Category Archives: Teachings

Mistaken Certainty

wellhope walk routeIt all makes perfect sense, now! Here is a map of the ‘Well Hope’ walk which I, along with a trusty walking companion, did yesterday. More than three hours walking but we were not rushing.

About a month or more ago I attempted this walk alone. Although armed with this map I lost my way, ending up in the next valley over from the one I’d intended to walk down. It was a bit of a shock to round a hill to find I wasn’t looking at our familiar valley with the monastery reasuringly nestled on the opposite hillside, as in the photograph below. To be honest I have been reluctant to try the walk again and reticent to mention this fact. So I was glad of the company and especially glad to  be helped with the correct usage of the words reticent and reluctant! What little gems they are too. And what are good Dharma Friends for if not to pass on the gems of their knowledge and understanding.

Throssel Hole Abbey is picked out in sunshine. Look for Myrtle Bank on the OS map.
Throssel Hole Abbey is picked out in sunshine. Look for Myrtle Bank on the OS map.

Certainty is a dangerous beast to be sure. In terms of my failed attempt at the Well Hope walk I was convinced I was on the correct path! Truth was I wasn’t on a path at all! I remember thinking, I’m not lost I just don’t know where I am in relationship to everywhere else! That’s mistaken certainty, with an extra helping of delusion thrown in.

Oh and I’ve thought myself to be reticent about doing  things when in fact I was reluctant! Now thinking about it certainty, knowing you are right, isn’t the issue. It’s ignorance isn’t it? Only when proved to be wrong, wrong valley and wrong word use, does the habit of certainty even come up as an issue. If you are right, then you are RIGHT and why would one question that.

So I think of Buddhist practice, meditation, being about shining light on ignorance. That’s the ‘not knowing’ form of ignorance and also the ‘ignore-ance’ form. Humbling thought. Yes, and sometimes, depending on ones personality and make up, it is important to retain the thought ‘I could be right‘, self-doubt being the default for many people.

We’re Almost Home – Guest Post

The following comes from the pen of Rev. Caitlin who is part of the community at Great Ocean Dharma Refuge in Pembrokeshire Wales. This article was written for the Portobello Buddhist Priory Newsletter and is published with kind permission.

The We’re almost home—some thoughts on perseverance

Seventeen years into the life of the Priory, and fifty newsletters down the road, what a gladness that we are still here together and practising the Buddha’s Way. In this light I thought it might be fitting to offer a few thoughts on commitment and perseverance. Of course this is something we all know about. We practise and learn it as we go to our cushions, to the Priory or Zendo over and over again; as we make the effort to turn to and act from our True Heart’s wish and not be seduced by greed, hate and delusion – over and over again; as we say the Kesa verse and take the Bodhisattva vow to train for the good of all beings over and over again. The fact that the Portobello Priory is still there and flourishing is a testament to the bright perseverance of all of us.

And yet, as we all know, at times it seems hard to keep going brightly. Whilst the shared Buddha Nature of ourselves, all beings and things is sometimes sensed and known more clearly, at other times we may feel a sense of separation from the Eternal, a feeling of being far from Home. Sometimes people speak of the ‘power of now’; but how to ‘reconnect’ with our True Heart when however we try the completeness of the present moment seems elusive, and acceptance of the here and now seems far away? For myself, I sometimes think that whatever state or circumstance we find ourselves in, it is always possible to practise and find the ‘power of bow’ and the ‘power of vow’!

In turning towards and bowing to that which seems difficult and insurmountable, we are remembering and accepting the First Noble Truth that the Buddha taught – that suffering and dissatisfaction are an inherent facet of existence – and that although there is a cause and we can do something about it, there is no reason to blame ourselves or others when it arises. In bowing, we are also turning to the perfection inherent in all existence – to the Buddha, to our True Heart’s wish – Buddha calling to Buddha, Buddha bowing to Buddha, and Buddha hearing and responding. Sometimes it helps to physically bow, to ‘walk the talk’ with the body; letting go, offering up, asking for help, standing up straight and expressing willingness in a continuous movement, until the body overrides our complaining little brain, and the Heart’s wish and direction is refreshed and restored in its rightful place.

