Thursday, 31 December 2009

What is it With Perth?

Now here's a bit of synchronicity, not only are there Bhikkhunis just outside Perth, Australia but also near to Perth, Canada.

Ayya Medhanandi is a Theravada Buddhist nun who has opened Canada's first monastic residence exclusively for women, just west of Perth. As a bhikkhuni, or nun ordained on an equal footing with Buddhist monks, she hopes to offer women the same full ordination she attained after decades of training. If she succeeds, it will be the first time a woman has been ordained in her order in Canada.

As to a U.K. Buddhist Perth connection, Perth in Scotland, has an FWBO Buddhist centre.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Wat Pah Pong moves to Punish Western Monks!

The latest move by Wat Pah Pong sees a move away from just a "parting of the ways" between themselves and Ajahn Brahm over the issue of female ordination. Now they are accusing Ajahn Brahm of temple mismanagement with a view to "reclaiming" Bodhinyana, "in order to return the land and temple to the Thai Buddhists and to ensure that the temple management is in line with Dhamma Vinaya." As the land also houses Dhammasara Nuns Monastery, this would obviously mean bringing them "back into line!"

Bodhinyana was founded on the 1st of December 1983 near the small town of Serpentine, located 55 kilometres south of Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Donations to support and grow the monastery have come from all directions, much of it Australian and Singaporean in origin, so any claims from Thailand are now extremely tenuous.

These moves come in a statement from Phra Kru Opaswuthikorn who presided at a press conference on Monday where he urged the Office of National Buddhism and the Council of Elders to issue rules and regulations to empower the Thai Sangha to punish monks overseas who violate the Sangha's mandates.

Read more here.....

"Sooner or later, we'll see female monks everywhere!" said Phra Kru Opaswuthikorn. He added that the introduction of the Siladhara order, or 10-precept nuns, which was set up by the most senior Western monk, Ajahn Sumedho, as an alternative to female monks in Thailand was also unthinkable.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Bhikkhuni Ordination - the Propaganda War Hots Up

The Administrative Committee of the Wat Nong Pah Pong Sangha have launched their own website, called Dhamma light, "in order to paint a much clearer picture on the events leading up to the bhikkhuni ordination and why its secrecy and the manner it was conducted was unacceptable". It's interesting to notice, however, that on Wat Nong Pah Pong's main website, Bodhinyana Monastery and Dhammasara Nuns' monastery are still listed as being "International branch monasteries of Wat Nong Pah Pong Monasteries of the Ajahn Chah tradition".

For other "takes" on the issue I would recommend Ajahn Sujato's Blog and, on Facebook, the Women and the Forest Sangha Group. Also Ajahn Punnadhammo's Bhikkhu's Blog for a balanced view.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Resignations Over Gender Discrimination Against Bhikkhunis

Two trustees of the "English Sangha Trust" have resigned over the issue of nuns being denied full Bhikkhuni ordination (as monks and nuns cannot handle money, the English Sangha Trust acts as their steward). - likewise the Chithurst Treasurer who has also taken this decision after 15 years loyal service - stating this 'as one of the  saddest decisions' of his life - stating his decision is entirely due to the fact that:

"The general attitude of the male Sanhga seems, sadly, to be one of denial, of total disinterest in changing the status quo that maintains the position of the monks comfortably above that of the nuns. Compassion is conspicuous by its absence."

Friday, 18 December 2009

Vietnamese Buddhists seek asylum in France

Hundreds of Vietnamese followers of Thich Nhat Hanh have called on the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to grant them temporary asylum, a week after they were attacked by vigilantes allegedly hired by the Vietnamese authorities.

Mob pressure last week forced the head of Phuoc Hue pagoda in central Vietnam to promise that devotees of the French-based Zen monk would leave by December 31, the abbot said.

About 380 young monks and nuns were forced to flee Bat Nha monastery in central Lam Dong province at the end of September after the authorities reacted angrily to a call by their exiled spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh (who was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize by Martin Luther King), to end religious intolerance and disband the country's notorious A41 religious police.

Supporters say that several monks were beaten and four were sexually assaulted, while two others were held under house arrest without charge.

France "is following this matter with the greatest attention" in close liaison with European Union partners, French foreign affairs ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said on Thursday.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Compassionate Eating

One of our Sangha members, who is a vegan, sent me this link to a video by Rev. Heng Sure who gave a talk at the VegSource Conference in 2003 entitled "Why eat a vegan, a plant-based, diet?" In it he explains in very concise terms the Buddhist take on "Compassionate Eating".

