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.

Autumn in Edmonton.

Autumn officially started on the 22nd September that date being the Autumn Equinox. The golden leaves are flying and quite soon the snow will be flying too!

View from my bedroom at the back of the priory.

Hello Friend.

Recently while traveling I accumulated a number of small gifts, most of which I’ve passed on since returning to England. Each are a token of a happy meeting which, when passing them on again, are a token of a happy meeting and so it is that the merit of these gifts keep on circulating. Here are a few items that remained and came to Edmonton with me.

The metal object, a double dorge, was given me on leaving Vancouver in early April, so that has traveled almost full circle around the world. The name card is one of the few remaining from a stack of 100 given out in Japan. I learnt how to present and receive them in the correct and rather formal way. It was touching to see how people received and held them with great reverence and respect with both hands. They then read them slowly, the recipient lingering awhile to appreciate the kanji that pins down the exact meaning of ones name. The rosary made of pure crystal came from the Abbess of Cheng Hoon Teng, Malaysia and the small packet of green tea from a fellow pilgrim sitting on a wall waiting for a bus on Puto Island, China.  The item with the Scripture of Great Wisdom printed on it, given me in Taiwan, was passed along to an old Buddhist friend this afternoon.

The business of giving, receiving, keeping and passing on tokens of friendship came into sharp focus just before leaving England. I’ve been pondering on ‘objects of remembrance’ since then and you will see why from the following. On a visit to Throssel in the late 1980’s my father proudly gave me a pine tree in a pot. He was proud because he had remembered my Buddhist name, seen it on the plant label and bought the tree himself, with his own money. This tree was important for both of us, yes, a pinus mugo! It was subsequently planted and, over the years, I have watched it grow. Just before leaving for Canada I paid it a visit, thinking to take a photo for this blogger, and all I found was a stump! It had outgrown its space. Then, the other day, somebody sent me a photo of a statue, minus one arm, I’d given him fifteen years ago and earlier, in the monastery at Throssel, one of the monks pointed out a couple of item I’d given which he had kept, pride of place.  All objects of remembrance, remaining for many years, all pointing to the deep connections we have with one another. And when the token is broken, lost or cut down the connection is not broken, lost or dead they are after all just tokens. Friendship endures and writing this blogger has, in several cases, brought to light friendships from the past and new connections I didn’t even know about! I’m grateful and there is more bloggers to come on the subject of trees too!

The Buddha was asked if there was a place for friendship within the Dharma, he replied that ‘friendship is all of the Dharma’. If somebody, better than I at finding information, can find that reference I would be grateful. Oh, and the first thing my Master, Rev. Jiyu-Kennet, said to me was ‘Hello Friend’.

Somehow It Seems Sufficient

Today, while driving back from Newcastle in the late afternoon light I marveled silently at the moors of Northumberland unrolling into the far distance. Perhaps I’m appreciating them all the more knowing that I will be leaving England for Canada in just a few days and will not be back for a year or more. An email was awaiting me when I arrived at Throssel with a web page attached. In it was this poem. It fits the moment, its arrival is timely.

”Somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever coming & going is,
losing the self to the victory
of stones and trees,
of bending sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine.”

-A. A. Ammons(1926-2001)

The dwarf pine refered to is probably the pinus mugo. Here is some information copied from the web page mentioned earlier.

Pinus mugo, is frequently listed under the variant spellings P. mughus & P. mugho, & the species is synonymous with P. montanus. A common mispelling adds an extra letter to this pine’s name so that it becomes Mungo or Mungho, after Saint Mungo, Bishop of Strathclyde, Scotland, circa 540 C.E. Saint Mungo’s name means “Dear One.” One of his first reported miracles was restoring a serf’s pet robin to life after ruffians had killed it. The correct name Mugo, however, is of such old origin that the meaning is lost to time, but may be an old Italian dialect word for “mountain,” or possibly tracks back to a Nordic word meaning “misty” for growing in mists of high mountain plateaus & ledges.

After thought: Is it not heartening to know that at one time serf’s keep pet robins!