Thursday, 14 December 2017

West Wight Sangha's Review of the Year

Welcome to our review of the year as told in the stories and issues featured here on the West Wight Sangha website. As always follow the highlighted orange links for the full story..................

We started the year with A Simple and Easy New Years Resolution, a mindfulness exercise consisting of simply remembering to pick up and dispose of one piece of litter every day.


Continuing the theme of new year's resolutions there's the perennial post Christmas diet resolution. Hands up, I needed to lose weight and I 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; Mindful Eating - A Resolution.........................................

Spotted on Freshwater Bay in January was this piece of very Zen art.


More Children Learn About the Buddha. In February Dave Downer and I had the pleasure of teaching the basics of Buddhism at The Island Free School over in Ventnor.


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. They arrived on the 1st of March which coincidentally was World Book Day!

Books, Books, Books

Which leads us neatly to A Buddhist Poem for World Poetry Day

"Strong In The Rain" (Ame ni mo Makezu) by Kenji Miyazawa


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.

A Proposal for Peace - Buddhist Talk in Newport

I posted this poster to give everyone a heads-up to the the upcoming talk in May. The Isle of Wight members of the socially engaged Buddhist movement SGI-UK hosted the talk, which was followed by a question, answer and discussion session.


This story, by Dan Ackerman, appeared in the spring 2017 edition of CNET Magazine, Virtual Reality Meditation
Triratna's 50th Anniversary

On the 8th of April we noted that this weekend the Triratna Buddhist Community will be celebrating its founding 50 years ago on the 6th of April 1967.


Walk the Wight and Wesak In April I changed the date of Wesak to avoid clashing with Walk the Wight!

At the end of May we posted details of Ajahn Brahm's UK Dhamma Talks Tour which was in October .The tour was in support of the Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project.


In June we told the story of how the communist, atheistic  government of China was embracing Buddhism to Project Power.


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.




Following the terror attacks in London and Manchester and the apparently "retaliatory" attack outside a mosque in Finsbury Park this article by Andrew Olendzki on conflict seemed so appropriate.............  The Language of Conflict

We are Ten years Old this Month!

The West Wight Sangha Website was ten years old this June. Back on Wednesday the 6th of June 2007 I posted our first item.............

This was followed on the 14th with our first proper story A Zen Monk on the Isle of Wight!



Buddhist Group Changing China (or visa versa?)

This article was by Ian Johnson from the New York Times and is about a Buddhist organisation from Taiwan called Fo Guang Shan, or Buddha’s Light Mountain.


In July we held Our Summer Retreat Day and I posted some of the poems and texts that we used. Failing atrocious weather, our Winter Retreat Day is scheduled for Sunday the 21st of January.

Talking of the island, here is a story illustrating the interconnectedness of life..........
The Isle of Wight, The Buddha, NCIS and The Ham


It Never Rains But it Pours!

A stalwart group of us gathered on the Duver at St Helens on the first Sunday of September to participate in the annual Buddhist picnic when the various Buddhist groups from across the island meet for a relaxed late summer get together and alfresco meal. This year was a milestone as it was the 20th year that we had held the picnic.

It poured down................. all day.

So we went back to Matt's and had the "picnic" in his conservatory where we could fantasise we were communing with nature by looking out at the garden.

Anniversaries and Milestones

Having said that the West Wight Sangha is ten years old this year it was nice to see that it's also the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Alliance for Bhikkhunis which is a nice coincidence.


Myanmar and the Rohingyas

On September the 12th's edition of BBC radio 4's program Today Vishvapani (a member of the Triratna Buddhist group) offered his thoughts on the situation in Myanmar and the plight of the Rohingyas..........



New Buddhist Group on the Island!

In the middle of the month a new Buddhist group, the Heart of the Island Sangha, started in Newport.

The group is affiliated to the Community of Interbeing UK (COI) which is part of the international Sangha founded by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh and follows his teachings and practices in the Plum Village Tradition and meets every Tuesday between 19:45 – 21:30 at the Riverside Centre, on The Quay in Newport.

