Thursday, 26 May 2016

Dana in Danger

At our latest Sangha meeting we discussed charitable giving. The subject came up in relation to the recent revelations that 32 UK charity bosses were paid over £200,000 last year.

A survey of boardroom pay among the top 150 charities found that 32 executives were paid over £200,000 last year, up from 30 in 2013.

The number of charity leaders paid over £300,000 also increased from nine to 12 in two years, according to research by Third Sector magazine. Overall, the median pay level for bosses across the top 100 charities in the UK was £165,000 a year.

The usual justification that such high salaries are needed to attract the best talent was wheeled out. Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which represents charities said: “There is a clear case for paying for expert staff to achieve the results donors rightly demand – although times are still tough for charities which is why average executive pay is falling.”

Presumably then, if we give more to the charities the CEOs will be paid more? Our generosity is intended to benefit those in need not to boost the pay of people who one would have hoped were motivated by the same spirit of wanting to contribute to the welfare of other beings less fortunate than ourselves.

The Buddhist practise of Dāna has been defined in traditional texts as any action of relinquishing the ownership of what one considered or identified as one's own, and investing the same in a recipient without expecting anything in return.

The danger is that if such giving is perceived as being diverted into the already well lined pockets of those in charge people will stop donating, thinking that they are just throwing their money into the trough.

Generosity doesn’t have to mean giving material things or money. In fact, often the most generous thing we can give in our busy world is our time. There are so many things that need doing that we can do voluntarily. We just look around us and see all the suffering there is in the world and then step in and help out where our help is needed.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Things To Do

This isn't really a poem and yet is sheer poetry. One of our members shared this at a recent meeting; it is taken from Marguerite Manteau-Rao's new year's resolutions. She is a mindfulness meditator, Mindfulness-based psychotherapist, memory care consultant and co-founder of the Presence Care Project.

"The old informs the not yet born, and the awareness of time passing brings a sense of urgency, to be wiser, kinder, and even more mindful . . . Here is what I wish for this New Year:

To make my sitting practice a daily priority.
To spend less time being social with strangers, online.
To think twice before acting on the heart's closings.
To not expect too much, and be grateful for what is.
To make room for the unavoidable unpleasantness.
To not cling to pleasant things, people, or moments.
To have compassion for my imperfections, and those of others.
To uproot the hindrances, especially fear and anger.
To view each social interaction as an opportunity to learn.
To play catch with thoughts and chase away the impure ones.
To move more slowly and more deliberately in the world.
To be more with nature, and people, and less in my head.
To rest in the breath often throughout the days.
To walk each step, thankful for the earth beneath.
To practice loving kindness often, and forgive myself when I forget . . ."

Saturday, 21 May 2016

FULL MOON - Vesakha Puja

Learning How to Let Go

Alert to the needs of the journey,
those on the path of awareness,
like swans, glide on,
leaving behind their former resting places.

Dhammapada 91

Letting go is not always easy. But if the Buddha hadn't learnt how to relinquish all habits of clinging, we wouldn't have a path of practice today. Through his ardent effort and eventual Enlightenment, the Teacher showed us that it can be done. When we start out in practice, we might feel daunted by the task of taming this monkey mind; it runs around endlessly, refusing to settle. When we first learnt to swim or attempted to speak a foreign language, the task perhaps seemed equally daunting. The Buddha wasn't born enlightened; it was through his persistent devotion to practice that he realized the freedom from attachments. His many years of teaching were aimed at inspiring us in our work.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Christian Group Protests Meditation in York Minster

Senior clergy at York Minster have quietly introduced Zen Buddhist zazen meditation sessions. They are now a regular fixture, listed among the Minster’s main “spiritual” activities, alongside its Sunday school and youth group, and have been enthusiastically supported by the Dean, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull.

