Monday, 27 April 2009

The Meditator's Atlas - Review

Continuing our occasional series of reviews on books either borrowed from our library by Sangha members or new acquisitions I recently read "The Meditator's Atlas", a roadmap of the inner world by Matthew Flickstein.
Rather than being just another how to do meditation book it is a very accessible commentary on the Visudhimagga, the Path of Purification. The Visudhimagga is itself a detailed commentary on the Buddha's teachings and was written in the fifth century by the Sri Lankan monk, Buddhaghosa.

Flickstein's book is definitely not for beginners but, that said, it is a comfortable journey deeper into the Dharma. A particular joy is the exposition of some of the seemingly endless lists that we encounter in Buddhism and an explanation of how they variously integrate and combine. It is also nicely balanced between an understandable distilation of the sometimes complex concepts contained in the Visudhimagga and some "hands on" practices and contemplations.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Earth Day

Following on from our recent post about Earth Hour, Wednesday April the 22nd. will mark Earth Day, an annual event celebrated around the world as the greenest of holidays. Established in 1970, it was created to call attention to the environment.

Earth Day is always on April 22nd and is a day when the whole world can come together to celebrate the earth and try to build and make it a safer, healthier and cleaner world for everyone.

All people have to do to take part is do something that helps the earth in some way, that could be anything from organising a festival to litter picking to installing solar panels or changing your light bulbs to energy saving ones.

Buddhism is a religion that embodies the spirit of environmental protection. The sutras not only advocate loving our neighbors, they teach us to love our environment, too. The sutras say, “All living beings have buddha-nature.” “All beings, sentient or not, have the same perfect wisdom.”

Talking of Earth Hour, the Chinese government was turned off celebrating it after officials realised the event fell on a newly created holiday to commemorate the ousting of the Dalai Lama from Tibet.

Chinese journalists and student groups were told to scale back their participation because images of cities and campuses turning dark did not fit the upbeat propaganda message that the authorities wanted to convey by declaring March the 28th "Serf Liberation Day" in Tibet (you can see a liberated "serf" in the picture above).

The Chinese authorities declared Serf Liberation Day as a holiday in Tibet to bolster domestic support for Beijing's policies in the Himalayan region after a storm of international criticism in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics. It marks the entry into Tibet of the People's Liberation Army and the fleeing of the Dalai Lama into exile.

Friday, 17 April 2009

The "Slow Down London" Festival

Slow Down London is a new project to inspire Londoners to improve their lives by slowing down to do things well, rather than as fast as possible, so in Buddhist terms that would be Mindfully.

The Slow Down London campaign will hold a festival (24 April – 4 May 2009) offering activities and inspiration, through working with a range of partners. It will give Londoners a chance to explore slow music and arts, to try meditation and yoga, to sample slow food and crafts, to discover 'slow travel' in our own city, to debate ideas about time and pace, and to find our own ways to challenge the cult of speed and to appreciate the world around us. You can view the full event programme here: slow-down-london-events-programme
Yoga, meditation practices and other methods of harmonising the body and mind are perfect ways of slowing yourself right down, and a variety of workshops are available throughout the Slow Down London festival.

Join Graham Burns for two hours of yoga in the slow lane and explore how breathing practices, restorative postures and deep guided relaxation can help you to slow down. Or you could pop by The Special Yoga Centre on the 24th April to enjoy many wonderful therapies at their Pamper Night, or even drop into Foyles during the week for one of their lunchtime yoga sessions.

Bodywise will also bring us opportunities to explore alternatives to yoga through their Tai Chi and Qi Gong workshops, whilst the London Shambhala Meditation Centre and the London Buddhist Centre (say hello to Palaka) are offering introductions to a variety of meditative techniques.

All fantastic ways of trying to centre ourselves in the present, rather than rushing through it.

(Daizan taught a tai chi class in front of the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday, apparently it was filmed, but I don't know who by).

