Monday, 21 August 2017

NEW MOON - Foolishness

Riches mostly ruin the foolish,
but not those who seek the beyond.
Just as they dismiss the well-being of others and cause harm,
fools also ruin themselves.

Dhammapada v. 355

Wealth can generate great benefit; it can also cause considerable harm. The Buddha referred to wealth as an intoxicant. As with power, wealth can be an opportunity for bringing increased goodness in the world, or it can inflate a sense of self-importance, making us deaf to those who might otherwise be genuinely helpful to us. The intoxicating effect of wealth tends to cause us to believe we can afford to listen only to those who give us praise. Such arrogance leads to further greed and the only thing that increases is foolishness.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Only 4 Weeks Until the 20th Annual Buddhist Picnic!

It's hard to believe but this year's Annual Buddhist Picnic will be our 20th! As is traditional we will be holding the picnic on the first Sunday of September (that's the 3rd) on the Duver at St. Helens.

For those of you who have not been before , our picnic site is the other side of the road from the National Trust car park. Take the right hand turning by the signs showing the Duver and long stay beach front car parks, carry on a few hundred metres and the National Trust car park is on the left.


In the centre of the photo below you can see our original meeting place, the small oak tree. As previously reported, the tree has unfortunately died and as such now offers no shade.


However, Angie and Mark have found another oak tree about a hundred meters further on along the track you can see to the right of the photo. So just carry on along the path and look for some Buddhists sitting under another small oak tree! If you're on foot and coming from the St. Helen's side you can go to the end of Mill Road and come across on the causeway, the "new" oak tree will be facing you to your right.



Family, friends, children and dogs welcome. Bring vegetarian food to share (don’t forget the fruit juices).

Sunday, 23 July 2017

NEW MOON - What Do We Dwell On

Beware of devious thinking 
and be aware of all that you dwell upon. 
Renounce all unruly thought 
and cultivate that which is wholesome. 

Dhammapada v. 233

It takes a certain subtlety of attention to see how the thoughts that we harbour give shape to our character. It is obvious that what we do and say has an effect, but here the Buddha is cautioning that what we think also matters. Elsewhere he helpfully advises that in order to be able to let go of unruly thinking, we should pay close attention to the painful consequences of getting lost in it. To ignore the effect of being caught up in unruliness is similar to operating a computer without security; we shouldn't be surprised if we get hacked, that is, taken over. When we indulge in mental heedlessness we make ourselves susceptible to increased suffering. The opposite also applies: paying close attention to the beneficial consequences of letting go of unruliness naturally nourishes well-being, generating a sense of safety..

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Our Summer Retreat Day

On Sunday we held our West Wight Sangha Summer retreat day. For those of you who couldn't make it I thought I'd post the supportive materials that we used.

We had a recorded talk and guided meditation by Akincano Marc Weber on the Brahmavihāras.




DOWNLOAD        (Right click and "Save link as....")




There were two readings, the first was, The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes.


'This water droplet, charity of the air,
Out of the watched blue immensity -
(Where, where are the angels?) out of the draft in the door,
The Tuscarora, the cloud, the cup of tea,
The sweating victor and the decaying dead bird -
This droplet has travelled far and studied hard.
'Now clings on the cream paint of our kitchen wall.
Aged eye! This without heart-head-nerve lens
Which saw the first and earth-centring jewel
Spark upon darkness, behemoth bulk and lumber
Out of the instant flash, and man's hand
Hoist him upright, still hangs clear and round.
'Having studied a journey in the high
Cathedralled brain, the mole's ear, the fish's ice,
The abattoir of the tiger's artery,
The slum of the dog's bowel, and there is no place
His bright look has not bettered, and problem none
But he has brought it to solution.
'Venerable elder! Let us learn of you.
Read us a lesson, a plain lesson how
Experience was worn or made you anew,
That on this humble kitchen wall hang now,
O dew that condensed of the breath of the Word
On the mirror of the syllable of the Word.'
So he spoke aloud, grandly, then stood
For an answer, knowing his own nature
Droplet-kin, sisters and brothers of lymph and blood,
Listened for himself to speak for the drop's self.
This droplet was clear simple water still.
It no more responded than the hour-old child
Does to finger-toy or coy baby-talk,
But who lies long, long and frowningly
Unconscious under the shock of its own quick
After that first alone-in-creation cry
When into the mesh of sense, out of the dark,
Blundered the world-shouldering monstrous 'I'.

