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

Thursday, 30 May 2019

"Thoughts" on Our Environments

We've recently had a crop of new postings on the "Thought for the Day" page of our Audio Section and, in the broadest of ways, they have all been related to our environment, both in terms of the outer natural world and our inner mental world.


Our first "Thought" back in January was by Vishvapani and spoke of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate change activist. Then there were no more Buddhist Thoughts until the 11th of May when Vishvapani this time addressed the issue of so many species going extinct and the loss of biodiversity. On the 18th of May, in his talk for Vesak, Vishvapani spoke of the story of Kisagotami as a model for how we might respond to others’ mental health struggles. And on the 22nd we featured a piece by Professor Tina Beattie because of the reference to picking up and disposing of just one piece of litter a day as in our Daily Mindfulness Exercise.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

FULL MOON – Optimum Benefit - Happy Vesak Everyone!

As many garlands can be made 
from a heap of flowers, 
so too much that is wholesome can be done 
during this human existence. 

Dhammapada v.53

All of us would be familiar with those phases in life when we find ourselves slowing down. Perhaps it is because of some physical limitation which we are obliged to accommodate. Or maybe it is out of conscious choice, because we suspect that always moving fast risks missing out. Whatever the cause, it can come as an unexpected and rewarding gift to discover that by slowing down we might be afforded a new and more meaningful perspective on this human existence. Instead of feeling as if we have to always react to what our senses register – the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and mental impressions – an interest in not having to merely react can start to awaken. With such a perspective we are better placed to recognize the potential for generating true benefit, for ourselves and others. Compare the happiness which arises from optimizing on what we already have, with the unhappiness associated with always wanting more.

Friday, 19 April 2019

FULL MOON - Perfect Balance

It is good to be restrained in body. 
It is good to be restrained in speech. 
It is good to be restrained in mind. 
It is good to be restrained in everything. 
The renunciate who is restrained in every way 
will realise freedom from suffering. 

Dhammapada v.361

In his very first teaching, The Turning of the Wheel of the Law, the Buddha spoke of the limitations involved in being caught up in liking and disliking. He went on to explain the profound benefits to be found in cultivating the middle way – the perspective of perfect balance. So long as we don’t see how becoming lost in likeable moods means we will inevitably become lost in dislikeable moods, we risk making life into an endless struggle. This apparently endless struggle is the direct result of not appreciating the power of wise restraint. Indulging in liking and disliking are not the only options. If we train attention to skilfully observe these movements of mind which we call liking and disliking, we might discover an altogether different perspective. And this perspective in no way diminishes the potential for experiencing the natural joys and sorrows of life; quite the opposite. Well trained attention has the power to free us from the fear of becoming lost and confused by the vicissitudes of life. Skilful restraint equips us with what we need to turn struggles into wisdom.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Dalai Lama Ill

Talking about Tibet it was announced that the Dalai Lama was admitted to hospital in New Delhi yesterday with a chest infection. Given his holinesses age, 83, this is a serious condition but he is described as being stable.

Many of the up to 100,000 Tibetans living in India are worried that their fight for a genuinely autonomous homeland would end with the Dalai Lama.

He told Reuters last month that it was possible that once he dies his incarnation could be found in India and warned that any other successor named by China would not be respected.

China brands the Nobel peace laureate as a dangerous "splittist" and says the ruling Chinese Communist Party has the right to select the Dalai Lama’s successor, as a legacy inherited from China’s emperors.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Tibetan Play in the West End


Abhishek Majumdar's play Pah-La is now showing at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Last year, he faced censure when Pah-La, his drama about Tibetans caught up in the Lhasa riots of 2008, was put on ice by the Royal Court, with charges that the Beijing authorities had weighed in and the theatre’s writing programme in China could have been jeopardised if the play went ahead.

The theatre issued an apology to the Tibetan community, he explains, sitting in the venue’s cafe, and it is now about to stage Pah-La. “The leadership at the Royal Court was extraordinary in accepting problems that were larger than them and then doing something about it.”