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Leading Lama visits New Milton

I've only just come across this story but thought that I'd post on it anyway as it shows that there are plenty of Buddhist events happening in our part of the world. His Eminence Dorje Dhenpa Rinpoche, one of the leading Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism, made his first visit to England from India to give a series of teachings and prayer offerings. He is one of the leading Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism and he gave a special programme of Buddhist teachings in New Milton from Friday March 13 to Sunday March 15 in the Festival Room of the New Milton Memorial Centre in Whitfield Road. Although New Milton is on the mainland we can actually see it from the beach here in Totland.

Spokesman Rosie Nicholson says: “For the first time Rinpoche is visiting the west and sharing his inimitable warmth and wisdom with the Buddhist community here. “People were expected to travel from far around New Milton just to receive these teachings – even from as far afield as Hawaii.”

The programme in New Milton focused on explaining the Buddhist principles of meditation for over- coming stress and negative emotions and awakening spiritual insight and calm. Rinpoche and the accompanying monks have also been attending a series of major events in London to mark the 50 th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising when more than a million Tibetans were killed.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Online Meditation Course

A couple of years back I partook in an online meditation course run by the Vipassana Fellowship. This was really well designed and nicely paced and I can thoroughly recommend it, especially for those just starting their practice.

Vipassana Fellowship's next online meditation course begins on May 2nd and applications are welcome until the course starts.

This is their 12th year of offering online meditation courses and they have proven helpful to meditators in many countries around the world. The course serves as a practical introduction to samatha (tranquillity or serenity) and vipassana (insight) techniques from the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. Intended primarily for beginners, the 90 day course is also suitable for experienced meditators who wish to explore different aspects of the tradition. The emphasis is on building a sustainable and balanced meditation practice that is compatible with lay life.

The course takes place on their special website that offers daily material for each of the 90 days, interaction between participants and support from the tutor. Participants also have access to an audio supplement containing guided meditations and chants to support the online material. The course is led by Andrew Quernmore, an experienced meditation teacher based in England. Andrew wrote their first course and he has led each course since then.

Application details and further information is available here:

Courses usually begin in January, May and September each year.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Early Day Motion 343

I recently wrote to our local Island MP, Andrew Turner asking him to support an "Early Day release of political prisoners in Burma. Early day motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few EDMs are actually debated. Instead, they are used for reasons such as publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.
Motion" calling for the

Although Mr. Turner's office forwarded a reply from Bill Rammell MP, the Minister of State at the Foriegn and Commonwealth Office responsible for relations with Burma outlining the Government's support for it's people and their human rights I note that our MP (an opposition member) did not even sign the Early Day Motion, unlike 173 of his fellow MPs!

The Government's reply was as follows:-

"We condemned the sentencing of members of the "1988 student group" and other pro-democracy activists, some with up to 105 years in jail. I underlined our deep concern in a statement on 11 November. The British Ambassador in Burma has also made clear to the Burmese Foreign Minister that we consider the harsh sentences imposed to be completely unacceptable.

We remain deeply concerned at the human rights situation in Burma. Systematic and appalling abuses continue unabated. Whilst we welcomed the releases of a small number of political prisoners since September, including the senior NLD figure, U Win Tin, it is important that we remember that arbitrary arrests and sentencing of opposition figures to long prison terms continues, and more than 2200 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, remain in detention. We continue to call for their immediate and unconditional release. We support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur, Thomas Ojea Quintana, who visited Burma from 14-21 February to investigate reported human rights abuses. We urge the Burmese regime to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

We are encouraging the UN to redouble its efforts to facilitate peaceful political change in Burma. This is something the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have discussed with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and our international partners on a number of occasions. The Prime Minister most recently raised Burma with Ban Ki-moon on 9 December. Should the UN Secretary General decide to visit Burma this year he will have our full support."

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Ten Bulls, The Bull Transcended

7. The Bull Transcended

Astride the bull, I reach home.
I am serene. The bull too can rest.
The dawn has come. In blissful repose,
Within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and rope.

Comment: All is one law, not two. We only make the bull a temporary subject. It is as the relation of rabbit and trap, of fish and net. It is as gold and dross, or the moon emerging from a cloud. One path of clear light travels on throughout endless time.

The moon reflects the sun, stillness reflects thunder, Life reflects spirit .

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