The second was, Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Suffering By Thich Nhat Hanh.

We should not be afraid of suffering. We should be afraid of only one thing, and that is not knowing how to deal with our suffering. Handling our suffering is an art. If we know how to suffer, we suffer much less, and we’re no longer afraid of being overwhelmed by the suffering inside. The energy of mindfulness helps us recognise, acknowledge, and embrace the presence of the suffering, which can already bring some calm and relief.

When a painful feeling comes up, we often try to suppress it. We don’t feel comfortable when our suffering surfaces, and we want to push it back down or cover it up. But as a mindfulness practitioner, we allow the suffering to surface so we can clearly identify it and embrace it. This will bring transformation and relief. The first thing we have to do is accept the mud in ourselves. When we recognise and accept our difficult feelings and emotions, we begin to feel more at peace. When we see that mud is something that can help us grow, we become less afraid of it.

When we are suffering, we invite another energy from the depths of our consciousness to come up: the energy of mindfulness. Mindfulness has the capacity to embrace our suffering. It says, Hello, my dear pain. This is the practice of recognising suffering. Hello, my pain. I know you are there, and I will take care of you. You don’t need to be afraid.

Now in our mind-consciousness there are two energies: the energy of mindfulness and the energy of suffering. The work of mindfulness is first to recognise and then to embrace the suffering with gentleness and compassion. You make use of your mindful breathing to do this. As you breathe in, you say silently, Hello, my pain. As you breathe out, you say, I am here for you. Our breathing contains within it the energy of our pain, so as we breathe with gentleness and compassion, we are also embracing our pain with gentleness and compassion.

When suffering comes up, we have to be present for it. We shouldn’t run away from it or cover it up with consumption, distraction, or diversion. We should simply recognise it and embrace it, like a mother lovingly embracing a crying baby in her arms. The mother is mindfulness, and the crying baby is suffering. The mother has the energy of gentleness and love. When the baby is embraced by the mother, it feels comforted and immediately suffers less, even though the mother does not yet know exactly what the problem is. Just the fact that the mother is embracing the baby is enough to help the baby suffer less. We don’t need to know where the suffering is coming from. We just need to embrace it, and that already brings some relief. As our suffering begins to calm down, we know we will get through it.

When we go home to ourselves with the energy of mindfulness, we’re no longer afraid of being overwhelmed by the energy of suffering. Mindfulness gives us the strength to look deeply and gives rise to understanding and compassion.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

West Wight Sangha’s Summer Meditation Retreat

Hi Everyone,

It is now just one week until West Wight Sangha’s Summer Meditation Retreat!


We still have plenty of spaces left so there’s room for everyone!

The retreat runs from 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday the 16th of July to four o’clock in the afternoon.

As is now our usual practice we’re looking to evenly balance the morning and afternoon sessions so we’ll be having lunch from 12:30 finishing at 1:30, so it would be nice if you’re only coming for the morning or afternoon to stay or come at half twelve and join everyone for lunch…… usual format of bringing vegetarian food to share. Also feel free to bring any readings that you would like to share.

Please let me know if you intend coming so that I have some idea of the numbers.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

FULL MOON - Joyous Communion

If you find a good companion
of integrity and wisdom,
you will overcome all dangers
in joyous and caring company.

Dhammapada v. 328

Where might we turn when our heart needs uplifting? Spiritual community is one place we could go. If we don't feel we have a spiritual community, it might be wise to go looking for one. Just as we would register with a local doctor before we actually fell ill, so it is good to be aware of the spiritual communities available. And both physical and virtual communities can serve the purpose. What matters is that we find the kind of companionship which helps us rise above the way the world would define us. Age, nationality, gender, wealth, do not determine who we are. It is our effort to awaken to reality – to Dhamma – that matters most. The essence of spiritual community is the harmonious resonance of shared aspiration. Attuning to that spirit can be joyous and uplifting.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Buddhist Group Changing China (or visa versa?)

This article by Ian Johnson is from the New York Times..............................


For most of her life, Shen Ying was disappointed by the world she saw around her. She watched China’s economic rise in this small city in the Yangtze River Valley, and she found a foothold in the new middle class, running a convenience store in a strip mall. Yet prosperity felt hollow.

She worried about losing her shop if she didn’t wine and dine and pay off the right officials. Recurring scandals about unsafe food or tainted infant formula made by once-reputable companies upset her. She recalled the values her father had tried to instill in her — honesty, thrift, righteousness — but she said there seemed no way to live by them in China today.

