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.