Vegetarianism in Buddhism

Monday, 14 December 2009

WAM statement on Bhikkhuni Ordination

Here is the statement from the latest gathering of Western elders of the Ajahn Chah Sangha (referred to informally as WAM) which took place from the 7-9th December 2009 at Wat Pah Nanachat, in Ubon, Northeast Thailand. The gathering was attended by some twenty-eight elders, including Ven. Ajahn Sumedho, abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England, the senior Western disciple of Ajahn Chah. Luang Por Liem, the abbot of Wat Pah Pong, (Ajahn Chah's monastery) gave the opening address.

The gathering this year was dominated by discussion of the "unfortunate" events surrounding the delisting of Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth, Western Australia from the Ajahn Chah Sangha, and the estrangement of an old friend and erstwhile member of the group, Ajahn Brahmavamso (for ordaining women).

The events of the last two months have caused an unprecedented storm in our communities, both monastic and lay, and feelings of division have run high throughout the wider Buddhist world. Evidence of this was clear in a petition and various letters presented to the gathering. Several elders noted how many familiar names appeared in the documents. Sympathy with the feelings expressed in them was mixed with a regret that they were often based on an interpretation of events that differed markedly from our own. There was a sense of frustration that we had not as yet been able to adequately transmit our understanding of the various issues raised, accompanied by an acknowledgment that it was hard to see how it could have been any other way. Our commitment to the principle of consultation and consensus meant that we had no choice but to delay crafting a coherent response until we could come together as a group and discuss the matter face to face.

It might be worthwhile at this point to give a brief overview of the nature of our Sangha. The first thing that must be said is that the Ajahn Chah Sangha is far from being the monolithic Vatican-like entity that some have portrayed it as.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Buddhist Bells on the Beeb

Tonight (Saturday) at 10pm on BBC Radio 3 there is a programme entitled: "Between the Ears: The Great Bell"

Using stories, poems and sounds, Stephen Gill presents a portrait of bonshou - Japanese Buddhist temple bells - which are considered essential to the country's national identity.

Bonshou are housed in an open wooden tower instead of in a belfry. They do not have clappers and are struck by huge tree trunks, suspended from ropes, swung against them from outside. Each Old Year is rung out with 108 booms from every the bell throughout the land. Every Japanese person has the right to one strike, in order to consume the sins of the old year and purify them for the new.

The Gion bonshou, at 80 tonnes (six times the weight of Big Ben), is the heaviest in the land and it takes 20 monks to swing the beam in order for it to sound. Ikko Iwasawa, who runs the foundry that cast the largest bell in Japan, explains the mystery of creating such huge bells as one is being cast. The Rev Eishou Kawahara, the head priest of Rengein, whose bell can be heard for 40 kilometres, reveals their spiritual meaning and the impact they have on people.

Stephen Gill has lived in Japan for many years and speaks the language fluently. He weaves into the recordings stories of famous bells, haiku poems about them and, most importantly, the sounds of all these bonshou, each of which has its unique voice.

If you miss it or are elsewhere on the planet it is available on the BBC iPlayer.

(Sorry, it's no longer available)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Another "Quote That I Like"

One of our Sangha members sent me an email which contains a great passage. This one's the famous "washing up" quote by Thich Nhat Hanh. So, continuing our occasional series "Quotes that I Like" here it is......

"To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren't doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity,for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and that fact that I am here washing them are miracles!"

-Thich Nhat Hanh
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Tibetan Nun Dies in Custody

On 24 March, Yangkyi Dolma and Sonam Yangchen, two nuns from the monastery of Lamdrag (Karze, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province) protested peacefully in the market square of Karze asking for "the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet" and " human rights and religious freedom for Tibetans. " At least 50 policemen and security personnel surrounded the two nuns, and after having beaten them with electric batons and bars, dragged them to prison. The next day Yangkyi Dolma’s family suffered searches and interrogations.

Three days ago the family was advised of the seriousness of her health, but on arrival at the hospital, they learned of her death. The family was unable to recover the body of the deceased for autopsy, nothing is known about the fate of Sonam Yangchen.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Chithurst Visit and the Bhikkhuni Issue

Today, Sunday, the West Wight Sangha and the Newport Soto Zen group had planned another visit to Chithurst monastery. Unfortunately we had to cancel as we couldn't get enough people together to share out the ferry cost for the mini bus and make it individually affordable. That said there was some concern as to what the "atmosphere" at the monastery would be like given the on-going "Bhikkhuni Ordination" controversy.

