha’s Last Supper



Thank you Bhante.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Over Population & Inferno

I have been keeping an eye on the Current World Population figures with a view to writing an article when it reaches seven and a half billion.

I was going to wait but I recently watched the film of Dan Brown's book "Inferno" and was really, really disappointed.

SPOILER ALERT

The whole point of the book was that the "plague" that the "mad scientist" successfully releases turns out not to kill people but to alter their DNA so as to render a random third of the population sterile and thus limit our numbers relatively humanely.

In the film it is a killer plague but our heroes prevent its release just in time so that we can continue to breed our species and the planet to death. (Sorry, that's a bit dramatic, the planet will be fine and enough creatures will survive to carry on evolution's great experiment just without us and a lot of other species.)

Well we're almost at the seven and a half billion humans point, so here goes..............

The average human now consumes 100,000 tonnes of fresh water, 720 tonnes of metals, 750 tonnes of topsoil and burns 5.4 billion BTUs of (mostly fossil) energy. This is 10 times more than our grandparents.

It takes the Earth 18 months to regenerate what humans consume in a year.

Humans are presently engaged in the greatest act of extermination of other species by a single species, probably since life on Earth began. We destroy an estimated 30,000 species a year. In the last 45 years we have killed off 58 per cent of the world’s large animals.

We contaminate the atmosphere with 50 billion tonnes of greenhouse emissions a year for a total to date of 2 trillion tonnes. This risks accelerated planetary warming reaching 4-5°C by 2100. Under such conditions there will be widespread famines, threatening all of the, by then, 10 billion members of the enlarged human population.


We contaminate the biosphere with 250 billion tonnes of chemicals and wastes each year. These have spread all round the planet from the deep oceans to the highest mountains and most remote regions. The World Health Organisation states “An estimated 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012 – nearly 1 in 4 of total global deaths”.

We contaminate the oceans with megatonnes of nutrients, CO2 and toxins. This is causing acidification, the collapse of ocean food chains and the spread of 470+ ‘dead zones’ around the planet. Ninety per cent of world fisheries are maxed out.

Global soil loss due to agriculture and development amounts to 75 billion tonnes a year and scientists warn we could run out of topsoil within half a century.


One in nine of us are starving. That's 795 million people.

Acute water scarcity faces 4 billion humans at least one month a year; a UN report warns that at present rates of use world demand for freshwater will exceed supply by 40 per cent by 2030.

At the time of writing the world's human population stood at 7,487,326,251

Where's a Mad Scientist when you need one?


Saturday, 25 February 2017

NEW MOON – Seeing the Real

Mistaking the false for the real
and the real for the false,
one suffers a life of falsity.

Dhammapada v. 11

We all make mistakes; the question is how to truly learn from them. Even after many years of practice we can still forget ourselves and misjudge situations. If this happens, we should not automatically assume we've been heading in a wrong direction. An oak tree is not failing because it takes years to grow. When we deny reality for a long time, inertia builds up and part of us resists change. On the surface we might feel we want to change, but on another level we prefer that which is familiar, even if it hurts. Hence the need for great skill and great patience. For those who have perhaps had a glimpse of 'the real', old habits can still return and trip them up. But with time, skill and patience, the momentum of running away from reality diminishes. This gradual wearing away of old habits might not sound as inspiring as a sudden awakening from our dream-world, but it's what really works that matters.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

More Children Learn About the Buddha

Yesterday I had the pleasure of teaching the basics of Buddhism at The Island Free School over in Ventnor, again it was a joint effort with Dave Downer from the Newport Soto Zen group.

The Free School is a smaller, somewhat more intimate school than the others on the Island, and we had taught a similar "Buddhism Day" there last year.


The difference this year is that coincidentally it was also Parinirvana Day, when Buddhists from the Mahayana tradition remember the death and enlightenment of the Buddha.

Here at the West Wight Sangha we celebrate this event in May. This has been designated by the United Nations as the international Day of Wesak to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over two and a half millennia and continues to make to the spirituality of humanity.

