NEW MOON – Foolishness

Riches mostly ruin the foolish,
but not those who seek the beyond.
Just as they dismiss the well-being of others and cause harm,
fools also ruin themselves.

Dhammapada v. 355

Wealth can generate great benefit; it can also cause considerable harm. The Buddha referred to wealth as an intoxicant. As with power, wealth can be an opportunity for bringing increased goodness in the world, or it can inflate a sense of self-importance, making us deaf to those who might otherwise be genuinely helpful to us. The intoxicating effect of wealth tends to cause us to believe we can afford to listen only to those who give us praise. Such arrogance leads to further greed and the only thing that increases is foolishness.

Only 4 Weeks Until the 20th Annual Buddhist Picnic!

It’s hard to believe but this year’s Annual Buddhist Picnic will be our 20th! As is traditional we will be holding the picnic on the first Sunday of September (that’s the 3rd) on the Duver at St. Helens.

For those of you who have not been before , our picnic site is the other side of the road from the National Trust car park. Take the right hand turning by the signs showing the Duver and long stay beach front car parks, carry on a few hundred metres and the National Trust car park is on the left.

In the centre of the photo below you can see our original meeting place, the small oak tree. As previously reported, the tree has unfortunately died and as such now offers no shade.

However, Angie and Mark have found another oak tree about a hundred meters further on along the track you can see to the right of the photo. So just carry on along the path and look for some Buddhists sitting under another small oak tree! If you’re on foot and coming from the St. Helen’s side you can go to the end of Mill Road and come across on the causeway, the “new” oak tree will be facing you to your right.

 

 

Family, friends, children and dogs welcome. Bring vegetarian
food to share (don’t forget the fruit juices).

NEW MOON – What Do We Dwell On

Beware of devious thinking 
and be aware of all that you dwell upon. 
Renounce all unruly thought 
and cultivate that which is wholesome. 

Dhammapada v. 233

It takes a certain subtlety of attention to see how the thoughts that we harbour give shape to our character. It is obvious that what we do and say has an effect, but here the Buddha is cautioning that what we think also matters. Elsewhere he helpfully advises that in order to be able to let go of unruly thinking, we should pay close attention to the painful consequences of getting lost in it. To ignore the effect of being caught up in unruliness is similar to operating a computer without security; we shouldn’t be surprised if we get hacked, that is, taken over. When we indulge in mental heedlessness we make ourselves susceptible to increased suffering. The opposite also applies: paying close attention to the beneficial consequences of letting go of unruliness naturally nourishes well-being, generating a sense of safety..

Our Summer Retreat Day

On Sunday we held our West Wight Sangha Summer retreat day. For those of you who couldn’t make it I thought I’d post the supportive materials that we used.

We had a recorded talk and guided meditation by Akincano Marc Weber on the Brahmavihāras.

DOWNLOAD        (Right click and “Save link as….”)
There were two readings, the first was, The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes.

 

‘This water droplet, charity of the air,
Out of the watched blue immensity –
(Where, where are the angels?) out of the draft in the door,
The Tuscarora, the cloud, the cup of tea,
The sweating victor and the decaying dead bird –
This droplet has travelled far and studied hard.
Now clings on the cream paint of our kitchen wall.
Aged eye! This without heart-head-nerve lens
Which saw the first and earth-centring jewel
Spark upon darkness, behemoth bulk and lumber
Out of the instant flash, and man’s hand
Hoist him upright, still hangs clear and round.
‘Having studied a journey in the high
Cathedralled brain, the mole’s ear, the fish’s ice,
The abattoir of the tiger’s artery,
The slum of the dog’s bowel, and there is no place
His bright look has not bettered, and problem none
But he has brought it to solution.
‘Venerable elder! Let us learn of you.
Read us a lesson, a plain lesson how
Experience was worn or made you anew,
That on this humble kitchen wall hang now,
O dew that condensed of the breath of the Word
On the mirror of the syllable of the Word.’
So he spoke aloud, grandly, then stood
For an answer, knowing his own nature
Droplet-kin, sisters and brothers of lymph and blood,
Listened for himself to speak for the drop’s self.
This droplet was clear simple water still.
It no more responded than the hour-old child
Does to finger-toy or coy baby-talk,
But who lies long, long and frowningly
Unconscious under the shock of its own quick
After that first alone-in-creation cry
When into the mesh of sense, out of the dark,
Blundered the world-shouldering monstrous ‘I’.

