When Shakyamuni Died

The Buddha sitting under a tree. This is part of the main altar set-up for the Buddha’s Enlightenment Day Festival at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey. Nice job Reverend Sacristan.

Photo by Billy Barnett, very many thinks for letting me use this.

At the end of the ceremony we had the customary offering of merit, called the offertory, which was sung most beautifully by one of the female monks. Here is part of it:

When Shakyamuni died, He told His followers to make His teaching the light of their lives and to make their own lives shine as brilliantly as the sun; the light of Shakyamuni and His followers has shone through many centuries and has been transmitted to countless people. We must follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us so that our own light shall shine in the same way, and we must transmit it, even as they did, so that it may shine brightly in countless worlds and for thousands of lives to come.

Somebody wrote me today asking, When should one consider oneself a Buddhist? When one formally accepts the precepts? To truly take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is to consider oneself a Buddhist. This is a private promise that one makes daily, with the intention to make the Three Refuges, and the ten Precepts, the light of your life. To appreciate what that actually means in practice is not a simple matter. Accepting the Precepts formally goes some way towards appreciating what the light of ones life actually is.

Anybody can make their own lives shine as brilliantly as the sun, in a religious sense. A spiritual path can be invaluable.

Remembering The Past

Remember the Advent calendar? Remember opening up the little doors and windows and it being a bit of a ho hum kind of a thing? Now you can go on line each day as a grown up person and revisit the concept of Christmas, all over again. Today’s story, 3rd December, is worth reading.

Cute Cows in Cornwall

CowI was talking to a Sangha friend last evening and was wondering aloud how to fit in this photograph he took in South West Cornwall, which I like very much. Both because of the personality plus cows and because of the wonderful views over Cornwall to the sea. ‘Well, mention that they are on a diet’ he suggested. Yeeess, I guess I could say that…

Here they are, cows on a diet.

These beauties have been herded, by my friend, onto higher pasture where they have to walk further and work harder to find their food.

After our celebratory lunch today following the Ceremony of the Buddha’s Enlightenment I’d liked to have walked further and worked harder. However the rain, and now high winds, have me sitting writing this. With contentment, and gratitude.

An Innocent Abroad

You can tell they are not real by the small bird hanging on a string slightly right of center.

While in Hexham this morning I popped into the shop mentioned yesterday. I felt I owed it to those snakes and the shop to cross the threshold to take a closer look at the walls. It was a reptilian wonder world and no mistake. There were a couple of good looking Buddha statues from Indonesia in the shop too. Well worth the visit.

And just up the road is Cogito Books, an independent book shop. One can order by telephone, e-mail and via their web site. Their flyer says, we will deliver free to you in Hexham, Faster than the internet, Easier than Newcastle, KEEP HEXHAM ALIVE. This enterprise is certainly going a long way towards keeping people shopping in the centre of town. Mind, there isn’t much outside of town, at the moment.

These days I rarely have a chance to loiter in book shops let alone buy one of those new, sleek, beauties. Here’s somebody, in London, who does support his local book shop.

Beware the Logogryph, a mythical creature that lives in books. It reached out and got me in Edmonton, and hasn’t let go. Spend more than a few brief moments reading this blog and you will be become a captive! Sorry Tom, that’s not an anti add just a friendly warning to the innocent abroad.

Empty Fear

Snakes! Hisssss. Watch out for the snakes lurking in the dark. Slithering unseen, getting ready to ‘get yer’ when you are least expecting. They hide in plain view wearing a disguise, step out unmindfully and a snake will have you roped tied and branded before you know it. That deadly sting is a breath away, and after that there is the coiling around and the deathly squeezzzzzze, which will finish you off.

Sound like anything you have ever thought? I know of at least two readers who are, TERRIFIED, of snakes. They live on opposites sides of the world and both live in snake infested places. Come on, not really BIG ones are they? Hisssss. The closest I came to the big ones was while traveling in Northern Queensland, Australia in 1970. I came as close as the long-tall stories I was told, of how they slide into your sleeping bag at night to get warm, hang languishing from trees by day and are the size of a mans arm, at least! In the flesh I might have seen just one tiddler in the outback, that’s all.

I passed by a gift shope in Hexham yesterday and out of the corner of my eye I saw them, slithering up the walls of the shop. Lots and lots of them, slithering multicoloured snakes. Who is going to buy them? Who in this wide world, in their right mind, would even cross the threshold of that shop? Bad for business I thought, don’t they know about snakes and how they scare people?

In Buddhist teachings, specifically in the Wheel of Life, you can see a pig representing greed, a cock representing anger and a snake. The snake represents illusion/delusion/ignorance. These three poisons, as they are termed, chase each other around in a circle thus perpetuating suffering, endlessly. That’s until they, which are all qualities chasing around in the lives of the average person, take stock of the situation and see into the unsatisfactoryness of living like that. Of poisoning oneself from the inside, and drinking in more poison daily. This is when people can, and do, turn their lives around. It really is possible to do that. Interestingly the more poison you have poured into your body/mind, or have had others pour into your body/mind which is particularly nasty, the more potent and complete the turning around can be. Why? Because the poisoning is that much more obvious. Take a tour of the Wheel of Life why not.

To-day I’m celebrating the snake, terrifying as they are for some, and probably for good (karmic) reasons too. Because the three poisons, snake being one of them, are the great liberators when their true nature is seen into. We have a verse:

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world,
a phantasm a dream, a bubble in a stream.

This posting is dedicated to all those who have been forced to drink poison at an early age and have lived in fear ever since, until now.