“You just feel disappointed at some of the dishonest conduct in society,” she said.

Then, five years ago, a Buddhist organisation from Taiwan called Fo Guang Shan, or Buddha’s Light Mountain, began building a temple in the outskirts of her city, Yixing. She began attending its meetings and studying its texts — and it changed her life.

She and her husband, a successful businessman, started living more simply. They gave up luxury goods and made donations to support poor children. And before the temple opened last year, she left her convenience store to manage a tea shop near the temple, pledging the proceeds to charity.

Across China, millions of people like Ms. Shen have begun participating in faith-based organisations like Fo Guang Shan. They aim to fill what they see as a moral vacuum left by attacks on traditional values over the past century, especially under Mao, and the nation’s embrace of a cutthroat form of capitalism.

Many want to change their country — to make it more compassionate, more civil and more just. But unlike political dissidents or other activists suppressed by the Communist Party, they hope to change Chinese society through personal piety and by working with the government instead of against it. And for the most part, the authorities have left them alone.


Fo Guang Shan is perhaps the most successful of these groups. Since coming to China more than a decade ago, it has set up cultural centres and libraries in major Chinese cities and printed and distributed millions of volumes of its books through state-controlled publishers. While the government has tightened controls on most other foreign religious organisations, Fo Guang Shan has flourished, spreading a powerful message that individual acts of charity can reshape China.

It has done so, however, by making compromises. The Chinese government is wary of spiritual activity it does not control — the Falun Gong an example — and prohibits mixing religion and politics. That has led Fo Guang Shan to play down its message of social change and even its religious content, focusing instead on promoting knowledge of traditional culture and values.

The approach has won it high-level support; President Xi Jinping is one of its backers. But its relationship with the party raises a key question: Can it still change China?

Avoiding Politics

Fo Guang Shan is led by one of modern China’s most famous religious figures, the Venerable Master Hsing Yun. I met him late last year at the temple in Yixing, in a bright room filled with his calligraphy and photos of senior Chinese leaders who have received him in Beijing. He wore tannish golden robes, and his shaved head was set off by thick eyebrows and sharp, impish lips.

At age 89, he is nearly blind, and a nun often had to repeat my questions so he could hear them. But his mind was quick, and he nimbly parried questions that the Chinese authorities might consider objectionable. When I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by spreading Buddhism — proselytising is illegal in China — his eyebrows arched in mock amusement.

“I don’t want to promote Buddhism!” he said. “I only promote Chinese culture to cleanse humanity.”

As for the Communist Party, he was unequivocal: “We Buddhists uphold whoever is in charge. Buddhists don’t get involved in politics.”

That has not been true for most of Master Hsing Yun’s life. Born outside the eastern city of Yangzhou in 1927, he was 10 when he joined a monastery that he and his mother passed by while searching for his father, who disappeared during the Japanese invasion of China.

There, he was influenced by the ideas of Humanistic Buddhism, a movement that aimed to save China through spiritual renewal. It argued that religion should be focused on this world, instead of the afterworld. It also encouraged clergy to take up the concerns of the living, and urged adherents to help change society through fairness and compassion.

After fleeing the Communist Revolution, Master Hsing Yun took that message to Taiwan and founded Fo Guang Shan in the southern port of Kaohsiung in 1967. He sought to make Buddhism more accessible to ordinary people by updating its fusty image and embracing mass-market tactics. In sports stadiums, he held lectures that owed more to Billy Graham than the sound of one hand clapping. He built a theme park with multimedia shows and slot machines that displayed dioramas of Buddhist saints.

The approach had a profound impact in Taiwan, which then resembled mainland China today: an industrialising society that worried it had cast off traditional values in its rush to modernise. Fo Guang Shan became part of a popular embrace of religious life. Many scholars say it also helped lay the foundation for the self-governing island’s evolution into a vibrant democracy by fostering a political culture committed to equality, civility and social progress.

Fo Guang Shan expanded rapidly, spending more than $1 billion on universities, community colleges, kindergartens, a publishing arm, a daily newspaper and a television station. It now counts more than 1,000 monks and nuns, and more than one million followers in 50 countries, including the United States.


Government Support

But the group declines to offer an estimate of its following in China, where the government initially viewed it with suspicion. In 1989, an official fleeing the Tiananmen massacre took refuge in its temple in Los Angeles. China retaliated by barring Master Hsing Yun from the mainland.

