A Good Day Was Had by All

The Newport Soto Zen Group is affiliated to Reading Buddhist Priory which in turn is a subsidiary of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland.
Last Friday the group had a daylong meditation retreat and were joined for the day by the Prior of Reading, the Reverend Gareth Milliken, a certified Buddhist priest and teacher in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and a monastic disciple of Rev. Master Daishin Morgan, the Abbot of Throssel Hole.
By all accounts a good day was had by all!
Advertisements

A Bit of Controversy?

Some of you may have heard the story a few days ago of Engineers dowsing for water using L or Y-shaped divining rods. Their use came to light when a couple called out engineers from the Severn Trent water company to their home in the Midlands.
They were so astonished to see a technician use dowsing rods to locate the mains pipe that they contacted their daughter Sally Le Page, an Oxford University scientist. She contacted Severn Trent, who confirmed their technicians still use the method.

Now many of you who have attended some of our recent Meditation Retreat Days will have had a go at divining. I have been interested in the subject for a number of years and introduced a “sampling session” to the retreat days as a demonstration that we can be mindful and aware of very subtle influences in our environment. I give brief instructions as to how to correctly hold the rods (we use 30 inch braising rods with 6 inches bent at a right angle to form the handle) and how to walk slowly and attentively.

The would be diviner is then given a direction to walk and started on their way, no additional instructions, no clues and no prompts just advice on grip and walking speed. Everyone gets some sort of reaction and at the same points.

I first came across dowsing when a colleague brought a pair of rods into work. I hadn’t a clue as to what they were so asked. He sheepishly replied that he had to put up some shelves and wanted to know if there was any wiring in the wall where he had to drill.

As I was looking very strangely at him he gave them to me, showed me how to hold them and told me to just walk across the office. I took about five steps and the rods swung violently across each other almost pointing directly back at me. In total bemusement I asked, “what the hell happened there”. He told me to look at my feet, it was a modern office block and all the cabling was routed through underfloor trunking – I was standing directly on top of a section.

I asked my friend how he discovered dowsing and his story was almost identical to that of Ms Le Page’s parents. Two chaps from the Gas Board turned up after he had reported a drop in the gas pressure to his property, they said that they had a problem with their gas detector so they were going to use divining rods as they always used to in the past but begged my friend not to mention it to “management”. The rods were used, a single hole was dug and the leak fixed.

Now I’m not going to make any claims for dowsing other than to say, that in my experience, the vast majority of people that try dowsing succeed in detecting something. This may be because we detect subtle clues from our environment but that is my point, we can be mindful of those usually ignored parts of our field of awareness.

Just out of interest if you Google Ms Le Page, unlike most such searches the hits keep on going, I got to page 15 before Google started to go off piste and started referencing other le pages, you will also get acres of pictures on an image search.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that General Electric has launched a “creator-in-residence” program, tapping 22-year-old British biologist and Oxford PhD candidate Sally Le Page as its first face. Le Page, who first gained a YouTube following with her self-produced videos, made a video a week for GE throughout June 2015, tackling subjects like the science behind movie magic and the relationship between humans and machines. One of Le Page’s most popular GE videos focused on Chappie, a science fiction film. The video, which kicks off with Le Page asking, “When am I going to have a robot best friend?” includes an interview with the project leader of GE’s robotics program and a visit to the company’s Global Research Centre.

Could Ms Le page’s parents’ much publicised outrage be anything to do with actually publicising their already much promoted daughter and was her response part of her continued quest for ever higher celebrity status re her considerable social media presence?

 

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…………………………

 

New Buddhist Group on Island!

A new Buddhist group, the Heart of the Island Sangha has started in Newport.

The group is affiliated to the Community of Interbeing UK (COI) which is part of the international Sangha founded by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh and follows his teachings and practices in the Plum Village Tradition and meets every Tuesday between 19:45 – 21:30 at the Riverside Centre, on The Quay in Newport.

It follows on from the new mindfulness course Be Calm Be Happy which was developed and is promoted by the COI as a truly Buddhist based original foundation teaching for mindfulness which includes the full teachings on Mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for a peace prize by Martin Luther King for his work to alleviate suffering during the Vietnam war and to start peace talks to end that same war.

He has since dedicated his life to peace work with conflicts all over the world such as Palestine/ Israel and many others.

