Friday, 27 February 2009

Earth Hour

I've just received the following email from Angie & Mark of the Isle of Wight Sangha of the Community of Interbeing in Lake. It's self explanatory so here it is in it's entirety.....

Hi all,

Just a quick email to let everyone know about the WWF's Earth Hour which will be on Saturday March 28th at 8.30pm. They would like a billion people across the world to turn their lights out for an hour. By signing up we are sending a powerful global message to our world leaders that we care and that we want them to take urgent action to prevent catastrophic climate change that will affect people and wildlife around the world. This will be the third year for this amazing event.

You can arrange to do something fun while the lights are out. Why not hold a candlelight supper, acoustic music event or play a murder mystery game in the dark!

Please visit to sign up and get more info.

Have fun in the dark!

Angie and Mark

Monday, 23 February 2009

Book Review

Recently I've asked people if they would write a short review for any books that they might borrow from our West Wight Sangha library a catalogue of which can be found on the Dharma Studies Resources page. First up is one from Ken on "A Deeper Beauty" by Paramananda. Ken's approach has been to produce a bullet point list as this is how he normally picks out the main learning points of a book for him.

I've put a link to where the book can be purchased from Amazon but please remember that if you first go to the Burma Campaign UK web site and click on their Amazon link then any shopping you do on will raise money for the Burma Campaign UK. The Burma Campaign UK receives a percentage of the cost and you pay nothing extra!

A Deeper Beauty by Paramananda

He is a social worker in hospice. Doesn’t drive due to poor vision.

Because of the illusion of ‘self’ we tend to relate to the world with craving or aversion.

Notice your mind’s tendency to comment on everything – and let it go…

Exercise: ‘What will people say about me at my funeral?’, ‘What is important in my life?’. ‘What motivates me?’.

When sitting – focus on each of your six senses in turn and experience how wonderful they are.

If feeling resentful that we have to do something – SLOW DOWN and welcome the opportunity to practise. Try to spot your habitual, automatic thinking.

Sees his meditation practice as an attempt to bring equanimity and joy to his life.

We can miss what we are doing NOW, if we regard it as unimportant chore have to do to get to what we really want to do. But in the meantime we miss out on life going on NOW.

Ryokan being moved to tears by the beauty of a sunset.

Try to choose at least one activity everyday to slow down and undertake mindfully.

With meditation and observing our thoughts, we see that most of our thinking is unnecessary and can be let go of.

Mindfulness contains elements of curiosity and pleasure.

Friday, 20 February 2009

More from Europe's Buddhist Nation

Tonight (Friday) the BBC2 program "Around the World in 80 Faiths" looks at Europe including the republic of Kalmykia, the only region in Europe where Buddhism is the dominant religion. The Republic of Kalmykia is a constituent republic of the Russian Federation situated south of the Volga on the north-western shores of the Caspian Sea. It shares its south-eastern border with Dagestan.

Temples, Buddha statues and pictures of the Dalai Lama abound in Kalmykia's capital Elista. Its Temple of Buddha Shakyamuni is the largest Buddhist temple in Europe. Visible from every part of the city, it serves as a giant centre piece around which life in the tiny capital revolves. Specialist painters from Tibet are painstakingly redecorating the temple’s interior - a process that could take another four years.

Check out our previous story on Kalmykia.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Ten Bulls, Riding the Bull Home

6. Riding the Bull Home

Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward.
The voice of my flute intones through the evening.
Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm.
Whoever hears this melody will join me.

Comment: This struggle is over; gain and loss are assimilated. I sing the song of the village woodsman, and play the tunes of the children. Astride the bull, I observe the clouds above. Onward I go, no matter who may wish to call me back.

Now I know the bull as well as my self this world is my playground .

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

Monday, 16 February 2009

Bon Voyage to Palaka

Yesterday (Sunday 15th Feb) Buddhists from across the Island met at Sian's house in Ryde to bid farewell to Palaka. This week he moves from Ventnor, Isle of Wight, to Bethnal Green, to be at the FWBO's London Buddhist Centre.

It is always special when the wider Island Sangha comes together for an event and yesterday afternoon was especially so, sharing food, being able to sit together and bidding our farewells to a good friend.

Palaka was in large part responsible for changing the West Wight Sangha from two friends who meditated together into the thriving group that it is now. For this and so many other things I take great pleasure in being able to say once more, thank you, Palaka.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Darwin, the Isle of Wight, Evolution & Buddhism

Today marks the 200th aniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and is internationally recognised as "Darwin Day". Moreover, 2009 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species", on the 24th of November 1859.

