Category Archives: Teachings

Private Altar

Private altar
Private altar

For the most part what practicing Buddhist do is private and not visible to the outside world. Actions come out of an internal space informed and shaped by the basic intention to be the best person one can be. That’s in terms of the basics of exercising compassion, keeping to the Buddhist Precepts and each day renewing the intention to be present/sit still/meditate. Somebody can ‘be a Buddhist’ and that not be known to anybody. Practice is a matter of the heart essentially. People with no faith tradition and those with one can and do endeavor to be the best person they can be each day and their inner world not be on display.

A private altar can be a helpful focus of spiritual endeavor. A place to remember people who have passed on, to express gratitude, to offer up that which needs to be let go of and a place one can actually and practically look up to. The altar gives direction to inner intentions. Today my altar, my looking up to place, focuses on the statue of Kanzeon (compassion), the image of my teacher Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett and a four page hand written letter folded to show a drawing.  Less in focus is a photograph of the chap who died recently. He is still there on the altar – the altar of my heart, made visible. What cannot be there is the lengthy post I wrote earlier today and which I accidentally deleted! Thinking about it now I see it was probably just as well it went as it did. Better it remain, my thoughts remain on the altar of my heart. Hard as it is to say that.

So there is a physical place to put those letters, posts and emails where they can be let go of before they go public! Perhaps best in certain circumstances to never go public!The letter bringing news of the authors current daily life and insights into training is there to express gratitude. In addition correspondence received which disturb, worry or hurt can be usefully placed on the altar for awhile.

As somebody quoted from a scripture in the comments section let our wish be thus:

May we within the temple of our own hearts dwell
Amidst the myriad mountains.

Together With

Text on the side of the Stupa at Shasta Abbey in memory of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett
Text on the side of the Stupa at Shasta Abbey in memory of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett

I was on call for Rev. Master Jiyu during the last night of her life. I sensed she wasn’t sleeping, she wasn’t well. Not well at all. A cold had been doing the rounds and she had it, her breathing was laboured. I lay still, very still. Listening. I thought I was having a heart attack – the pain in my chest was intense. My mantra that night was When life comes, there is life. When death comes there is death. Over and over again I repeated. Something in me knew this was sympathy pain yet all the same I repeated the mantra. A mantra of acceptance and of comfort. Mixed with fear to be sure.

Within this place there is no suffering.
No coming. No going. No ceasing. No Way.
There is only endless training.

Later that day Rev. Master Jiyu died.
This post is for those whose life is under threat and for those who are left behind after an unexpected death. We cannot but resonate with such circumstances whether they be near or far away.

Silent Retreat

Busy bicycle made silent - The Netherlands 1999.
Busy bicycle made silent – The Netherlands 1999.

The monastery will be on silent retreat for three days starting tomorrow. Why not join us by building in some extra ‘sitting still’ time into your day. Where ever you are and what ever you are doing there are generally places to pause if only for a few moments. Silence is generally associated with not talking and cutting down on the chatter can be a good practice in getting to listen to the chatter in ones head.

externally or internally
is not the absence
of sound.

For my good Sangha friend who has recently broken her leg.

Encounters on the cloister

Pause awhile to take it in.
Pause awhile to take it in.

The cloister, a third of a mile long covered walk way holds many a charmed moment. Cats disport themselves in the heat of the day and hunt by night. Sometimes there are clashes however for the most part peace reigns. It has not always been so. Max and Tom were both un-neutered toms and thus could not share the cloister. Max was caged by day and Tom by night. I wish it had been the other way around! Max who I cared for every summer in the 1980’s would appear in the morning in the garden beside ‘his house’ battle worn from a night out in the neighbourhood. Congealed blood mixed with dust matted into his long coat – he gazed out of his  crazed battle worn eyes saying something like: Don’t ask! Just let me in and feed me. I really didn’t need to ask. Long haired, champagne coloured and handsome. The old reprobate. We love those cats. I think he died in battle. One time he just didn’t make it home and was never found.

This morning walking to breakfast having received a couple of emails from readers saying how they appreciated the teaching in the recent Fire! Fire! post I was thinking I could give a talk based on it. No sooner had I thought that thought than the Prior caught up with me on the cloister! Had you thought of doing this Sunday’s Dharma Talk? She asked. I had to say yes because it was the truth and knowing full well that with my yes came the commitment to do it! So be it.

Part of my pondering on doing a talk was the wish to offer something into the merit pot for all those caught up in the fire that sprang up yesterday afternoon very close to the monastery. Mt. Shasta power was shut down for awhile and aircraft were coming in low over the property heading towards the fire to let loose water or fire retardant to save what ever was still not burnt. 150 structures or more were lost or damaged in a very short time, flames were fanned by a strong wind. The monastery was never under alert to evacuate, a community in the path of the fire did have to evacuate.
Update on the Boles fire Weed issues 15 mins ago.

Thoughts for the people of Weed and all who were involved in fighting the fire. And thank you to the monk now returned to her temple in Canada and once living close to Weed for her contribution of photographs.