Sunday, 9 September 2018

NEW MOON – No More Thorns

If you walk the path 
you will arrive at the end of suffering. 
Having beheld this myself, 
I proclaim the Way 
which removes all thorns. 

Dhammapada v. 275

It is not necessary to move through life perpetually afraid of being skewered by the barbs of painful human interaction. All beings, including the Buddha himself, are subject to the eight worldly winds: praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, honour and insignificance. However, awakened beings are so completely transparent, so completely free from resistance, that they are always able to accord with it. They live unobstructed in their relationship with everything and everybody. Having walked the path to its end, they know beyond all doubt that to cling is to suffer. Wisdom shows them how to hold to life without creating pain, without spoiling it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

A Four Day Retreat at Gaia House

The following is an email interview with Simon, one of our Sangha members, who recently attended a retreat at Gaia House, a meditation retreat centre near Newton Abbott in Devon, offering silent meditation retreats in the Buddhist tradition.


When did you decide to go and why?

Had my eye on the retreat ('Breath by Breath' with Jenny Wilks and Jaya Karen Rudgard) from November last year and was keen to explore Anapanasati (Mindfulness with Breathing) in a retreat setting. 

What preparations did you make, what did you need to take (or were, or were not allowed to take)?

I prepared by reading Larry Rosenberg's 'Breath by Breath' on which the retreat was based. I needed to take a tent (I could only get a camping place) and half the contents of my flat, 90% of which was completely unnecessary. 'A bag with a toothbrush and a comb in' would have sufficed. And a change of clothes. . . .sun cream, bug spray etc etc [probably needed some earplugs as well]. We were supposed to leave our mobile phones in our cars or I think they had a safe if you didn't trust yourself. That was a blessing: a four day tech fast.

How was your journey to get there (and back)?

The journeys, both there and back, were fraught with dukkha. I made a whistle-stop tour along the way to visit friends from the mainland, a coffee here, a lunch there, a quick visit to the dentist and hygienist and a six mile run around Dursley golf course for good measure (I stayed overnight at a friend's). Driving across Dartmoor on the morning of the retreat was nice. I'd forgotten how beautiful it was, not having been for a good 10 years. Journeying home was hard work. Often after retreats as soon as you hit the main roads you want to go and hide under a hedge because, well, those lorries are big and noisy and vaguely terrifying. On this occasion, I was momentarily possessed of dhammic superpowers (concentration, clarity, equanimity) and found everyone to be wading through treacle whilst I waltzed through the Devon Expressway Esso like a veritable master of flow. Two hours of hollering to rock music (to try and stay awake) along A roads and a full (read: full-bladdered) 60 minutes in Southampton's rush hour traffic soon brought me back down to migraine humanity on Planet Dukkha, where I belong of course, by way of a midnight ferry after curry with friends and a Leonard Cohen drive home to Insomnia Bay. 

What type of course did you undertake and why?

The course was based on the Anapanasati Sutta and we went through one of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness on each of the days we were there: mindfulness of the body, of feelings, of the mind and of dhammas. I'd been studying the Satipatthana Sutta and there is a clear relationship between the two suttas. They pretty much cover the same ground and I wanted to put into practice what I'd been reading about in a formal setting.



What was the environment like and how did it affect you?

The environment was very pleasant and peaceful and conducive to practice. The weather was pretty much perfect. The animals (the birds and the rabbits) seemed to sense that we humans were not a threat and would beak/snout about among us as we did our walking meditation on the lawn. Relaxation and equanimity were more or less an inevitability. 

How did you get on with the other attendees and did that change and if so why?

Vibrations were good between most people as far as I could tell. It was a silent retreat so it was all just smiles and bows and emanations of what I assume was mostly warmth. Everyone seemed calm and content. Although there was one chap who was seemingly doing all he could to control his long stertorous (was it Ujjayi?) breathing as if he was rehearsing for the part of Darth Vader in the next Star Wars movie. He was also, on the third day, taking rather noisy, possibly frustrated or even angry, swigs from his water bottle before banging it down on the floor. I think some notes of complaint were made and he simmered down a bit by the evening so those of us in his vicinity were able to return to our own breathing. 

