Once a week we watch TV on our ‘renewal’ night, this is our community recreation. Last night we watched a film about the Giant Hornets which wreck havoc in Japan by decimating the domestic European honey bee population. The female workers, loyal to their Queen, feed the growing larvae and for that they need ‘meat’. So the workers go and raid hives for their larvae then feed them to the ever growing population of avaricious hornet larvae.

The local bee keepers destroy Hornets nests. In the film a Buddhist monk, who harvests honey each year by attracting wild honey bees to his hives, does not do this. Interestingly enough the wild bees were better adapted to protecting their hives than the European ones. They simply smother the scouting Hornet by swarming all over it and flap their wings to raise the temperature. Hornets can’t take the extra heat and are thus effectively cooked to death.

One of the monks remarked how interesting it was to watch ones mind while watching the hornets wrecking havoc killing the honey bees and the general death and destruction depicted in the film. With my renewed audio awareness what I was noticing were the sounds. You could hear the munching and crunching and buzzing. I was wondering how on earth the film crew managed to catch the sounds, or were they sound effects…

I’m not sure why in particular these hornets, and the film, grabbed my attention. I do however now remember that the monk in the film had been attacked by a swarm of the Giant Hornets as a child and survived. Now each year he seems to seek out the all important Queen who, early in the season, feeds on tree sap and is easy to spot. He could have been afraid of them, he could at least keep his distance but actually he appears to loves them as he loves the wild honey bees too.

Interesting the choices we can make in life, and how choices in the natural world are few.

Sounds within Silence

This afternoon I watched and, most especially, listened to the film Into Great Silence. An award winning film in 2006 apparently. Probably most people who watch films have seen this one however if you haven’t it’s well worth the time, it’s a two and a half hour meditation period with visuals. Many thanks to the long time sangha friend and fellow blogger for sending me the collector’s edition. I’ve yet to look at the ‘extras’ on the second disk.

The German documentarist Philip Groening waited patiently for 13 years before the Carthusian monastery of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps near Grenoble invited him to make a film about their lives, laying down the conditions that there should be no artificial light, no music (other than their own Gregorian chants), no interviews, no commentary and no accompanying crew. The result is the 164-minute Into Great Silence, a meditation on lives given over to poverty, prayer and solitude. It’s an experience from within a repetitive, spiritual existence, rather than an explanatory, exploratory documentary. Groening lived in a cell of his own for a total of four months, covering all seasons, communicating with the monks through letters, shooting 120 hours of material, and in an almost God-like way working as director, producer, scriptwriter, cinematographer, sound recordist and film editor. Read more

With heightened awareness in the audio department I went for a walk after the film finished and heard such squawking from the bushes. A nest of tiny orphaned birds, most likely destined to die very fast. We think the mother has been eaten…probably Smudge our cloister cat. Spare a thought.

In Remembrance

On Monday, in America, people all over the country will be attending services in remembrance of all those who have suffered as a result of war. We as an Order hold ceremonies at our monasteries and temples too. Some may know of the truce that was called between the fighting men on Christmas Day during WW1, known ever after as The Christmas Truce. Apparently men at war at other times, and other wars, have dropped their fighting gear to fraternize with the enemy.

In the Crimean War British, French and Russians at quiet times also gathered around the same fire, smoking and drinking. In the American Civil War Yankees and Rebels traded tobacco, coffee and newspapers, fished peacefully on opposite sides of the same stream and even collected wild blackberries together. Similar stories are told of the Boer War, in which on one occasion, during a conference of commanders, the rank and file of both sides engaged in a friendly game of football.

Read more on the BBC News Web site.

Somehow these stories engender hope.

Flower Show

Today is the last day of the Royal Horticultural Societies prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London. This year there has been a bit of a controversy about a garden called Through the Moongate which is a western take on a Chinese style garden. The problem, spotted by a couple of Chinese students, was something to do with a dragon facing the wrong way and a statue of Kanzeon placed too low to the ground.

I stepped across the yard to take a look at our garden. Kanzeon is very low to the ground, in fact the statue is standing directly on the earth. Strictly speaking one would raise it up out of reverence and respect. My guess is that this little patch remains as it is out of respect and remembrance of the person who cared for it, who is no longer resident here. Could be wrong.

Kanzeon in the garden.

Yellow Tulip called Yokohama

Lovely day here, although as I look out of the window the sky is turning grey.

Not Two

One, or two?

The truth….


For anybody familiar with the writings of Zen Master Dogen you will know what ‘Not Two’ is referring to. Basically it is pointing towards the non duality of practice and enlightenment. I’m just having a bit of fun with these photos of the sheep and her lamb and the captions. Nothing deep or significant I can assure you. Not everything is teaching, although everything can teach!

On previous visits to the Hermitage in Wales the hill sheep were in a sad state of health. They were basically neglected and it was not uncommon to come across sheep and lambs dying slowly from ‘fly strike’ or some other difficulty due to a weakened system. You can look up fly strike if you really want to. Believe me, it is not a nice way to go. However on this visit I was so glad to find the sheep well and well cared for. So the stress of being surrounded by sick animals was pleasantly absent.