In a recent letter to the Isle of Wight County Press A.J.M. Gale points out that

"Charles Darwin visited the Island in 1858, the year he started writing his famous work, The Origin of the Species. Normally his home was in Shropshire but at the beginning of June 1858 scarlet fever was sweeping through the village. Darwin decided to take his family away until the outbreak had run its course. Darwin chose to come to the Island and at first stayed in Sandown — it is thought at the King's Head Hotel adjoining the Ocean Hotel.

It is in a letter to Charles Lyell dated June 18, 1858, that he wrote 'We are established here for ten days and then go onto Shanklin'. He also said he had contemplated writing an abstract of his work but realised it would take a larger work. It is reasonable to assume that while on the Island he started on the abstract that would lead to his main work. On July 30, while resident at Norfolk House, Shanklin, Darwin wrote to J. D. Hooker: 'This is a very charming place and we have got a comfortable house'. Later he wrote: 'I pass my time by doing daily a couple of hours of my Abstract'. He also expresses the view this will lead onto his larger work."

As to Buddhism and evolution, Darwin's theory is readily acceptable to Buddhists. Everything is conditioned by what went before, everything is interconnected, nothing is permanent - all changes and, here's the cruncher, - there is no creator god.

Read more on the Buddhist perspective on Darwin HERE

Monday, 9 February 2009

New Study Material

I've just added links to two excellent text sources re: the "Four Noble Truths" to our Dharma Study Resources page. The first is "The Four Noble Truths by Ajahn Sumedho", the other being Thanissaro Bhikkhu's presentation "The Four Noble Truths, A Study Guide".

Friday, 6 February 2009

Burma, Your Chance to Make a Difference

A United Nations envoy has just returned from Burma and has yet again failed to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s 2,130 other political prisoners. UN envoys have now made 38 visits to Burma and have consistently failed to achieve any progress towards democracy and human rights.

Stronger action is needed. These prisoners have done nothing wrong. They have been imprisoned for calling for freedom and human rights. The United Nations Security Council must bring in a binding resolution to ensure that Burma’s political prisoners are released. We need your help to make this happen.

Take 2 minutes now and write to your MP and urge them to support Aung San Suu Kyi by signing Early Day Motion 343* (Early Day Motions are similar to a parliamentary petitions – read more below**).

EDM 343 calls for all the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burma’s 2,130 political prisoners. The EDM demands that the British government uses its position on the UN Security Council to get the Security Council to take action.

We’ve made it really easy for you. Just go to this page and click “Take Action, Click Here”. Then all you do is put in your details (so we can find your MP for you) and personalise the message we’ve drafted for you. We take care of the rest!:

Take 2 minutes now and email UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and the UN Security Council from this website and urge him to make it his top priority to secure the release of all Burma’s political prisoners:

An update from inside Burma
This week Burma’s imprisoned democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed out of her house arrest for a few short minutes to meet with the UN Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, and the Central Executive Committee of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Suu Kyi called on the UN to prioritise the release of all 2,100 political prisoners in Burma.
She once more bravely stated that she is willing to talk to the Burmese regime at any time, but the regime is refusing to come to the negotiating table.

Aung San Suu Kyi is only kept safe because of her high international profile. You, as one of her supporters are helping to keep her safe.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Library Updated

The list of books contained in our library has now been updated and can be found by going to the "Dharma Studies Resources" page where it can be found in the left hand column under "STUDY TOOLS". Members of any of the other Buddhist groups on the Island are welcome to borrow any of our books.... just let me know what you would like and we'll arrange something.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snow in the West Wight!

I know this may not seem very unusual to most of you or, for that matter, very Buddhist but we just don't get real snow here in the West Wight (it's all to do with being on an island). On the other hand change is very Buddhist.

Sangha member "braves" the snow.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Palaka, His Spiritual Journey Continues

As a number of you in the wider Island Sangha may already know, Palaka will soon be leaving the Island. Here in his own words is why.

"Taking a look at why we live as we do can be a demanding task. What are we noticing or ignoring? What are we ‘talking-up’ and what are we ‘editing-out?’ Who do we trust to steady our eye? Well, I can thank Steve for setting me the task of saying something of why I’m choosing to change the way I live, moving from Ventnor, Isle of Wight, to Bethnal Green, London. I think he expected more than a couple of sentences.

It comes down to conditions. Buddhist teaching points to the significance of conditions. We are taught that it is because everything arises in dependence on conditions that the spiritual life is possible, it is possible to move beyond the truth of the different kinds of suffering. There are always conditions: arisen and arising. We would probably all want our friends to live in conditions that support them. Which conditions seem to give rise to or to maintain positive mental states, states based on generosity, love and clarity?