The second was, Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Suffering
By Thich Nhat Hanh.

We should not be afraid of suffering. We should be afraid of only one thing, and that is not knowing how to deal with our suffering. Handling our suffering is an art. If we know how to suffer, we suffer much less, and we’re no longer afraid of being overwhelmed by the suffering inside. The energy of mindfulness helps us recognise, acknowledge, and embrace the presence of the suffering, which can already bring some calm and relief.

When a painful feeling comes up, we often try to suppress it. We don’t feel comfortable when our suffering surfaces, and we want to push it back down or cover it up. But as a mindfulness practitioner, we allow the suffering to surface so we can clearly identify it and embrace it. This will bring transformation and relief. The first thing we have to do is accept the mud in ourselves. When we recognise and accept our difficult feelings and emotions, we begin to feel more at peace. When we see that mud is something that can help us grow, we become less afraid of it.

When we are suffering, we invite another energy from the depths of our consciousness to come up: the energy of mindfulness. Mindfulness has the capacity to embrace our suffering. It says, Hello, my dear pain. This is the practice of recognising suffering. Hello, my pain. I know you are there, and I will take care of you. You don’t need to be afraid.

Now in our mind-consciousness there are two energies: the energy of mindfulness and the energy of suffering. The work of mindfulness is first to recognise and then to embrace the suffering with gentleness and compassion. You make use of your mindful breathing to do this. As you breathe in, you say silently, Hello, my pain. As you breathe out, you say, I am here for you. Our breathing contains within it the energy of our pain, so as we breathe with gentleness and compassion, we are also embracing our pain with gentleness and compassion.

When suffering comes up, we have to be present for it. We shouldn’t run away from it or cover it up with consumption, distraction, or diversion. We should simply recognise it and embrace it, like a mother lovingly embracing a crying baby in her arms. The mother is mindfulness, and the crying baby is suffering. The mother has the energy of gentleness and love. When the baby is embraced by the mother, it feels comforted and immediately suffers less, even though the mother does not yet know exactly what the problem is. Just the fact that the mother is embracing the baby is enough to help the baby suffer less. We don’t need to know where the suffering is coming from. We just need to embrace it, and that already brings some relief. As our suffering begins to calm down, we know we will get through it.

When we go home to ourselves with the energy of mindfulness, we’re no longer afraid of being overwhelmed by the energy of suffering. Mindfulness gives us the strength to look deeply and gives rise to understanding and compassion.

West Wight Sangha’s Summer Meditation Retreat

Hi Everyone,

It is now just one week until West Wight Sangha’s Summer Meditation Retreat!

We still have plenty of spaces left so there’s room for everyone!

The retreat runs from 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday the 16th of July to four o’clock in the afternoon.

As is now our usual practice we’re looking to evenly balance the morning and afternoon sessions so we’ll be having lunch from 12:30 finishing at 1:30, so it would be nice if you’re only coming for the morning or afternoon to stay or come at half twelve and join everyone for lunch…… usual format of bringing vegetarian food to share. Also feel free to bring any readings that you would like to share.

Please let me know if you intend coming so that I have some idea of the numbers.

FULL MOON – Joyous Communion

If you find a good companion
of integrity and wisdom,
you will overcome all dangers
in joyous and caring company.

Dhammapada v. 328

Where might we turn when our heart needs uplifting? Spiritual community is one place we could go. If we don’t feel we have a spiritual community, it might be wise to go looking for one. Just as we would register with a local doctor before we actually fell ill, so it is good to be aware of the spiritual communities available. And both physical and virtual communities can serve the purpose. What matters is that we find the kind of companionship which helps us rise above the way the world would define us. Age, nationality, gender, wealth, do not determine who we are. It is our effort to awaken to reality – to Dhamma – that matters most. The essence of spiritual community is the harmonious resonance of shared aspiration. Attuning to that spirit can be joyous and uplifting.

Buddhist Group Changing China (or visa versa?)

This article by Ian Johnson is from the New York Times…………………………

For most of her life, Shen Ying was disappointed by the world she saw around her. She watched China’s economic rise in this small city in the Yangtze River Valley, and she found a foothold in the new middle class, running a convenience store in a strip mall. Yet prosperity felt hollow.