Newsletter


At the end of the month we produced our first newsletter. There will be more to follow but in many ways this, the Annual review, is itself  one great big newsletter.




Some "Buddhist" Poems for National Poetry Day

The 6th of October was National Poetry Day when Britain was encouraged to “break the tyranny of prose for 24 hours by sharing poetry in every conceivable way.”


And here's Maitreyabandhu talking about the connection between poetry and receptivity.


Tuesday Talks - a New Feature At our Sangha meeting on the 10th of October we introduced a new feature, a short Dharma talk. I have been taking talks to the Newport Soto Zen group for some time but until recently very few shorter talks have been available for use in our shorter meetings.

Our first was What About Karma by David Loy.



These talks, as well as the Newport ones, are all available on our Audio Page.

Are These Hobbit Holes?



We ended November with A Good Day Being Had by All and A Bit of Controversy?

The good day was a retreat at the Soto Zen group with the Reverend Gareth Milliken, the Prior of Reading Priory.

The controversy was all that fuss about dowsing............


Buddhism and Islam in Asia

We started December with this insightful analysis by Akhilesh Pillalamarri.


Arson Attack Destroys Buddhist Centre in Savoie, France

Sadly we finish our review with this story of an arson attack on the Karma Ling Buddhist centre in France.

However, it is the response of Lama Denys Rinpoché, leader of The Karma Ling Institute, that says it all.

"This person is in great pain and we want to help him or her as much as we can. I personally make prayers and wishes so that he or she become free from any torments.

If someone I cherish and protect as my child comes to think of myself as his enemy, Just like a mother for her child with an illness to give him even more affection, such is the practice of a Bodhisattva."

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Arson Attack Destroys Buddhist Centre in Savoie, France

On the night of Thursday to Friday, December 1st, the old Chartreuse of St-Hugon at Karma Ling Buddhist centre in France was the victim of an arson attack. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

The fire broke out around 1 a.m. on the 1st of December at the south side of the grand temple. The flames spread quickly to the roof and engulfed the rest of the building.



A newsletter posted by Shangpa Karma Ling last weekend revealed that there had been several threats and previous arson attempts at the centre.

"Yesterday morning, exactly one week after the December 1 fire, we received what is likely a third threatening letter from the person who claims to be the perpetrator. This letter claims the burning of the Chartreuse and urges residents to evacuate, at the risk of suffering the consequences of a new attack."

The newsletter goes on to say............

"I would also like to encourage you to practice the mantra of the Buddha of Immense Goodness: “Om Mani Padme Hum” associated with a special benevolent dedication intent for the person claiming the fires and continuing to threaten. This person is in great pain and we want to help him or her as much as we can. I personally make prayers and wishes so that he or she become free from any torments.

In these circumstances, let us remember the stanza of the thirty-seven Bodhisattva practices:

“If someone I cherish and protect as my child Come to think of myself as his enemy, Just like a mother for her child with an illness To give him even more affection, such is the practice of a Bodhisattva. “

From heart to heart, May everything be auspicious."

Lama Denys Rinpoché


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Excitement in Totland!

We hold our Sangha meetings weekly on Tuesday nights form 7:00 to 9:00. Last week we were bemused by the sound of nearby sirens and wondered what was occurring and where.

This, from this weeks County Press.......

Car flipped 

A MAN was taken to St Mary's Hospital following a car crash in Totland. 

Emergency crews were called to Weston Road at 8.40 pm on Tuesday after a car flipped over and ended up on its roof. Fire crews made sure the scene was safe and one man was taken to hospital by ambulance.

That was just up the road from us. Who says nothing newsworthy ever happens in Totland!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

FULL MOON - Our Contribution To Sanity

By renouncing unworthy ways 
and by not living carelessly, 
by not holding to false views, 
we no longer perpetuate delusion. 

Dhammapada v. 167

The way our senses work we find it easy to look outside at that which is wrong with the world – indeed, there is plenty we would wish was otherwise. When the mind is trained with wise reflection, we remember that we can also turn our attention around and look at what can be done to help; we don’t just dwell on the deluded conduct of others. In this short teaching the Buddha is indicating how it is always possible to make a wholesome contribution. It is good to know that we are not powerless and our situation is not hopeless.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Buddhism and Islam in Asia

With the Rohingya crisis continuing in Bangladesh and Myanmar this piece by Akhilesh Pillalamarri, from The Diplomat, October 29, 2017 is a useful analysis of the cultural and historic context of the confrontation of Islam with Buddhism in Asia.

Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Long and Complicated History

Demography and history explain troubled attitudes toward Islam in Buddhist-majority Asian regions today.


New Delhi, India -- A cursory glance at world news today may suggest that the fault-line where Buddhism and Islam meet in Asia is increasingly characterised by conflict between the two religions. Of course, in broadest sense, this is not true, as religions are made up of numerous individuals and leaders, who are generally of differing opinions.

Yet, there is an unusually high level of tension between Buddhists and Muslims in regions where the two groups share space, including Rakhine state in Myanmar, southern Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Ladakh, the eastern part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

At the root of this tension is the fear among Buddhists - not completely exaggerated - that Muslims will swamp them demographically. Many Buddhists also fear that their countries will lose their culture and become Muslim, as had been the case in many parts of modern day Central Asia, Xinjiang, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which were majority Buddhist before the arrival of Islam in the 7th-11th centuries. Often, the arrival of Islam went hand-in-hand with the destruction of Buddhism.

When the Muslim Turkic Qarakhanids captured the Buddhist city of Khotan in Xinjiang in 1006 CE, one of their poets penned this verse: “We came down on them like a flood/We went out among their cities/We tore down the idol-temples/We shat on the Buddha’s head.” In the Islamic world, a destroyer of idols came to be known as a but-shikan, a destroyer of but, a corruption of the word Buddha, as Buddhism was prevalent in much of what became the eastern part of the Islamic world.

Unfortunately, this history, and demographics, have lead to great fear of Islam among Buddhists, which in turn has led to genocide in Myanmar, and violence in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Ladakh. If all Rohingya refugees were to be repatriated to Rakhine in Myanmar for example, they would outnumber the local Buddhist Rakhine people. And in Ladakh, the Buddhist proportion of Leh district fell from 81 to 66 percent over the past three decades (relative to Muslims and Hindus). In Ladakh as a whole, which also includes Kargil district, Buddhists are 51 percent of the population, and Muslims 49 percent, a fact of great concern to the region’s Buddhists.

Attitudes reported from Burmese Buddhists in a recent New York Times piece sum up views commonly held among both hardline monks and the lay-population of Myanmar. One monk said of the Rohingya: “They stole our land, our food and our water. We will never accept them back.” A Rakhine politician said: “All the Bengalis learn in their religious schools is to brutally kill and attack… It is impossible to live together in the future.” A local administrator elsewhere in Myanmar said, “Kalar [a derogatory term for Muslims in Myanmar] are not welcome here because they are violent and they multiply like crazy, with so many wives and children.”

Meanwhile, extremist elements in Myanmar, such as the 969 Movement, have pledged to work with Buddhist extremists elsewhere, such as in Sri Lanka, home to the Bodu Bala Sena, a Buddhist extremist organisation that lead anti-Muslim riots in that country in 2014. Ladakh was recently the scene of communal tensions between Buddhists and Muslims after the marriage of a Muslim man and a Buddhist woman, something seen as threatening to the region’s demographics. A head lama from a local monastery said, “The Muslims are trying to finish us off,” also adding that Buddhist women ought to have many more children.

Buddhism was arguably the world’s largest religion a century ago, if one counts everyone who also followed Chinese folk religion, Shinto, Muism, and other East Asian religions. In the modern era, Buddhism has been particularly vulnerable, however, to both secularism and evangelism from other religions. According to a Pew survey, alone among the world’s major religions (including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Chinese folk religion), Buddhism and its adherents are projected to decline both in terms of raw numbers, and as a percentage of the world population. The world Buddhist population is projected to fall from 488 million to 486 million people, and from 7 percent to 5 percent of total share. Christianity and Islam are still growing; in particular, the latter will grow from around 23 percent of the global population to 30 percent by 2050. Put another way, there will be six times as many Muslims as Buddhists by then.