What did you get out of your time there; What changed?

A heady blast of piti and sukha and an all-too-brief glimpse of not-self. A sighting of The Ox methinks, though not seen since so no change there. The retreat was a timely reminder of the value of intensive practice. I came away incredibly relaxed, possibly even too relaxed. High as a kite in fact. Found myself wandering in retro headphones around Tennyson Monument at 5am the following misty morning singing 'Wish You Were Here' at the top of my Milarepa lungs.

What was your highlight and/or fondest memory?

Sitting next to a Danish supermodel. 

What was the worst of it?

Sitting next to a Danish supermodel. 

Marks out of 10 (multiple categories if you like).

8 out of 10. Minus 1 for the bloke in the next tent who woke me up several times in the middle of the night, apparently talking to himself, though I reckon he was on the phone. And minus another 1 for the Parliament of Crow's cacophonous dawn chorus which was, to put it mildly, 'not pleasant'.


Sunday, 19 August 2018

Only Two Weeks Until the Picnic!!

It's hard to believe but this year's Annual Buddhist Picnic will be our 21st! 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).

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Boris, Labour and Wise Speech

Following the Boris Burqa article and Labour's on-going Anti-semitism problem, in his latest "Thought for the Day" Vishvapani discusses the Buddhist concept of Wise Speech in relation to diversity.



You can download the talk from our Audio Section...........

Saturday, 11 August 2018

NEW MOON - Form and Spirit

The fragrance of virtue 
surpasses by far 
the fragrance of flowers 
or sandalwood. 

Dhammapada v. 55

The simple but significant message of this Dhammapada verse is that we need to take care to not be overly impressed by outer forms, or the material dimension of things. Certainly the fragrance of wild roses can be very beautiful, but the heart’s ability to let go of resentment and forgive, even when it is difficult to do so, is more beautiful.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Vishvapani and Vesak

I've just posted Vishvapani's "Thought for the Day" from Friday onto our Audio Section.

This is the first talk from Vishvapani since the 14th of May which is a little curious. In the past Vishvapani has usually offered a "Thought" on the occasion of Vesak, the celebration of the Buddha's birth, awakening and death which are all considered to have occurred on the first full moon of May which this year fell on the 29th.

Now he's missed a couple of Vesaks over the years and there could be any number of reasons that he's missed this one, but that is not my point, why are there no other Buddhists who can provide a "thought" on such an important occasion?

On Thought for the Day the majority of contributors are Christian, although there are regular Muslim and Jewish contributors and occasional Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

The BBC allocates the number of slots roughly in line with the proportion of each affiliation according to the latest census (2011). So, in terms of faith background, 78% of presenters were Christians, 8% Jews, 4% Muslims, 4% Sikhs, 3% Hindus and 2% Buddhists. Relative to the 2001 census of the population of the UK, and excluding those with no religious affiliation or none stated, Christians were under-represented as presenters (93% being their expected share, given Thought for the Day’s current brief).

By contrast, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists were over-represented in leading Thought for the Day, with the representation of Muslims nearly right in terms of the census (although their numbers have increased considerably since that time).

So, we are not going to get many slots, in fact from when I started posting "Thoughts for the Day" back in 2010 Vishvapani has averaged 8 talks a year but, coming back to my point, it is only ever Vishvapani who supplies a Buddhist Thought for the Day, surely the BBC can find another Buddhist or two to take up the slack and provide some variety of presentation.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

The Wave and the Ocean

I was sent this video by one of our Sangha members, referencing the talk we heard at the Newport Zen group last Thursday which used the Buddha's simile of the Wave and the Ocean.


Friday, 20 July 2018

What Are We Waiting For?

The talk which I took along for last night's meeting of the Newport Soto Zen group was by Catherine McGee and entitled "What Are We Waiting For".

It prompted this thoughtful response from Sylvia.......................

I went to sangha last night and someone brought a taped talk with this title. It struck me, that though the talk was about practice and enlightenment, it applied to everything. Of course, practice and enlightenment are potentially in everything too.

We plan our lives ahead, as if we are always waiting for the next thing. That blocks us in the moment.