Even as we seem to fail and flounder, we can recommit ourselves to training and affirm our Heart’s wish and intention. We can recognise that whatever the apparent difficulty, it is habits of mind that cause, continue and compound the keenest suffering, and that this is something we can do something about. We can dare to make vows in front of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and trust that in doing so, and in our repeated, imperfect efforts to fulfill our sincere intentions, we will be aided and supported, for this is truly the case.

A number of years ago, at a time when I was feeling particularly lost, a venerable Master of our Order looked at me kindly and said, “You know – we’re almost home”. Here we are, born with a rare and precious human body, in a benign and tolerant country, and we’ve found the Dharma in the lineage of the magnificent Master Houn Jiyu. May we not underestimate or squander the merit and good fortune that has brought us to this point – we’ve come a long way already. May we all keep going and go all the way on the Path of endless training.

Many thanks to Reverend Caitlin, you are a gem among gems. Mugo

Ever Still?


Just because
something is simple
doesn’t mean it is easy.
Or pain free.
Formal meditation is as this.

Rising from the place
of sitting still,
are we still?
Is there a place
called ‘home’?

Now! Here!
In the middle
of the busy street
beneath our feet.
Tender repose.

So there is joy
even now
softly with
feathered touch.

Sitting here in Ambleside in a coffee shop, the music is loud, the street is close, the cars pass by. I’m not looking for peace or repose or joy. It is as it is and that’s just fine. Any time of the day. This is for a good friend working on a decision. It has been too long since I managed to make a post. So sorry.

Like The Sun

Ten whole days of silence here on Jademountains which has not been matched by ten days of quietude! Defined as a state of peace and quiet. However now and then there are moments, deliberately extended to five or ten minutes, when I pause for reflection. Then a sense of quietude overtakes the imperative to keep moving on to the next thing, what ever that might be. So, busy times with much demand on my energy. Not a complaint or an excuse simply an explanation of why I’ve been silent on Jade.

And in my next breath I have to say that quietude is not lost in the cut and thrust of daily living, just lost sight of, and perhaps that is how it must be. Just as it is with the sun. When it ‘comes out’, as it has done recently, we appreciate it all the more for it having been obscured by clouds.

This week-end I’ve been part of the team of monks introducing a group of people to our practice during an Introductory Retreat. It is inspiring to have contact with people fresh and eager to learn about meditation and bringing that into daily living when they return to their homes and work.

It is so easy to lose sight of ones original intention and excitement at discovering a direction to ones life, as was the case for me, when I came on my first Intro. Retreat. Oh and sometimes a retreat has a slow fuse. Years might pass before one knows the impact of having a meditation practice has on life and its direction.

This post is for those who have been here in the Northumberland Moors for the week-end. May your going on in life be fulfilling and your time here inspirational.

Comportment vs. Deportment

A Buddha conveys stillness. While sitting and while walking.
A Buddha conveys stillness. While sitting, walking  and laying down.

Some years ago I attended a ceremony at a Christian church. My very dear second cousin was being ‘installed’ as the new incumbent of a parish near Liverpool. It was her first ‘posting’ and I was excited for her. As with the ceremonies during this week in the monastery, when people formally commitment to their chosen path, so too with other religions. There are processions!

This week I’ve been directly involved in a couple of the processions,  walking with dignity is the order of the day. That’s another way of describing walking meditation by the way.  On such occasions it is important to  pay attention to ones deportment since how one appears helps to convey the inner solemnity (and profundity) of the occasion. And how one moves or ‘carries oneself’ invariably shows something of ones inner attitude of mind. But it is dangerous, and poor Buddhism, to evaluate (if one needs to) a person by how they appear. How does it go? Don’t judge a book by its’ cover.

At the beginning of my cousin’s ceremony the bishop, bedecked in his formal attire,  along with church elders and assembled dignitaries, ambled down the aisle! The image of him remains clear in my minds eye. Even now! And yet while I observed his ungainly movements he, at the same time, conveyed an air of authority, gentleness, compassion and kindness. And of being a free thinker too! During his speech to the gathered congregation my impression was borne out by his words.

Comportment is more than mere display (as might be the case with stiff deportment). It is an unconscious outward expression of one’s inner being. By considering someone’s comportment you may guess at their self-esteem, their consideration for others and their mental and spiritual well-being. The above taken from here.