More than a decade later, though, Beijing began looking at Master Hsing Yun differently. Like many in Taiwan of his generation born on the mainland, he favoured unification of China and the island — a priority for Communist leaders.

In 2003, they allowed him to visit his hometown, Yangzhou. He pledged to build a library, and followed through a few years later with a 100-acre facility that now holds nearly two million books, including a 100,000-volume collection of Buddhist scriptures, one of the largest in China.

Under President Xi, who started a campaign to promote traditional Chinese faiths, especially Buddhism, as part of his program for “the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” the government’s support has grown. He has met with Master Hsing Yun four times since 2012, telling him in one meeting: “I’ve read all the books that master sent me.”

While Mr. Xi’s government has tightened restrictions on Christianity and Islam, it has allowed Fo Guang Shan to open cultural centres in four cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. The organization’s students include government officials, who don gray tunics and trousers and live like monks or nuns for several days, reciting the sutras and learning about Master Hsing Yun’s philosophy.

But unlike in Taiwan, where it held special services during national crises and encouraged members to participate in public affairs, Fo Guang Shan avoids politics in China. There is no mention of civic activism, and it never criticises the party.

“We can keep the religion secondary but introduce the ideas of Buddhism into society,” said Venerable Miaoyuan, the nun who runs the library in Yangzhou. She describes the group’s work as “cultural exchange.”

“The mainland continues the ideology of ancient emperors — you can only operate there when you are firmly under its control,” said Chiang Tsan-teng, a professor at Taipei City University of Science and Technology who studies Buddhism in the region. “Fo Guang Shan can never be its own boss in the mainland.”


That limits its influence, but many Chinese express understanding given the reality of one-party rule.

“It certainly cannot promote social service and create associations,” said Hu Jia, a prominent dissident who is Buddhist. “The party certainly would not allow it, so Fo Guang Shan makes compromises. But it is still promoting Buddhism.”

A ‘Moral Standard’

Carved into two valleys of lush bamboo forest, the temple on the outskirts of Yixing features giant friezes that tell the story of Buddha, a 15-story pagoda and a gargantuan 68,000 square-foot worship hall.

Since construction started in 2006, Fo Guang Shan has spent more than $150 million on the facility, known as the Temple of Great Awakening. On a nearby hill, track hoes hack away at trees to make way for a new lecture hall and a shrine to the goddess of mercy, Guanyin. There, the group plans to feature a moving, talking, three-dimensional hologram of the deity.

Unlike most temples in China, it bans hawkers and fortunetellers, and it does not charge an entrance fee. The atmosphere is reflective and solemn, with quiet reading rooms offering books, newspapers, spaces to practice calligraphy, and tea. A stream of visitors from Yixing come for lectures, meals and camaraderie.

Last autumn, Fo Guang Shan welcomed 2,000 pilgrims at the temple to celebrate China’s National Day. Over the course of a long afternoon, they walked along a road to the temple in a slow, dignified procession: taking three steps and kowtowing, three steps and kowtowing, on and on for about two hours.


Mrs. Shen said that when she took over the tea shop she had a hard time understanding what being a good Buddhist meant. At first, she admitted, she wanted to make more money for the temple by using low-grade cooking oil.

But her husband objected. China is rife with scandals about restaurants using unsafe or cheap ingredients, and he argued that good Buddhists should set a better example.

“This made me realise that faith gives you a minimum moral standard,” Ms. Shen told me. “It helps you treat others as your equals.”

Many followers say they want a cleaner, fairer society and believe they can make a difference by changing their own lives.

Yang Jianwei, 44, a kitchenware exporter who embraced Fo Guang Shan, said he stopped attending the boozy late-night dinners that seem an unavoidable part of doing business in China. “I realise that you might lose some business this way, but it’s a better way to live,” he said.


This idealism is why the authorities support Fo Guang Shan, said Jin Xinhua, an official who helped the group secure the land for the new temple. “Through its work, Fo Guang Shan is helping the masses,” he said. “We need that sort of thing today.”

Saturday, 24 June 2017

NEW MOON - Hastening Towards Wholesomeness

Hasten towards doing what is wholesome.
Restrain your mind from evil acts.
The mind that is slow to do good
can easily find pleasure in evil-doing.