Yesterday the subject was raised. I have joined the Facebook group "Women and the Forest Sangha" and Patrick Butler posted to it.......

"THAT" issue was finally broached at Chithurst Puja tonight. Ajahn Upekka, on a visit from her life out of the monastery was allowed to give the Dhamma talk by Aj Karuniko (sorry if I spell wrongly).

Never mind the subject matter, it was THE most moving talk I've ever heard from that chair. And the subject matter made it all the more powerful. Simply, after heartfelt thanks to the Sangha for her 24 years of learning and practice,the plea "please don't waste your time dividing people into men/women, us/them. Seek TRUE Dhamma, not adherence to superficial form. Strive for compassionate loving kindness for ourselves and all others.
Sadly some monks could not bring themselves to chant "Sadhu" . But there was electricity among the small and (coincidentally) mainly male lay audience.
Thank you to wonderful Aj Karuniko, for allowing this speech at a difficult time for the whole Sangha.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Copenhagen, Climate and Population

Well it's the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference on Monday and maybe this time they won't be missing the point totally. In my lifetime World population has almost trebled, 2.6 billion to 6.8 billion and rising at the rate of 1.5 million extra human beings every week! All these extra people and the teeming billions of poor already here will want the same comforts and life style we in the West currently enjoy but the sad fact is more polluters equals more pollution. As a Buddhist it's impossible to ignore the suffering that this will cause not only for humanity but for huge numbers of other sentient beings and our planet.

Research from the Optimum Population Trust estimates that every £4 spent on providing unmet demand for family planning saves one tonne of CO2. A similar reduction would require an £8 investment in tree planting, £15 in wind power, £31 in solar energy and £56 in hybrid vehicle technology.

But the potential impact on climate change of a planet teaming with up to ten billion souls has again forced the issue into the open ahead of the December 7-18 UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

In a sign of change, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has declared that braking the rise in Earth's population would be a major contribution to fighting greenhouse gases.

"Slower population growth... would help build social resilience to climate change's impacts and would contribute to a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in the future," the agency said in report in November.

If, by 2050, Earth's population stood at eight billion rather than nine billion, that would save between one and two gigatonnes of carbon per year, buying precious time for cleaner technology and other policies, its report said.

Actually reducing our population would be even better!

Read More.....

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Response to the Bhikkhuni Ordination at Perth

A two part comment has just been added to the post "More on Ajahn Brahm and Nun Ordination". As this post is dropping off the page, and as the comments are particularly good, I am replicating them here. They quote Bhikkhuni Yifa from Fo Guang Shan, Taiwan who is now based at Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles.

Ven. Dr. Yifa’s Response to the Bhikkhuni Ordination at Perth.....

Thirty years ago, I visited a Buddhist monastery for the first time in my life. Two weeks later, I decided to shave my head and become a nun. At the time, I was a student at the law school of National Taiwan University, and wanted to be a lawyer or even a politician. I had felt, since I was a child, great sympathy toward the suppressed classes in society and was attracted to fairness and justice. These have been the guiding values in my life.

The monastery I visited is called Buddha Light Mountain (Fo Guang Shan). Three decades ago, most of Fo Guang Shan’s members were women and most of them were young, in their twenties and thirties, and with a college education. The whole community was very dynamic and energetic, full of hope and life. The founder of the order, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, called for young and educated people to join the Sangha. During those two weeks, I myself had a personal transformation, and changed my path as a lawyer into that of a monastic.

I was very dedicated to learning and practicing the precepts (the Vinaya). One day, we students were invited by a devotee to stay in a hotel, where the bed in the room was high-up and large. One of the ten precepts is to restrain oneself from sleeping on such a bed. I asked the Venerable Master what I should do. “You need be able to sleep on either the small one or the big one,” he said. “Both are fine.” That was a wonderful lesson, because the reason I came to Buddhism was to look for liberation and not bondage, for the ultimate truth, and not just rules—and some rules in the Vinaya seemed to be unfair, especially the many ones for women.