Wesak is the Buddhist festival that commemorates the Buddha's birth, awakening and final passing and is celebrated by millions of Buddhists around the world on the day of the first full Moon of May.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Parinirvana Day

Vishvapani's latest talk on Thought for the Day....................

Today Mahayana Buddhists mark the death of the Buddha in a festival called Parinirvana Day. Aged 35, 4 or 500 years before Christ, Buddhists believe that the man history knows as Gautama attained 'Enlightenment' or 'Awakening'. For the next 45 years he travelled continually across the Ganges Valley meeting people and sharing his understanding of life. He gathered a large following and was widely revered for his wisdom.........................

Saturday, 11 February 2017

FULL MOON - MAGHA PUJA - Moving Through the World

As a bee gathering nectar
does not harm or disturb 
the colour and fragrance of the flower, 
so do the wise move through the world. 

Dhammapada v. 49

The implication of this teaching by the Buddha is that wisdom is required for us to move through this world without causing harm. A bee can gather the nourishment it requires without disturbing the beauty of the flower. We won't cause disturbance to ourselves and others when we see that which is in front of us clearly. But because we don't see clearly, we readily misperceive the world with its sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and mental impressions - and then we tend to blame the world. It is not the world's fault, but our limited ability to see clearly. If we want to contribute to the beauty around us and not feed into the chaos, we need to work towards wisdom.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Poem That I Like

When I visited the Newport Soto Zen Group the other week Val, one of the group's members, offered a reading from an English rendering of the Satapañcasatka otherwise known as Matrceta's Hymn to the Buddha. The translation is by Ven. S. Dhammika......


In Praise of Benefits Conferred

Just to hear you brings joy; 
just to look upon you calms the heart; 
your speech refreshes and your teaching frees. 

People rejoice at your birth, 
they celebrate as you grow, 
they benefit from your presence 
and sorrow in your absence. 

To praise you removes faults, 
to recollect you brings joy, 
to follow you gives understanding, 
to know you purifies the heart. 

To approach you brings good fortune, 
to serve you gives wisdom, 
to worship you dispels fear, 
to wait upon you bestows prosperity . 

You are a great lake of goodness, 
with waters purified by virtue, 
surface calmed by meditation 
and depths stilled by wisdom. 

Your form is a jewel to see, 
your speech is a jewel to hear, 
your teachings are a jewel to reflect upon. 
Truly, you are a mine bearing the jewels of goodness. 

You are an island for those swept along by the flood, 
a shelter for the stricken, 
a refuge for those in fear of becoming, 
a resort for those who aspire to liberation. 

To, all living beings 
you are a useful vessel because of your virtue, 
a fertile field because of your perfect fruit, 
a true friend because of the benefits you confer. 

You are admired for your altruism, 
charming for your tenderness, 
beloved for your gentleness 
and honoured for your many virtues. 

You are cherished because of your flawlessness, 
delightful because of the goodness of your form and speech, 
opulent because you promote the good of all, 
and blessed because you are the abode of virtues.

Friday, 27 January 2017

NEW MOON - Learning in the Dark

Those possessed of profound wisdom,
who see what accords with the Way and what does not,
those who have attained to the peak of possibility,
I call great beings.

Dhammapada v. 403

The idea that we could attain to the 'peak of possibility' can inspire us on the spiritual journey. However, not many travellers on this way reach any degree of greatness without at some stage descending into despair. What is essential, is not the feeling that we are getting closer to enlightenment all the time, but the willingness to learn from all aspects of life as we live it. If we cling to lofty ideas, we programme ourselves to cling to, and thereby become lost in, the not-so lofty ones. The path of wisdom requires us to let go of all ideas, and trust in a quiet, receptive quality of awareness. Ideas come and go: the lofty and inspiring, the mediocre and mundane, and the downright depressing. If we are skilled, we learn from all of them. When we truly appreciate how matured awareness can function, we are willing to meet whatever forms of darkness we encounter, and not just take sides with struggling for the light.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Zen on Freshwater Bay

Spotted this shared photo a friend posted from "Totland and Freshwater Today". The scene is Freshwater Bay in the West Wight and is very Zen....................