Dhammapada v. 116

We are familiar with the teachings that caution us against unwholesomeness. And we already know that it takes effort to be restrained. But here the Buddha is making a point which might not have occurred to us before: if we are tardy to do good, we are more likely to fall for the allure of the not-good; unwholesomeness increases its appeal. If we truly understand this, we see the wisdom of cultivating wholesomeness and the protection we are afforded.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

We are Ten years Old this Month!

It's just occurred to me that the West Wight Sangha Website is ten years old this month. Back on Wednesday the 6th of June 2007 I posted our first item.............


Welcome

I'm launching the "West Wight Sangha" Blog today but it is still very much a work in progress (subtle Buddhist joke). Being a total Blog newbie I am still finding my way through the terminology and trying to fit the "personal" format of a Blog to suit a group. Hopefully this will be a way of either having a "public face" or possibly a private on-line notice board, or both?

This was followed on the 14th with our first proper story!

A Zen Monk on the Isle of Wight


I received this email the other day..........

Dear Stephen,

I'm an English Zen monk, just on my way back from Japan. I'm going to be walking the length of Britain starting on the Isle of Wight at dawn on June 21st. Full information is on the news section of my website, zenways.org. I'd be delighted to meet you and other spiritual friends around that time. Please drop me a note if you'd like to make contact.

Best wishes,

Daizan

I am now in contact with Daizan Roshi with a view to sorting something out, I will keep everyone posted.

And the rest is history......................

Monday, 19 June 2017

The Language of Conflict

Following the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester and the apparently "retaliatory" attack last night outside a mosque in Finsbury Park this article by Andrew Olendzki on conflict is so appropriate.............

A lot of fighting is going on in both private and public discourse today. In a text known as the discourse about not doing battle (Aranavibhanga Sutta, MN 139), the Buddha puts forth suggestions on how we might lessen the conflicts around us. One stands out as making an important point about how we can use language to either provoke or reduce conflict.

It is very common for people to speak something like this:



All those who are committed to [x] are on the wrong path.

All those who are not committed to [x] are on the right path.

You can insert as the variable any belief, opinion, practice, or behaviour.

According to the Buddha, the trouble with this way of speaking is that it engages in “extolling” and “disparaging.” The real problem with this mode of expression is that it is praise or blame directed at a person, and either extols or disparages people who hold the views and engage in the activities specified. We can easily think of examples of arguments, debates, or political talks that are little more than ad hominem attacks, which focus on one’s opponent personally rather than on the matter at hand. As soon as the issue has to do with persons, we tap into primitive instincts for self-preservation and self-aggrandisement and evoke the deep psychological forces identified in the Buddhist tradition as greed, hatred, and delusion. Anytime a “self” is involved, that self is driven by the need to get or hold on to whatever serves it, at any cost, and by the need to deny or destroy anything that threatens it. When a person is extolled, their sense of self-importance and self-righteousness increases, and when a person is disparaged, their reflexes for self-defence are triggered. Both praise and blame evoke a sense of self, and the self always shows up ready to fight.

However, the Buddha was also very clear about the existence of a right path and a wrong path. His message is not that we should avoid conflict by not making distinctions or judgements about what is healthy or unhealthy, skillful or unskillful. Indeed, the clarity of his insight into what is harmful and what is beneficial for sentient beings is among the major contributions made to world civilisation by the Buddha. The matter is more carefully stated this way:

Being committed to [x] brings about suffering and is the wrong path.

Not being committed to [x] does not bring about suffering and is the right path.

The point is a simple and timeless one. There are all sorts of beliefs, opinions, practices, and behaviours that lead to harm, and many others that lead to well-being. By all means, let’s be clear about which is which, and share with others what we understand about this. But when we do this by disparaging people for their views, it will only trigger their existential defence mechanisms—and likely bring out their worst side. They may be hurt or get angry, and because of this either strike back or in some other way speak and act badly. Similarly, if we extol ourselves for our beliefs, it will feed into our own narcissistic tendencies. When alternately one criticises the beliefs and practices themselves, rather than the people that adhere to them, we create some space between the two.

At its worst, of course, the separation of persons from their views or behaviours does little good, for people often identify so strongly with these things that any criticism is taken as a personal attack. If you disparage my beliefs, I hold these so much as a part of who I am that you are essentially disparaging me. This is the insidious side of grasping, and of creating a self to which so many things belong.

