Category Archives: Information

The Buddha’s Enlightenment

Part of the altar for the Buddha’s Enlightment Festival Ceremony at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey 2018

Last Sunday a number of people came to the monastery to mark the Buddha’s Enlightenment with a ceremony. We sing, we bow, sing some more and offer incense at the main altar. We follow a form I’m very familiar with from having participated in this and other ceremonies for…many years. Thirty something years and I’m not counting.

Like so many aspects of formal monastic life, which I’m revisiting while living at Throssel on an open-ended stay, I’m seeing myself respond to forms we use in our Buddhist tradition (and form generally) differently. That is rather interesting since, heck!, one would imagine ones response to conditions both internal and external would be subject to change! And they are. Conditionable we are, and habits of mind and body do change – in the short-term, long-term and very long-term.

Anyway here are a couple of verses from an invocation we sang on Sunday that caught my attention:

There is a Life beyond the dream,
The dream of life and death.
With naught to have, to want, to know,
IT fills me with each breath.

There is a Real beyond the dream,
Of sacred and profane,
Beyond the mirror of my mind:
No form, no end, no stain.

This post is for all those who find themselves in extremity, physically/emotionally/mentally/spiritually. The above words point to absolute truth through what we term ‘the opposites’. In Zen teaching the relative and the absolute are ‘not two’. Not one and not separate.

On a slightly different note we witnessed, early in the morning the other day while walking to meditation, the moon and Venus rising at the same time. It is said that the Buddha’s was Enlightened on seeing the Morningstar, Venus. Who knows, that was a long time ago and far away.  Certainly caught my attention.

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Unapologetic Discriminator

As with dogs, so with us humans? I’m prepared to run with this.

Attention is an intentional,
unapologetic
discriminator.
It asks what is relevant
right now,
and gears us up to notice
only that.

Alexandra Horowitz
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent light? Why must a person on a bicycle be chased? What’s it like to use your mouth as a hand? In short, what is it like for a dog to experience life from two feet off the ground, amidst the smells of the sidewalk, gazing at our ankles or knees?


With a hat tip to Frank whose emails end with the Attention quote.

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Is it the Pain That Hurts?

Where the Rivers Kent and Bela meet for Morecambe Bay and beyond.

Just sometimes, when you are smack in the middle of some trauma or anxiety provoking situation it is best not to jump too quickly to thinking about what the teaching was/is. But it’s tempting if only to bring oneself comfort in the midst of pain. So it is for me at the moment. I’m tempted to write about my recent dental travails however that’s still ongoing and better left to settle down. If nothing else I’ve come to accept that it’s no good blaming the dentist for my tooth problems and pain. I know where the responsibility lies. Really simple! In the scheme of things my troubles are small.

It is heart rending to hear about the hard places people find themselves in. A woman on the phone today with a serious heart condition. So bad the consultant is not able to do anything, too dangerous to proceed with surgery. She said, It’s the nights that are worse, wondering if this pain is a heart attack. or not.. The night magnifies everything especially if alone. I offered my mobile number. Call me in the night if you need to. Thank you darling, God Bless. She replied.

There is a litany of people I know who are facing or have just gone through major surgery. There are others who live with chronic pain, chronic fear of dying and diminishing cognitive abilities. What stories people have to tell, life lessons to learn. The most compelling story to tell is the approach of death and few people live well enough to tell the tale.

But something remarkable has been happening on Mondays on Radio 4 around 5.30 am. Star broadcaster Eddie Mair has been interviewing Steve Hewlett, star journalist and BBC correspondent and much more. Steve was diagnosed with cancer last September and Eddie for the Radio 4 PM program has been following Steve’s progress allowing his story to unfold with gentle good nature and with tender good humoured questioning. So how did it feel when you were told there was no more treatment that could be given? Asked Eddie, Steve’s response….? Here are all the interviews starting back in September last year.

The last episode:
Steve has had to continue his stay in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, so Eddie Mair went to visit him again. During their conversation, Steve told Eddie that his consultant had said his liver would not be able to handle any more treatments and that the outlook in the long term was not good.
On a happier note, he and his partner Rachel decided to get married.

There’s a journalist telling his own story as it happens. He blames nobody. He speaks not for entertainment but for education and for uplift. For those who are in extremity themselves or who are beside somebody who is. Guess that covers all of us.

IS it the pain that hurts?

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Sitting In The Midst

Thank you all for leaving comments pointing to the sections of the video I linked to in my last post. So grateful we now have some time markers to go to although listening/watching the whole things is good too. That gravel voice is attractive in a certain kind of way. Here at 9.16 mins into the video Cohen voices what many of us know about. Namely the intensity of energy that floods ones body and mind while sitting zazen/meditation.  Sometimes refered to as sitting in the midst a fire. Obviously not an actual fire. PLEASE! Later, around the 11.00 mins meditation is mentioned again.

Things arise that are very disturbing and there’s no way around it… you have to sit in the very bonfire of that distress and you sit there until you’re burned away.


What he says does indeed reach the heart. In gassho, Matthew
Thanks to Matthew for this quote. We met, briefly, at Throssel where we, along with many others. remembered Rev. Master Jiyu. The 20th anniversary of her death November 6th 1996. Also thanks to Nigel for his poem, yet to be published here. The video seems to have hit the spot.
altar-for-rev-m-jiyu

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Leanard Cohen – Video – Meditation

I didn’t realise the talents and sensibility of Leanard Cohen until his passing. I did know about him ordaining as a Zen Buddhist monk and remaining in robes for five years, I think it was. In this interview he talks about his song writing etc. however what caught my attention was his description of meditation. His actual personal experience described so eloquently.

Of course words about that which is outside of, or past, word descriptions are just that, descriptions of an experience. Because of his poetic sensibilities and skill what he says reaches the heart.

If anybody listens/watches this video and gets to the part I describe please make a note of where it appears, the time, and let me know so I can add that to this post. Needles to say I have been SO full on with activity these past months (few posts here I’m sorry to say) I’ve not the extra time to watch the video again.

Thanks to Julius for the link to the video.

 

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