Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

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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Smelling like Roses?

Ok world, there are thorns and there are roses, lest we overlook this in the rush to come up smelling like, well roses! It’s relatively easy to see, talk/post about and appreciate the ‘roses’, less so for the ‘thorns’ of our lives.

I do so love this extract from a letter written by Tchaikovsky in this article, Tchaikovsky on Depression and Finding Beauty Amid the Wreckage of the Soul.  This article and so very many others worth reading can be found on the wonderful website Brain Pickings

Tchaikovsky notes his cyclical lapses into depression, undergirded by a dogged dedication to looking for beauty and meaning amid the spiritual wreckage. This intimate tango of sadness and radiance is ultimately what gives his music its timeless edge in penetrating the soul.

I am sitting at the open window (at four a.m.) and breathing the lovely air of a spring morning… Life is still good, [and] it is worth living on a May morning… I assert that life is beautiful in spite of everything! This “everything” includes the following items: 1. Illness; I am getting much too stout, and my nerves are all to pieces. 2. The Conservatoire oppresses me to extinction; I am more and more convinced that I am absolutely unfitted to teach the theory of music. 3. My pecuniary situation is very bad. 4. I am very doubtful if Undine will be performed. I have heard that they are likely to throw me over.

In a word, there are many thorns, but the roses are there too.

One through number four says it all. I know I could come up with a list, perhaps a longer list to be honest. This morning as I looked out of my window, taking in the expanse of the valley, I once again realized that ‘no matter what life circumstances will unfold, pains and worries are present and will change. And all in a timely way but not to my schedule though. A moment of deep appreciation, and confirmation.

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The 10,000 Grasses

The morning dew on the tips of the ten thousand grasses reveals the truth of all the myriad forms of this great earth. Zen Master Dogen

Each thing, each tip of grass, each dewdrop, each and every thing throughout the whole phenomenal universe contains the totality of the universe. That’s the truth of the myriad forms of this great earth. Copied from this article on Dogen’s Mountains and Rivers Suttra, commentary by the late John Daido Loori, Roshi. Bless him.

The photograph shows the West Allan Valley looking north(ish) towards the monastery. Lovely day today. It is nearly the end of a week-long retreat in the monastery with lots of guests. The merit of this post is offered to all those in extremity, in particular those preparing for surgery. The morning dew reveals the truth, the third position beyond the opposites. In the article refered to as the ‘third thing’. There is always the third thing.

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Live Your Life

Ashgill Force on the South Tyne

I can stay
Skip the wedding
No problem

Close to death.
Massive stroke.
Speaking difficult
Message to partner.

Struggling to form words
Her partner said
I want you to

What a gift!
Last words a life
friend could speak
A gift for us all.

What does it actually mean to live ones life? Is it to squeeze every last drop out of ones day filling it with memorable experiences? Not for me, although I’ve been blessed with many a memorable moment in my life. Let me think….to me, at the moment, living life is to appreciate/be with the life of THIS. Just this. That can be as simple as feeling warm water running over my hands, listening to a bee gathering food or catching a sight of the wide sweep of this West Allen Valley in Northumberland, where I’m currently living.

Here a short video showing the waterfall in all its glory. Twas a great few hours in Autumn sunshine walking up to this fantastic waterfall.

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Another Labour of Love

I was out and about yesterday as the weather was fine and the wind had dropped.  These model villages in the nearby village of Nenthead are quite something, quite the labour of love.

This post is dedicated to all those who are new to practice or finding it a bit of a struggle to either keep going or to get back to formal meditation. In a certain sense practice is a labour of love. Love with no gain, unconditional love if you will. Oh, and good fortune to the three chaps I met on the road after the recent Intro. Retreat.

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