The nature of Buddhism may be related to the issue of the religion’s decline: there is a huge gap between the religion’s lay practitioners, who have adopted a set of customs associated somewhat with Buddhist mythology, and the monastic community, which follows the Buddha’s example. While there is an element of elite-popular division in all religions, in few other religions is the gap so stark. After all, the community, the sangha, founded by the Buddha himself was monastic.

State patronage was also important to the survival of the sangha, as in many Buddhist countries, monks beg, do not produce food, and do not engage in warfare. When a territory was conquered by non-Buddhist powers, or Buddhism was patronised less by certain rulers, the sangha inevitably declined and the lay people merged their folk customs into whatever other religions were dominant.

By the Middle Ages, after a thousand years of growth, Buddhism was sidelined as the elite religion throughout much of its former dominion, except in mainland Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Neo-Confucianism and Shinto prevailed in East Asia, partially due to state policies. In 845 CE, China’s Tang Dynasty launched the great anti-Buddhist persecution, stimulated in part by the fact that too many people were entering tax-free monasteries. Neo-Confucianism thereafter became the dominant philosophy among the elite in China; a similar process unfolded in Korea with the rise of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392, and in Japan, where the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868) promoted Neo-Confucianism and Shinto at the expense of Buddhism, mostly for political reasons.

Buddhism also all but vanished in South Asia, as folk Buddhism was reabsorbed into Hinduism, with the Buddha being acknowledged as an avatar of the god Vishnu. Hinduism was simultaneously less dependent on state promotion for its survival, and more attuned with the ritual and political needs of kingship, as well as being more aligned with folk beliefs. The destruction of the great Buddhist university at Nalanda in 1193 by Muslim Turkic invaders sealed its fate. Throughout South Asia, after the establishment of Muslim dynasties, conversion to Islam occurred fastest in the heavily Buddhist regions of Afghanistan, Swat, Sindh, western Punjab, and eastern Bengal, compared to other areas where Hinduism was more prevalent.

This history informs Buddhist attitudes toward Islam, regardless of the actual doctrines of Buddhism, or Islam for that matter. History and demographics have created a sense of siege that is unlikely to be resolved soon. Unfortunately, ideas such as education, development, spreading awareness of family planning, or autonomous regions for Muslim minorities are taking a back seat to hysteria throughout numerous Buddhist-majority countries with Muslim-minorities.

Friday, 1 December 2017

FULL MOON - Pavarana Day - Fully Awake

Disciples of the Buddha 
are fully awake both day and night, 
taking delight 
in cultivating the heart. 

Dhammapada v. 301

The Buddha encouraged the cultivation of our heart's potential to awaken. We are already aware of the need to look after our physical health, and the benefits of maintaining mental well-being; if we heed the Buddha's advice we will also invest in those qualities which lead to wisdom and compassion. Wisdom sees the advantages and disadvantages in any given situation. Without wisdom we risk seeing only that which pleases us. Sometimes it is more wise to endure discomfort and disappointment for the sake of being able to see deeply, beyond the world of preferences. Compassion, the heart's warmth and impulse to care, is the natural expression of wisdom.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Good Day Was Had by All

The Newport Soto Zen Group is affiliated to Reading Buddhist Priory which in turn is a subsidiary of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland. 

Last Friday the group had a daylong meditation retreat and were joined for the day by the Prior of Reading, the Reverend Gareth Milliken, a certified Buddhist priest and teacher in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and a monastic disciple of Rev. Master Daishin Morgan, the Abbot of Throssel Hole.


By all accounts a good day was had by all!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

A Bit of Controversy?

Some of you may have heard the story a few days ago of Engineers dowsing for water using L or Y-shaped divining rods. Their use came to light when a couple called out engineers from the Severn Trent water company to their home in the Midlands. They were so astonished to see a technician use dowsing rods to locate the mains pipe that they contacted their daughter Sally Le Page, an Oxford University scientist. She contacted Severn Trent, who confirmed their technicians still use the method.