Later, Venerable Master Hsing Yun encouraged me to go to abroad for my advanced education. With his support and Fo Guang Shan’s sponsorship, I finished a Master’s degree in philosophy from Hawaii University and the Ph.D. in Religion from Yale within eight years. For my dissertation, I decided to study the Vinaya and the monastic codes of India and China. When I finished my dissertation, I cried out, “Gotama! This old man was so wise and kind.” I felt this to be so, because the Buddha left so much flexibility with the rules, so there were exceptions to particular rules whenever they created inconvenience in the Sangha.

The Buddha set up the rules after he attained enlightenment, and then proclaimed one after another; but he also responded to the thoughts of the benefactors of monks and nuns, and modified the rules he initiated. He was so wise, because as he kept reminding monastics to adapt to local customs, something that is repeated in the Vinaya texts again and again.

The Buddha’s most precious teaching concerned “causes and conditions.” Every day, I am aware that the temporal and special conditions where I live are different. The Internet, media, and transportation have reshaped the world and the younger generation is different from my time. As the Buddha taught, the world is changing.
It is hard for us to imagine today that a spiritual institution such as the Church initiated the Christian Inquisition beyond; it’s hard to believe now that suicide bombers carry out their brutality in the name of religion. Buddhism has been viewed as nonviolent; however, its suppression of women’s rights has caught Westerners’ attention. I believe that Buddha left his palace intending to find a solution to the suffering of all human/sentient beings, and not to build a religion called “Buddhism.”

In the twentieth century, Buddhism came to the West. Now, in the twenty-first, it is flourishing. But Buddhism is still strange to the West; those Westerners who leave their native faith to step into an Asian culture must have courage and face tremendous challenges. The system of sponsorship has yet to be built for the Western Sangha; many Westerners who seek the monastic life are still like orphans, with no parents (few teachers who understand they are different) and no home (few monasteries fit their culture). We need to adopt a forgiving and inclusive attitude to welcome them to the Sangha.

I attended a lecture given by one of my best friends, William Ury, co-founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project and author of the bestseller Getting to Yes. At the end of his talk, he quoted the American Poet Edwin Markham. I think there are no better words to fit this situation:

They drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout!
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle that took them in.

There is a simplistic impression that all Theravada monks are against women’s ordination. That is not true. Fo Guang Shan has given several international ordinations; they were all supported by different groups of Theravada monks. Is it possible to use a “humane” way to reconsider this issue rather than focusing on the letter of the law?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Buddhism and Evolution, a "Thought for Today"

I nearly missed this one, on Wednesday 24th of November Vishvapani gave yet another "Thought for Today" on BBC Radio Four's Today program. As a non-theistic "religion", Buddhism has a completely different take on Darwin's great insight into the workings of nature.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Green Cones & Koans

I couldn't let this one go without comment, Poole town centre has just erected a giant green cone to replace the traditional Christmas tree on the grounds of "Health and Safety"!

What's the link? Well, here on the Island (which you can see from Poole) we have our own daft cone, a weird multi coloured "Art installation" in front of the Island's hospital, St. Mary's, and the Buddhist connection? For some totally inexplicable reason the wretched thing is called the "Koan"!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Basil Brush and the Bhikkhunis

Further to the last posting, Ajahn Khemadhammo's "signature" on the iPetition was apparently from someone with the email address "Basil Brush".... well, Boom, Boom Mr. Derek.

To find out more check out the comment by Thanissara at the foot of Bhikkhuni Ordination - Latest.

I have also checked out a couple of the "famous" signatures myself and they are pukka.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Bhikkhuni Ordination - Latest

Now there appears to be some controversy over the "Petition in support of Ajahn Brahm and Bhikkhuni Ordination" itself! Ajahn Khemadhammo says that he did not sign it although his name does appear in the list of signatories. As he goes on to say that "My advice is to drop all this nonsense and get back to practising Dhamma",I'm inclined to believe him! Read more Here.....

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

150th Anniversary of the Publication of “On the Origin of Species”

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, his momentous work, which he started here on the Island, explaining where we, and all of life, actually came from. There has been recent speculation that Darwin may have been influenced by Buddhist teachings. It turns out that Darwin's friend Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, the botanist and explorer, visited Tibet in 1847. He became familiar with Buddhist concepts there. He also wrote letters to Darwin.

Psychologist Paul Ekman has said that Darwin's descriptions of compassion, as well as his view of morality as it relates to compassion, closely mirror Buddhist ideas. For Darwin and Buddhists, the seed for compassion is in the mother-infant relationship - this is "simple compassion," Ekman said. Then there's global compassion - for example, sending money and clothes to victims of a natural disaster. Finally, heroic compassion means risking your own life to save another, just as the Buddha said a mother would to save her only child.