Creating delicately balanced piles of rocks is a wide spread Buddhist practice. Its origins are unclear but it has been a long term tradition within Korean Buddhism and Japanese Zen.

Some scholars have speculated that the piles are lay peoples emulations of stupas but others point out that stacking the stones is incidental, and it is the coordination, balance and concentration needed to control the mind and body that is the intended outcome.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Mindful Eating - A Resolution

At our most recent Sangha meeting I raised the subject of new year's resolutions and kicked things off with the perennial post Christmas diet resolution. Hands up, I need to lose weight and I have decided to do so mindfully

Yes, as a Buddhist my aim is to live as much of my life mindfully as possible, but there is actually a Mindful Diet.

I recalled reading an article on the subject a while ago in the New York Times and, after a bit of hunting around, tracked it down and have reproduced it here.................


Mindful Eating as Food for Thought By Jeff Gordinier, Feb.7, 2012

TRY this: place a forkful of food in your mouth. It doesn’t matter what the food is, but make it something you love — let’s say it’s that first nibble from three hot, fragrant, perfectly cooked ravioli.

Now comes the hard part. Put the fork down. This could be a lot more challenging than you imagine, because that first bite was very good and another immediately beckons. You’re hungry.

Today’s experiment in eating, however, involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright colour of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.

Continue this way throughout the course of a meal, and you’ll experience the third-eye-opening pleasures and frustrations of a practice known as mindful eating.

The concept has roots in Buddhist teachings. Just as there are forms of meditation that involve sitting, breathing, standing and walking, many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate with food, expanding consciousness by paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each morsel. In one common exercise, a student is given three raisins, or a tangerine, to spend 10 or 20 minutes gazing at, musing on, holding and patiently masticating.

Lately, though, such experiments of the mouth and mind have begun to seep into a secular arena, from the Harvard School of Public Health to the California campus of Google. In the eyes of some experts, what seems like the simplest of acts — eating slowly and genuinely relishing each bite — could be the remedy for a fast-paced Paula Deen Nation in which an endless parade of new diets never seems to slow a stampede toward obesity.

Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough. Or that it really needs some salad.

“This is anti-diet,” said Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, a paediatrician and meditation teacher in Oregon and the author of “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.” “I think the fundamental problem is that we go unconscious when we eat.”

The last few years have brought a spate of books, blogs and videos about hyper-conscious eating. A Harvard nutritionist, Dr. Lilian Cheung, has devoted herself to studying its benefits, and is passionately encouraging corporations and health care providers to try it.

At the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, Prof. Brian Wansink, the author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” has conducted scores of experiments on the psychological factors that lead to our bottomless bingeing. A mindful lunch hour recently became part of the schedule at Google, and self-help gurus like Oprah Winfrey and Kathy Freston have become cheerleaders for the practice.

With the annual chow-downs of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday behind us, and Lent coming, it’s worth pondering whether mindful eating is something that the mainstream ought to be, well, more mindful of. Could a discipline pioneered by Buddhist monks and nuns help teach us how to get healthy, relieve stress and shed many of the neuroses that we’ve come to associate with food?

Dr. Cheung is convinced that it can. Last week, she met with team members at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and asked them to spend quality time with a chocolate-covered almond.


“The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves,” said Dr. Cheung, who, with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, co-wrote “Savour: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.” “That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’ ”

The topic has even found its way into culinary circles that tend to be more focused on Rabelaisian excess than monastic restraint. In January, Dr. Michael Finkelstein, a holistic physician who oversees SunRaven, a holistic-living center in Bedford, N.Y., gave a talk about mindful gardening and eating at the smorgasbord-friendly headquarters of the James Beard Foundation in New York City.

“The question isn’t what are the foods to eat, in my mind,” he said in an interview. “Most people have a general sense of what the healthy foods are, but they’re not eating them. What’s on your mind when you’re eating: that’s mindful eating to me.”

A good place to try it is the Blue Cliff Monastery, in Pine Bush, N.Y., a Hudson Valley hamlet. At the serene refuge about 75 miles northwest of Manhattan, curious lay people can join Buddhist brothers and sisters for a free “day of mindfulness” twice a week.