Now many of you who have attended some of our recent Meditation Retreat Days will have had a go at divining. I have been interested in the subject for a number of years and introduced a "sampling session" to the retreat days as a demonstration that we can be mindful and aware of very subtle influences in our environment. I give brief instructions as to how to correctly hold the rods (we use 30 inch braising rods with 6 inches bent at a right angle to form the handle) and how to walk slowly and attentively.


The would be diviner is then given a direction to walk and started on their way, no additional instructions, no clues and no prompts just advice on grip and walking speed. Everyone gets some sort of reaction and at the same points.

I first came across dowsing when a colleague brought a pair of rods into work. I hadn't a clue as to what they were so asked. He sheepishly replied that he had to put up some shelves and wanted to know if there was any wiring in the wall where he had to drill.

As I was looking very strangely at him he gave them to me, showed me how to hold them and told me to just walk across the office. I took about five steps and the rods swung violently across each other almost pointing directly back at me. In total bemusement I asked, "what the hell happened there". He told me to look at my feet, it was a modern office block and all the cabling was routed through underfloor trunking - I was standing directly on top of a section.


I asked my friend how he discovered dowsing and his story was almost identical to that of Ms Le Page's parents. Two chaps from the Gas Board turned up after he had reported a drop in the gas pressure to his property, they said that they had a problem with their gas detector so they were going to use divining rods as they always used to in the past but begged my friend not to mention it to "management". The rods were used, a single hole was dug and the leak fixed.

Now I'm not going to make any claims for dowsing other than to say, that in my experience, the vast majority of people that try dowsing succeed in detecting something. This may be because we detect subtle clues from our environment but that is my point, we can be mindful of those usually ignored parts of our field of awareness.

Just out of interest if you Google Ms Le Page, unlike most such searches the hits keep on going, I got to page 15 before Google started to go off piste and started referencing other le pages, you will also get acres of pictures on an image search.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that General Electric has launched a “creator-in-residence” program, tapping 22-year-old British biologist and Oxford PhD candidate Sally Le Page as its first face. Le Page, who first gained a YouTube following with her self-produced videos, made a video a week for GE throughout June 2015, tackling subjects like the science behind movie magic and the relationship between humans and machines. One of Le Page’s most popular GE videos focused on Chappie, a science fiction film. The video, which kicks off with Le Page asking, “When am I going to have a robot best friend?” includes an interview with the project leader of GE’s robotics program and a visit to the company’s Global Research Centre.

Could Ms Le page's parents' much publicised outrage be anything to do with actually publicising their already much promoted daughter and was her response part of her continued quest for ever higher celebrity status re her considerable social media presence?




Friday, 3 November 2017

FULL MOON - Happiness Indeed

While in the midst 
of those who hate, 
to dwell free from hating 
is happiness indeed. 

Dhammapada v. 197

It takes a certain sort of strength to not be pulled into the moods of those around us. Part of us possibly wants to feel included in the group, to not stand out as different. But when our sense of well-being is defined by whether we are included or excluded by others, we are perpetually vulnerable. Although feeling excluded can produce a sense of suffering, it is suffering that we can learn from. There are two types of suffering: that which leads to more suffering and that which leads to freedom from suffering. If we are willing to endure the suffering which arises from being excluded by others who are caught in hatred, in gossiping, or in greed, then that is the sort of suffering that leads to happiness.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Are These Hobbit Holes?

Are these curious structures Hobbit-holes, otherwise called Smials?


They were holes dug into the hill side, usually having a minimum of one round window and front door and sometimes back door. On the other hand, the poor lived in basic burrows with perhaps only a single window. Are these then the burrows of poor Hobbits?

Well no, they are in fact meditation caves tucked into the hills just above Dochula pass in Bhutan. These tiny, open-faced caverns are built from stone and painted in colourful detail with Buddhist symbolism. The druk, or dragon—Bhutan’s long-time national symbol and spirit animal—stretches over the cave entrance, bringing good luck and good tidings (unlike the dragons in Middle Earth!).

For comparison, here is a Hobbit house...............



Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Karma

Somewhat belatedly, I'm picking up on an email from one of our Sangha members who sent me the following link to this article from Lion's Roar, What Is Karma and How Does It Work?