The Heart of the Island Sangha is led by Sylvia who is a trustee for the national educational charity to spread this work and also an experienced mindfulness teacher with over twenty years experience teaching and a strong personal practice.

The Isle of Wight, The Buddha, NCIS and The Ham

Everything is interconnected.

Our last post concerned the changes to Japan’s traditional Buddhist inspired vegetarian cuisine brought about by Japan’s contact with the West.

I’ve just come across this story about the “World’s Oldest Edible Ham” which is stored in the Isle of Wight County Museum!

Before you all book a ferry to come over to the island to see it pause a moment for the penny to drop that this museum is in Isle of Wight County, Virginia USA which featured in a previous post about the Isle of Wight appearing in an episode of NCIS.

To further add to the confusion and connections the museum is in the town of Smithfield a name any Brit immediately associates with Smithfield market, the largest wholesale meat market in the UK.

You can keep track of what the ham is doing here, yes they’ve got a webcam on it…….

https://video.nest.com/embedded/live/C9Qdyu

The Language of Conflict

Following the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester and the apparently “retaliatory” attack last night outside a mosque in Finsbury Park this article by Andrew Olendzki on conflict is so appropriate………….

A lot of fighting is going on in both private and public discourse today. In a text known as the discourse about not doing battle (Aranavibhanga Sutta, MN 139), the Buddha puts forth suggestions on how we might lessen the conflicts around us. One stands out as making an important point about how we can use language to either provoke or reduce conflict.

It is very common for people to speak something like this:

All those who are committed to [x] are on the wrong path.

All those who are not committed to [x] are on the right path.

You can insert as the variable any belief, opinion, practice, or behaviour.

According to the Buddha, the trouble with this way of speaking is that it engages in “extolling” and “disparaging.” The real problem with this mode of expression is that it is praise or blame directed at a person, and either extols or disparages people who hold the views and engage in the activities specified. We can easily think of examples of arguments, debates, or political talks that are little more than ad hominem attacks, which focus on one’s opponent personally rather than on the matter at hand. As soon as the issue has to do with persons, we tap into primitive instincts for self-preservation and self-aggrandisement and evoke the deep psychological forces identified in the Buddhist tradition as greed, hatred, and delusion. Anytime a “self” is involved, that self is driven by the need to get or hold on to whatever serves it, at any cost, and by the need to deny or destroy anything that threatens it. When a person is extolled, their sense of self-importance and self-righteousness increases, and when a person is disparaged, their reflexes for self-defence are triggered. Both praise and blame evoke a sense of self, and the self always shows up ready to fight.

However, the Buddha was also very clear about the existence of a right path and a wrong path. His message is not that we should avoid conflict by not making distinctions or judgements about what is healthy or unhealthy, skillful or unskillful. Indeed, the clarity of his insight into what is harmful and what is beneficial for sentient beings is among the major contributions made to world civilisation by the Buddha. The matter is more carefully stated this way:

Being committed to [x] brings about suffering and is the wrong path.

Not being committed to [x] does not bring about suffering and is the right path.

The point is a simple and timeless one. There are all sorts of beliefs, opinions, practices, and behaviours that lead to harm, and many others that lead to well-being. By all means, let’s be clear about which is which, and share with others what we understand about this. But when we do this by disparaging people for their views, it will only trigger their existential defence mechanisms—and likely bring out their worst side. They may be hurt or get angry, and because of this either strike back or in some other way speak and act badly. Similarly, if we extol ourselves for our beliefs, it will feed into our own narcissistic tendencies. When alternately one criticises the beliefs and practices themselves, rather than the people that adhere to them, we create some space between the two.

At its worst, of course, the separation of persons from their views or behaviours does little good, for people often identify so strongly with these things that any criticism is taken as a personal attack. If you disparage my beliefs, I hold these so much as a part of who I am that you are essentially disparaging me. This is the insidious side of grasping, and of creating a self to which so many things belong.

At its best, the practice of discussing ideas rather than praising or blaming people allows for everyone to hold different viewpoints without going to battle. I can believe strongly that I am right and you are wrong, but still respect you, while you can maintain the view that you are right and I am wrong, and still put up with me. It is inevitable that there will be a wide range of beliefs, opinions, practices, and behaviours in this large and diverse world. It is not inevitable that people must hate one another on account of this.