The fundamental idea in both Darwin's writings and Buddhist views of compassion is that "when I see you suffer, it makes me suffer, and that motivates me to reduce your suffering so I can reduce my suffering," he said.

Ekman, co-wrote a book with the Dalai Lama on compassion called "Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion." after reading him some passages of Darwin's work, Ekman recalls the Dalai Lama saying, "I am now calling myself a Darwinian."

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Petition in support of Ajahn Brahm & Bhikkhuni Ordination

If you have been following the recent controversy over the expulsion of Ajahn Brahm for ordaining four Bhikkhuni as nuns and agree with me that in the 21st century women’s aspirations should not be subservient to dubious medieval cultural traditions, you may consider showing your support for Ajahn Brahm by signing the following petition.

Buddhism and women: calling for Bhikkhuni ordination and gender equality in the Forest Sangha

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Another "Thought for Today"

Vishvapani been at it again. Yesterday he again gave the "Thought for Today".

Buddhist teachings remind me that, while suffering often prompts a cycle in which rage and frustration create further suffering, it can also be a gateway to compassion. But it's hard to move on from your own sufferings when they haven't been acknowledged.......

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

"Dalai Lama" Mantra - a Correction!

I'm embarrassed to report that our previous posting Dalai Lama's Healing Mantra is incorrect. The mantra is in fact not chanted by his Holiness but by Hein Braat, a , self effacing Dutchman whose devotion to chant and mantra has over many years produced many extraordinary versions of some of the most sacred chants and beloved mantras in the canon of mantra.

When Hein was told that this version of his recording was making the rounds and people were coming out and saying that the voice of the Dalai Lama was healing them, he became very concerned.

Not because of the fact that they thought it was the Dalai Lama's voice - but that if they subsequently knew that it was not his voice but Hein Braat's, their healing might drop away and they would become ill again!

Also the chant is from the Veda, which is Hindu not Buddhist. Tri-ambaka-m is the three-eyed one e.g. Lord Shiva.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Should Buddhists be Paying Taxes?

I recently saw a newspaper story about new laws being introduced by Harriet Harman as part of the Equality Bill, presently before Parliament, which will force councils to exempt the Church of Scientology from council tax and business rates, allowing the controversial ‘religion’ to receive the same tax breaks that the Church of England and other organised religions currently enjoy.

Now here's the point, the current exemptions apply to "Places of Worship" as defined by "The Places of Worship Registration Act 1855" which provides for places of meeting for religious worship to be certified to the Registrar General but does not apply to the established Church. When considering the registration of a building which has been certified as a place of religious worship, the Registrar General applies the judgment by the Court of Appeal in the Segerdal case. The main finding in the judgment is that the words ‘place of meeting for religious worship’ in the Act connote a place of which the principal use is for people to come together as a congregation to worship God or do reverence to a deity. Apart from the Church of England and the Church in Wales, any faith or denomination which meets these criteria would be capable of recognition under the 1855 Act.

Among the "faiths or denominations" listed are "Buddhists of the New Kadampa Traditional", "Friends of Western Buddhist order", "Zen Buddhists" and "Buddhists". Well, to simplify, they are all Buddhists and as such don't worship a god! Buddhism is non-theistic if not outright atheist. So maybe we've been getting away with it all these years. The Equality Bill calls on councils to protect “any religious or philosophical belief” from local tax increases.

A new “public-sector equality duty” not only bans all authorities from discriminating against any philosophical belief but forces them to “advance equality” of those who hold philosophical beliefs. So that's us covered, at last!

Friday, 13 November 2009

More on Ajahn Brahm & Nun Ordination

Continuing with the ongoing story of the nun's ordination in Perth, Australia the reaction of
Bhikkhu Bodhi is interesting to say the least! On the 3rd of November he wrote to Ajahn Sujato, who assisted in the ordination, saying,

"Please convey my congratulations to Ajahn Brahm for his courageous decision, and also accept for yourself my appreciation for spearheading this development. Also, if you can do so, please convey my congratulations to the new bhikkhunis, especially Ajahn Vayama, an old Dhamma friend from my Sri Lankan days.

Perhaps Ajahn Brahm will henceforth be treated as something of a pariah by the monks of the Wat Poh Pong community. This, however, should not discourage him, or you, from continuing along the path you have blazed by making this momentous decision."

