Tuesday, 22 December 2015

West Wight Sangha's Review of the Year

Here is our review of the West Wight Sangha Web site's year..................

First was this from the Isle of Wight County Press...... on the 6th of January

Every week the paper runs a feature entitled, "Looking Back". This reprises some of it's stories from alternatively 10 years, 25 years, 50 years, 75 years and 100 years ago. This being the centenary of the First World War I looked at the entry for January 2nd, 1915.

It simply read, "The number of Island men who died fighting in the First World War that week was 72.

That was Seventy two young men, in just one week, out of a total population of less than 90,000 Islanders............................

The next day, the 7th, saw the senseless attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices. Two days later, after some reflection I posted Je Suis Charlie - a Buddhist Perspective.

Three days after that the BBC finally made available the pocast of Mona Siddiqui's thought for the day on the atrocities at "Charlie Hebdo". Siddiqui is Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

You can listen to this thoughtful piece here....

The Buddha goes to School. February started with the news of our first school visit to teach young island children about Buddhism. The event was reported in the County Press!

In the middle of the month Benedict Cumberbatch star of BBC TV's Sherlock married his fiancé Sophie Hunter amid high security at a private ceremony in St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Mottistone in the West Wight. Cumberbatch speaks of being drawn to the "transcendent" and calls himself a Buddhist.

March the 6th and the Isle of wight featured on NCIS! 

On the 22nd we ran a piece on the sad demise of the ground breaking Buddhist magazine "Inquiring Mind".

At the end of the month I couldn't resist posting this picture..................

Into April and with the General Election “only” five weeks away we published an emailed article a Sangha member had sent a while back. It is entitled “Should Buddhists Vote?” and is by Thubten Chodron.

On the 7th came the welcome news that Thich Nhat Hanh had returned to Plum Village to Recuperate. The medical team at the University Hospital in Bordeaux have given their approval for Thich Nhat Hanh to leave the rehabilitation clinic and return to his Hermitage at Plum Village. Thay was hospitalised for four and half months after he experienced a severe brain hemorrhage last November.

The month ended with details of how to make a donation to the Nepal Earthquake Emergency Appeal............. You still can.

May started with the post The "Crime" of NOT believing in the Non-Existent.

It is about the hidden phenomena of atheists in the Muslim world and how there are far more of them than are ever "officially" admitted. It is also about how many non-believers such as Ananta Bijoy Das pay the ultimate price for not believing the unbelievable.

On the 14th it was "Birthdays and Back to School for the Buddha".

We had just celebrated Wesak here in the West Wight and a few days later had another teaching about Buddhism session, this time to children at St. Saviour's primary school here in Totland.

Talking of the Buddha's birthday, we ended the month with this picture of South Korea's Lotus Lantern Festival which celebrates the Buddha’s coming into the world.

June started with a report on The Biggest Buddha Statue in Europe .

On the 3rd we belatedly reported the death of Professor Anthony C. Yu who had died the previous month. Professor Yu spent over fifteen years translating the “The Journey to the West” which is considered to be one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It is the story on which the BBC series "Monkey" was based.............

On the 17th we ran a piece on the annual Yulin dog-eating festival in China. Yes, that's right DOG EATING FESTIVAL. Up to 10,000 dogs and 10,000 cats are estimated to be killed each year during the barbarous event. I'm not showing the pictures here but you can still sign the petition against the festivals continuation.

We ended the month with a report on the protests in Aldershot against the Dalai Lama by supporters of the cult of Dorje Shugden.

The protesters are distinguished by their devotion to Dorje Shugden, an iconic deity whom they call enlightened, an emanation of Manjusri Bodhisattva, and even a buddha.

However, Dorje Shugden originally was a low-level tantric deity associated with the Sakya school. Until relatively recently, even within the Gelug school he was considered a "worldly" or unenlightened figure charged with the protection of Gelugpa.

It's complicated read about it


July started with the news that more ordinations of Theravada Bhikkhunis had taken place, this time in Indonesia.

On Sunday the 19th, we held our Summer Meditation Retreat over here in TOTLAND in the West Wight and so this Besley cartoon from Friday's Isle of Wight County Press seemed particularly appropriate.

To get the joke you have to know that the island is 23 miles from end to end and it takes less than an hour to drive from anywhere to anywhere even if you go via Newport!

