Thursday, 28 May 2009

Ten Days of Stillness

John, one of our Sangha members, has just returned from a 10 day meditation retreat at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Amaravati is a monastery in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism and a centre of teaching and practice. Its heart is a resident community of monks and nuns, whose life of meditation and work is open for visitors to share, as a living example of the Buddhist path. "Amaravati" means "Deathless Realm" in the Buddhist scriptural language, Pali, a verbal reminder of the highest spiritual aspiration.

Here is John's story of his retreat......


( A commentary on a Retreat held at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery)

I felt dreadful when I woke up on the third morning at 0430,waiting for the bell to rouse us. ‘I’m not even half way through this’ My body complained. The initial enthusiasm had evaporated. ‘Another day of more of the same boring stuff, sitting and walking, sitting and walking.’ The Ajahn had advised us not to read anything either. My whingeing mind went on and on.
Be mindful and observe. Stop reacting, we had been instructed.

Fifty retreatants of mixed Nationalities were with me, all following the ‘ Noble Silence’. Early rising. Chanting and Meditation till a bit of porridge at 0700. Working Meditation for an hour (Which means hoovering, cleaning WC’s and washing up- mindfully) then back for a spot more sitting and walking till the only meal of the day at 1200.( There is a certain skill involved in taking enough to eat to last through 19 hours abstinence, but not to gorge!). ‘Chew chew swallow, chew chew swallow.It’s not that exciting, just the thought that makes it so’ The Ajahn smilingly advised.

Afternoon programme?....yes you’ve guessed it, sitting and walking, till 5pm when we were allowed a cuppa.

Each evening we would listen to a talk in the Shrine room, as the sun went down, with just the reflection of the candles on the golden Buddha for illumination.Ajahn Jayanto would expound on ‘Awareness Practice’ . ‘Just this moment, just now’ and we would inwardly nod sagely.

Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day we practised being simply in the present. Feeling each sense, individually, as we walked a straight path or simply sat. Becoming ‘the Knower’ of the fact that those thoughts would just dissipate, like steam off your morning porridge, if you did not attach to them.

By Day six I began to experience great calmness and well being in the sessions. My breathing finely tuned. My patience with myself and others grew. I could open my eyes wide during these periods and simply…….be here and now. Quietly alert. "Body doing its thing, mind doing its thing. Just watch" the Ajahn continued.

Suddenly it was Day Ten. It was all over. We were released from our Silence and Eight Precepts.’ Go and talk with the people you’ve silently interacted with!’ we were told. I did and discovered a whole family of like minded bodies.

Retreats are something to immerse into. Take the opportunity to move your practice forward. Your mind will rebel, but, after all…. who is in charge?!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Ten Bulls, Both Bull and Self Transcended

8. Both Bull and Self Transcended

Whip, rope, person, and bull -- all merge in No-Thing.
This heaven is so vast no message can stain it.
How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire?
Here are the footprints of the patriarchs.

Comment: Mediocrity is gone. Mind is clear of limitation. I seek no state of enlightenment. Neither do I remain where no enlightenment exists. Since I linger in neither condition, eyes cannot see me. If hundreds of birds strew my path with flowers, such praise would be meaningless.

Bull and self are one. Dark and light are tools for living.

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

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Old Books


The Buddhist Society would welcome any Buddhist books that you no longer want.
They would be happy to find a home for them either in their library, to sell second hand, to send to prisoners taking their correspondence course or to donate to prison libraries.

Buddhist books only please.

58 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1PH

Diplomats see Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma's military regime made a small concession to international pressure by permitting a diplomatic presence at the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The proceedings, which for the first two days were held in secret inside Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, have drawn widespread international condemnation.

The 63 year old Nobel peace laureate was reported to be subdued but dignified during the hearing. "She appeared very strong," said Joselito Chad Jacinto, the Filipino charge d'affaires. "She sat listening intently and alertly to what was going on. She exuded a type of aura which can be described as moving, quite awe-inspiring."

Mrs Suu Kyi addressed the group of 30 foreign diplomats and a handful of Burmese journalists as she was led from court.

"Thank you very much for coming and for your support," she said "I hope to meet you in better days."

The Czech Presidency of the European Union, with Jan Kohout as Foreign Minister, says it's ready to "reinforce" European sanctions against Burma in order to press for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Even Myanmar's usually acquiescent neighbours have issued a rare rebuke to the generals Read more.................

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi to be Put on Trial for Having Visitor

The Burma Campaign UK today called for an intense diplomatic effort to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, after she was detained in custody in Burma’s notorious Insein Jail.

Aung San Suu Kyi is being tried for breaking the terms of her house arrest, which forbids visitors, after an American man, John Yettaw, swam across Inya Lake and refused to leave her house.