It is a nice follow on from our previous post Tuesday Talks - a New Feature, which referred to the Dharma talk What About Karma by David Loy.


The Lion's Roar piece is an open discussion between Bhikkhu Bodhi, who is an American Buddhist monk and scholar living in Sri Lanka, Jan Chozen Bays, a Zen master in the lineage of Maezumi Roshi and Jeffrey Hopkins, Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia.

The Buddha taught that because of karma, beings are bound to the ever-turning wheel of rebirth. Only when a person stops believing in the existence of a permanent and real self can he or she become free from karma.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

NEW MOON - Blessings

Blessed is the arising of a Buddha;
blessed is the revealing of the Dhamma;
blessed is the concord of the Sangha;
delightful is harmonious communion.

Dhammapada v. 194


We all delight when we receive blessings. Let's also delight in our ability to generate blessings. Whatever our circumstance in life, we have the power to bring virtue into the world. To some it appears naive to dwell on developing virtue; they think it is up to others to stop causing darkness. But we are not responsible for what others do or don't do. We are responsible for our own actions. Sometimes we are surrounded by light, at other times it seems the light has disappeared. But we don't have to be defined by external conditions. We always have the possibility of being a bit more kind, a bit more patient, a bit more honest.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Tuesday Talks - a New Feature

This is the first of our new series of monthly talks that we are having at the West Wight Sangha. As our meetings are shorter than those at the Newport Soto Zen group the talks are perforce also shorter.

I'm featuring the first talk here on our Home page but in future they will be posted directly to our main Audio page along with the regular talks from the zen groups meetings.


This talk is What About Karma by David Loy and is just under 30 minutes long.



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

Friday, 6 October 2017

Some "Buddhist" Poems for National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day when Britain is encouraged to “break the tyranny of prose for 24 hours by sharing poetry in every conceivable way.”


Here are a selection of Buddhist poems and poems with a "Buddhist" theme to them for the day...

Wind and Rain

Wind and rain,
Mara again
But no, I don't feel no pain
Wind and rain,
Trying to drive me insane
But I know it's all in the brain

Demons, demons!
At it again
Trying to mind-hack me once more
Her body so fine,
But there's no gold mine
Behind the exterior

Sensations are temporal,
Their value material
And I've glimpsed beyond this lower realm
If you ain't got wisdom,
You better get spiritual
I'll see you in the next life,
Yes, I'll see you in the next life

Ashley Burns

Ode I. 11

Leucon, no one’s allowed to know his fate,
Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter, it could be many
More, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:
Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
And forget about hope. Time goes running, even
As we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.

Horace (Roman, 65-8 BCE)

Night Prologue

Warm at centre, on a long winter’s night.
Through the bone-cage, through the breathflow,
buds of silence are opening out:
awareness shimmers; suffusions glow;
the heart is listening, translucent, bright;
a filigree pulse unbinds my head.

This joy – what is this lovely drawing near,
gathering up horizons, moulding attention?
A spring, welling up through still zero;
a turning tide that unbends intention
into a resonance that enshrines us here:
bare room; a small lamp; presence, burning.

Shine: let my colours find the axis.
And my soft-edged shadow feel your turning.

Ajahn Sucitto

And now, why poetry matters..............................




Thursday, 5 October 2017

FULL MOON - Pavarana Day

Disciples of the Buddha
are fully awake both day and night,
taking delight
in cultivating the heart.

Dhammapada v. 210

The Buddha encouraged the cultivation of our heart's potential to awaken. We are already aware of the need to look after our physical health, and the benefits of maintaining mental well-being; if we heed the Buddha's advice we will also invest in those qualities which lead to wisdom and compassion. Wisdom sees the advantages and disadvantages in any given situation. Without wisdom we risk seeing only that which pleases us. Sometimes it is more wise to endure discomfort and disappointment for the sake of being able to see deeply, beyond the world of preferences. Compassion, the heart's warmth and impulse to care, is the natural expression of wisdom.