At its best, the practice of discussing ideas rather than praising or blaming people allows for everyone to hold different viewpoints without going to battle. I can believe strongly that I am right and you are wrong, but still respect you, while you can maintain the view that you are right and I am wrong, and still put up with me. It is inevitable that there will be a wide range of beliefs, opinions, practices, and behaviours in this large and diverse world. It is not inevitable that people must hate one another on account of this.

It may be a modest contribution, but let’s see whether following the Buddha’s suggestion of using depersonalised language to critique harmful thoughts, words, and deeds, rather than attacking the people who wield them, can help end some of the fighting and muffle the call to battle.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Daily Mindfulness Exercise

(I'm re-posting this item from last year as an annual reminder to "keep the ball rolling").

For some time now I have been emailing out regular weekly mindfulness/meditation exercises to the members of the West Wight Sangha and to other friends and associates. At the 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 pick up and dispose of one piece of litter every day.


Obviously this is an environmentally useful activity in its own right and has a number of merits, but how can it be considered a mindfulness exercise?

It is so easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.

Paying more attention to the present moment – to our own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around us – can improve our mental wellbeing.

This awareness is what we call "mindfulness". Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better. We can take steps to develop it in our own lives but there is one vital element that underpins this kind of mental activity and that is the need to REMEMBER to be mindful.

This is where the use of regular exercises comes in, essentially we commit to carrying out a task, we have a job to do. For the purpose of developing our ability to be mindful these tasks should not be overly complicated and there should be a clear trigger, a predefined set of circumstances, to initiate our focused awareness of the task.

One of our weekly exercises, and one of my favourites, is to notice the colour blue. Sounds simple but you quickly become aware of how rare, especially in the countryside, this colour is. There are two elements here, you can be mindfully looking for the colour blue or your mindfulness is triggered by seeing the colour blue. Just swap litter for blue objects and you can see the benefit of the litter pick exercise.

It’s also a good idea to tell other people what you are doing, people do look and wonder..... so tell them. Here on the Isle of Wight we have a population of 139,000. Even halving this to allow for the too youngs, too olds, too infirmeds and, sadly, the don’t cares still leaves the potential for the best part of 70,000 pieces of litter to be removed from our beautiful island EVERY DAY and every day works out to a staggering TWO AND A HALF MILLION PIECES OF LITTER REMOVED EVERY YEAR. So the more people you can get interested the better.

You can also beef up the remembering element of the exercise by keeping a tally of days missed, it will happen, and making a personal promise to pick up the missed number of pieces of litter the next opportunity you have.

The environmental point of this task is to get us working at creating a cosy home for all of us in this world. After all, the world is our home. Trying to define home as only the space we live in every night only serves to segregate and not unite us. Recognise that our home extends beyond just those physical walls and every ground we walk on, every neighbourhood we walk in, every district we step into, etc. should be considered our home, too.

The problem with litter is that the more there is, the more it generates. If people see litter all over the place, they see no reason why they shouldn't add to it. Why should they bother to look for a bin when nobody else does? What difference to the general scene would one more sandwich wrapper make? 

But think what difference one less wrapper makes and then another one less and another and another........................

Sunday, 11 June 2017

China Embraces Buddhism to Project Power

China is rapidly developing a plan for a ‘Buddhist globalisation’ using its financial, political and marketing clout.

Unsurprisingly, President Xi Jinping is not just asserting territorial claims in the South China Sea and expanding China’s connectivity project through the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, he is also working to make China the world leader in Buddhism. Xi has had this idea for some time now – he started building a partnership between China’s communist party and the religion when he was only 29 years old, serving as a bureaucrat in provinces. The story began when he encountered Shi Youming, a Buddhist monk who was restoring ruined temples of Zhengding County in Hebei Province.

Xi was probably also influenced by his father, Xi Zhongxun, who in 1980 had warned the party in his 11,000-word report ‘Document 19’ against banning religious activity, suggesting that this would alienate too many people. In fact, one of Xi’s father’s signature lines is said to have been, “If the people have faith, the nation has hope and the country has strength.”

Nobody knows whether Xi is a practitioner himself, but he has firmly been putting Chinese Buddhism on the global stage since 2005. At the domestic level, it looks as though Xi is turning to religion not just to bolster his rule, but also to save the party from falling. He certainly sees Buddhism as useful for arresting the flagging moral values in China’s social fabric, and to prevent the angry middle class from crumbling under the weight of a deepening social crisis and economic downturn. Having felt the pains of an ageing society, the country had to abandon the Mao’s one-child policy. More importantly, Xi intends to imbibe moral ethics among party officials – deemed necessary to bring about further economic reforms.