My thinking runs along these lines: our actions have consequences. A consequence might be the creation of positive conditions. Creating positive conditions is to enter more fully into the world that they represent.

Mulling this over for a bit is really just not enough. “Think only of this very moment, and waste no time in turning your minds to the study of the way”, Dogen instructs. For myself, certain conditions help me to do this, really help with this. So I am learning to seek out these conditions – and to continue to create them for myself and others. I am interested in the results. Some people are quite helpful to me seeing the results - and to pointing out my ‘editing’ and ‘talking-up’! So I’m looking to support this warmth of engagement with others - with life – with clarity.

And, yes, there are positive conditions on the Island: the natural environment; our links with one another within and across the different practice traditions (long may they be maintained!); a relatively stable way of life…

Do I always use these conditions in a wholehearted effort to see the truth of impermanence? To see the urgency it carries and the liberation it offers? Seeing something of this truth, does my response have even a fraction of the strength that often goes with learning that we all have an ‘inherent potential’? That potential becomes for some a cherished, cosseted belief – though often untested. And the response to seeing, really seeing, impermanence? The Buddha talks of someone seeing that truth responding as though his turban is on fire! He talks about the energy of one who had not acted on this as like one “brooding over the past like aged herons in a pond without fish”. There’s a recognition of the urgency of spiritual practice and also a recognition of how easy it is to create a vacant godrealm of cherished potential. So, though people happily discover Buddhism to be ‘tolerant’, it makes no compromises. Sangha is what conduces to growth, and I’m off to see if I can find it.

Some apparently positive conditions seem to have a greater effect on me than others. The same might be true for you. So I learn the need to balance being receptive with being active – just like in some meditation practices. Along with the idea of ‘potential’ rides its necessary companion idea: realisation. Along with ‘inherence’ rides ‘expression’. It is not that one does nothing. So I feel that I’m taking a bit of action on that front. Padmasambhava directs us to “Pay urgent attention to impermanence and then strongly direct your mind to going for refuge”. So, I feel more a need to direct myself, to go for refuge more. I wonder how this will play out?

Well, looking at why we live as we do, at why I live as I do, I find there are ways to bring together the components of how I view the world and reveal their values. Mandalas do this. As expressions of a mental state they can depict sublime ideals. Putting Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha towards the centre of our mandala not only expresses a valuing of that which unites all Buddhist traditions. It also prompts a creative exploration of the harmonious ways of arranging the other aspects of our life. Refining such harmony as one finds by aligning it more fully with the Three Jewels, discovering ways to express this refinement, all this creates further conditions for oneself and for others. And it’s that which has prompted me to look, respond and make choices.

I’ve been re-reading some Kukai, the Japanese tantric master. He responds to the question why he ‘entered the mountain’ with another question: “Have you not seen? O, have you not seen?” Surely the other man has shared in glimpsing samsara, he seems to ask. Then he gives a series of examples of the manifestation of impermanence.

Kukai turned from a beguiling world, steeped in impermanence, more likely to divert than to expand awareness, to another aspect of the same world, one where his awareness was supported, his vision expressed and his heart freed: “The limpid stream of the mountain is the source of my inexhaustible joy”.

I am just beginning to know the form of my ‘mountain’ and also, happily, I am beginning to find my own ‘mountain stream’. It emerges from creating and acting on positive conditions. Setting Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels at the centre of one’s mandala is a direct challenge to the greed, hatred and delusion that can create a misleadingly daunting landscape.

Setting generosity, straightforward friendliness, love, and the values of clarity and awareness toward the centre demands expression: what is one to do with all that freed-up energy?

Finding a way to express that energy, to give rise to more positive conditions and to maintain this positivity presents each of us with the invitation to a personal quest for the benefit of ourselves and others.

For my part, for the next year or so, I’ll pursue that quest at Bethnal Green, around the London Buddhist Centre. I think I have my eyes open and see that it’s not likely to be simply an easy ride, quite likely to throw back at me that line from “Sweet Charity”: No matter where I go, I find myself there. Taking a turn on the rota to ring the bells for the morning meditation period, doing a shift in the bookshop, meeting up with one of the men who ordained me, Maitreyabandhu, talking about the Dharma together, living in a spiritual community: so far, I’ve not found a way of creating these conditions on the Island. In time, they might arise, but perhaps they’re just a cherished potential. Until then, I’m off to London, not severing my roots, but choosing ‘to grow beyond them’. Perhaps you’ll visit? Perhaps I’ll be asked back to join in with or lead some weekend events on the Island. Either way, as Milarepa sings in his Song of Meeting and Parting: ‘Inspired by the Dharma, May we soon meet again, in prosperity and boon!’"