However, three days later, on November the 6th he sent another letter this time saying,

"I have been regretfully forced to the conclusion that Ajahn Brahm and yourself were at fault for proceeding in the hasty and secretive way in which you conducted the ordination. In my opinion, in view of the fact that Ajahn Brahm had been an important and much respected member of this community, he should have discussed the issue openly and fully at a meeting with all its prominent representatives, and patiently attempted to prevail upon them with the art of persuasion."

Click here for the full text (and context) of both letters.

Ajahn Sujato responded to Ajahn Brahm's expulsion with.......

"In this case, the facts are that every time the question of bhikkhuni ordination has been formally raised in WPP circles, it has been totally squashed, without any discussion, consultation, or inquiry. Another little fact is that the upcoming discussion of bhikkhunis at the WAM was originally proposed by Ajahn Kevali, whose attitude to bhikkhunis I have already mentioned above. A final fact is that, while this was going on, the English Sangha was imposing the Five Points that deny any possibility of bhikkhuni ordination to the English siladharas."

Click here for the full article.

And here for the response from Ajhan Brahmali and the Bodhinyana Sangha,

Bhikkhuni Ordination at Bodhinyana Monastery, a Response to Ajahn Chandako and Others


And here is Ajahn Brahm himself!
Introduction by Dennis Sheppard, President, Buddhist Society of Western Australia

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Dalai Lama's Healing Mantra

Sri Mrutyunjaya Mantra for Healing         PLEASE READ THIS CORRECTION

Om Trayambakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pusti Vardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanat
Mrtyor Muksiya Mamrtat

Om we praise the Lord of the three worlds
Who sustains them and fills them like a perfume
May he deliver us from the shackle of death
Like a ripe cucumber drops from its stem
But may he not keep us away from immortality

A much beloved monk was laying on his death bed. To help him make the transition, the Dalai Lama sat by his bed side and sang this mantra for hours and hours until the monk passed on.
Afterwards, all those who were present implored the Dalai Lama to record this beautiful chant so that it could be shared with the world and this is the result.

For downloadable version go to

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ajahn Brahm "Expelled" over Bhikkhuni Ordinations!

Some of you may have noticed the crop of stories on our RSS Channel feed (now part of our News page) about Ajahn Brahmavamso being “expelled” from the Wat Pa Phong Sangha. I’ve been looking into the story and it’s very easy to get confused over the issues involved, so here is an attempt to both simplify and cut to the chase on what it’s all about.

The facts are that on Thursday 22nd October 2009, Sisters Vayama, Nirodha, Seri and Hassapañña were ordained as Theravada Bhikkhunis, or nuns, in a dual ordination ceremony held at Bodhinyana Buddhist Monastery in Perth, Western Australia. Ayya Tathaaloka, from the United States, was the Preceptor. Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Sujato performed the certifying acariya chanting in the bhikkhu's (monks) part of the ceremony.

Ajahn Brahm’s “parent” monastery is Wat Pa Phong which is in Thailand. Now here comes the rub, the Buddhist hierarchy in Thailand don’t approve of female ordination. Women are relegated to the role of Mae Ji, a position somewhere between that of an ordinary lay follower and an ordained monk, It being illegal for women to take ordination in Thailand. They are expected to work essentially as maids to ordained monks, rather than receiving training and the opportunity to practice. There is a lot of talk about Ajahn Brahm’s actions being condemned, not because people are anti bhikkhuni ordination, but because he didn’t follow the rules of the “club”, the Sangha to which he belongs, see Ajahn Chandako’s open letter to the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. As the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branches in Thailand and abroad had made a decision against ordaining Bhikkhunis, which was restated many times it’s hard to see how “showing respect” and informing Wat Pa Phong beforehand would have resulted in any decision other than refusal to allow the ordinations, so in what way are those who are “not anti bhikkhuni ordination” pro ordination?

There are plenty of ordained Buddhist nuns in the world mainly, but not exclusively, from the Mahayana traditions. There is even a Thai Theravada ordained nun, Bhikkhuni Dhammananda! However she had to go to Sri Lanka for the ceremony.