The York Zen Sangha meets on alternate Fridays at the Old Palace, in Dean’s Park, for formal sitting meditation, led by the Canon Chancellor, the Revd Canon Dr Chris Collingwood and supported by Fr. Patrick Kundo Eastman Roshi, a Roman Catholic priest and Zen master in the White Plum Asanga of the lineage of Hakuyu Taizen Maezumi Roshi. All are welcome to attend the sessions, which run from 6.30pm to 8pm.

As you might guess this has not gone down well with everyone. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the pressure group Christian Concern, said: "Buddhism contrasts sharply with Christian teaching about God. The two are incompatible. To try to mix them is deceptive and dishonours Jesus Christ."

"It is remarkable that this is happening at one of the country's best known cathedrals. The Archbishop of York must take swift action. This type of confusion undermines the Church of England's current initiative to encourage Christian prayer."

"It is sobering that last year a Canon of this same cathedral blessed the city's 'Pride' march. The Church of England must take decisive action to deal with this radical agenda."

As usual there seems to be a complete inability to separate technique from teachings. Just as many church halls ban Yoga classes because it will turn people into Hindus and Mindfulness teachers dare not mention it's Buddhist origins.

Zazen is the practice of stilling the mind through wholehearted attentiveness to the breath. This steady attention coupled with the stillness of the body frees the mind from normal activities. Yamada Roshi, a great Japanese Zen Master said to all his Christian Students, "I am not trying to make you a Buddhist, but to empty you in imitation of your Lord, Jesus Christ."

Monday, 16 May 2016

Wesak in the West Wight

This month, the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd mark the first full moon of May. This has been designated by the United Nations as the international Day of Wesak to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over two and a half millennia and continues to make to the spirituality of humanity.

Wesak is the Buddhist festival that commemorates the Buddha's birth, awakening and final passing and is celebrated by millions of Buddhists around the world on the day of the first full Moon of May.

This year we will be celebrating Wesak here in the West Wight from 12:00 midday to 2:30ish on Sunday the 22nd (usual format of bringing vegetarian food to share). All Buddhists and friends and family are welcome.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Want to Buy a Buddha?

If you are after a new Buddha statue for your shrine room and have piles of cash burning a hole in your pocket you might consider visiting Christie's King street auction house this Thursday for their sale of Chinese, Japanese and South-East Asian works of art.

For example this 17th century Gilt-Bronze figure of the Buddha from Thailand, AYUTTHAYA PERIOD, Cast, standing in samabhanga on a lotus base placed on a stepped circular pedestal, both hands in abhayamudra, wearing uttarasangha and samghati secured with a belt, his face with a serene expression and highly carved eyebrows, the eyes inlaid with mother-of-pearl, the curled hair rising to the ushnisha topped with a tall flame 53 ½ in. (136 cm.) high, mounted.

It is estimated at a mere six to ten thousand pounds........................

for a statue of a man who told his followers NOT to make any representations of him but to just earnestly follow his teachings.............

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mindful Dieting & Meditation

In the New York Times Sandra Aamodt writes that a "recent study into the causes of obesity is just the latest example of research showing that in the long run dieting is rarely effective, doesn't reliably improve health and does more harm than good. There is a better way to eat.

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.

The brain’s weight-regulation system considers your set point to be the correct weight for you, whether or not your doctor agrees. If someone starts at 55 kilos and drops to 36, their brain rightfully declares a starvation state of emergency, using every method available to get that weight back up to normal.

If dieting doesn't work, what should we do instead? I recommend mindful eating — paying attention to signals of hunger and fullness, without judgement, to relearn how to eat only as much as the brain’s weight-regulation system commands. 

Relative to chronic dieters, people who eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full are less likely to become overweight, maintain more stable weights over time and spend less time thinking about food. Mindful eating also helps people with eating disorders like binge eating learn to eat normally. Depending on the individual’s set point, mindful eating may reduce weight or it may not. Either way, it’s a powerful tool to maintain weight stability, without deprivation. 

I finally gave up dieting six years ago, and I'm much happier. I redirected the energy I used to spend on dieting to establishing daily habits of exercise and meditation. I also enjoy food more while worrying about it less, now that it no longer comes with a side order of shame."