The play will still, probably, ruffle some feathers. Set among a monastic circle of Tibetans, the drama shows their forced assimilation and interrogation at the hands of the Chinese army, but it also dramatises the controversial practice of self-immolation among Tibetan protestors (a woman sets herself alight in his play) and the faultlines between non-violent Buddhist ideals and the all-too-human descent into retaliatory violence that the 2008 riots encapsulated.

That led him to explore the themes at the heart of Pah-La. “In the last century, there were so many major examples of non-violent revolutions, from Gandhi’s to Martin Luther King’s to Nelson Mandela’s. But if these are models to go by, what happened to them? They vanished after the 1970s.”
Tibet, he says, is the last remaining model for such non-violence. “The Tibetans are at the forefront of a conscience that the world needs to have. When the last Tibetan turns violent, we should pack up.”

Pah-La is at the Royal Court, London, until 27 April.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

West Wight Sangha’s Spring Meditation Retreat

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick reminder that it now just two weeks until West Wight Sangha’s Spring Meditation Retreat! The retreat runs from 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday the 14th of April 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

Thursday, 21 March 2019

World Poetry Day

When I was looking for a suitable "Buddhist Poem" to post for today's World Poetry Day Google reminded me of the sad death last October of Sangharakshita, the founder of the FWBO now known as Triratna. A Triratna member, Munisha, posted this poem, "In deep gratitude to my teacher who has given me so much, my favourite of his poems".



INVOCATION

Field-freshening rain,
White night-rain lingering on in drizzles till the dawn,
Pools of bright silver making, birthing streams
In dry clay river-beds, pour down, O rain, 
All day, all night, pour down pour down, O rain, 
Pour down… 

World-welfaring Compassion, 
Void-born Compassion diamond-hard and petal-tender, 
Peace to wild heartwaves bringing, birthing love 
On the low couch of self, pour down, Compassion, 
All day, all night, pour down pour down, Compassion, 
Pour down – 
Pour down like rain on this compassionless 
Lost world… 

Pour down, pour down, pour down… 

From Sangharakshita’s Complete Poems

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

FULL MOON - One With the Unmade

For many lives I have wandered
looking for, but not finding,
the house-builder who caused my suffering.
But now you are seen
and you shall build no more.
Your rafters are dislodged
and the ridge-pole is broken. 
All craving is ended; 
my heart is as one with the unmade.

Dhammapada v.153-4

Craving (the house-builder) causes attachments to views and opinions (the houses), and we then feel obliged to spend a great deal of energy on maintenance. Attaching to views and opinions might provide a relative sense of identity; however, such an approach to seeking security is energy-extravagant and ultimately unreliable. The Buddha’s advice is instead to invest our energy in finding a truly secure abiding, a dependable sense of identity, that is, in awareness itself: silent, selfless, spacious, just-knowing awareness. This is ‘the unmade’ to which the Buddha referred. Trusting in this possibility still takes energy, but the effort doesn’t have to deplete us. Such a trusting disposition, in fact, generates energy, lessening the impulse to promote ‘me’ and ‘my way’, which means we have attention available to listen to others.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Changes on Site

If you've visited our News Section recently you may have noticed that it is somewhat smaller in content. Several of our feeds were hosted by the feed reader "Topix" which is now concentrating on community forums and no longer supports the content we were posting.


Also, the Buddhist Channel news section is no longer running and the feed from that site has ceased.

Don't worry, there is still plenty to read with news from Barbara O'Brien, the Guardian, New York Times, Lion's Roar, Wildmind and Google News.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

FULL MOON - Addicted to Distraction - MAGHA PUJA

Like a fish which on being dragged
from its home in the water
and tossed on dry land
will thrash about,
so will the heart tremble
when withdrawing
from the current of Mara.