It may be a modest contribution, but let’s see whether following the Buddha’s suggestion of using depersonalised language to critique harmful thoughts, words, and deeds, rather than attacking the people who wield them, can help end some of the fighting and muffle the call to battle.

Ajahn Brahm’s UK Dhamma Talks Tour

I’ve just had news of Ajahn Brahm’s upcoming “Real Dhamma” UK Tour, starting in October this year. Details are as follows:-

TUE, 10 OCTOBER 7:00 PM –
9:00 PM
Dhamma Talk: “Cultivating Ethics in a Cybernetic Age”
Venue TBA, London, UK.

WED, 11 OCTOBER 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Dhamma talk: “A Path With a Laugh”
Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, UK.

WED, 11 OCTOBER 7:00 PM – 9:00PM
Dhamma Talk: “Courage and Authenticity at Work”
Friends Meeting House, Manchester, UK.

THUR, 12 OCTOBER 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Dhamma talk: “At Peace With Uncertainty”
Kagyu Samye Dzong, London, UK.

Starting: FRI, 13 OCTOBER 7:00 PM
Non-Residential Weekend Retreat: “Unconditional Mindfulness”
Mary Ward House, London, UK.

The tour is in support of the Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project which aims to promote the teachings and practices of Early Buddhism, through establishing a Bhikkhuni presence in the UK.

Their long term aspiration is to develop a monastery for women who wish to train towards full ordination.

Here is an abstract from their latest newsletter……………………

ENCOURAGING BEGINNINGS

Since the inspired conception of Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project in Perth, November 2015, joyful steps – often taken in leaps and bounds – are paving the way to make Britain’s first bhikkhuni monastery a reality!

Bhikkhuni Canda and and her team are currently organising Ajahn Brahm’s second teaching trip to England in consecutive years – a benefit event to build on the significant funds already raised and to further awareness of Anukampa’s mission. The tour is entitled “Real Dhamma,” because spreading the Dhamma as taught by the Buddha and preserved by the four-fold assembly of bhikkhunis, bhikkhus, laywomen and laymen, lies at the heart of our aspiration and manifests in the compassionate endeavour to increase training opportunities for female monastics.

One of the most uplifting benefits of the project so far has been to witness a dynamic new spiritual community taking shape! People of all nationalifies and from all walks of life have participated, helping us find firm footing. Thanks to them, here are some of our main accomplishments to date:

• February 2016: website (www.anukampaproject.org) gets up and running
• April 2016: ABP becomes a legal entity
• June 2016: ABP’s highly active facebook page is born
• October 2016: Ajahn Brahm’s unprecedented sell-out UK tour raises around £50,000
• November 2016: Anukampa receives a large, anonymous donation from an overseas supporter, which brings us up to around half the required funds for a modest property.

Fundraising enterprises such as book-selling in Thailand and sponsored head-shaving in Perth (any more takers?!) are ongoing and particularly welcome, as are the increasing number of teaching invitations being extended to Bhikkhuni Canda, by existing Buddhist groups. We are also establishing an “Anukampa Friend’s” Dhamma group in London and recently held the second meeting.

On April 12th 2017, Anukampa reached a major milestone, becoming registered as both a religious and an educational charity, which attests to the dedication and commitment of our trustees and key volunteers.

Our immediate next steps focus on building up our team. We recently welcomed a new volunteer book-keeper to assist in our treasury department and are now looking for a webmaster. The services of a lawyer would undoubtedly be very helpful going forward too. We will continue to organise benefit events and also retreats with various monastic teachers. After Ajahn Brahm’s 2017 teaching tour, will be looking for more people to help manage the online tour registration system and general administration, working closely with our outreach team.

In the coming year or two, we will experiment with having a temporary base in England for Bhikkhuni Canda and one or two lay guests who will look after her monastic needs. This will enable us to suss out the level of interest in a chosen area, as well as provide a much-needed space from where regular Dhamma talks and discussion groups can be held. When our core team (and accounts!) are mature enough, we will look for suitable properties for the monastery, in a beautiful natural setting. This should be secluded yet not isolated; private yet accessible by public transport. At present, intuition guides us south of and up to an hour and a half from London….but if the right place comes up elsewhere we are open!

(I wonder what they think of the Isle of Wight?)