West Wight Sangha Review of 2018

Welcome to West Wight Sangha’s Review of the Year where we look back on some of the more notable stories featured on our website. For the complete story just click on the Title Link at the top of the story.

Walk With Me comes to Ryde

Back at the beginning of January, we heard from Angie that the film Walk With Me would be showing at Ryde Commodore on Saturday, February 3rd. It is a meditative film about Plum Village, the community of Zen Buddhist monks and nuns who have dedicated their lives to mastering the art of mindfulness with the world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.


Newport Buddhist meeting cancelled due to the Beast from the East!

At the end of February, nationwide temperatures plummeted overnight, with Farnborough in Hampshire recording a low of minus 11C. For most places, the mercury hovered at between -4C and -7C. As a consequence, the Newport Soto Zen Buddhist group had to cancel their Thursday meeting (this passes for exciting news on the island).

TAWAI – a Voice from the Forest

In March we received an email from Anna about another interesting film that the Commodore in Ryde was showing. The Commodore had agreed to screen the Film TAWAI – a Voice from the Forest on Wednesday 21st of March – the International Day of the Forest.

As Anna went there dressed as an Orangutan and collecting for Greenpeace you could both enjoy the film, support conservation and express solidarity with our fellow primates.

World Poetry Day

Also in March, we had World Poetry Day and we featured this powerful slam performance by award-winning poet George Yamazawa.

Ajahn Brahm Resigns as Spiritual Director of Buddhist Society of Western Australia

At the end of March, this story broke. This is all very technical but there is an undercurrent of continued opposition to Ajahn Brahm could that have anything to do with the Bhikkhuni issue do you think? Click on the title link if you want to find out a bit more.

It’s a Beautiful Planet – Look After It.

At the beginning of April and after David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II had shown us shocking images of plastic waste in our oceans we shared this Besley cartoon from that week’s Isle of Wight County Press.


National Memorial to Dr. Ambedkar Inaugurated in New Delhi

On April the 13th, on the eve of the 127th anniversary of the birth of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial in New Delhi—at the place where Dr. Ambedkar died on the 6th of December 1956.


A Quote That I Like

On May the 16th we posted this……….

“Everybody, everybody everywhere, has his own movie going, his own scenario, and everybody is acting his movie out like mad, only most people don’t know that is what they’re trapped by, their little script.”
– Tom Wolfe, American journalist and author of “The Right Stuff and “The Bonfire of the Vanities”.

He died that week aged 87.

Daily Mindfulness Exercise

This year we have had the phenomenal impact of “Blue Planet II” and its clarion wake-up call on the death and destruction our plastic waste is reaping on life in the planet’s oceans. Yes, we need big solutions to this huge problem but we can all do our bit and, hopefully, give a good example to others.

Since 2016 I’ve re-posted this item each year as an annual reminder to “keep the ball rolling”.

For some time now I have been emailing out regular weekly mindfulness/meditation exercises to the members of the West Wight Sangha and to other friends and associates. In 2016, I introduced an additional Daily Mindfulness Exercise and post a reminder of this with each week’s email.

Quite simply, the exercise is to pick up and dispose of one piece of litter every day.

What Are We Waiting For?

The talk which I took along for last night’s meeting of the Newport Soto Zen group was by Catherine McGee and entitled “What Are We Waiting For”.

It prompted this thoughtful response from Sylvia…………………..

I went to sangha last night and someone brought a taped talk with this title. It struck me, that though the talk was about practice and enlightenment, it applied to everything. Of course, practice and enlightenment are potentially in everything too.

We plan our lives ahead, as if we are always waiting for the next thing. That blocks us in the moment.


That joy of being alive in any given moment is the point of mindfulness, it is why we study and practice our meditations, practice watching our breath. To be mindful is to be actually living our lives, not vicariously glancing at others for comparisons, or over our shoulder at the past, or gazing into the future.

Future Gazing can be the most insidious of all since it keeps us moving forward, what will my next best piece of writing be and how will it be received, when I get to this point then I can do that, when I have worked out then I will feel better.

Continue reading


70th Anniversary of UN Declaration of Human Rights

(Eleanor Roosevelt and UNs Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949))

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaches its 70th anniversary today, a chance to highlight the many important breakthroughs brought about by the landmark UN document, and a reminder to the world that the human rights of millions are still being violated on a daily basis.

Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted, untold human suffering prevented and the foundations for a more just World have been laid.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement released on Wednesday that the document has gone from being an “aspirational treatise” to a set of standards that has “permeated virtually every area of international law.”

  • All people are born free and equal, because they have reason and conscience.
  • Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and security of their person.
  • Everyone should be protected from any kind of discrimination.
  • Everyone has a right to have a nationality and change one’s nationality. Everyone has a right to an education.
  • Everyone has a right to get a job.
  • Everyone has a right to vote and take part in the government of one’s own country.
  • Everyone has a right to take part in cultural life—to choose a way of life.
  • No person may be tortured, or treated in a cruel or unkind way.
  • Everyone has the right to seek and gain asylum from persecution.
  • Everyone has a right to have ideas or opinions, to decide what is right and what is wrong, and to choose a religion.
  • Everyone has a right to speak or write freely and the right to join a peaceful group to express one’s opinion.
  • Everyone has a right to security if suffering unemployment, disease, disability, old age or loss of a partner.
  • Everyone has duties to the community where one’s personality can be developed freely.
  • No one can abuse the rights to destroy the freedom or rights in this Declaration.

FULL MOON – Fearlessness

Whoever has cut all that tethers
and found fearlessness,
who is beyond attachments
and defilements,
I recognize as a great being.