THIS IS THE MOST COMMON CAUSE OF UNHAPPINESS.

That joy of being alive in any given moment is the point of mindfulness, it is why we study and practice our meditations, practice watching our breath. To be mindful is to be actually living our lives, not vicariously glancing at others for comparisons, or over our shoulder at the past, or gazing into the future.

Future Gazing can be the most insidious of all since it keeps us moving forward, what will my next best piece of writing be and how will it be received, when I get to this point then I can do that, when I have worked out then I will feel better.

NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO!!!!!!!!!!

That is all completely topsy-turvy and utterly illogical for two reasons.

1. IF you always make your enjoyment of your life conditional you will probably never reach true happiness and only experience fleeting moments because there will always be the next thing to achieve or complete or accomplish.

2. YOU are missing the chance of being happy right now- yes right now, regardless of the problems in your life or what is making you unhappy, you can change that right now.

External issues cannot make you unhappy, or happy even, unless you give them permission to do so.

Just occasionally they can mount up to an avalanche and take you unawares, making your resilience buckle under the strain. But even then happiness in each and every moment is a choice. We can be stressed out by the enormity of it all but we can also choose to stop and take a mindful breath and enjoy that moment of life just for its own sake.

When the monks in Tibet were being tortured by the Chinese authorities to rescind their practice, they did not. They were able to surpass the physical agony being inflicted upon them and still feel more concern and compassion for the torturers. Losing that capacity was their greatest fear. That is something I have taken as a deep lesson in life.

When my back went a couple of years ago, arthritis and two collapsed discs, I was in an enormous amount of pain,plus my compensations had pushed another disc out of place further up. I decide to consider this example deeply and meditated on it in depth. on most people’s scales that would be considered a major ‘ouch’.

I found I too could transcend the pain if I just accepted it. Instead of struggling against it and rejecting it, I found there was a rhythm to it, the pulses of the neurons, so I watched those instead, and their rhythms became soothing. I used my breathing a lot and found the releases of endorphines very pleasant indeed. I could suddenly understand the so-called religious people historically who used to keep their bodies semi damaged through hair shirts and self-flagellation. It feels quite transcendent.

So I viewed my back as a source of both pleasure and pain. I have since had some medical pain relief treatment which was supposed to last 3–6 months. Eighteen months later on and I am almost pain-free. I have done a deal with my back. I won't put it under any more strain if she doesn’t hurt me more than necessary to remind me to take better care of her. It is working well for both of us.

But life I have just got on with, including continuing my passion for gardening and dancing to my husband's band, and loved every minute. If I’d put a condition on being able to do those things when my back stopped hurting, I would have missed out on many extra joyful moments in those months. I have decided to be happy in each moment as far as I was able to, which is pretty much most of the time.

AS you will know if you have read any other articles of mine, I am also post PTSD and can still get triggered. This is a very unpleasant occurrence, my body locks down into a sort of rigid defensive position and I become somewhat paranoid and distrustful of life, and especially whatever or whoever it was that triggered me.

I have learned that focussing on being happy in the next moment gets me out of it more and more quickly. I have now read that I am doing the right thing since I need to retrain my amygdala to be less sensitive and decommission all the stress related systems further e.g. cortisol and adrenaline, whilst simultaneously increasing the happy ones like dopamine and serotonin. 

Guess what, being mindfully happy in the present moment is the best way forward. Mindfulness actually heals nervous systems broken from abuse and trauma. 

Furthermore, if you can then reframe those experiences into a positive, it challenges the cognitive retreat into paranoia and distrustfulness and what is basically a whole chronic fear package. It transforms it into a positive opportunity or even better neutralises it into a ‘just what happened, not real any more’, i.e. it was and now it no longer is. 

I also take the Tibetan monks example and work on having compassion for those who trigger me, firstly to dissolve the fear-based reactions I get when I encounter the triggers further, and secondly because I genuinely understand that they are also on their own journey and will make mistakes and have to shed dark underbellies full of their own trauma and other negative emotional historical experiences before they can be free of the energy in them which triggered me. Having taken that journey and of course being still on it, I understand how hard it is sometimes to see what your next area of effort should be directed towards. Until it hits you in the face of course, then you are or should not be in any doubt this is next. I will come to them also. 