In India, where Buddhism began, there is a three-month-long rainy season. According to the Vinaya (Mahavagga, Fourth Khandhaka, section I), in the time of the Buddha, once during this rainy season, a group of normally wandering monks sought shelter by co-habitating in a residence. In order to minimise potential inter-personal strife while co-habitating, the monks agreed to remain silent for the entire three months and agreed upon a non-verbal means for sharing alms.

After this rains retreat, when the Buddha learned of the monks' silence, he described such a measure as "foolish." Instead, the Buddha instituted the Pavarana Ceremony as a means for dealing with potential conflict and breaches of disciplinary rules (Patimokkha) during the vassa season.

Pavarana usually falls during the eleventh lunar month - October - and it marks the end of the three month 'rains retreat' which began on the full moon of Asalha. Literally 'pavarana' means 'inviting admonition'.

The three month period (vassa) is often used by lay and monastic folk alike to make a variety of determinations; to take up a particular devotional or meditation practice, to challenge or renounce some old habit - like eating sugar or smoking or drinking coffee (or worse). In Asia this may even be taken to the extent of lay folk taking temporary ordination for all or part of this time. The full moon of Pavarana marks the end of this period and is a time of celebration. For those who have maintained a strict practice it means they can relax a bit; hopefully having learnt something about the particular thing they had been investigating and not falling back into old habits.

For monastics it ends a period of containment within the boundaries of the monastery. The Buddha appreciated how this containment can sometimes cause difficulty between people and he outlined a ceremony to be performed by the monks and the nuns on the Pavarana day. There are several aspects to this ceremony but the underlying spirit is one of asking for admonishment. This is not that one wants a good telling off but invitation is formally given to one's ordained brothers and sisters to offer any reflections on one's past behaviour. This invitation need not be taken up then and there but an opening is created.

The words of part of the ceremony are as follows: "Venerable One's, I invite admonition from the Sangha. According to what has been seen, heard or suspected (of my actions), may the venerable one's instruct me out of compassion. Seeing it (my fault), I shall make amends. I ask this of you for the second time; and again I ask for the third time."

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Newsletter

I was recently noting the various email notifications that I needed to send to the group and had a “Light Bulb” moment that the obvious thing to do was to put everything together in a Newsletter and that it would be a good idea to make this a regular offering.

It is obvious from the above that this will be a work in progress but my initial intention is to both post the newsletter to our website and to email it to everyone whilst also producing some hard copy.

Retreat Day

As we are now officially in Autumn it’s time for the West Wight Sangha Autumn Retreat Day which will be on Sunday the 15th of October, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For anyone who hasn't been before, we are at Yew Tree Cottage, Weston Road, Totland and you can ring me on 756884.

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 (and don’t forget fruit juice etc. to drink). 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.

Meeting Schedule

As some of you will know we have experimented with having “themed” evenings for our Tuesday meetings and have changed the arrangements for running proceedings.

So we now come directly up to the Shrine Room via the side gate without meeting in the house first. This enables us to get the meeting underway earlier and as such we will be able to stick more rigidly to the 7:30 time for our sit.

On the first meeting of the month (as is this Tuesday) we will now be having a more focused meditation session with two sits, the first the usual practise of 30 minutes with a second sit of 20 minutes at the end of the meeting. We tried this last month and it proved very popular.

We are still feeling our way with this and are experimenting between using the four part timers for new group members who are not so familiar with Buddhist orientated meditation techniques, and having uninterrupted sessions with bells at the beginning and end only. It’s all very organic and we will go with the flow.

With the more punctual start to proceedings we will have time to listen to recorded Dharma talks and I’m scheduling that for the second meeting of the month, in this case Tuesday the 10th.

The talk will be “What about Karma?” by David Loy.

The talk was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre as part of "Awakening in Service and Action: A Study Retreat on Socially Engaged Buddhism."

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Disability advocate Yetnebersh Nigussie receives Right Livelihood Award

The fifth "fold" of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold path is Right Livelihood.

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced the three recipients of its 2017 prize today in Stockholm: Ethiopian lawyer Yetnebersh Nigussie, Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and Indian attorney Colin Gonsalves were honoured for their work "offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems." US attorney Robert Bilott received an honorary mention.