She worried about losing her shop if she didn’t wine and dine and pay off the right officials. Recurring scandals about unsafe food or tainted infant formula made by once-reputable companies upset her. She recalled the values her father had tried to instill in her — honesty, thrift, righteousness — but she said there seemed no way to live by them in China today.

“You just feel disappointed at some of the dishonest conduct in society,” she said.

Then, five years ago, a Buddhist organisation from Taiwan called Fo Guang Shan, or Buddha’s Light Mountain, began building a temple in the outskirts of her city, Yixing. She began attending its meetings and studying its texts — and it changed her life.

She and her husband, a successful businessman, started living more simply. They gave up luxury goods and made donations to support poor children. And before the temple opened last year, she left her convenience store to manage a tea shop near the temple, pledging the proceeds to charity.

Across China, millions of people like Ms. Shen have begun participating in faith-based organisations like Fo Guang Shan. They aim to fill what they see as a moral vacuum left by attacks on traditional values over the past century, especially under Mao, and the nation’s embrace of a cutthroat form of capitalism.

Many want to change their country — to make it more compassionate, more civil and more just. But unlike political dissidents or other activists suppressed by the Communist Party, they hope to change Chinese society through personal piety and by working with the government instead of against it. And for the most part, the authorities have left them alone.

Fo Guang Shan is perhaps the most successful of these groups. Since coming to China more than a decade ago, it has set up cultural centres and libraries in major Chinese cities and printed and distributed millions of volumes of its books through state-controlled publishers. While the government has tightened controls on most other foreign religious organisations, Fo Guang Shan has flourished, spreading a powerful message that individual acts of charity can reshape China.

It has done so, however, by making compromises. The Chinese government is wary of spiritual activity it does not control — the Falun Gong an example — and prohibits mixing religion and politics. That has led Fo Guang Shan to play down its message of social change and even its religious content, focusing instead on promoting knowledge of traditional culture and values.

The approach has won it high-level support; President Xi Jinping is one of its backers. But its relationship with the party raises a key question: Can it still change China?

Avoiding Politics

Fo Guang Shan is led by one of modern China’s most famous religious figures, the Venerable Master Hsing Yun. I met him late last year at the temple in Yixing, in a bright room filled with his calligraphy and photos of senior Chinese leaders who have received him in Beijing. He wore tannish golden robes, and his shaved head was set off by thick eyebrows and sharp, impish lips.

At age 89, he is nearly blind, and a nun often had to repeat my questions so he could hear them. But his mind was quick, and he nimbly parried questions that the Chinese authorities might consider objectionable. When I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by spreading Buddhism — proselytising is illegal in China — his eyebrows arched in mock amusement.

“I don’t want to promote Buddhism!” he said. “I only promote Chinese culture to cleanse humanity.”

As for the Communist Party, he was unequivocal: “We Buddhists uphold whoever is in charge. Buddhists don’t get involved in politics.”

That has not been true for most of Master Hsing Yun’s life. Born outside the eastern city of Yangzhou in 1927, he was 10 when he joined a monastery that he and his mother passed by while searching for his father, who disappeared during the Japanese invasion of China.

There, he was influenced by the ideas of Humanistic Buddhism, a movement that aimed to save China through spiritual renewal. It argued that religion should be focused on this world, instead of the afterworld. It also encouraged clergy to take up the concerns of the living, and urged adherents to help change society through fairness and compassion.

After fleeing the Communist Revolution, Master Hsing Yun took that message to Taiwan and founded Fo Guang Shan in the southern port of Kaohsiung in 1967. He sought to make Buddhism more accessible to ordinary people by updating its fusty image and embracing mass-market tactics. In sports stadiums, he held lectures that owed more to Billy Graham than the sound of one hand clapping. He built a theme park with multimedia shows and slot machines that displayed dioramas of Buddhist saints.

The approach had a profound impact in Taiwan, which then resembled mainland China today: an industrialising society that worried it had cast off traditional values in its rush to modernise. Fo Guang Shan became part of a popular embrace of religious life. Many scholars say it also helped lay the foundation for the self-governing island’s evolution into a vibrant democracy by fostering a political culture committed to equality, civility and social progress.

Fo Guang Shan expanded rapidly, spending more than $1 billion on universities, community colleges, kindergartens, a publishing arm, a daily newspaper and a television station. It now counts more than 1,000 monks and nuns, and more than one million followers in 50 countries, including the United States.