SO yes I need to lose some weight, improve my fitness levels, get more organised, clean my potting shed up and tidy all the pots that are needing to be put away until next years seedling rush. I have a huge list of things I really need to get on with for my bees, for my family etc, etc etc., even for myself. But in this moment, I am not waiting for anything — I am thoroughly happy just doing one of them, which is to write up this thought train to share, and then it is …. oooh I have so much to chose from for next, but I shall let that develop out of the now ending when I hit publish. Because by then it will be a new ‘now’ to be exquisitely happy in for that opportunity to get something done. And in between, a few mindful breaths to remind me of the joy of clean air and life itself. 

I am so glad I made the effort to go to that Sangha last night.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Retreat Day with Ajahn Karuniko

I've received this from one of our Sangha members about a meditation retreat day over in Southampton in September if you are interested, contact me as I'm co-ordinating transport. Book soon on hampshirebuddhistsociety@gmail.com.


Thursday, 12 July 2018

NEW MOON - Irreversibility

Better than ruling the whole world, 
better than going to heaven, 
better than lordship over the universe, 
is an irreversible commitment to the Way.

Dhammapada v. 178

In which direction do we look when we seek security? For some it is towards greater happiness. Others look for an increased sense of sovereignty or control. The Buddha’s advice is to establish oneself in an irreversible commitment to Truth. To have reached a stage of awakening which is irreversible, known as Stream Entry, the Buddha says offers incomparable security; better than any level of conventional happiness or state of worldly power.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Happy Birthday your Holiness

Today is the Dalai Lama's 83rd birthday.


Authorities in northwest China’s Qinghai province have clamped down on social media and deployed large numbers of armed police to Tibetan villages and towns in an effort to discourage celebrations of the July 6 birthday of the exiled spiritual leader.

Tightened restrictions include warnings recently issued to the managers of social media chat groups, urging them to restrict any sharing of “secret, internal” information by Tibetans and to keep an eye out for attempts to organise celebrations of the birthday of the Dalai Lama.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

FULL MOON - The Power of Speech

Beware of contrived utterance 
and be aware in all that you say. 
Renounce all cunning speech 
and cultivate that which is wholesome. 

Dhammapada v. 232

These days perhaps more so than ever before, thanks to technology, we run the risk of being heedless in our speech. This is not to blame technology, just to notice how technology amplifies the consequences of our activity. The Buddha identified three types of activity (kamma): intentional action by way of body (kayakamma), intentional action by way of speech (vaccikamma), intentional action by way of mind (manokamma). All three have consequences, but possibly with speech we underestimate those consequences. Consider how a few ill-considered remarks can have far reaching harmful effects. And, likewise, how just a few carefully considered comments can make a world of difference to the well-being of another being.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

West Wight Sangha’s Summer Meditation Retreat

Just a quick reminder that it now only three weeks until West Wight Sangha’s Summer Meditation Retreat! The retreat runs from 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday the 15th 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. 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.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Daily Mindfulness Exercise


This year we have had the phenomenal impact of "Blue Planet II" and its clarion wake-up call on the death and destruction our plastic waste is reaping on life in the planet's oceans. Yes, we need big solutions to this huge problem but we can all do our bit and, hopefully, give a good example to others.

Since 2016 I've re-posted this item each 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. In 2016, I introduced an additional Daily Mindfulness Exercise and post a reminder of this with each week's 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........................

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

NEW MOON - Wisely Reflecting

Those who while still young 
neither choose a life of renunciation, 
nor earn a good living, 
end up like dejected old herons 
beside a pond without fish. 

Dhammapada v. 155

In English we have the proverb, ‘Make hay while the sun shines’. The meaning of this saying is simple: it is wise to act while conditions are favourable. The illustration that Dhammapada verse 155 gives us goes further telling us what happens when we don’t act wisely. So long as our efforts to plan for the future are associated with whole body-mind, judgement-free awareness, we need not be concerned about losing our grounding in the reality of this present moment. We only risk becoming lost when we haven’t adequately prepared ourselves with the ability to reflect wisely.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

FULL MOON - Truly Worthy

Those who know the uncreated, 
who are free and stilled, 
who have discarded all craving, 
are the most worthy beings. 

