Category Archives: Teachings

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.

Few Bells, No Whistles!

Jiso watches over those who are traveling. Women, children and animals too.
Jiso watches over those who are traveling. Women, children and animals too.

The following story of a Catholic nun, who has a huge on-line presence, is interesting in that her motivation for engaging in social media and website development was inspired by her religious vow. An early adopter too with a website developed in the 1990s then going on to produce podcasts and videos in 2004 for her monastery with no walls.  Physically located in Herefordshire.

Sister Catherine’s writing is imbued with humour and wisdom. And she is clearly engaged with issues of the day setting them in the context of her faith and understanding as a Christian. I just nipped over to iBenedictines and her three posts written over Easter speak clearly and compassionately. The following is taken from a recent Telegraph newspaper article.

“….Sister Catherine has taken on external clients, developing websites for computers and smartphones on a professional basis. But, although nowadays her skills are a source of financial support for the monastery, there was a religious motivation for developing them: “The Rule of St Benedict [guidance for monks and nuns in the Benedictine order, written by the saint in the 6th century] is very keen on what it calls ‘hospitality'; that is, welcoming people to the monastery and giving them a taste of what cloistered life is like,” she explains. “And we thought the internet is a brilliant way of doing that.”

I think… you’ll find that practically every monastery in the country [now] has an internet presence with all the bells and whistles.”

I love the above sentence found towards the end of the article. Many bells being rung here at Throssel this week during the ceremonies for Jukai. No whistles though!

In a few days Jademountains.net (formally Movingmountains and before that Jade mountains – started in 2003) will be ten years old. In 2005 when I flew from Vancouver to Japan my motivation for starting to post regularly was to share my Pilgramage with the lay and monastic sangha of my religious order. Few people can make a spiritual journey or to ‘journey’ as I do and sharing practice and passing on the teachings is my basic religious aspiration. I continue here because….I can’t bring myself to stop! It would be like stopping talking! All too easy to think of sound and silence as being opposites, which they are not.

It is my dear Dharma Sister Rev. Master Meiten’s 89th birthday today. Time for celebration, and admiration too.

The Four Noble Truths – Animation

This animation video, narrated by Stephen Fry, on the Four Noble Truths is from a BBC Radio 4 site called A History of Ideas. Other animations answer such questions as, What is Justice? and How Can I Know Right from Wrong? In charming fashion.  Learning for all ages.

The Eternal Gem

The following was first published March 9, 2012. I’m republishing it now for all those who are arriving at the monastery today to participate in the week-long retreat called Jukai. During the week a number of people will formally make their wish to practice. Simply coming here and joining in everything wholeheartedly is a remarkable and potentially life changing event. Good fortune everybody.

The wonderful thing
about Zen practice is
that you get to do it
whether you like it or not.

I was talking to a woman the other day who is preparing to receive the Precepts during Jukai at Throssel in early April. This quote indicates that once you have committed to the practice it does itself. One thing that seems to happen during the lead-up to the commitment made during Jukai is to question ones ‘readiness’. Questions such as Am I able to keep the Precepts? Or, Am I adequately prepared, or would it be best to wait another year?

Like anything else one commits to, one enters with the understanding and depth one has at that time. Invariably that understanding deepens as one goes on in life. In the beginning taking up formal practice seems to be all about discipline. Not a word or concept some of us take so kindly too! The rebellious amongst us know how the internal pressure to ‘sit still’ works with that rebellious nature which…well…is in the habit of rebelling. There is always the need to be reflective around what we choose to do and not do. That is true for everybody.

Even after very many years of committed practice that little duality, Discipline v rebellion, can left foot us. At such times it’s good to take a kind look at oneself. Not sitting may not be a problem with discipline. It might be that something is pushing one to take a deeper look as to why one sits anyway. In the beginning it is a ‘good thing’ and becomes a ‘good’ habit which proves we are not the hopeless kid we sometimes think we are!

We have been told that over and over that ‘pure zazen must be done’, that sitting is a good thing. But what is the good, and what is the thing? The kid in us all, the rebellious one, gets some hard knocks along the way but not everything needs to be laid at her door. As the quote says, we practice whether we like it, or like it not. More importantly whether we know it or not. And along the way we struggle but that’s just a finger pointing back to us to ease up on ourselves. Why not sit still and enjoy and appreciate the gem we carry in our hearts. Sometimes we know it’s twinkle and most often not.

The gem, however, can be lost sight of. But not for long though.

Thanks to Chris Y. for the quote. And I’m sorry not to post more often of recent weeks. Right now my Internet connection has failed so nothing much will appear here for a few days. Sitting in the local gift shop where there is a free Internet connection I realize how I enjoy writing in such conditions. The statutory coffee and cake helps of course!

This post is for those who are stepping, those who have been stepping for years and all of us who have been stepping…eternally. For that’s, in truth, how it is. Practice has no beginning and no end. But receiving the Precepts formally is not nothing.

It IS Enough!

Desolation Sound in reflective mood.
Desolation Sound in reflective mood.

I have been going through the papers I’ve been carrying around while traveling and came across a couple of things I wrote when I first arrived at the house I stayed in on Cortez Island during the last week of February. It would seem I was pondering on ‘enough’ back then.

In lighter and darker
Shades of green
Set in wafts of
grey mist.

The Sound
seamlessly IS
Sky – water – land
No edges.

As a hungry stranger
Wanting, watching
To see
More.

Is not the green and grey
Enough?
The drifting wood
The Eagle too?

It IS enough.