Dhammapada v.34

When we find life agreeable we tend to think ‘this is the way things should always be’. Of course part of us knows life can't always be agreeable, however habits of unawareness cause us to forget. When we forget, we believe in assumptions about how things should be and lose perspective on how things actually are. One way of understanding what the Buddha calls ‘the current of Mara’ is just these habits of unawareness. When we are not careful we become distracted by assumptions and fantasies and these distractions turn into habits which can be hard to let go of. So if our commitment to the spiritual work finds us feeling challenged, even trembling, let’s not automatically assume something is going wrong. Withdrawing from an addiction to distraction is hard work, however, thankfully there are many who have walked this way ahead of us and shown that it is worthwhile.

Monday, 18 February 2019

The Donald Awakes

As regular readers will know I usually tiptoe around politics, it's not what we are about, but I couldn't resist posting this image...................


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Hacking Happiness

In case you missed it when it first came out, there is still time to catch Existential Cool - Buddhism and the Art of Acceptance, which is part of the Radio 4 series Hacking Happiness.


Sounds, the new radio version of the BBC iPlayer, does not provide as many podcasts as before so you need to listen direct at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b0b9z64f

Forget self-actualisation, does true happiness, Nirvana, come from dissolving the self? 

This episode was recorded on location at Plum Village Buddhist Monastery near Bordeaux, France, set up by Thich Nhat Hahn, the monk who persuaded Martin Luther King to oppose the Vietnam War. We meet the Brothers and Sisters of Plum Village including Sister True Dedication, Brother Phap Ung and Sister Trenian and, at the Happy Farm, we meet Brother Simon.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Happy 4717, Happy Losar - 2146

Well, it's Chinese New year, the year of the pig and it's 4717. Although the People’s Republic of China uses the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes, a special Chinese calendar is used for determining festivals and the traditional New Year.

The beginnings of the Chinese calendar can be traced back to the 14th century B.C.E. Legend has it that the Emperor Huangdi invented the calendar in 2637 B.C.E.

A quick bit of maths shows that the Chinese calendar has drifted from the Gregorian calendar and this is because the Chinese calendar is a combined solar/lunar calendar in that it strives to have its years coincide with the tropical year and its months coincide with the synodic months. An ordinary year has 12 months, a leap year has 13 months and an ordinary year has 353, 354, or 355 days, a leap year has 383, 384, or 385 days.


In Tibet where the calendar is related to the Chinese calendar, it's the year of the Female Earth Pig or 2146.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

FULL MOON - Strength and Weakness

Those who have renounced the use of force in relationship to other beings,
whether weak or strong,
who neither kill nor cause to be killed,
can be called great beings.


Dhammapada v.405

The gentleness with which we would hold a young child is clearly not a sign of our weakness. The sensitivity with which we would listen to a friend who had suffered from loss, would likewise not be judged as weakness. Acting with humility in acknowledging any part we might have played in contributing to the suffering of others, would likewise, hopefully, not be considered as an indication of weakness. That which can sometimes be seen as weakness is in fact strength. Conversely, hiding behind a display of invulnerability; refusing to ask for help when it is clear that we need it; being unable to empathize when faced with the pain of others, these are in fact forms of weakness and would benefit from careful attention.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Walk With Me on Amazon Prime

For everyone (like me) who missed out on the film "Walk With Me", about Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village, when it was shown at the Ryde Commodore back in February last year it is now available on Amazon Prime Video.


Monday, 7 January 2019

Dhammapada Reflections

Regular readers will know that we have for some time been featuring Ajahn Munindo's fortnightly excerpts from his collected volumes of Dhammapada Reflections on the occasions of the new and full moons known as uposatha days. Ajahn is changing this to once a month; in the email I received the other day he explains why......


Announcement - January 2019

Greetings,

In keeping with the natural way of things, after more than ten years of offering fortnightly Dhammapada quotes and comments, the time has arrived when it seems suitable to reduce the frequency of these offerings to once per month. Accordingly, for the foreseeable future, you can look forward to receiving these emails on the occasion of each FULL MOON.

I can assure you that I am not in poor health, just that ageing does mean that I have somewhat less energy.

May your commitment to Dhamma continue to strengthen, nourishing clarity of mind and warmth of heart.

With well-wishing,

Ajahn Munindo