Category Archives: Daily Life


Light goes with darkness as the sequence does of steps in  walking.

At the end of the first meditation period of the day a drum is struck seven times, symbolizing the coming of the seven *six Buddhas before the historic Buddha, Shakyamuni. We use a bass drum mounted on a stand. Depending on how and where on the surface of the drum it is struck the sound is anything from a resounding CRASH to a mild thump. The intention is for a deep resonating sound, neither too loud nor too soft. Yesterday, more of a crash! It happens.

And so it is with us. Actions, including speech are, at times, harsh and jarring, at other times filled with compassion and gentleness. Resonating deeply in minds and hearts. It is all too easy however to label a person ‘harsh’ or ‘compassionate’ and evaluate that person accordingly good or bad, nice or nasty on the basis of their actions. Or the quality of their actions.

Is this right though? However human it may be to judge in this way I’d be rather sad if, for example, what I said or did even years ago had me for ever cast as a ‘nasty person’. The act may not have been out of the top drawer, raising my voice for example, but does that make me a nasty person, an unkind person? Is it possible to see the person apart from their actions? At least as a starting point for exercising kindness and compassion.

In ‘darkness’, when separate features do not stand out, is used in our end of Buddhism to mean emptiness and ‘light’ to mean multiplicity. You could say also; one and different, empty and full.  The two seeming opposites fit together, are together ‘as a box all with it’s lid’, to quote from one of our scriptures.

What this means to me at least is, wether or not we beat the drum with a crash, a subtle tap, or an unthoughtful wallop there is a leap of faith needed. Faith that takes one past the reasonable and the reasoned, the right and the wrong, while at the same time acting or not acting – what ever is called for. This is the koan of daily life arising naturally. This is not easy. Nothing and nobody is ever all light or all dark although we can forgive ourselves for believing this to be so!

Thanks to Mark for the photograph. The Alhambra in Spain, I think?

*See comments

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Brief Encounters

It doesn’t take much, really.
To notice, appreciate.
To touch, be deeply touched.
And out of that, gratitude?
It doesn’t take much, really it doesn’t

Out of one conversation
From a book read
A lecture heard
A film
A taste
One sound
Just one thing – remembered
What would it be, today?

From today: the Orange/Carrot/ginger soup we had for supper and this heart warming story about a man who turned around arrows of hate (speech) and returned with an act of compassion. With far reaching consequences.

Really, it doesn’t take much.
No effort needed, to be honest.
Just Buddha recognizing Buddha
and Bowing.

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Exercising Faith – The Bodhisattvas’ Path (Dharma Talk)

This was first published October 2017. Will Pegg died in September.

Today at Shasta Abbey, Northern California, we celebrated the Festival of Bhaisajya-guru Tathagata, the Healing Buddha. I was honoured to be asked to give the Dharma Talk after the ceremony. The title is:  Exercising Faith – The Bodhisattvas’ Path.

Towards the end I mention three people by name: Michael Stone (who died mid July), Will Pegg and Rev. Master Meiten all from (or near) Vancouver Island  British Columbia Canada. I dedicated the merit of the talk to them, and although I didn’t say it at the time, the merit extends to all those who have supported them, learnt from them and continue to be inspired by them. All three clearly exercise faith and walk the Bodhisattva Path. The world is full of people, Bodhisattvas’, who each in their own way inspire others to live a life of faith and generosity.

That is enough for tonight.

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Trig Pillars

Trig Pillar on the moors above Throssel.

A testament to surveyors of the past
Although 6,500+ trig pillars were built, hundreds have been lost to housing developments, farming, coastal erosion and other causes. The vast majority follow the standard Hotine design, but some are stone built, and in Scotland there are some ‘Vanessas’ which are taller, cylindrical concrete pillars.

You can only imagine how hard it was for surveyors of the past to not only map Britain, but to also locate sites for trig pillars and carry the materials to remote sites to then build the trig pillars too.

It’s a true testament to their skills that such an accurate map of Britain was created from such humble beginnings as the trig pillar 80 years ago.

Ordinance Survey Blog A history of the Trig Pillar

There is something special about our Trig points in Britain to the point of fond (perhaps sentimental) affection. We love to go and visit them, some people even ‘bag’ them in the same way others ‘bag’ mountain tops. Because Trigs are located in high places the views on a clear day are 360 degrees of unincumbered Britain. Today we could see the Cheviots to the north and in all directions we had crystal clear views. It was a fun walk with fellow monks and Brenda Bear came too, named after Brenda Birchenough a fond friend in the Dharma.

With thoughts for those whose day is not clear or bright, whose view is limited and who are alone, and not by choice.

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Is That Not Enough?

This was first posted late December 2009 and links in with yesterdays post, ‘Everybody has to be somewhere’.   (There were a lot of good comments added to this post by the way.)

Taken on a sunny afternoon above Ambleside in the Lake District while on a walk.
 For most of my early adult life I looked for a purpose. A purpose to life, for living. Returning after my first retreat here at Throssel it occurred to me that I didn’t need to think about having a purpose any more. It was not that I had found a purpose. I did however wonder if I had and what it might be but nothing came to mind. No it was simply that I didn’t need to concern myself about a purpose for living any more. It was such a relief.

We hear of people in extremity who derive meaning, or purpose to live from simple things. For example I heard of a girl in a concentration camp who left behind, for she died in the camp, a diary. In it she recorded how each day she glimpsed a tree and it was this tree that kept her going and gave meaning to remaining alive.

Another story is of a Korean woman incarcerated for something she had not done. Each day the guards would take her out and beat and abuse her. Each day she did her walking and sitting meditation and, she wrote, I am free!

What is it that sets us free to simply live? Free as the tree to spread its branches and send its roots deep into the earth. To have our leaves turn brown in autumn and fall off and then to bud and blossom when the sun warms us. We are not plants, we are however filled with life. Is that not enough?

An after thought. At a certain time when I was almost at the end of reasonable life options I met a person who must have seen something in me. Anyway, he most seriously advised me to learn to meditate. And I couldn’t but take notice of him, he was in earnest. I distinctly remember him saying, It doesn’t matter where you do that, under a tree for example! So there you have it a link between trees and meditation

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