Becoming a guardian of Buddhism is helping Xi successfully promote China as an acceptable world power with a soft image. Buddhist globalisation helps Beijing push its economic projects – religious diplomacy makes it easier for China to win economic and infrastructural projects in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal and elsewhere.

Friday, 9 June 2017

FULL MOON - Preparing for the Journey

Resembling a withered leaf, 
you have the messenger 
of death at your side. 
Although a long journey lies ahead, 
you have still made no provision. 

Dhammapada v. 235

We all know that death is the inevitable consequence of having been born, and you would think that we would want to make provision for such a significant event. However, the daunting fear of uncertainty that death generates means we readily default to the pursuit of distractions. If we do wish to make mindful preparation for the inevitable, it is wise to strengthen our confidence in the law of kamma. The Buddha taught to trust in the cultivation of that which is wholesome and the relinquishment of that which is unwholesome. We don't know the future, but it is not helpful to waste a lot of time worrying about it. Mindful preparation is very different from compulsive worrying. This very moment is the only reality to which we have direct access, so it makes sense to emphasise the quality of attention we bring to this moment, and to trust in that effort. Developing such a trusting disposition is not avoiding responsibility, it is making an intelligent choice.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Ajahn Brahm's UK Dhamma Talks Tour

I've just had news of Ajahn Brahm's upcoming "Real Dhamma" UK Tour, starting in October this year. Details are as follows:-

TUE, 10 OCTOBER 7:00 PM -
9:00 PM
Dhamma Talk: “Cultivating Ethics in a Cybernetic Age"
Venue TBA, London, UK.

WED, 11 OCTOBER 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Dhamma talk: "A Path With a Laugh"
Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, UK.

WED, 11 OCTOBER 7:00 PM - 9:00PM
Dhamma Talk: “Courage and Authenticity at Work"
Friends Meeting House, Manchester, UK.

THUR, 12 OCTOBER 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Dhamma talk: "At Peace With Uncertainty"
Kagyu Samye Dzong, London, UK.

Starting: FRI, 13 OCTOBER 7:00 PM
Non-Residential Weekend Retreat: “Unconditional Mindfulness”
Mary Ward House, London, UK.

The tour is in support of the Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project which aims to promote the teachings and practices of Early Buddhism, through establishing a Bhikkhuni presence in the UK. Their long term aspiration is to develop a monastery for women who wish to train towards full ordination.


Here is an abstract from their latest newsletter........................

ENCOURAGING BEGINNINGS

Since the inspired conception of Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project in Perth, November 2015, joyful steps - often taken in leaps and bounds - are paving the way to make Britain's first bhikkhuni monastery a reality!

Bhikkhuni Canda and and her team are currently organising Ajahn Brahm's second teaching trip to England in consecutive years - a benefit event to build on the significant funds already raised and to further awareness of Anukampa's mission. The tour is entitled "Real Dhamma," because spreading the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha and preserved by the four-fold assembly of bhikkhunis, bhikkhus, laywomen and laymen, lies at the heart of our aspiration and manifests in the compassionate endeavour to increase training opportunities for female monastics.

One of the most uplifting benefits of the project so far has been to witness a dynamic new spiritual community taking shape! People of all nationalifies and from all walks of life have participated, helping us find firm footing. Thanks to them, here are some of our main accomplishments to date:

• February 2016: website (www.anukampaproject.org) gets up and running
• April 2016: ABP becomes a legal entity
• June 2016: ABP's highly active facebook page is born
• October 2016: Ajahn Brahm's unprecedented sell-out UK tour raises around £50,000
• November 2016: Anukampa receives a large, anonymous donation from an overseas supporter, which brings us up to around half the required funds for a modest property.

Fundraising enterprises such as book-selling in Thailand and sponsored head-shaving in Perth (any more takers?!) are ongoing and particularly welcome, as are the increasing number of teaching invitations being extended to Bhikkhuni Canda, by existing Buddhist groups. We are also establishing an "Anukampa Friend's" Dhamma group in London and recently held the second meeting.

On April 12th 2017, Anukampa reached a major milestone, becoming registered as both a religious and an educational charity, which attests to the dedication and commitment of our trustees and key volunteers.