This is a complex issue but at the end of the first decade of the 21st century it is surely time that all Buddhists recognised Women’s rights to the same spiritual opportunities as men. As the Buddha stated in the Samyutta Nikaya; I.5.6,

" 'Straight' is the name that Road is called, and 'Free From Fear' the Quarter whither thou art bound. Thy Chariot is the 'Silent Runner' named, With Wheels of Righteous Effort fitted well. Conscience the Leaning-board; the Drapery Is Heedfulness; the Driver is the Dharma, I say, and Right Views, they that run before. And be it woman, or be it man for whom Such a chariot doth wait, by that same car into Nirvana's presence shall they come." (sorry for the slightly archaic translation, best I could find)

Read more on.....

Why Ajahn Brahmavamso was excluded from the Wat Pa Phong Sangha

Open Letter To All From Ajahn Brahm On His Exclusion by Wat Pah Pong

Women In Theravada Buddhism

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Amazon, Burma & Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner (yes I know it’s only the start of November) some of you will be getting stuff from Amazon. If you’re in the UK you can support the Burma Campaign UK by going via the Amazon link on their site. For everything you then purchase from Amazon UK they will make a donation back to Burma Campaign UK... without costing you anything except a bit of forethought.

To make matters easier I’ve put an Amazon logo opposite, to the left (below the Label Cloud), with the same embedded link. Use this and then Bookmark or put in “Favorites” the page you arrive on and then use that to visit Amazon next time.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Yet Another Buddhist "Thought for Today"

I almost missed this one! Last Friday, the 30th, the speaker on the Radio 4 Today program's "Thought for Today" was yet again Vishvapani. With the UK's 152 000 Buddhists making up only 0.3% of the population our "fair" share would be about one broadcast a Year, obviously the Dharma punches above it's weight!

In this talk Vishvapani speaks of victims, perpetrators and restorative Justice in the context of the Buddha's teaching.
Listen to the talk here.......

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Poetry Prize Won by Buddhist

The Keats-Shelley prize, an annual award for the best poem on a Romantic theme, has for the first time this year gone to an explicitly Buddhist poet, DH Maitreyabandhu.
Read More.....

The reason that I mention this is that we, the West Wight Sangha, have just started an experimental study course using Maitreyabandhu's latest book "Life with full attention". The course is on mindfulness, the experimental part is that we are attempting to undertake it as a group. We have delved into our funds (those Dana contributions keep building up!) and purchased copies for all of us. The knack is going to be in coordinating our efforts and keeping us all on track. To that end we have decided to take two weeks to cover each weekly section of the course so that even if a member misses attending meetings for a week or two we can still discuss and interact. I'll let you know how we get on.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Barack does "a Gordon", Snubbing the Dalai Lama

U.S. president, Barack Obama has said he will not meet the Dalai Lama, who is currently in the U.S., until after visiting China in November. This will mark the first time since 1991 that the Dalai Lama has come to Washington and not met with the U.S. president.

That leads one former Federal Reserve official to suspect that Chinese fiscal leverage over the American government is at the root of the decision. “Bottom line,” says the official, “don’t piss off your banker.”

This follows a similar cop-out by Gordon Brown, in May last year, when he refused to meet his Holiness at number 10, his official residence as British Prime Minister, instead moving the meeting to Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury!

This goes beyond kowtowing to the Chinese regime and could be interpreted by them as an indication that they have carte blanche to clamp down on dissent in Tibet, which it invaded in 1950. I know why the Dalai Lama got his Noble Peace Prize, like a lot of people I'm wondering what Barack's is for?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Meditation & Life, a Quote

One of our sangha members recently sent me this quote,

"Seated meditation is the arena in which the meditator practices his own fundamental skills. The game the meditator is playing is the experience of his own life, and the instrument upon which he plays is his own sensory apparatus. Even the most seasoned meditator continues to practice seated meditation, because it tunes and sharpens the basic mental skills he needs for his particular game. We must never forget, however, that seated meditation itself is not the game. It's the practice. The game in which those basic skills are to be applied is the rest of one's experiential existence. Meditation that is not applied to daily living is sterile and limited."

-From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana

Friday, 9 October 2009

In case you haven't noticed the comment from Palaka to the previous post (I need to change some code to make comments automatically visible), here it is...........

Dharmachari Palaka said...

"Thanks to all who came on Sunday! I felt that we actually did it: we moved beyond the head...and into the heart, where the motivation comes from. Relating to the Wheel as a symbol opened new layers of significance that describing the individual parts can only hint at. And the significance seemed personal to each of us and to stir and inspire. Thank you for inviting me. May all beings be well and happy."
09 October 2009 09:43

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Great Day at Haylands

Many thanks to Palaka for a fascinating day of Dharma study and reflective mediation at Haylands on Sunday. Palaka's theme for the day was the six realms of existence as depicted in the (Tibetan) "Wheel of Life". He explained the wheel primarily from the perspective of us all finding ourselves in one, or several, of the realms every day and emphasised the presence of the Buddha in all of the realms showing a way out of each of them.