Yetnebersh Nigussie was five when she went blind. Her family initially struggled to come to terms with her disability. They took her to traditional healers and used holy water treatments because a disabled child was viewed as "God's" way of punishing the parents for some misdemeanour .

She describes being thus "cursed" by her blindness as an opportunity as it helped her to escape from the early child marriage which is widely exercised in the Ethiopian district where Yetnebersh was born.

But through sheer determination and the help of family members she managed to go to school and excelled. Yetnerbersh is now one of the most influential global disability activists from Africa promoting gender and disability inclusion. She works as a senior advocacy office for the disability and development organisation Light for the World.

The Right Livelihood Award is an international award to "honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." The prize was established in 1980 by German-Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, and is presented annually in early December. An international jury, invited by the five regular Right Livelihood Award board members, decides the awards in such fields as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education, and peace. The prize money is shared among the winners, usually numbering four, and is €200,000. Very often one of the four laureates receives an honorary award, which means that the other three share the prize money.

Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,

"To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. "

... Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living."

Our global economy complicates the precaution to do no harm to others. For example, you may work in a department store that sells merchandise made with exploited labour. Or, perhaps there is merchandise that was made in a way that harms the environment. Even if your particular job doesn't require harmful or unethical action, perhaps you are doing business with someone who does. Some things you cannot know, of course, but are you still responsible somehow?

Ming Zhen Shakya argues that any work that is honest and legal can be "Right Livelihood." However, if we remember that all beings are interconnected, we realise that trying to separate ourselves from anything "impure" is impossible, and not really the point. 

 If you keep working in the department store, maybe someday you'll be a manager who can make ethical decisions about what merchandise is sold there.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

NEW MOON - Consistency

The Awakened Ones, firm in their resolve,
vigorously apply themselves,
and know freedom from all limitation:
liberation, true security.

Dhammapada v. 23

Consistency is one of the characteristics of the Awakened Ones. Those free from the limitations which arise from clinging, never get lost in moods, positive or negative. It is not because they don't feel anything. They feel everything, but because they know beyond doubt the nature of all things, they don't interfere with, or obstruct, reality. Unawakened beings are always interfering by indulging and denying. Even when we want to be helpful, so long as we are still caught in clinging, we obstruct reality. Whatever goodness arises from our efforts is limited. Incomparable goodness arises from a heart that is unobstructed, that is truly secure.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

New Buddhist Group on Island!

A new Buddhist group, the Heart of the Island Sangha has started in Newport.

The group is affiliated to the Community of Interbeing UK (COI) which is part of the international Sangha founded by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh and follows his teachings and practices in the Plum Village Tradition and meets every Tuesday between 19:45 – 21:30 at the Riverside Centre, on The Quay in Newport.


It follows on from the new mindfulness course Be Calm Be Happy which was developed and is promoted by the COI as a truly Buddhist based original foundation teaching for mindfulness which includes the full teachings on Mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for a peace prize by Martin Luther King for his work to alleviate suffering during the Vietnam war and to start peace talks to end that same war.

He has since dedicated his life to peace work with conflicts all over the world such as Palestine/ Israel and many others.

The Heart of the Island Sangha is led by Sylvia who is a trustee for the national educational charity to spread this work and also an experienced mindfulness teacher with over twenty years experience teaching and a strong personal practice.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Myanmar and the Rohingyas

On yesterday's edition of BBC radio 4's program Today Vishvapani (a member of the Triratna Buddhist group) offered his thoughts on the situation in Myanmar and the plight of the Rohingyas..........

"When I hear about the horrific repression that's being inflicted on the Muslim Rohingyas, I share many of the outraged feelings that others are expressing. But I feel something extra as well: shame that these things are being done by my fellow Buddhists for the sake of a Buddhist state and with the support of many Buddhist monks.

How did we get here? I don't want to over-simplify the situation in Rohingya, or generalise the responses of all Burmese Buddhists; but the question remains. The Buddha said that 'hatred is never overcome by hatred, but only by love'; so how has the faith he founded become associated with such brutality?"

Listen to the full talk here................



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