Thursday, 20 October 2016

Foundation Course in Tibetan Buddhism

I've just heard from Anna at the local Mahasandhi Buddhist Group in Cowes about their new website,

This autumn 2016, anyone who wants to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism is invited to join their foundation course ‘Crossing the Water’. This is a clear and easy to follow programme based on the classic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism ‘Words of My Perfect Teacher’ by Patrul Rinpoche.

To find out more visit the site and click on the "Events" tab.

If you are interested you can contact Anna at

Topics will include:
What is Buddhism
A brief history (Starting with Sakyamuni Buddha and making clear differences between the many Buddhist traditions & practices)
Meditation and Contemplation
The Four Noble Truths
Karma and Rebirth

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Mindfulness Courses on the Isle of Wight

Two Buddhist friends on the island are both about to run mindfulness courses.

The first is from Shahida. Her next 8 week Mindfulness and Compassion course starts on Thursday 20th October in Newport. Please contact her for details at

The second one is from Sylvia and is a 6 weeks course running from the 4th of November to the 9th of December 2016 from 10:00 to 12.30 a.m.

It is entitled "Be Calm Be Happy: A short course in Mindfulness - Isle of Wight". Click the link for further details.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pavarana Day - Worthiness

One should not be considered worthy of respect
because of birth or background, or any outer sign;
it is purity and the realisation of truth
that determine one's worth.

Dhammapada v. 393

What personal attributes do we hold as truly worthy? From the content of everyday conversation, it sometimes appears that it is things like who we know or where we have travelled which define us. If we move in spiritual circles, it might be the teachers with whom we have sat on retreat who really seem to matter. In this verse the Buddha points out that taking any outer sign as an indicator of worthiness is a mistake. Although burnishing outer appearances can indeed impress others, what impresses them is unreliable. What is truly reliable is a heart freed from the distortions of greed, hatred and delusion.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Compassion as Opposed to Pity

One of my favourite columnists in the Isle of wight County Press is Charlotte Hofton. This week she produced this excellent piece on compassion and its "near enemy" pity in the form of a utilitarian, fix anything that's "wrong" with people and the world, approach.

Why Eddie's the IW's new darling

PREVIOUSLY something of a fan of Eddie Izzard, I am now positively devoted to him. I like the way he manages to be alternative without drawing on the tediously coarse and I like the way he's honest about his transgender ("a complete boy plus girl") without tipping over into luvvie habdabs.

But I admire most of all his generosity and thoughtfulness towards others. In 2009, he completed 43 marathons in 51 days (over 1,100 miles in total) in aid of Sport Relief. In 2016, he raised £1.35 million for the same charity by running 27 marathons in 27 days.

What a guy and girl). And now he's donating his fee for his appearance last Sunday at Shanklin Theatre to two Island charities, Layla's Trust and the Rainbow Trust. The former supports families bereaved by a child's death or who have disabled or terminally ill children, while the Rainbow Trust similarly supports children with a disability or special needs, together with their families. 

Eddie Izzard's donation is the mark not just of a generous man but one who understands compassion and the sort of humanity which reaches out to the most vulnerable in terms both of physical and emotional needs. 

His gift to the Island will bring love and support within our community to families in despair or have been affected by disability, while Sport Relief's much wider remit helps people across the world.

There is a great need for compassion. It is a quality that is inherent in the best of human beings and distinguishes us from animals who are certainly capable of showing protective care, notably where then-young are concerned, but who do so from instinct rather than moral decision. Eddie Izzard ran those thousands of miles for people he would almost certainly never meet, not from unthinking instinct but because he is a good man. And he, and people like him, make the world a better place.

This, in part, is why I have misgivings about the intention by Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to donate three billion dollars to fund a plan "to cure all diseases" by the end of the 21st century. 

I'm no scientist but I doubt this is even achievable. Just over 80 years to eradicate all disease from the face of the earth? A tall order, I'd say, even with three billion dollars to splash around. But putting that aside and assuming, albeit hypothetically, it's possible to cure all diseases, is this actually desirable? 

Well yes, it sounds marvellous. No more cancer, no more cruel wasting diseases, no more Aids or Ebola or Alzheimer's. Teenagers jumping for joy because the Zuckerbergs have cured acne. No more horrid collywobbles, no more inconvenient sniffles. Gosh, no more fungal infections of one's big toenail. Yay!

But what then? Do we just go on and on living, disease-free but ever-ageing, until centuries later we've shrivelled into the size of a walnut and disintegrate into a tiny pile of geriatric dust?

With nobody dying from disease and the world’s population inevitably expanding at an unstoppable rate, how will there be enough food and water to go round? Have the Zuckerbergs planned for all the housing we're going to need? 

And what about those ancient couples who are completely disease-free but having now been married now for 110 years, really can't stand each other, a condition that worsens every day they're forced to survive? If the way your husband chewed his food annoyed you soon after the honeymoon effect wore off, what's it going to be like after a century of listening to it over the breakfast table? 