The junta demands of all Burmese that local officials are notified about any overnight visitor who is not a family member. The law says foreigners are not allowed to spend the night at a local's home.

Some members of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, have been jailed for about two weeks for violating that law.

“The United Nations and ASEAN must dispatch envoys to Burma to demand the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burma’s political prisoners,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. “Burma’s generals will use any excuse to keep Aung San Suu Kyi detained. If strong action isn’t taken, Aung San Suu Kyi could face the rest of her life in jail.”

The Burma Campaign UK is calling on the British government, EU and USA to use their influence to ensure the UN sends an envoy to Burma.

“Aung San Suu Kyi has committed no crime, she is the victim of crime,” said Zoya Phan. “There was an intruder in her house who refused to leave, but she is the one being imprisoned.”

Today Aung San Suu Kyi will have spent a total of 13 years and 202 days in detention. The United Nations has ruled that Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention is illegal under international law, and also under Burmese law. The United Nations Security Council has also told the dictatorship that they must release Aung San Suu Kyi. Read more

If you haven't already done so please sign the petition demanding UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon make the release of Burma's political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, his personal priority. We're aiming for 888,888 signatures by May 24th.
Sign the "Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now " Global Petition here

Friday, 8 May 2009

Join us for Wesak

The West Wight Sangha invite all island Buddhists, their families and friends to join us at Yew Tree Cottage, Weston Road, Totland Bay from mid-day onwards this Saturday, the 9th, to celebrate the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and parinibbana...... Wesak!

Please bring vegetarian food to share and maybe your seat or cushion for a group meditation.

Sometimes informally called "Buddha's birthday", Vesak Day is regarded by all Buddhist traditions as the anniversary of the birth of the Buddha with others also regarding it as a time to commemorate the enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.

The exact date each year varies according to the lunar calendars used in different traditions, we're using the United Nations Wesak holiday of the first full moon of May.

Buddhists observe the occasion in a range of ways - meditation and prayer, observing precepts (no killing, no stealing, no lying, no sexual misconduct, no intoxicants, etc.), fasting, partaking of vegetarian food, giving to charity, and "bathing" of the baby Buddha ceremonies.

Celebrating Vesak also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick.

Tashi Lhunpo Monks perform in Portsmouth

For anyone who missed the amazing performance by the monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery at the Quay Arts Centre in Newport last July, you can catch them again over on the North island on Tuesday 23 June at 9.30pm in St Thomas’s Cathedral, Old Portsmouth.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Message from the PM on the Occasion of Wesak

I just received this email from Jenny who is a member of the Cowes Mahasandhi Tibetan Buddhist group.

Gordon Brown has sent a message to Buddhists in Britain as they celebrate Wesak, the festival
marking the Buddha’s birthday.

He said that everyone could learn from the Buddhist philosophy and should reflect on the contribution the religion has made to society.
The PM said:

“I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Wesak. Britain’s Buddhists will join with others around the world to reflect on the birth and enlightenment of Lord Buddha and I wanted to let you know that my thoughts are with you as you celebrate this Buddha Day."

“The Fourth Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path have brought so much peace to so many and we can all learn from Buddhist philosophy and the practice of mindfulness."

“Today we should reflect on the great spiritual contribution that Buddhism has made to the world and congratulate Britain’s Buddhists for their vibrant contribution to our national life. Please do pass on my best wishes to your family and friends.”

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Metta Sutta

I was recently re-reading the Metta Sutta, the Buddha's discourse on loving kindness to all beings, and was impressed by how the sheer beauty of this teaching still leaves me lost in wonder at the depth of the Buddha's compassion and humanity.

Metta Sutta

One who is skilled in doing good and who wishes to attain that state of calm (i.e. Nibbana) should act thus. They should be able, upright, perfectly upright, obedient, gentle and humble.

Contented, easily looked after,
with few duties, simple in livelihood. Controlled in senses, discreet, not impudent; Not greedily attached to families.

They should not commit any slight wrong,
so that other wise ones might find fault in them. May all beings be happy and safe, may their hearts be wholesome.

Whatsoever living beings there are;
feeble or strong, long, stout or medium, short, small or large, seen or unseen.

Those dwelling far or near, those who are born and those who are to be born. May all beings, without exception, be happy minded.

Let not one deceive another nor despise any
person whatsoever in any place. In anger or ill-will, let them not wish any harm to another.

Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so let them cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings.

Let thoughts of boundless love pervade the
whole world; above, below and across without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.

Whether one stands, walks, sits or lies down,
as long as they are awake, they should develop this mindfulness. This, they say is the Highest conduct here.

Not falling into error,
virtuous and endowed with insight, one discards attachment to sensuous desires. Truly, one does not come again; to be conceived in a womb.

By firm determination of this truth
May I ever be well.