Dhammapada v. 397

To be able to abide in the state of fearlessness sounds attractive indeed, but how might we reach such an abiding? Fearlessness is to be found in the very same place as that in which we feel fear. We do not need others to stop behaving the way that they do; nor do we need to go someplace else. We do, however, need to look more deeply into the reality of the fear that we are already experiencing, and to do so can be very frightening. The temptation to turn away from that which frightens us can be strong. This is why the Buddha wanted us to develop our spiritual faculties: mindfulness, sense restraint, and wise reflection. When our heart is buoyed up with the wholesome sense of self-confidence which arises when the spiritual faculties are well-developed, we won’t be so intimidated by fear; instead, we will be interested in what fear has to teach us.

A Phrase That I Liked

On this morning’s Today program on Radio 4, Nick Robinson was interviewing Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health, on the draft Brexit deal.  When Mr Hancock tried to pull the conversation round to the future trade arrangements with the EU Robinson said: “We’ll come to the future in a second.”

Philosophical presentism is the view that neither the future nor the past exist. In some versions of presentism, this view is extended to timeless objects or ideas (such as numbers). According to presentism, events and entities that are wholly past or wholly future do not exist at all.

To live in the present moment is the basic foundation of Buddhism.

“Being in the moment is just another way of saying that we are aware of what is going on in our experience, that we are not just being angry (or whatever) but are aware that we are angry and are aware that we can choose to be otherwise…………

Of course a lot of the time when we are not being in the moment, we are literally thinking about the past or present. We might be dwelling on the past – brooding about some past hurt. Or we may be fantasizing about a future in which we have won the lottery and are living out our lives in some imagined paradise, or daydreaming about being with the perfect partner.

Often these fantasized pasts and futures are not even real possibilities, but simply fantasies of how things might be or of how we would have liked them to have been. And as with all unmindful activity, we have no awareness that this fantasizing is pointless. All that it does is reinforce unhelpful emotional tendencies that can never truly enrich our lives.”


NEW MOON – No More Distress

There is no tension 
for those who have completed their journey 
and have become free 
from the distress of all binding ties. 

Dhammapada v. 90

Whatever is happening around us, let’s not forget that the more important journey is that which leads to freedom from all distress. We might be feeling distressed over what we see or hear on the outside, but the greater distress is that which we feel in our hearts. Materialist cultures are mostly unaware of the spiritual journey and mostly invest is acquiring more things and more experiences. The Buddha wants us to invest in training our attention so we learn to recognize the true causes of distress and acquire the skill of letting go.

The First Island ‘Plogger’

You may remember the Daily Mindfulness Exercise that our Sangha and other friends practise. Quite simply, the exercise is to pick up and dispose of one piece of litter every day.

So I was gratified to see this story in last week’s Isle of Wight County Press; Graphic designer and keen runner, Neil McCall, has decided to wage his very own personal war on litter in Cowes — by becoming probably the first Island ‘plogger’.

Plogging is a combination of jogging with picking up litter (Swedish: plocka upp). It started as an organised activity in Sweden around 2016 and spread to other countries in 2018, following increased concern about plastic pollution. As a workout, it provides variation in body movements by adding bending, squatting and stretching to the main action of running.

Neil, 47, of Mill Hill Road, Cowes runs once a week and, armed with a litter stick and two bin liners, carefully picks-up any litter he spies along the way.

He meticulously sorts the litter into two bags – one for recyclable items and one for non-recyclable after he was inspired by a TV programme about plogging.

He said: “It is quite a big thing over there. Basically, runners take a rubbish bag with them on their run and just fill it.

“The reason I started it was because I just wanted to feel as if I was doing something.”

He added: “I regularly see rubbish left and always used to pick stuff up but when I saw the programme I wanted to make it a regular thing. At the moment, I am just doing Cowes as it is my neighbourhood.

“It has been both surprising and disappointing the amount of rubbish I find but it is an incredibly good work out.”

Sangharakshita Has Died

Sangharakshita, founder of Triratna Buddhism, died this Tuesday morning. He was 93 years old.

Born Dennis Philip Edward Lingwood in Britain in 1925, Sangharakshita was one of the first Western practitioners to be ordained as a Theravada monk in the period following the Second World War. Sangharakshita was the author of more than 60 books and has been described as “one of the most prolific and influential Buddhists of our era,” (Smith and Novak 2004) and as “the founding father of Western Buddhism.” (Berkwitz 2006)

He spent more than 20 years in Asia, where he had a number of Tibetan Buddhist teachers and was actively involved in the Dalit Buddhist conversion movement founded by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in India in 1956.

A sometimes controversial teacher, Sangharakshita founded the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order in England in April 1967. In 2010, the FWBO became known as Triratna Buddhist Order. Sangharakshita formally retired in 1995 and stepped back from the movement’s leadership in 2000.

The Triratna Buddhist Order published a statement to share the news of Sangharakshita’s passing:

With great sadness we inform you of the passing away of Urgyen Sangharakshita, today, 30th October 2018, at approximately 10 am in Hereford Hospital. He had been diagnosed with pneumonia and this morning the consultant said that he also had sepsis, from which recovery was not possible.

Please join with us as we direct our Metta towards Bhante, recollecting his wonderful qualities and remembering with gratitude all that he has given to so many of us. Local Centres around the world may be holding daily meditations and pujas and you may wish to arrange additional activities in your communities and homes. 

Bhante asked that the following mantras be chanted at the time of his death: Shakyamuni, Green Tara, Manjushri, Amitabha and Padmasambhava. 

After a few days, Bhante’s body will be laid out at Adhisthana where the funeral and burial will also take place.