In Memory of John.

My good intention to post more of the photographs I took while in Malaysia and Singapore is still there. However, a couple of days after I arrived back in England, I received the news that my brother had died and dealing with this has taken precedence over Blogging.

Please have a thought for my half brother, John Tilbrook, and his family especially for his wife Pauline who valiantly attempted to resuscitate her husband who she found collapsed in the kitchen. The cremation is on Tuesday in Bournemouth in the south of England.

I can’t help but wonder at the timing of my brothers passing, i.e. coming so soon after my arriving from remote regions and, since I have nothing scheduled (except rest), I am free to be with my sister-in-law for a few days to support her.

Flying To-night.

I am sorry not to have posted much while in Singapore. When I get to Throssel Hole Abbey and am rested I’ll continue to Blog as there are many photographs of statues and temples as well as stories and insights I’d like to record. Moving mountains continues to move I guess!

Thanks to all of you who have been traveling along with me these past couple of months it has helped me a lot to feel that the OBC Sangha, lay and monastic, have been supporting me.

The Crown Atop the Buddha’s Head.

The time has come to talk about fruit, specifically Durian. Many of the monks who have been to the East come back to talk of many things, temples, jungle, chanting, Dharma connections, Buddha statues, great hospitality, the heat… I have talked about some of this however now is the time to bring you up to speed on the Queen of Fruit.

Yesterday my host offered me ice cream and I jumped at the chance, privately hoping for chocolate. My options were corn, red bean or durian flavour and, since vegetable ice cream was a bit of a stretch, I chose durian. Many an evening tea at Shasta Abbey has been taken up on discussing Durian, mostly the discussion is about the smell. Typically remembered as smelling like sweaty socks. So…when first in Asia, Taiwan I think, I was determined to give it a try just to be brave. In order to by pass the smell I took a deep breath in and then downed the flesh while breathing out. It worked! The taste is good although the texture described on a web site I just looked at is ‘creamy’. I would not be so…kind. I’ve since enjoyed durian on several occasions and seeing a Westerner eat it seems to bring a mixture of both joy and amazement to those who are watching, closely!

There is a concept called ‘heaty’ and durian is ‘heaty’. Not got to the bottom of what that actually means but presume its about being heating to the blood. One can antidote the ‘heaty’ effect of durian by running fresh water into the husk and drinking the water. Another tip is to run fresh water over the husk and wash ones hands in that water, hands that do not smell so good after handling the fruit.

Below is a paragraph from a web site that you might like to visit.
Eating a good durian is such a satisfying experience, blissful. As Mark Twain declared the cherimoya “deliciousness itself,” I say the durian is “blissfulness itself!” I think it perhaps not coincidental that so many of the buddha statues in Southeast Asia have been created with the head covered with points that very much resemble a durian. (And I say that knowing full well that in some countries the creation of those statues pre-dated the durians arrival.) Eating a good durian can be a spiritual experience, giving quite literally an exquisite taste of bliss.

Visit the web site at:

So there you have it, the Buddha statue connection and, since Durian is held in such high regard, the fact that the covering of the Buddha’s head resembles the husk of a durian can only be positive and even elevate the fruit even higher in the Asian mind and heart.

And the ice cream mentioned earlier? OK, although I missed having a husk to help wash off the smell and antidote the ‘heatie’ effect.

Is This Full Circle?

The other day I found out, quite by chance, that the temple that is hosting my stay, Poh Ern, is the temple where Rev. Master Jiyu stayed on her arrival in Singapore in 1962. Ven Sumangalo, an American and resident chief priest when Rev. Master stayed, was the first Western to become an abbot of a Buddhist temple in Singapore. He was only there for a short time however he had a big hand in developing Buddhist activities for the youth in Singapore and Malaysia.

Dharma Relatives Explained

John, you ask me what Dharma Relatives are and I realize there may be others who do not know completely what that term means. In the context of this journey to Asia my ‘relatives’ are monks and nuns who share the same religious ancestors. For example, Seck Lee Seng, of Cheng Hoon Teng, where I am at the moment, is my Dharma Aunt by virtue of being the monastic disciple of Seck Kim Seng who also ordained Rev. Jiyu-Kennett into the priesthood back in 1962. They both have the same Master, Seck Kim Seng, who is referred to as my Grand Master and his Master as my Great Grand Master.

After ordination within the Chinese Tradition here in Melaka Rev. Master Jiyu then went on to Japan to be received into the Soto Zen Church to study with and eventually receive Dharma Transmission by Koho Zenji at Sojiji. I thus have two sets of Dharma relatives making my family a very very large one. An interesting part of having this duel Chinese/Japanese background are the different robes used within each tradition.

A note on robes: At present I am wearing the robes used in the Chinese tradition, they are cooler and also I pose fewer questions when I encounter people in temples or on the street. The small kesa for example is worn by Japanese monks but not here in Malaysia, or Taiwan. Explaining the kesa in English takes time and care so explaining it for translation takes even more care, and time. So I decided to wear what everybody else wears here to make life simple and make it easier for people to approach me, I may be a westerner but at least I look like a nun. (I was given Japanese monastic clothing not currently used by us in the Order while in Japan). Each time I receive a new item it is carefully explained to me how to wear it, fold it, put it on take it off etc. etc. and everybody wants me to get it right! What is more there is etiquette about what can be worn ‘outside’ and what is OK within the temple, under certain conditions. Lots to learn. There is even more to say on what I see lay devotees wearing here within the Chinese Tradition however that will have to come in a latter Blogger posting.

We talk about the teachings of Buddhism being ‘transmitted’ from Master to disciple, and the unbroken line of master/disciple connections as the ‘Ancestral Line’. In our tradition particularly, Soto Zen, we emphasis the importance of this line of ancestors. We regard it of paramount importance that what is passed on through the centuries is kept true to the source i.e. we point directly to what Shakyamuni pointed to and encourage others to know what Shakyamuni knew/knows. Well, that may have confused a few of you, hopefully not too much, and maybe also given you a glimpse into how the monastic Sangha is organized. I guess it is obvious that the seniority of monks is based on ordination date and that the basis of keeping harmony in the Sangha is mutual respect, mutual bowing.

So, coming full circle, this journey has been an opportunity to pay my respects to those who have gone before me and to those who travel the path of Buddhism in this Dharma Family now. It has included sites in Japan, Malaysia and China, and living relatives in a number of the countries I have been to. During temple visits as my poor brain staggers to catch up with me I realize, once again, that I am in the presence of yet more Dharma Relative.

Writing all of this makes what I was shown this afternoon in the Seck Kim Seng Memorial Library and Archive all the more interesting. After six hours out in the heat on tour in Melaka with Shih Fu I stumbled into the library on my way to take a short break. To cut a long afternoon of adventure short I believe I have just been shown certificates passed on from Master to Disciple at the time of ordination and transmission dating back to the time my Great Grand Master was authorized to teach by his Master way back in China at a temple called Fu Ching on Kui Shang (Turtle Mountain) in Hokkien Province. I know Iain will be noting down this information and diving for a map! I have come to appreciate maps too Iain!