But above all, where's the need for compassion? Where's the love that puts arms around the sick and the disabled, comforting the bereaved and the disease-ridden? Where's the need for people like Will Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey, who risked their own lives when they nursed Ebola sufferers? Where's that unique deep, and unconditional love and gentleness that comes from caring for a sick child? 

No need for compassion in the Zuckerbergs' great scheme, especially if they also start throwing their billions at gene therapy so every baby is born perfect, with no disabled or Down's syndrome children to love — those children who also give to others with their Own love and humanity. 

Yes, just take the magic money pill and everything will be happy, happy, happy. I hope Eddie Izzard's generosity gave the the Island a warm glow, Enjoy it while you may, Ours could be a cold, heartless and ultimately intolerable world by time the Zuckerbergs have done with it.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

National Poetry Day

Back in March we posted some Buddhist poems for World Poetry Day. Well, today is National Poetry Day so here are two poems by one of my favourite British Buddhist poets, Wendy Stern.................

Every day

Every day,
Every day it seems
A raindrop rests in the crook of a fragile willow branch
Outside my window.

Not all day,
But at a precise and special moment
As if by some strange and prearranged agreement.

It is a glow infused with light,
Effortlessly yet magnificently reflecting the early spring sunlight.

Does it cling,
Clutching ferociously with all its might,
Trembling, terrified
Of that which is to come,
That which is yet to face it
As the gentle breeze quivers the surrounding leaves,
Rouses and awakens the freshly formed blossom,
Lightly brushes against your cheek should you notice it?

Or does it rest,
Nestling in its willow branch home
Undisturbed, idle,
Complacent and unbothered even -
Just is?

Will we ever know?

Every day,
Every day it seems
A raindrop rests in the crook of a fragile willow branch 
Outside my window.

Trapped on the inside

Life came to me today,
Through my window,
All feathers and passion,
With more colour, intensity, swiftness and determination
Than perhaps I've ever known before.

It perched, finally,
Trapped on the inside for once,
And it looked at me.
I spoke to it, calming it,
And then I set it free.

Life came to me today,
Trapped on the inside for once.

(Wendy is a Buddhist and poet living in Bristol, in the west of England. For many years she has been completely bedridden, and her poetry therefore comes from this unusual perspective.)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

International Day of Peace

Today is the United Nations International Day of Peace.

The day is marked by the striking of the Japanese Peace Bell. Traditionally, the Bell is rung twice a year. It is tolled on the first day of Spring at the time of the vernal equinox, in celebration of the annual Earth Day ceremony initiated by Earth Day Founder, John McConnell. 

It is also tolled on every opening day of the UN General Assembly's yearly session in September, coinciding with the International Day of Peace established by the General Assembly in 1981. This occasion is observed by the Secretary-General.

The bell tower was modelled after the Hanamido (a small temple decorated with flowers) that symbolises the place where Buddha was born.

Friday, 16 September 2016

FULL MOON - A Mirage

The King of Death cannot find
those who look upon the world
as insubstantial, as transient, a bubble -
illusory, only a mirage.

Dhammapada v. 170

The Buddha gave us a great gift when he invited us to look directly at death. Within all cultures, throughout all ages, human beings have adopted strategies for avoiding the perception of their mortality. Fortunately for us, we don't have to rely upon consoling messages aimed at numbing ourselves against the pain of loss. Our Teacher has offered specific, practical instructions on how to build the strengths needed to face reality. All the suggestions for contemplation on impermanence, uncertainty, instability, are aimed at helping us loosen habits of clinging. When the heart truly knows how to let go with wisdom, it won't be overwhelmed by fear and dread. Because we trust that it is possible to live free from all fear, we gently encourage ourselves to welcome uncomfortable feelings; we learn to see those feelings as pointing in the direction of clarity and true peace.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

From Wooden Temples to Skyscrapers

Another interesting article is this from the Economist.............

THE five-storey pagoda of the Temple of the Flourishing Law in the Nara prefecture of Japan is one of the world’s oldest wooden buildings. It has withstood wind, rain, fire and earthquakes for 1,400 years. Analysis of the rings in the central pillar supporting the 32-metre structure suggests the wood that it is made from was felled in 594, and construction is thought to have taken place soon after.

In an age of steel and concrete, the pagoda is a reminder of wood’s long history as a construction material. New techniques mean that wood can now be used for much taller buildings. A handful are already going up in cities around the world. The 14-storey Treet block of flats in Bergen, Norway, is currently the tallest. But Brock Commons, an 18-storey wooden dormitory at the University of British Columbia in Canada, is due to be completed in 2017.

And this is a proposed 1,000ft structure off the edge of the Barbican, in the City of London. If it goes ahead it will be London's second tallest building after The Shard - and the tallest wooden structure in the world.