Monday, 27 February 2017

Over Population & Inferno

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

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

SPOILER ALERT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Where's a Mad Scientist when you need one?


Saturday, 25 February 2017

NEW MOON – Seeing the Real

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

Dhammapada v. 11

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

Thursday, 16 February 2017

More Children Learn About the Buddha

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Parinirvana Day

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

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

Saturday, 11 February 2017

FULL MOON - MAGHA PUJA - Moving Through the World

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

Dhammapada v. 49

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

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Poem That I Like

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


In Praise of Benefits Conferred

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 27 January 2017

NEW MOON - Learning in the Dark

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

Dhammapada v. 403

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

Monday, 23 January 2017

Zen on Freshwater Bay

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


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

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