NEW MOON – Blessings

Blessed is the arising of a Buddha;
blessed is the revealing of the Dhamma;
blessed is the concord of the Sangha;
delightful is harmonious communion.

Dhammapada v. 194

We all delight when we receive blessings. Let’s also delight in our ability to generate blessings. Whatever our circumstance in life, we have the power to bring virtue into the world. To some it appears naive to dwell on developing virtue; they think it is up to others to stop causing darkness. But we are not responsible for what others do or don’t do. We are responsible for our own actions. Sometimes we are surrounded by light, at other times it seems the light has disappeared. But we don’t have to be defined by external conditions. We always have the possibility of being a bit more kind, a bit more patient, a bit more honest.

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Tuesday Talks – a New Feature

This is the first of our new series of monthly talks that we are having at the West Wight Sangha. As our meetings are shorter than those at the Newport Soto Zen group the talks are perforce also shorter.

I’m featuring the first talk here on our Home page but in future they will be posted directly to our main Audio page along with the regular talks from the zen groups meetings.

This talk is What About Karma by David Loy and is just under 30 minutes long.

DOWNLOAD        (Right click and “Save link as….”)

Some “Buddhist” Poems for National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day when Britain is encouraged to “break the tyranny of prose for 24 hours by sharing poetry in every conceivable way.”

Here are a selection of Buddhist poems and poems with a “Buddhist” theme to them for the day…

Wind and Rain

Wind and rain,
Mara again
But no, I don’t feel no pain
Wind and rain,
Trying to drive me insane
But I know it’s all in the brain

Demons, demons!
At it again
Trying to mind-hack me once more
Her body so fine,
But there’s no gold mine
Behind the exterior

Sensations are temporal,
Their value material
And I’ve glimpsed beyond this lower realm
If you ain’t got wisdom,
You better get spiritual
I’ll see you in the next life,
Yes, I’ll see you in the next life

Ashley Burns

Ode I. 11

Leucon, no one’s allowed to know his fate,
Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter, it could be many
More, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:
Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
And forget about hope. Time goes running, even
As we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.

Horace (Roman, 65-8 BCE)

Night Prologue

Warm at centre, on a long winter’s night.
Through the bone-cage, through the breathflow,
buds of silence are opening out:
awareness shimmers; suffusions glow;
the heart is listening, translucent, bright;
a filigree pulse unbinds my head.

This joy – what is this lovely drawing near,
gathering up horizons, moulding attention?
A spring, welling up through still zero;
a turning tide that unbends intention
into a resonance that enshrines us here:
bare room; a small lamp; presence, burning.

Shine: let my colours find the axis.
And my soft-edged shadow feel your turning.

Ajahn Sucitto

And now, why poetry matters…………………………

 

FULL MOON – Pavarana Day

Disciples of the Buddha
are fully awake both day and night,
taking delight
in cultivating the heart.

Dhammapada v. 210

The Buddha encouraged the cultivation of our heart’s potential to awaken. We are already aware of the need to look after our physical health, and the benefits of maintaining mental well-being; if we heed the Buddha’s advice we will also invest in those qualities which lead to wisdom and compassion. Wisdom sees the advantages and disadvantages in any given situation. Without wisdom we risk seeing only that which pleases us. Sometimes it is more wise to endure discomfort and disappointment for the sake of being able to see deeply, beyond the world of preferences. Compassion, the heart’s warmth and impulse to care, is the natural expression of wisdom.

In India, where Buddhism began, there is a three-month-long rainy season. According to the Vinaya (Mahavagga, Fourth Khandhaka, section I), in the time of the Buddha, once during this rainy season, a group of normally wandering monks sought shelter by co-habitating in a residence. In order to minimise potential inter-personal strife while co-habitating, the monks agreed to remain silent for the entire three months and agreed upon a non-verbal means for sharing alms.

After this rains retreat, when the Buddha learned of the monks’ silence, he described such a measure as “foolish.” Instead, the Buddha instituted the Pavarana Ceremony as a means for dealing with potential conflict and breaches of disciplinary rules (Patimokkha) during the vassa season.

Pavarana usually falls during the eleventh lunar month – October – and it marks the end of the three month ‘rains retreat’ which began on the full moon of Asalha. Literally ‘pavarana’ means ‘inviting admonition’.

The three month period (vassa) is often used by lay and monastic folk alike to make a variety of determinations; to take up a particular devotional or meditation practice, to challenge or renounce some old habit – like eating sugar or smoking or drinking coffee (or worse). In Asia this may even be taken to the extent of lay folk taking temporary ordination for all or part of this time. The full moon of Pavarana marks the end of this period and is a time of celebration. For those who have maintained a strict practice it means they can relax a bit; hopefully having learnt something about the particular thing they had been investigating and not falling back into old habits.

For monastics it ends a period of containment within the boundaries of the monastery.
The Buddha appreciated how this containment can sometimes cause difficulty between people and he outlined a ceremony to be performed by the monks and the nuns on the Pavarana day. There are several aspects to this ceremony but the underlying spirit is one of asking for admonishment. This is not that one wants a good telling off but invitation is formally given to one’s ordained brothers and sisters to offer any reflections on one’s past behaviour. This invitation need not be taken up then and there but an opening is created.