For an informative, interactive version of the wheel of becoming goto  "Interactive Wheel of Life"

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails over past decade

I came across this article from the Telegraph by Martin Beckford dated the 5th of August. As you may know the Isle of Wight is home to three prisons (soon to be four), the most famous being Parkhurst.

Buddhism is the fastest-growing religion in England's jails, with the number of followers rising eightfold over the past decade.

Although adherents to the Eastern faith believe in peace and the sanctity of life, almost all of the Buddhists behind bars in this country are serving lengthy sentences for serious crimes such as violence and sex offences.

Some jails and secure hospitals including Broadmoor have opened shrines known as Buddha Groves in their grounds, and there is a nationwide network of chaplains to cater for the growing population.

It is claimed that most of the Buddhists in jail converted after their conviction, and chose it over other religions because its emphasis on meditation helps them cope with being locked up.

Supporters of Buddhist criminals say they also believe the spiritual development they gain in prison will help them once they are released, and prevent them from re-offending.

Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer who is the patron of Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Organisation, told The Daily Telegraph: "The numbers are quite remarkable. I think one of the reasons is that they convert to Buddhism in prison – it's a reasonable hypothesis that they become interested when inside.

"I think it does enable people to come to terms with their situation. Buddhism gets people away from the idea of material ambitions, and if people are in prison they can't go for those goals anyway.

"You do have more time to reflect and meditate in jail, and get away from the idea of self."

He went on: "My inclination would be to say it must help people after they leave jail. The whole idea of Buddhism is not to cause harm to anybody, and the person who persists in their faith is likely to be totally recast in their life and must be less likely to re-offend." Read More...... 

Also check out "Who was that Mystery Man".

Friday, 25 September 2009

Palaka at Haylands Farm

On Sunday the 4th of October, Palaka is returning to the Island to lead a Dharma study day at Haylands Farm in Ryde. We will be starting at 10:00 a.m. and winding up at 4:00 p.m. bring vegetarian food to share.

The theme of the day is an exploration of the personal significances to be found and used in the symbolism of the '6 Realms' that appear in the 'Wheel of Becoming'.

Palaka says,

"What seems particularly relevant to me at the moment is the figure of the Buddha that appears in each of these realms (that of the gods, the titans, the hungry ghosts, the hells, the animals and the human realm - been in any of these yourself??). The teaching is that we can escape from the experience of emerging and re-emerging in these realms and that the escape is through the human realm. So a key question will be, 'How can I experience myself as more and more fully human?' In a way, the Buddha figures are answering this for us, offering ways towards experiencing more and more awareness. And so it's certainly not all about meditation! And it certainly is about the real significance of meditation and the 'spiritual life'."

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Ten Bulls, at the Source

10. In the World

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.

Comment: Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty of my garden is invisible. Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs? I go to the market place with my wine bottle and return home with my staff. I visit the wine shop and the market, and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.

Never was I anyone but me, whatever I am, I give.

The bull is the eternal principle of life. The ten bulls represent sequent steps in the realization of one's true nature.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Creation comes to Newport

This coming Friday, the 25th, Cineworld in Newport will be showing "Creation" the story of how Charles Darwin prepares to write his revolutionary theories on evolution. As you may know Darwin is thought to have actually started work on "The Origin of Species" while staying here on the Island. This year is of course the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th of the publication of "On the Origin of Species"

Adapted from Randal Keynes' revealing biography, Annie's Box, Creation is a biographical film about the life of Charles Darwin. It tells the story of What happens when a world-renowned scientist, crushed by the loss of his eldest daughter, formulates a theory in conflict with religious dogma, it tells of a global revolution played out in the confines of a small English village; a passionate marriage torn apart by the most dangerous idea in history; and a theory saved from extinction by the logic of a child. It is directed by Jon Amiel and stars married couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Charles and Emma Darwin.

The film had its world premiere on September 10, 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it was selected as the opening night Gala Presentation for later that evening, the first non-Canadian film since 1996 to be so honoured.

Although distribution was obtained for many countries around the world, no distributor has yet picked up the film in the United States due to the prominence of the Creation Vs. evolution controversy.