Dhammapada v.97

On this Full-moon day of May, as we mark Vesakha Puja, let us consider what the Buddha held up as being most worthy of attention. We are already well informed in regards to ‘the created’ world i.e. all the conditions which we see arising and ceasing. And we have heard many times how all that is born dies, all that arises ceases, all conditioned phenomena are in a state of perpetual change. The Buddha’s realization shows us that it is possible to awaken to what he called ‘the unconditioned’, ‘the uncreated’, ‘the unchanging reality’. Realization of this reality, he taught, is what is truly dependable and therefore truly worthy of attention. So how might we arrive at this realization? One approach could be simply to keep asking the right questions: What is the uncreated? What is the unconditioned? What is the undying? We then contemplate that any condition, any idea, any sensation that arises when we ask such questions, is not it – and we keep letting go.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Wesak in the West Wight

As you will know we have been holding a Wesak celebration here at the West Wight Sangha every May for the last few years.

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.


In 1999, the UN recognized internationally Vesak Day to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over 2500 years. This day is commemorated annually at the UN Headquarters and other UN offices and missions.

This year we will celebrate Wesak here at the West Wight Sangha on the actual day of the full moon which is Tuesday the 29th of May. This coincides with our usual Tuesday evening meeting and as such we will be adding an extra half hour to our customary session taking it from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. In addition to our normal meditation practice, we will be having other activities and festive nibbles!

Come and wish the Buddha a happy birthday, celebrate his awakening and death (Buddhists celebrate the death of the Buddha because we believe that having attained Enlightenment he achieved freedom from physical existence and its sufferings).

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A Quote That I Like

“Everybody, everybody everywhere, has his own movie going, his own scenario, and everybody is acting his movie out like mad, only most people don’t know that is what they’re trapped by, their little script.”


 - Tom Wolfe, American journalist and author of "The Right Stuff and "The Bonfire of the Vanities".

He died this week aged 87.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

NEW MOON - Radiance

The sun shines by day, 
the moon shines by night. 
But both all day and all night 
the Buddha shines in glorious splendour. 

Dhammapada v. 387

There is no denying that when we look around us there is a lot of darkness. And we might well be thinking that some of ‘the Buddha’s radiance’ would be very helpful right now. But where do we imagine the Buddha’s radiance is to be found? Do our thoughts go back 2600 years to ancient India; or perhaps to the Awakened teachers dwelling in forests somewhere? The Buddha taught that this radiance which he realized already exists within the human heart when it is freed from an inflated sense of self-importance. An exaggerated sense of self-importance gives rise to greed, hatred and delusion which obstruct the natural light, clarity and kindness that is there as potential within us.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Mirror of Zen - A Day in the Moment of a Modern Zen Monk

I have just been sent this fascinating video by one of our Sangha members.

Zen's ancient teachings seem a mystery to many. But actually, Zen is very simple: Zen means attaining my true self -- "What am I?" In this revolutionary film by acclaimed filmmaker Christine Schmitthenner, we see a Western Zen monk in his daily activities in the world: chanting, meditating, preparing breakfast, riding public transport, meeting with friends, even shaving his head -- from moment to moment, not attached to conceptual thinking, everything is Zen, which just means everything is "moment." The subject of this unusual film, Hyon Gak Sunim, allowed filmmakers to follow his daily living and teaching activities for a week as he met with students and organized his daily activities.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

FULL MOON - Compassionate and Real

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

Dhammapada v.300

What it means to be compassionate is not always obvious. What we assume compassionate action should look like from the outside might not be the same as an expression of genuine compassion. For compassion to be real we need to know what motivates us and truly be in touch with our bodies. Real compassion requires that we let go of notions of how we might appear and trust in our well-considered, wholesome intentions.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

National Memorial to Dr. Ambedkar Inaugurated in New Delhi

On April the 13th, on the eve of the 127th anniversary of the birth of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial in New Delhi—at the place where Dr. Ambedkar died on the 6th of December 1956.


