Thursday, 15 August 2019

FULL MOON – Goodness

Having performed a wholesome act
it is good to repeat it. 
Enjoy the pleasure of its memory. 
The fruit of goodness is contentment. 

Dhammapada v.118

To do good is easy: a moment of intentional kindness, or the effort to be a little bit more patient. And the fruits of such wholesome acts is contentment. Hence the Buddha encourages us to take time to savour the fruits of goodness. We readily ascribe value to characteristics such as cleverness and popularity, but we should check and see if investing in these qualities actually leads to contentment. Isn’t it the case that trying to always be the winner and be noticed leads to more discontentment? Let’s not assume that cultivating goodness is so difficult or that it will have no effect.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Zen Group Stop York Minster Meetings After Christian Objections

Some of you may recall a story we ran in May 2016, "Christian Group Protests Meditation in York Minster" where Andrea Williams, chief executive of the pressure group Christian Concern, said: "Buddhism contrasts sharply with Christian teaching about God. The two are incompatible. To try to mix them is deceptive and dishonours Jesus Christ."

"It is remarkable that this is happening at one of the country's best known cathedrals. The Archbishop of York must take swift action. This type of confusion undermines the Church of England's current initiative to encourage Christian prayer."

"It is sobering that last year a Canon of this same cathedral blessed the city's 'Pride' march. The Church of England must take decisive action to deal with this radical agenda."

Well, guess what, the Zen meditation group is to cease meeting in the grounds of York Minster following controversy over “bilingual religion”.

The group has been told that its weekly 90-minute silent meditation sessions in the Old Palace must end in the autumn.

Senior clergy at York Minster had quietly introduced Zen Buddhist zazen meditation sessions. They became a regular fixture, listed among the Minster’s main “spiritual” activities, alongside its Sunday school and youth group, and were enthusiastically supported by the then Dean, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull.

The group was not a religious order and had never met within the cathedral, she said. “The chapter of York would not give permission for any such religious order to be set up at York Minster.”

But the new Dean of York Minster, the Right Rev Dr Jonathan Frost, who was installed in February, is believed to have decided to end the Minster’s association with the Zen group.

The sessions were initiated by Christopher Collingwood, the canon chancellor of the minster, who practises and teaches Zen meditation and has described himself as “religiously bilingual”. On his Twitter feed, Collingwood says he is “leader of York Zen Group (part of Wild Goose Zen Sangha in the White Plum Asanga)”.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Only Four Weeks Until the Picnic!!

It's hard to believe but this year's Annual Buddhist Picnic will be our 22nd! As is traditional we will be holding the picnic on the first Sunday of September (that's the 2nd) 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.

Or you could try using What3Words which will take you to the precise spot https://w3w.co/pitch.clearcut.shapes (unlock, select satellite view, zoom out as needed).



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

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Consequences – Asalha Puja

Avoid speaking harshly to others; 
harsh speech prompts retaliation. 
Those hurt by your words may hurt you back. 

Dhammapada v.133

That our intentional actions have consequences is a basic lesson in life. This verse highlights the way heedless speech can have painful consequences. We would be wise to consider how the opposite also holds true: that respectful, considered speech has positive consequences. Such a teaching is so simple that we might overlook its real value. So let’s slow down and take time to observe the evidence in our daily life. How do we feel having followed a hurtful impulse? Possibly initially we could feel good having been freed from pent up resentment or frustration. But how about a day later or a week later? And conversely, how do we feel when we recall having made an effort to avoid causing harm?

Monday, 8 July 2019

Summer Meditation Retreat

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick reminder that it now just under two weeks until West Wight Sangha’s Summer Meditation Retreat! The retreat runs from 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday the 21st of July to four o’clock in the afternoon. For anyone who hasn't been before, we are at Yew Tree Cottage, Weston Road, Totland and you can ring me on 756884.

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

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.

Be well, Steve

Monday, 17 June 2019

Gradually, gradually

Gradually, gradually, 
a moment at a time, 
the wise remove their own impurities 
as a goldsmith removes the dross. 

Dhammapada v.239

This contemplation follows nicely after last month’s. Again it suggests a slowing down and, potentially, an appreciation of a more gentle approach to life. When we are in a rush, our reading of the reality of this moment is less reliable. If we are in too much of a hurry to get to the pure gold, accidents tend to happen. Slowing down doesn’t have to mean being tardy. It can also mean adopting a perspective that reveals the more refined aspects of experience.

We readily notice the surface dimension of experience, the ‘way things appear’, but are not able to see deeper. To see clearly what actually determines the way we relate to experiences, takes a degree of wisdom. To see for ourselves that which leads to increased well-being and that which leads to more obstructions benefits from a gradual approach.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

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........................

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Visit by Bhante Bodhidhamma

Hi all,

As some of you may know Tony Ridley's brother is Bhante Bodhidhamma a Theravada monk who is the Spiritual Director of the Satipanya Buddhist Trust and teaches at Gaia House. He is visiting the island on the 13th of June and will be coming to the Thursday evening session at the Newport Soto Zen group at Dave Downer's house, 19 Watergate Road, Newport PO30 1XN. He will join the evening's practice and has said he is willing to do a Q&A session as the talk.

Dave says that you are all welcome to come so hopefully see you there.

Be well, Steve