On August the 17th came the sad news of a bomb attack close to the Erawan Shrine in the centre of the Thai capital, Bangkok.

One of the least known and least publicised current wars involving Islamic extremists is the ongoing jihad in southern Thailand. So Immediate suspicion fell on the separatists who have been committing a seemingly unending series of terror attacks on the Thai state. Later video evidence pointed to an "unknown" foreigner who left the bomb in a rucksack at the shine.

September started with the Annual Buddhist Picnic when we get together with the other Buddhist groups on the island. We were back on the Duver for this the eighteenth year that we've held this event.

 Some of us got there early and strung a few prayer flags to let people know where we were.

we were however saddened to see that the small oak tree that marks our picnic spot is in very poor health with only a very few leaves and with most of the branches dead and dried out. One possible explanation is that two years ago the Duver was flooded and as it is a low lying coastal sand spit (forming one side of Bembridge harbour) salt water mixed with the flooding and it is this that has damaged the tree. So that's the Buddhist bit - impermanence...............

Now we're not just talking about the end of year in this review - Yes, you've guessed it - It's the End of the World - again!

On the 16th we reported that Scott Lively, the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, a conservative Christian organization based in Temecula, California, was predicting the end of the world.

He warned that legalising gay marriage would unleash the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which would take the form "gay theology," war, famine, and a "massive harvest of the grim reaper" of the souls of all who will have died in the chaos.

Now this is all meant to start on Yom Kippur which actually started at sunset on the 22nd of September (ended sunset 23rd). As you're now reading this, it didn't happen!

That being so I posted a piece on a selection of predictions of the End of the World.  

(Sandwiched between these two articles was one for World Peace Day on the 21st!).

Still here and into October. On the 11th we got together with the Newport Soto Zen and travelled over to the mainland to visit Cittaviveka, the Buddhist Monastery at Chithurst.

See also the trouble we had getting there..... Wightlink, The Buddha and Mars.

At the end of the month and with Rememberance Day on Sunday the 8th of November and Armistice Day on the 11th people may have been considering also wearing a Purple Poppy this year to commemorate all of the animals killed in war. However Animal Aid, who produce the Purple Poppies, had decided NOT to continue producing them.Click here for their reasons "An End to the Purple Poppy".

November and a hideous sense of Déjà vu. We started the year with the Charlie Hebdo attacks and now almost at the end of the year we had
the Paris attacks of the 15th of November.
I wrote, "How should we respond to the events in Paris? As a Buddhist I feel that the only wise, the only skillful response is compassion.

Compassion for the victims, all the victims, the victims of the past, those whose suffering has produced the hatred of the present, the victims of Friday's terrorist attack, the victims to come and the potential victims who will not be killed, maimed or imprisoned but who will have their compassion killed their humanity maimed and their thoughts and opinions imprisoned in hatred.

You might like to read this insightful article by Graeme Wood, in the The Atlantic, "What ISIS Really Wants".

We ended the month with the more uplifting story of a bunch of Chinese Buddhists performing a "Release life," (fang sheng) ceremony in Central Park.

December started with a post on the 3rd on the news that the previous night the British Parliament had voted by 397 votes to 223 to bomb Daesh in Syria, one hour later RAF Tornados took off to bomb oil rigs in Syria's Omar oil fields. In relation to this the post asked "What is Skilful?"

We ended the year with "A Question of Openness and Tolerance", the story of our third school visit of the year to teach island youngsters something about Buddhism which I contrasted with Riverheads High School in Staunton, Virginia, USA. Not the school, Not the teachers, Not the pupils but the parents..............

Whereas we were welcomed to St. George's school in Newport and the children had a great time learning about the role of monks and nuns in the spread of Buddhism around the world in the United States there was a problem.................

Children at Riverheads High School were asked to try their hands at copying a passage known as the Shahada, or declaration of faith in Islam. The work sheet distributed to students said: “This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.” 

The response from parents, "I am preparing to confront the county on this issue of the Muslim indoctrination taking place here in an Augusta county school. This evil has been cloaked in the form of multiculturism. My child was given the creed of the Islam faith to copy." She went on to accuse the teacher of "planting the seed of satan into the precious minds of those innocent children."

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