The Memorial has been designed to resemble the shape of an open book in reference to the Constitution of India, of which Dr. Ambedkar was the principal architect. The building is completely green, combining modern architecture with Buddhist elements. Modi previously laid the first stone for the memorial’s construction on 21 March 2016.

The new memorial houses a marble statue of the Buddha, a meditation hall, a Bodhi tree, a replica of the Ashoka pillar at Sarnath in Varanasi, musical fountains, façade lighting, and a 3.7-meter bronze statue of Dr. Ambedkar.


Bhim Rao Ambedkar, an 'untouchable', or Dalit, who converted to Buddhism was a prominent Indian freedom fighter, and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, which outlawed discrimination based on caste.

Born into a poor family, Ambedkar spent his whole life fighting against social discrimination in the caste system during and after British colonial rule, which ended in 1947. He is also credited with having sparked the Dalit Buddhist movement.

The Dalit Buddhist movement (also known as the Neo-Buddhist movement) is a socio-political movement by Dalits in India started by Dr. Ambedkar. It radically re-interpreted Buddhism and created a new school of Buddhism called Navayana. The movement has sought to be a socially and politically engaged form of Buddhism.

Triratna Bauddha Mahāsaṅgha (formerly called TBMSG for Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana) is the Indian wing of the UK-based Triratna Buddhist Community founded by Sangharakshita. Its roots lie in the scattered contacts that Sangharakshita had in the 1950s with Ambedkar. Sangharakshita, then still a bhikshu, participated in the conversion movement from 1956 until his departure to the UK in 1963.

When his new ecumenical movement had gained enough ground in the West, Sangharakshita worked with Ambedkarites in India and the UK to develop Indian Buddhism further. After visits in the late 1970s by Dharmachari Lokamitra from the UK, supporters developed a two-pronged approach: social work through the Bahujan Hitaj trust, mainly sponsored from the general public by the British Buddhist-inspired Karuna Trust (UK), and direct Dharma work. Currently the movement has viharas and groups in at least 20 major areas, a couple of retreat centres, and hundreds of Indian Dharmacharis and Dharmacharinis.

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.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

NEW MOON - Not Obvious

If birds are trapped in a net 
only a few will ever escape. 
In this world of illusion 
only a few see their way to liberation. 

Dhammapada v. 174

It is not easy to see beyond the illusions which cloud our mind. But we can train our perceptions; we are not obliged to believe what others have told us. The Buddha wanted us to know the truth for ourselves. Sometimes we worry awfully about things which later on we find were not at all important. Mental impressions can at one time appear utterly convincing, and then at another time be seen as completely otherwise. When this happens, it is wise to take note of how illusory the world can be. There is nothing wrong with the world being this way, just as there is nothing wrong with our dreaming when we go to sleep at night. But obviously we need to know that dreams are dreams, they are not actuality.

Monday, 2 April 2018

It's a Beautiful Planet - Look After It.

After David Attenborough's Blue Planet II showed us shocking images of plastic waste in our oceans I thought it appropriate to share this Besley cartoon from this week's Isle of Wight County Press.


And now, a quick word from the man himself....................

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Ajahn Brahm Resigns as Spiritual Director of Buddhist Society of Western Australia

In a news release, the Buddhist Society of Western Australia (BSWA) announced that Ajahn Brahm (or Ajahn Brahmavamso) has resigned from his post as the Spiritual Director of the organization.

The announcement, signed by Drew Bellamy, Immediate Past President* of BSWA, reads:

I wish to inform you that at tonight’s Society Annual General Meeting, Ajahn Brahmavamso resigned, without notice, from his post as Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia.

The 2015-2018 Committee has for some time been examining and trying to implement more support (paid or unpaid) and a more efficient organizational structure at the Society in order to reduce the workload of Ajahn Brahm and the Volunteer Committee. Again at this year’s AGM, due to certain members forming a blocking party with proxy votes, we were unable to get changes through to support this aim.

At the end of the AGM, Ajahn Brahm considering his workload and lack of support by members on this issue informed the meeting he felt he had no choice but to resign from the Society.