At a gathering in January, visitors watched a videotaped lecture by Thich Nhat Hanh , who founded this and other monasteries around the world; they strolled methodically around the grounds as part of a walking meditation, then filed into a dining room for lunch.


No one spoke, in keeping with a key principle of mindful eating. The point is simply to eat, as opposed to eating and talking, eating and watching TV, or eating and watching TV and gossiping on the phone while Tweeting and updating one’s Facebook status.

A long buffet table of food awaited, all of it vegan and mindfully prepared by two monks in the kitchen. There was plenty of rice, herbed chickpeas, a soup made with cubes of taro, a stew of fried tofu in tomato sauce.

In silence, people piled their plates with food, added a squirt or two of condiments (eating mindfully doesn’t mean forsaking the hot sauce) and sat down together with eyes closed during a Buddhist prayer for gratitude and moderation.

What followed was captivating and mysterious. Surrounded by a murmur of clinking forks, spoons and chopsticks, the Blue Cliff congregation, or sangha, spent the lunch hour contemplating the enjoyment of spice, crunch, saltiness, warmth, tenderness and like-minded company.

Some were thinking, too, about the origins of the food: the thousands of farmers, truck drivers and labourers whose work had brought it here.

As their jaws moved slowly, their faces took on expressions of deep focus. Every now and then came a pause within the pause: A chime would sound, and, according to the monastery’s custom, all would stop moving and chewing in order to breathe and explore an even deeper level of sensory awareness. 

It looked peaceful, but inside some of those heads, a struggle was afoot.

“It’s much more challenging than we would imagine,” said Carolyn Cronin, 64, who lives near the monastery and regularly attends the mindfulness days. “People are used to eating so fast. This is a practice of stopping, and we don’t realize how much we’re not stopping.”

For many people, eating fast means eating more. Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing.

“As we practice this regularly, we become aware that we don’t need to eat as much,” said Phap Khoi, 43, a robed monk who has been stationed at Blue Cliff since it opened in 2007. “Whereas when people just gulp down food, they can eat a lot and not feel full.”

It’s this byproduct of mindful eating — its potential as a psychological barrier to overeating — that has generated excitement among nutritionists like Dr. Cheung.

“Thich Nhat Hanh often talks about our craving being like a crying baby who is trying to draw our attention,” she said. “When the baby cries, the mother cradles the baby to try to calm the baby right away. By acknowledging and embracing our cravings through a few breaths, we can stop our autopilot of reaching out to the pint of ice cream or the bag of chips.”

The average American doesn’t have the luxury of ruminating on the intense tang of sriracha sauce at a monastery. “Most of us are not going to be Buddhist monks,” said Dr. Finkelstein, the holistic physician. “What I’ve learned is that it has to work at home.”

To that end, he and others suggest that people start with a few baby steps. “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Dr. Cheung said. “You’re not supposed to be able to switch on your mindfulness button and be able to do it 100 percent. It’s a practice you keep working toward.”

Dr. Bays, the paediatrician, has recommendations that can sound like a return to the simple rhythms of Mayberry, if not “Little House on the Prairie.” If it’s impossible to eat mindfully every day, consider planning one special repast a week. Click off the TV. Sit at the table with loved ones.

“How about the first five minutes we eat, we just eat in silence and really enjoy our food?” she said. “It happens step by step.”

Sometimes, even she is too busy to contemplate a chickpea. So there are days when Dr. Bays will take three mindful sips of tea, “and then, O.K., I’ve got to go do my work,” she said. “Anybody can do that. Anywhere.”

Even scarfing down a burrito in the car offers an opportunity for insight. “Mindful eating includes mindless eating,” she said. “ ‘I am aware that I am eating and driving.’ ”

Few places in America are as frantically abuzz with activity as the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., but when Thich Nhat Hanh dropped by for a day of mindfulness in September, hundreds of employees showed up.

Part of the event was devoted to eating thoughtfully in silence, and the practice was so well received that an hourlong wordless vegan lunch is now a monthly observance on the Google campus. 