Government Support

But the group declines to offer an estimate of its following in China, where the government initially viewed it with suspicion. In 1989, an official fleeing the Tiananmen massacre took refuge in its temple in Los Angeles. China retaliated by barring Master Hsing Yun from the mainland.

More than a decade later, though, Beijing began looking at Master Hsing Yun differently. Like many in Taiwan of his generation born on the mainland, he favoured unification of China and the island — a priority for Communist leaders.

In 2003, they allowed him to visit his hometown, Yangzhou. He pledged to build a library, and followed through a few years later with a 100-acre facility that now holds nearly two million books, including a 100,000-volume collection of Buddhist scriptures, one of the largest in China.

Under President Xi, who started a campaign to promote traditional Chinese faiths, especially Buddhism, as part of his program for “the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” the government’s support has grown. He has met with Master Hsing Yun four times since 2012, telling him in one meeting: “I’ve read all the books that master sent me.”

While Mr. Xi’s government has tightened restrictions on Christianity and Islam, it has allowed Fo Guang Shan to open cultural centres in four cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. The organization’s students include government officials, who don gray tunics and trousers and live like monks or nuns for several days, reciting the sutras and learning about Master Hsing Yun’s philosophy.

But unlike in Taiwan, where it held special services during national crises and encouraged members to participate in public affairs, Fo Guang Shan avoids politics in China. There is no mention of civic activism, and it never criticises the party.

“We can keep the religion secondary but introduce the ideas of Buddhism into society,” said Venerable Miaoyuan, the nun who runs the library in Yangzhou. She describes the group’s work as “cultural exchange.”

“The mainland continues the ideology of ancient emperors — you can only operate there when you are firmly under its control,” said Chiang Tsan-teng, a professor at Taipei City University of Science and Technology who studies Buddhism in the region. “Fo Guang Shan can never be its own boss in the mainland.”

That limits its influence, but many Chinese express understanding given the reality of one-party rule.

“It certainly cannot promote social service and create associations,” said Hu Jia, a prominent dissident who is Buddhist. “The party certainly would not allow it, so Fo Guang Shan makes compromises. But it is still promoting Buddhism.”

A ‘Moral Standard’

Carved into two valleys of lush bamboo forest, the temple on the outskirts of Yixing features giant friezes that tell the story of Buddha, a 15-story pagoda and a gargantuan 68,000 square-foot worship hall.

Since construction started in 2006, Fo Guang Shan has spent more than $150 million on the facility, known as the Temple of Great Awakening. On a nearby hill, track hoes hack away at trees to make way for a new lecture hall and a shrine to the goddess of mercy, Guanyin. There, the group plans to feature a moving, talking, three-dimensional hologram of the deity.

Unlike most temples in China, it bans hawkers and fortunetellers, and it does not charge an entrance fee. The atmosphere is reflective and solemn, with quiet reading rooms offering books, newspapers, spaces to practice calligraphy, and tea. A stream of visitors from Yixing come for lectures, meals and camaraderie.

Last autumn, Fo Guang Shan welcomed 2,000 pilgrims at the temple to celebrate China’s National Day. Over the course of a long afternoon, they walked along a road to the temple in a slow, dignified procession: taking three steps and kowtowing, three steps and kowtowing, on and on for about two hours.

Mrs. Shen said that when she took over the tea shop she had a hard time understanding what being a good Buddhist meant. At first, she admitted, she wanted to make more money for the temple by using low-grade cooking oil.

But her husband objected. China is rife with scandals about restaurants using unsafe or cheap ingredients, and he argued that good Buddhists should set a better example.

“This made me realise that faith gives you a minimum moral standard,” Ms. Shen told me. “It helps you treat others as your equals.”

Many followers say they want a cleaner, fairer society and believe they can make a difference by changing their own lives.

Yang Jianwei, 44, a kitchenware exporter who embraced Fo Guang Shan, said he stopped attending the boozy late-night dinners that seem an unavoidable part of doing business in China. “I realise that you might lose some business this way, but it’s a better way to live,” he said.

This idealism is why the authorities support Fo Guang Shan, said Jin Xinhua, an official who helped the group secure the land for the new temple.

“Through its work, Fo Guang Shan is helping the masses,” he said. “We need that sort of thing today.”