Ajahn Brahm clarified his resignation in a personal letter published on the BSWA website:

The committee had agreed on a proposal to amend the Constitution of the BSWA to allow the committee to appoint a subcommittee consisting of members of BSWA. At present, the Constitution of the BSWA only allows a subcommittee to be made up of serving committee members. In Ajahn Brahm’s opinion, this increases the workload of existing committee members by excluding non-committee members from helping on a subcommittee. It also increases my own workload, and stops us to tapping the expertise of our current members. 

Despite me showing strong support for this amendment and advising the members at the AGM how this will reduce my workload, this proposal was blocked by a small group using proxies which, though legal, was unethical in my opinion. Proxies were, apparently, solicited without giving a balanced explanation of the background to this proposal. 

As such, I have decided to step down as the Spiritual Director of BSWA. In practice, this means Venerable Hasapanna will be the Spiritual Director and I will be the Assistant Spiritual Director. 

When the Buddha was not heard at Kosambi, He went to the Parileyya Forest for three months. I doubt that the lay members of the BSWA will wait that long to settle this matter.

The sutta that Ajahn Brahm is referencing is the Kosambiya Sutta (MN48) which you can hear him explain below. 


Friday, 23 March 2018

World Poetry Day

I missed putting up something for World Poetry Day on Wednesday so to make up for that I'm reposting this powerful slam performance by award-winning poet George Yamazawa.

In it he recounts his earliest memories of teasing classmates by calling them “gay,” and the reaction he got from his Buddhist father. In rhythmic verse, Yamazawa talks about the power of words as insults and poetry, and the love that Buddhism inspires.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

TAWAI - a Voice from the Forest

I have just received an email from Anna about another interesting film that the Commodore in Ryde is showing this coming Wednesday. As Anna is going to be there dressed as an Orangutan and collecting for Greenpeace you can both enjoy the film, support conservation and express solidarity with our fellow primates.

The Commodore, Ryde, has agreed to screen the Film TAWAI - a Voice from the Forest - TWICE on Wednesday 21st of March - the International Day of the Forest: Once at 2:30pm and again at 8:05pm.

The film is a collaboration between Bruce Parry and Greenpeace. Tawai is the word the nomadic hunter-gatherers of Borneo use to describe their inner feeling of connection to nature. In this dreamy, philosophical and sociological look at life, explorer Bruce Parry travels the world to learn from people living lives very different to our own. From the jungles of Malaysia to the tributaries of the Amazon, TAWAI is a quest for reconnection, providing a powerful voice from the heart of the forest itself.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

FULL MOON - Full Appreciation

When we appreciate fully 
the benefit of our own pure deeds 
we are filled with joy; 
here and hereafter 
there is a celebration of joy.

Dhammapada v.16


For most of us, our critical faculties are already well-developed. The Buddha encourages us to also exercise our faculty for appreciation. When we shine the light of appreciative awareness on the pleasant consequences of skilful actions, the result is joy. Wholesomeness is enhanced when consciously appreciated.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Newport Buddhist meeting cancelled due to the Beast from the East!

The Newport Soto Zen Buddhist group has cancelled their Thursday meeting due to the Beast from the East!

Nationwide temperatures plummeted again overnight, with Farnborough in Hampshire recording a low of minus 11C. For most places, the mercury hovered at between -4C and -7C.

Motorists have been urged to take extra care on the roads, after four people died in car crashes on Tuesday and forecasters have warned of long delays on rail, bus and air travel. Temperatures could plummet to minus 15C by midweek where there is lying snow.

On top of all that Storm Emma is forecast to hit Britain tomorrow, leaving parts of southern Britain hit by blizzards and strong winds which are expected to cause snow drifts.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

“Walk With Me”; a Second Showing

Just a quick note to let you all know that the Commodore in Ryde is giving “Walk With Me” a second showing tomorrow at 5:15 p.m.

So, if you missed it last time around, there’s still a chance to catch it.


"Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. The sun rises. Everything is calm and still. Life is beautifully serene as Benedict Cumberbatch’s composed, meditative voice reads an extract from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J Francis’ fascinating and immersive exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness. With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil."

Laure Bonville

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

NEW MOON - No Distraction

Knowing the Way for oneself 
walk it thoroughly. 
Do not allow the needs of others, 
however demanding, 
to bring about distraction. 

