Category Archives: Teachings

Matters of Gratitude

I’ve been thinking of events, or series of events, which defy all possible probability in the normal course of life. Iain in Japan wrote about a series of coincidences which more than likely lead to his young sons life being saved. No doubt there are many such stories to tell such as this one from early in year 2000.

I was on a long drive, trailing a caravan, from Manchester in northern England to Cornwall. That’s a long way in one day. Mine was the slowest rig on the road. Somewhere south of Exeter, and late into the night, my concentration was failing me. I lost my way in some road works and turned off the main road onto a slip road by mistake. Realizing what I’d done I proceeded back towards the main road again. In a daze of tiredness I didn’t check for traffic before merging, there wasn’t much traffic at that time of night. Then whoosh, quick as you like, a huge commercial rig streaked past before me on the main road. It could have been Starship Enterprise, the event was that surreal. Seamlessly I trundled on, merging in behind it as it sped into the dark night. A near brush with certain death, and no mistake.

Quite early on in my monastic training I turned a corner, so to speak, and realized everything in my life had brought me to this place. The good times and the dreadful ones too, the painful circumstances and the joyful ones, all without exception, had been Great Compassion at work. Although at the time it didn’t always look that way.

And it looks like compassion is still at work in my world. Just a few days ago when out in a car I realized I was driving on the wrong side of a country road, and had been doing so for some time.

There is the matter of accumulated spiritual merit involved in all of this.

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Zen Meditation

‘A practical guide based on the approach used at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey’.

Hi there, a new teaching aid has just become available and I thought you’d want to know about it. Here’s what it says on the back of the DVD version.

Zen Meditation deals with the fundamentals of the practice of zazen, of sitting meditation. It includes a detailed description of the physical and mental aspects of the practice and shows how the principles of meditation can be applied to the activities of our daily life. It shows how we can be still within the events of life and experience things as they are, with nothing added or taken away, and explains how such acceptance can lead to the realizaton of our true nature.

A Teaching Tool: I show ‘Zen Meditation’ to new people here. In particular, the segments on training in daily life and setting up a regular practice. If you want to learn to meditate and you are not near a priory, group or monastery to receive instruction in person, this DVD is the very next best way to get started.

You can buy it here: The monk who runs the Bookshop at Throssel wrote me saying: “Yes, we have the DVD (and video) and it would be fine for people to email and ask for a copy. I can tell them the postage cost if it is outside the UK. ( The cost of one, including postage and packaging airmail to USA and Canada (small packet) is £7.75.) We do appreciate payment in £ sterling, or a direct transfer to our bank account. We can’t take credit cards.”

Many thanks: to Tony Lee, Peter Major, Virginia Lee and Lee Upton as well as the monks of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, and all the others who helped to bring us this useful teaching aid.

Nice to see the production team members come out from behind the camera, and microphone too!

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From Half Way Round the World

The Buddha protected by Mucalinda, King of the Nagas.
The Buddha protected by Mucalinda, King of the Nagas.

I received this in the mail to-day. It has come more than half the way round the world. It originating in Thailand, thence to England in luggage and onwards to Canada in a mailing tube. And there it was waiting for me at the front door of the Priory on my return from the library. It gives me pause for thought when considering the minor miracle of items reaching their destinations: that ‘planes stay in the air for long periods of time, that mailed items, 99% of the time, arrive in one piece, and packages can be left alone on the doorstep and not get picked up and taken away again!

At Shasta Abbey there is a huge statue of the Buddha protected by Mucalinda set beneath a structure to protect it from the elements. It’s the very first Buddha image that visitors encounter when entering the monastery for a visit. I believe it is covered in gold leaf and was a gift from devotees in Singapore.

The image, above, appears to be silk screened and the background is black fabric. It’s a kind gift and treasure it. Thank you.

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Passing on the Teaching

As good fortune would have it I just received, via email, a link to an article on receiving the Buddhist Precepts. There is a lot of good teaching in it for those who have received lay ordination and those who have not, and may never do so. I should mention that we do not follow the practice of new aspirants sewing a rakusu (small kesa) and to not give a Buddhist name at the time of Jukai, (Ten Precepts Meeting). The teaching given in the article about the making a giving of the small kesa still stands very true though. Lay Ministers of our Order wear a blue/green small kesa which is made for them and given by a senior monk when they become lay ministers. Here is a photo so you can see what a small kesa looks like and to take you into the spring heat of China in May…


I’m wearing a small kesa. Iain Robinson who is a lay minister was not wearing his at the time. Taken this May during a visit to Tiantong Temple near Ningbo, Zhejiang where Zen Master Dogen came to practice in the 12th Century. That’s the Abbot and his mother in the middle with other relatives and attendants.

Looking back on early postings I realize that there is hardly a mention of the visit to this temple. Making postings while in China at all was quite a struggle though. Got anything to say Iain?

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Admirable Friendship the Whole of the Holy Life.

We meet on Sunday mornings for meditation and morning service. Afterwards we generally do some working meditation together. Yesterday, and for a few Sundays to come, it was leaf raking the back lawn and pruning the longer branches of a couple of ‘volunteer’ trees growing close to the house wall. (They are probably not doing the foundations of the house much good in the long term when I think about it.) Anyway, we have left the leaves in plastic bags in the garden, with holes punched in them, to over winter for use as mulch in the spring. That will be around…err mid to late March! Afterwards we had ‘tea on the lawn’, a British tradition which my Canadian friends were happy to participate in.


Chris, Terry, Dan and Mike.

Speaking of friends, here is material relating to the subject of friendship in the Dharma that I’d asked about a post or two ago. Thanks to the two adventurous readers who found the quote. Looks like Access To Insight is a good site to remember for references.

Samyutta Nikaya XLV.2
Upaddha Sutta Half (of the Holy Life)
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sakyans. Now there is a Sakyan town named Sakkara. There Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.” “Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path. “And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path? There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops right resolve … right speech … right action … right livelihood … right effort … right mindfulness … right concentration dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path.
“And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.”

I hope it goes without saying that, while the Buddha is speaking of monks, the practicing of the Eightfold Path with admirable friends is for all who resolve to tread the path of Buddhist practice and choose to do that along side others.

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