“Interestingly enough, a lot of the participants are the engineers, which pleases us very much,” said Olivia Wu, an executive chef at the company. “I think it quiets the mind. I think there is a real sense of feeling restored so that they can go back to the crazy pace that they came from.”

It’s not often, after all, that those workhorse technicians get to stop and smell the pesto. “Somebody will say, ‘I ate so much less,’ ” Ms. Wu said. “And someone else will say, ‘You know, I never noticed how spicy arugula tastes.’ ”

And that could be the ingredient that helps mindful eating gain traction in mainstream American culture: flavor.

“So many people now have found themselves in an adversarial relationship with food, which is very tragic,” Dr. Bays said. “Eating should be a pleasurable activity.”

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Simple and Easy New Years Resolution

Some of you may recall that last June we ran a piece about mindfulness exercises. For some time I had been emailing out regular weekly mindfulness/meditation exercises to the members of the West Wight Sangha and to other friends and associates. Last New Year I introduced an additional Daily Mindfulness Exercise and post a reminder of this with each weeks email.

Quite simply, the exercise is to remember to pick up and dispose of one piece of litter every day.


So it was with interest that I read the following letter from Marion Draper in the Isle of Wight County Press just before Christmas................

"MANY will soon be making new-year resolutions, most of which will probably be abandoned before the month is out. 

How about we all make a resolution to keep the pavement, verge, gutter in front of our home, shop, business or school free of litter for the whole year? 

It will cost each of us nothing more than a minute of our time each day to do that and it will help turn our beautiful Island into one of the cleanest places to live and to visit. 

Of course, it would be wonderful if the slovenly, thoughtless people who discard all the rubbish could be persuaded not to, but that's a harder nut to crack. 

However, if we can enthuse the youngest in our communities to come up with ideas to encourage the older children and adults who do the littering to alter their behaviour, perhaps in tune we can reduce the amount of rubbish that is so carelessly discarded in the streets and countryside, sometimes no more than a few feet from a bin."

Thursday, 12 January 2017

FULL MOON - Slowing Down

There are those who discover
they can completely abandon confused reactions
and become patient as the earth;
unmoved by anger, unshaken as a pillar,
unperturbed as a clear and quiet pool.

Dhammapada v. 95

For some, to slow down looks like 'losing the edge' and risk becoming irrelevant. In reality, slowing down is probably the very thing needed before we can let go of all our confusion and find true peace. Slowing down might even be needed for our survival. If we can't stop clouding our minds with compulsive thinking and constricting our hearts with irrational fears, we will continue to compromise intelligence and keep making the same mistakes. Slow or fast, though, is not really the point; seeing clearly is what matters. However, before we can see clearly we do need the subtlety of mind that recognises it is selfishness which causes all this confusion and suffering. Sitting for hours in samadhi may not be necessary, but when we are always in 'fast mode' we miss essential details.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Derek Parfit, Philosopher (and accidental Buddhist) Dies

Derek Parfit, the British philosopher who specialised in problems of personal identity, rationality,
ethics, and the relations among them, died on Monday at his home in London. He was 74.

Parfit, who was associated with All Souls College at Oxford for his entire career, rose to pre-eminence with the publication of his first paper, “Personal Identity,” in 1971.

He developed a theory of identity that downgraded the notion, and the importance, of an irreducible self — the “deep further fact,” as he called it” — in terms not dissimilar to Buddhism.

Anattā (no-self, without soul, no essence) is the nature of living beings, and this is one of the three marks of existence in Buddhism, along with Anicca (impermanence, nothing lasts) and Dukkha (suffering, unsatisfactoriness is innate in birth, ageing, death, rebirth, redeath – the Saṃsāra cycle of existence).

Meditation helps one to view what is really going on within the construct which we call "me". It is ever changing, dependent for its identity upon "exterior" factors and can be seen as merely a vocalised response to sensory inputs and re-run memories and random thoughts. It is impermanent (Anicca) , it will die.

It's activities are constantly searching for fulfilment (Dukkha), the avoidance of the suffering we inflict upon ourselves when we can't escape contact with that which we dislike or get what we want.