Dhammapada v.166

When our heart is at ease we can feel as if all is well in the world. But we know that even when it feels that way to us, for others life is an intense struggle where it definitely does not feel as if all is well. So is it appropriate that we put time and effort into developing an inner sense of contentment, or does having empathy mean always remaining aware of the suffering of others? When the Buddha warns against allowing the needs of others to distract us, he is pointing to where the priority lies. The fact is that when we lose connection with deep inner well-being, we more easily become caught in the forces of delusion. In practice it is wise to learn how to walk so that the way can regularly refresh and renew us; thus when we encounter the forces of delusion, we will be able to enquire into them without being dragged down. To be in possession of such strength is to have something truly valuable to share.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Buddhism Through Its Scriptures Course

Now here's something that you might be interested in..............

On Monday Harvard University started its free interactive course, “Buddhism Through Its Scriptures”, on their online learning platform.

It is the third module of the HarvardX series “World Religions through their Scriptures,” and is taught by Charles Hallisey, the Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures at the Harvard Divinity School.

There are eight days of lessons presented through both video and text that can be completed in the user’s own time. The project schedule is flexible for participants so you can work at your own pace to complete the materials.

https://www.edx.org/course/buddhism-through-its-scriptures



Wednesday, 31 January 2018

FULL MOON - Beyond Suffering

Let go of the past.
Let go of the future.
Let go of the present.
With a heart that is free,
cross over to that shore
which is beyond suffering.

Dhammapada v. 348.

The ‘other shore’ to which the Buddha is referring, that place which is beyond suffering, already exists. It is not as if we have to create the other shore; not as if we have to create Dhamma. Even the Buddha didn’t create Dhamma, he realized it. Our efforts in practice need to be aimed at seeing that which is already here, now. The encouragement to let go of images of the past, present and future suggests that we are paying too much attention to ideas we have about reality and not enough attention to that which is actually in front of us.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

NEW MOON - Noble Effort

It is always a pleasure 
not to have to encounter fools. 
It is always good to see noble beings, 
and a delight to live with them.

Dhammapada v. 206

We may or may not be blessed with the good fortune of living with noble beings, but we can all make the effort to cultivate noble mind states. Mind states are similar to living beings: when they are wholesome it is a joy to have them; when they are foolish, they can be very hard work indeed. If we establish such qualities as gratitude, forgiveness, kindness and discernment in our minds, we will be able to dwell in delight even when external conditions are difficult.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Walk With Me comes to Ryde

I've just heard from Angie that the film Walk With Me will be showing at Ryde Commodore on Saturday, February 3rd at 5pm. The film is about Thich Nhat Hahn and is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

It would be great for as many people as possible to be able to see it, so ring round friends re: lift sharing.


SYNOPSIS

"Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. The sun rises. Everything is calm and still. Life is beautifully serene as Benedict Cumberbatch’s composed, meditative voice reads an extract from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J Francis’ (Black Gold, LFF2006) fascinating and immersive exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness. With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil." 

Laure Bonville, London Film Festival

Monday, 8 January 2018

West Wight Sangha’s Winter Meditation Retreat

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick reminder that it now just two weeks until West Wight Sangha’s Winter Meditation Retreat! The retreat runs from 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday the 21st of January 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.

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.
Be well, Steve

Monday, 1 January 2018

Full Moon for a New Year - Small Matters

Do not ignore the effect of right action, 
saying, “This will come to nothing.”, 
Just as by the gradual fall of raindrops 
a jar is filled
so in time the wise 
become replete with good.

Dhammapada v. 122

The enormity of what appears to lie ahead can at times feel overwhelming. But this is only the case when awareness is dominated by what we imagine lies ahead. Of course we don’t really know the future. We have an amazing facility for imagining and extrapolating, but the Buddha says we are wise to include in awareness an appreciation for the reality happening right now. When we are in touch with the here-and-now reality we are more likely to remember those things that we can do that immediately make a difference: slow down; steady attention; feel the ground beneath your feet; expand the sense of space which you occupy; simply receive this moment without taking sides for or against. Remember to not become lost in speculation.