Pillow Altar

As mentioned previously I took this item as a ‘show and tell’ for the children on Sunday. It proved particularly helpful because the last scripture of the day, before going to bed, is called Peace Upon the Pillow. The chant, repeated three times is Makura Om. Makura means pillow, Om translates as Peace. So the altar provided a link for a singing break, although it was just me singing. We had a go at chanting Om Mani Padme Hum, just me singing again though.

At night pilgrims wrap the altar in clothing and use it as a pillow, thus it is called a Pillow Altar.

This small shrine may well be a representation of a cave shrine in China.


I received a box of high class chocolates by Fed Ex this morning. They were a delayed-in-the-mail gift in celebration of my 25th Ordination Anniversary. The chocolates even had cooler bags packed with them to stop them melting on their way from Santa Cruz. On top of the ribboned box was a card. “Perishable – Don’t Wait! Your box contains handmade, preservative-free fine chocolates. Please open and enjoy within one week“.

There isn’t going to be much peace upon my pillow tonight, that’s for sure!

Sitting Still in the Midst of Conditions

A line within one of our scriptures goes, “May we within the temple of our own hearts dwell, within the myriad mountains”. I needed to be mindful of that interjection of faith and intent last Sunday afternoon. For sure.

I’d been invited to visit a family outside of Edmonton so the children could ask me questions about Buddhism. “To interrogate me”, as I put it to the mother on the telephone! There they were five of them, two families worth, sprinkled across the living room carpet sitting crossed legged ready and eager.

Thankfully, just as I was leaving the priory, I’d plucked up a few bits and pieces as ‘show and tell’ items. A bell, some incense, lotus blossom stickers, a rosary and a triptych traditionally carried by people in the east when on pilgrimage to a holy site. (no time left to photograph that, perhaps tomorrow.)

Our conversation, come Dharma talk, come meditation period, come ‘entertainment’ ranged and rolled along in a way I rarely encounter with adults. With the children’s attentiveness, which was not 100% of course, and their bright willingness to both listen and ask questions inspired words and insights to flow in a most satisfying way. This is the best of teaching when what needs to be said, and can be heard, arises without filtering through the brain so much. Wonderful.

What a gift these children were. There were the myriad mountains shifting and wriggling, twisting and turning, and in the midst of all that to be able to talk about Buddhism in a serious minded way. And for the flexible mountains, on some level, to absorb truths beyond words and religious traditions. Sitting still is not conditional on external appearances of ‘stillness’.

I’m just so grateful for such opportunities, to visit outside of my usual circle. When ‘the temple’ can enter a living room, in a small homestead, beside a busy highway that ribbons East across the Alberta prairie. For me it is a rare opportunity to have a window on the lives of regular folks who in turn want to have a window on a different faith tradition, as seen through my eyes.

Practice in the Balkans

It is always good to hear from Tim, a Buddhist trainee, who I’ve know for quite a long time. He lives in Kosovo and has been rebuilding a house in the mountains. Hard work for both him and his wife.

Thought it would be good to take you off to explore life in the Balkans. A still beautiful, yet still war worn, part of the world attempting to get back on it’s feet. In previous letters Tim talked about his work in a refuge camp making tough decisions about the water supply. Water to drink, water to wash in and ohmygosh, no water at all. That must have been perhaps two years ago now.

I’ll keep checking on the house project and hope Tim branches out to include other aspects of his life on the blog.

The Biggest Butterfly in the World

To-day I went on a trip with a charming family to visit the Devonian Gardens south west of Edmonton. As we were leaving the parking lot (car park) afterwards a wedding party was arriving. My memory is that the bride always has four specific ‘somethings’ on her for luck. Here are my somethings from to-days adventure:

Something blue: Oilers ‘uniforms’, flags, hats etc. etc. etc. Edmonton is awash with Oiler stuff, which is blue…and bronze and white and red. And blue maple leaves seen on a Girl Guide scarf.
Something borrowed: ‘if you find a folded-over chip in your bag of potato chips you can make a wish on it’.
Something new: The BIGGEST butterfly I’ve ever seen.
Something old: The awesome and ancient wisdom behind the eyes of the children.

Thanks guys it was fun, and the Oilers won too!
Thanks also for my four ‘somethings’, I’m one lucky monk.

Great Ocean of Meditation.

Following a week of postings about death and dying here are some words from my Master on living. More specifically, where to live.

To sit still within the arising and vanishing, the appearance and disappearance, you and I, the constant coming and going: this is to be within the Great Ocean of Meditation within this human life. When we are dead (as we think of it), presumably we see It in a different way; I have no way of knowing. But I do know this: It is no different in life and in death. What matters is to be within the Great Ocean of Meditation.
Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, Roar of the Tigress Vol. II, p 116

Hope you find this as uplifting as I do.