The words of part of the ceremony are as follows:
“Venerable One’s, I invite admonition from the Sangha. According to what has been seen, heard or suspected (of my actions), may the venerable one’s instruct me out of compassion. Seeing it (my fault), I shall make amends. I ask this of you for the second time; and again I ask for the third time.”

Newsletter

I was recently noting the various email notifications that I needed to send to the group and had a “Light Bulb” moment that the obvious thing to do was to put everything together in a Newsletter and that it would be a good idea to make this a regular offering.

It is obvious from the above that this will be a work in progress but my initial intention is to both post the newsletter to our website and to email it to everyone whilst also producing some hard copy.

Retreat Day

As we are now officially in Autumn it’s time for the West Wight Sangha Autumn Retreat Day which will be on Sunday the 15th of October, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For anyone who hasn’t been before, we are at Yew Tree Cottage, Weston Road, Totland and you can ring me on 756884.

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 (and don’t forget fruit juice etc. to drink).
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.

Meeting Schedule

As some of you will know we have experimented with having “themed” evenings for our Tuesday meetings and have changed the arrangements for running proceedings.

So we now come directly up to the Shrine Room via the side gate without meeting in the house first. This enables us to get the meeting underway earlier and as such we will be able to stick more rigidly to the 7:30 time for our sit.

On the first meeting of the month (as is this Tuesday) we will now be having a more focused meditation session with two sits, the first the usual practise of 30 minutes with a second sit of 20 minutes at the end of the meeting. We tried this last month and it proved very popular.

We are still feeling our way with this and are experimenting between using the four part timers for new group members who are not so familiar with Buddhist orientated meditation techniques, and having uninterrupted sessions with bells at the beginning and end only. It’s all very organic and we will go with the flow.

With the more punctual start to proceedings we will have time to listen to recorded Dharma talks and I’m scheduling that for the second meeting of the month, in this case Tuesday the 10th.

The talk will be “What about Karma?” by David Loy.

The talk was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre as part of “Awakening in Service and Action: A Study Retreat on Socially Engaged Buddhism.”

Disability advocate Yetnebersh Nigussie receives Right Livelihood Award

The fifth “fold” of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold path is Right Livelihood.

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced the three recipients of its 2017 prize today in Stockholm: Ethiopian lawyer Yetnebersh Nigussie, Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and Indian attorney Colin Gonsalves were honoured for their work “offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems.” US attorney Robert Bilott received an honorary mention.

 

Yetnebersh Nigussie was five when she went blind. Her family initially struggled to come to terms with her disability. They took her to traditional healers and used holy water treatments because a disabled child was viewed as “God’s” way of punishing the parents for some misdemeanour .

She describes being thus “cursed” by her blindness as an opportunity as it helped her to escape from the early child marriage which is widely exercised in the Ethiopian district where Yetnebersh was born.

But through sheer determination and the help of family members she managed to go to school and excelled. Yetnerbersh is now one of the most influential global disability activists from Africa promoting gender and disability inclusion. She works as a senior advocacy office for the disability and development organisation Light for the World.

The Right Livelihood Award is an international award to “honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.” The prize was established in 1980 by German-Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, and is presented annually in early December. An international jury, invited by the five regular Right Livelihood Award board members, decides the awards in such fields as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education, and peace. The prize money is shared among the winners, usually numbering four, and is €200,000. Very often one of the four laureates receives an honorary award, which means that the other three share the prize money.

Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,

“To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others.

… Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living.”

Our global economy complicates the precaution to do no harm to others. For example, you may work in a department store that sells merchandise made with exploited labour. Or, perhaps there is merchandise that was made in a way that harms the environment. Even if your particular job doesn’t require harmful or unethical action, perhaps you are doing business with someone who does. Some things you cannot know, of course, but are you still responsible somehow?

Ming Zhen Shakya argues that any work that is honest and legal can be “Right Livelihood.” However, if we remember that all beings are interconnected, we realise that trying to separate ourselves from anything “impure” is impossible, and not really the point. 

 If you keep working in the department store, maybe someday you’ll be a manager who can make ethical decisions about what merchandise is sold there.

NEW MOON – Consistency

The Awakened Ones, firm in their resolve,
vigorously apply themselves,
and know freedom from all limitation:
liberation, true security.

Dhammapada v. 23

Consistency is one of the characteristics of the Awakened Ones. Those free from the limitations which arise from clinging, never get lost in moods, positive or negative. It is not because they don’t feel anything. They feel everything, but because they know beyond doubt the nature of all things, they don’t interfere with, or obstruct, reality. Unawakened beings are always interfering by indulging and denying. Even when we want to be helpful, so long as we are still caught in clinging, we obstruct reality. Whatever goodness arises from our efforts is limited. Incomparable goodness arises from a heart that is unobstructed, that is truly secure.