Our immediate next steps focus on building up our team. We recently welcomed a new volunteer book-keeper to assist in our treasury department and are now looking for a webmaster. The services of a lawyer would undoubtedly be very helpful going forward too. We will continue to organise benefit events and also retreats with various monastic teachers. After Ajahn Brahm's 2017 teaching tour, will be looking for more people to help manage the online tour registration system and general administration, working closely with our outreach team.

In the coming year or two, we will experiment with having a temporary base in England for Bhikkhuni Canda and one or two lay guests who will look after her monastic needs. This will enable us to suss out the level of interest in a chosen area, as well as provide a much-needed space from where regular Dhamma talks and discussion groups can be held. When our core team (and accounts!) are mature enough, we will look for suitable properties for the monastery, in a beautiful natural setting. This should be secluded yet not isolated; private yet accessible by public transport. At present, intuition guides us south of and up to an hour and a half from London....but if the right place comes up elsewhere we are open!

(I wonder what they think of the Isle of Wight?)

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Free from Fear

This reflection seems so appropriate considering the nature of the Manchester terrorist attack.....


Becoming lost in enjoyment brings sorrow; 
becoming lost in enjoyment brings fear. 
Being free in your experience of enjoyment means sorrow ceases,  
so how could there be any fear?

Dhammapada v. 214

Is it possible to truly live with all the pleasure and pain of life and at the same time remain free from suffering? Clearly, our confidence in the Buddha's Awakening means we trust freedom from suffering is possible. Such confidence is a powerful motivator and contributes to the foundation on which we build our spiritual practice. And from a practice perspective, we are not just interested in what we experience, but also in the way we meet all our experiences. Out of unawareness we readily become lost in experiences; the joyous, the utterly intolerable and everything in-between. But when awareness is well-cultivated there is the possibility of receiving all experience without becoming lost; without obstructing freedom.

Ajahn Munindo

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Breaking News

Breaking News - Dog meat is being banned from the notorious Yulin Festival in China that takes place in just a few weeks.


Friday, 12 May 2017

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

FULL MOON - Vesakha Puja - Transformation

Just as a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus 
can grow from a pile of discarded waste, 
the radiance of a true disciple of the Buddha 
outshines dark shadows cast by ignorance. 

Dhammapada v. 58-59

Perhaps there are times when we look at all the garbage we find stored in our minds and feel disheartened. This 'discarded waste' is the consequences of previous unawareness. But we can choose how we are going to view these consequences - the regrets, embarrassments and resentments to which we are still clinging.

We are not obliged to assume it must always be that way. Before he was the Buddha, Siddarttha Gotama struggled; the Teachers we all look up to have struggled; and we too all struggle when we are not seeing clearly.

What matters, here and now, is what we do with the struggle. The Buddha's Awakening offered the world a vision of that which is possible. Our task as disciples of the Buddha is to uncover the possibilities within us; not to assume that the detritus of ignorance which we encounter inside ourselves is what defines us. When compost is properly processed, it transforms into valuable nutriment.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Buddha Statue Saved for Kabul museum

I came across this amazing picture of a Statue of the Buddha which was found in a copper mine in Afghanistan. It is thought to be around 1,800 years old but you can still see the original colours.


Having withstood time, the elements, looters and war, this spectacular Buddha was restored and removed from one of Afghanistan's most dangerous regions to make its public debut in the country's national museum.

The exceptionally well-preserved piece, with its colours still vibrant, was found in 2012 at the Mes Aynak site about 40 kilometres southeast of Kabul, in the now Taliban controlled Logar province.

Its discovery was made possible after a Chinese consortium began digging a massive copper mine that uncovered an ancient monastery complex stretching out over an area of four square kilometres.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

NEW MOON – Studying the World

Come, view this world.
See it as an ornate festive carriage.
See how fools are entranced by their visions,
yet for the wise there is no attachment.

Dhammapada v. 171


This very world that we live in is our field of spiritual study. We can learn from all of it, but we probably find on occasion that we prefer to look away. Taking time out to refresh and renew can certainly be helpful, and was regularly praised by the Buddha. Let's take note, however, that here our Teacher is specifically inviting us to look directly at the world - not to merely look away in judgement, but to study it; to reflect on it; to see where, when and how we are fooled by its appearance. An attractive object such as an ornate festive carriage can be beguiling so long as we are not wise, and similarly utterly unattractive objects can fool us. But projecting love or hate on to an object is something extra that we do; we are not obliged to add anything extra. As the Buddha said elsewhere, in the seeing let there just be seeing. Nothing added, nothing taken away.

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.