Sunday, 28 October 2007

New Blog Features

Newly entered at the top of the right-hand column you will see our latest addition, a collection of Meditation Timers. Clicking the link takes you to the hosting site where you will see all of the files listed in a "media player".... select and play OR, if you look below the media player, you can download the "Whole Item" or the individual "Audio Files" to your own PC, pick the "VBR" version for a faster download. (Note: when playing reduce the volume to a gentle level for best effect)

Our other new additions (at the top of the blue, right hand column) are two subscription options so that you can keep up to date with new postings to the blog. Firstly we have an email notifier whereby you receive an email from FeedBurner whenever there is an update. We also have an RSS feed for those with an aggregator reader, which also has a link at the end of the address box.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Further to Group Discussion on Awareness of the Breath

Herein are a collection of talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu that Sangha members might like to peruse following our general look at meditation techniques.

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Friday, 12 October 2007

New Blog Feature

Over at the top of the right-hand column of this blog you will see our latest feature "View available MP3 Talks" this links directly to an online version of our Dharma Talks Catalogue.

We have a huge number of Dharma talks in MP3 format from such teachers as the Dalai Lama, Jack Kornfield, Myoshin Kelley, Joseph Goldstein, Stephen Batchelor, Ayya Khema, Steve Armstrong..... And literally hundreds of others. We have Zen, Vipasanna, Tibetan and Theravadan speakers and others not so easily pigeon holed, like Alan Watts.

Please note that the catalogue is due for updating in the new Year and we already have a large amount of talks which are not yet listed!

Anyone from one of the other Buddhist groups on the Island is welcome to copies of selected talks, if you're interested contact me or leave contact details in the comments at the bottom of this posting (they are moderated, so will not show to the general public!). Other visitors to the blog who might be interested should also leave their details and we'll see what we can do.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Burma Petitions


I wanted to offer a few personal reflections on events in Myanmar/Burma: more particularly to say something about the responses that are being encouraged. For the sake of brevity, and underlining that these are personal views, I’ll just make two points: one of the petitions had a sentence saying something like, ‘We pledge to hold you to account’ – well, I think that’s coercive. Fostering a retributive state of mind is to call on the power mode of being, the opposite of what the Buddha as the way to freedom from suffering. Of course, one might consider that, intentionally exercising power in horrible ways against unarmed people, the authorities are in fact setting up causes for their own suffering. To take any comfort from this view of others having suffering coming is not skilful! To say that I pledge to get my own back is still to threaten the use of power. However, the Amnesty International letter doesn’t fall into the trap of joining in trading with the regime’s power-based currency. You can find it at

My other point also leads towards the Amnesty International website (as a starting-point). Am I the only one to be a bit uneasy with all this rallying to a Buddhist-linked cause? What about Darfur, China, Uganda? I would like to find that my practice leads me to stand with humans suffering horribly, whether they’re Buddhist or not. It just seems a bit tribal that Buddhists support Buddhists and don’t go on to highlight the range of horrible extremes of suffering around the globe about which we can pretty simply express our opinions. This has been a prompt to me to be more active in Amnesty letter-writing and not to flinch from the more disturbing aspects of the cruelty that Amnesty addresses. Hands-up, though: I could do more to get around to actually writing those letters, so am in no position to feel comfortable here.

What do others think?

Click on "Comments" below


Friday, 5 October 2007

To the Himalayas

Last year (2006) Val from the Newport Soto Zen group and her husband Alex undertook a hike into the foothills of the himalayas. What follows is Val's account of their visit with some amazing photos.

Kangchenjunga and the Singalila Ridge Trek, October 2006
Community Action Treks Ltd.

Community Action Treks was founded by Doug Scot, who reached the summit of Everest in 1975 with Dougal Haston. Money raised from these trekking holidays is used to provide schools, health centres, employment and clean water supplies for villages in Nepal.

We spent 24 days with a group of experienced travellers and mountaineers and were looked after very well by Raja of “Adventure Mania” (based in Kolkata) assisted by two teams of porters from Nepal and Sikkim. Accommodation ranged from the best hotels to wooden huts and camping. We initially flew to Kolkata and then from there to Bagdogra in northern West Bengal, from there driving to Darjeeling. After walking on jeep tracks on the Singalila Ridge which runs along the border with Nepal. We then drove to Sikkim (now part of India) where we walked up to 4 900m at Goecha La pass 5Km from Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain.

Most of the people Alex and I met were Indian Hindus, Nepalese porters and Buddhists from Tibet.

Highlights of the tour.

We saw Kangchenjunga for the first time at dawn in Darjeeling. The peaks appear above cloud level and seem to belong to the sky instead of rising from the earth.

We visited many Buddhist monasteries, both of the Gelukpa (yellow hat school) and Nyingmapa schools (the oldest of the four major Tibetan schools). They were well maintained each with approximately 50 monks and a school for the young novices. Prayer wheels set in the outer walls with the interior walls being painted with bright colours from floor to ceiling. At the front a large Buddha statue would be flanked by statues of important Bodhisattvas. Eventually we discovered that we could go upstairs in the monasteries where plainer rooms and libraries could be seen. We could often hear the monks chanting in a separate room off of a courtyard. Only once did I get to talk to one of the monks, who had very good English.

Whilst staying in a small hilltop village I was very lucky to sit with a small group of monks who were chanting and performing rituals for a sick, elderly lady. Although I couldn't talk to them it was a great joy to sit with them chanting and observe the preparations for ancient ceremonies, using rice to create pictures on paper laid on the floor. Tiny models of people and yaks were then placed on top of the rice picture.

Another joy was to see the long strips of colourful prayer flags in the mountains and small towns. We saw a ceremony in which new prayer flags were placed at Tenzing Norgay's grave.

The mountain roads were very dangerous and like the vehicles , were continually being repaired. They are often closed during the monsoon season when it is particularly dangerous for the children walking to school.

The poverty and density of the crowds were a culture shock in Kolkata, it's very difficult to travel in the city without a guide.

Valerie & Alex