The Pagoda at Kew

This evening my thoughts were taken back to Kew. That’s the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew by the Thames, London. There, standing ten stories, is a Chinese Pagoda to be viewed from miles around. My first sight of this foreign building, at around age eight, left a lasting impression. It said much and mostly, I realize now, spoke silently of something bigger than myself. Not just physically but ‘otherly’.

The capacity of children to be awed, to stand in wonderment at a sight or sound, to know it and be satisfied is a wonder in itself. And still there remains that capacity in adulthood. I’d think it a sad thing if we were to loose that.

Until a moment ago I’d not made the connection between the pagoda at Kew and Buddhism! Yes, it certainly did make a lasting impression, probably a seed that changed my life.

Seeds just need the right conditions to start growing and that comes in a timely fashion for all.

Head for the Basement!

Taken in southern Alberta last summer; what a corker!
Copyright attributed to the (unknown) photographer.

You may have seen that I have put a notice at the bottom of the main page. Essentially it means that material on this blogger is protected under a Creative Commons License.

In order to insert that notice I had to overcome my natural reticence to do new things. I did have help and I’m thankful for that. Now I have taken that first step behind the scenes and gained some confidence I’m having to restrain myself from tinkering about too much. For the uninitiated the coding looks, at first glance, like a knitting pattern. But that is as far as it goes, believe me!

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!

We Were Here

The other day somebody pointed out a photograph of an inukshuk on our calendar. Since he works in the North West Territories, and many of his colleagues are Inuit, he’s knowledgeable about these native people and there culture. He said these way-markers basically mean, “We were here”. He was clear that it was in the past tense. Here’s an Inukshuk on the 2010 Winter Olympics logo.

“Inukshuk (ee-nook-shook or ee-nook-sook) is an Inuktitut word that means to look like a person (an Inuk). It is a stone cairn which has been used by the Inuit people to mark high points of land, good hunting and fishing spots or the way home. Inuit have been building Inuksuit (ee-nook-soo-eet / plural) for thousands of years. It is a symbol of trust and reassurance for those who travel across the vastness of the Arctic.” You can build your own virtual inukshuk

‘A symbol of trust and reassurance for travelers’. Those who have walked the hills know about Britain’s way markers, the cairn. And closer to home there is the Buddhist stupa. Somewhere (and I wish I had a better memory for this kind of thing) it is said that to build a bridge or a stupa is an act of charity.

Embracing the New

Trog, Pembrokeshire – June 2005. Copyright: T. Lee.
This has to be the star picture of the month! I met Trog this summer while I was in England. A cute little critter to be sure. The other day he came to Edmonton in an envelope; that’s on the front of a card from his human companions. I’m still amazed at the quality of the prints produced from digital files.

As a fellow Buddhist I’ve known the photographer and his wife for nigh on fifteen years. A happy association which has included a shared interest in photography. Like so many photographers of our generation we started with film, that’s black and white film and latter colour. We learnt the craft of producing prints and over the years explored the limits of the medium. For many people it’s quite a leap to let go of the old, embrace the new and explore digital photography. There is no good reason for me to pursue photography in this way, nor is there available time. However I still appreciate a good quality photo which catches the moment, as this one does.

Remember the saying: ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bath water’? There is much wisdom and knowledge retained from ‘old style’ photography which can usefully be carried into the digital medium. Often people think they need to reject the past in order to embrace the new. In the rhelm of religion this can happen when people come to Buddhism after having been brought up in another religion. Rejecting the past is especially true when the experience was a painful one. However, rejecting what was is not necessary in order to move forward. After all, it’s not possible to stop past experience influencing the present; religion, photography, what ever. There is the letting go of the past however; now that’s possible. Our practice is about embracing the present wholeheartedly, making wise choices and moving on. Not looking back in anguish or regret.

Trog had been snarfling on a beach in south west Wales. Amazing what a photograph of a sandy dog can bring up!