NEW MOON – Form and Spirit

The fragrance of virtue 
surpasses by far 
the fragrance of flowers 
or sandalwood. 

Dhammapada v. 55

The simple but significant message of this Dhammapada verse is that we need to take care to not be overly impressed by outer forms, or the material dimension of things. Certainly the fragrance of wild roses can be very beautiful, but the heart’s ability to let go of resentment and forgive, even when it is difficult to do so, is more beautiful.

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NEW MOON – Irreversibility

Better than ruling the whole world, 
better than going to heaven, 
better than lordship over the universe, 
is an irreversible commitment to the Way.

Dhammapada v. 178

In which direction do we look when we seek security? For some it is towards greater happiness. Others look for an increased sense of sovereignty or control. The Buddha’s advice is to establish oneself in an irreversible commitment to Truth. To have reached a stage of awakening which is irreversible, known as Stream Entry, the Buddha says offers incomparable security; better than any level of conventional happiness or state of worldly power.

Daily Mindfulness Exercise

(I’m re-posting this item from last 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. At the New Year I introduced an additional Daily Mindfulness Exercise and post a reminder of this with each weeks email.

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

Obviously this is an environmentally useful activity in its own right and has a number of merits, but how can it be considered a mindfulness exercise?

It is so easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.

Paying more attention to the present moment – to our own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around us – can improve our mental wellbeing.

This awareness is what we call “mindfulness”. Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better. We can take steps to develop it in our own lives but there is one vital element that underpins this kind of mental activity and that is the need to REMEMBER to be mindful.

This is where the use of regular exercises comes in, essentially we commit to carrying out a task, we have a job to do. For the purpose of developing our ability to be mindful these tasks should not be overly complicated and there should be a clear trigger, a predefined set of circumstances, to initiate our focused awareness of the task.

One of our weekly exercises, and one of my favourites, is to notice the colour blue. Sounds simple but you quickly become aware of how rare, especially in the countryside, this colour is. There are two elements here, you can be mindfully looking for the colour blue or your mindfulness is triggered by seeing the colour blue. Just swap litter for blue objects and you can see the benefit of the litter pick exercise.

It’s also a good idea to tell other people what you are doing, people do look and wonder….. so tell them. Here on the Isle of Wight we have a population of 139,000. Even halving this to allow for the too youngs, too olds, too infirmeds and, sadly, the don’t cares still leaves the potential for the best part of 70,000 pieces of litter to be removed from our beautiful island EVERY DAY and every day works out to a staggering TWO AND A HALF MILLION PIECES OF LITTER REMOVED EVERY YEAR. So the more people you can get interested the better.

You can also beef up the remembering element of the exercise by keeping a tally of days missed, it will happen, and making a personal promise to pick up the missed number of pieces of litter the next opportunity you have.

The environmental point of this task is to get us working at creating a cosy home for all of us in this world. After all, the world is our home. Trying to define home as only the space we live in every night only serves to segregate and not unite us. Recognise that our home extends beyond just those physical walls and every ground we walk on, every neighbourhood we walk in, every district we step into, etc. should be considered our home, too.

The problem with litter is that the more there is, the more it generates. If people see litter all over the place, they see no reason why they shouldn’t add to it. Why should they bother to look for a bin when nobody else does? What difference to the general scene would one more sandwich wrapper make?

But think what difference one less wrapper makes and then another one less and another and another……………………

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?

 

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.”

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).

Buddha Statue Saved for Kabul museum

I came across this amazing picture of a Statue of the Buddha which was found in a copper mine in Afghanistan. It is thought to be around 1,800 years old but you can still see the original colours.

Having withstood time, the elements, looters and war, this spectacular Buddha was restored and removed from one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions to make its public debut in the country’s national museum.

The exceptionally well-preserved piece, with its colours still vibrant, was found in 2012 at the Mes Aynak site about 40 kilometres southeast of Kabul, in the now Taliban controlled Logar province.

Its discovery was made possible after a Chinese consortium began digging a massive copper mine that uncovered an ancient monastery complex stretching out over an area of four square kilometres.