Incense Smoke


There has been a flurry of news about the health risks of inhaling incense smoke coming from a recently published article in the journal Cancer. The NHS (National Health Service – UK) web site has an article on the findings of this research, which was conducted in Singapore. The following comes at the very end of the NHS article.

Incense use in this Chinese population was very high and is likely to be much higher than use in the general Western population. Additionally, the small number of people who never used incense compared to the high numbers of those who currently or formerly used it raises the possibility of error when comparing risks in the two groups.

While in East Asia I saw the practice of offering fistfuls of incense in huge incense burners. These were usually placed outside the main halls and the air was thick with the smoke. In most temples burning incense inside the temple buildings is strictly forbidden.

Out of compassion for those who suffer from multiple allergies a number of our temples use alternate forms when making offering during ceremonies. I’ve been using votive candles of late.

It make complete sense that inhaling polluted air, incense smoke laden air, will have a physical effect. What that effect will be is a matter of how much over how long. It would be a great pity, however, if burning incense became a reason why people decided not to attend Buddhist Temples….

Thanks to Ian for drawing my attention to this research. See his posting on the subject.

Every Day, is Every Day, is a Good Day

Brew in Brittany, France 2002.

It has been an extra long day. A good day. The car was mended. The bamboo in the back garden pruned. The Rosemary bush in the front garden trimmed, artfully, into a pyramid. And, AND the text for the leaflet I’ve been working on since April has been finally (almost) finalized.

The photograph is for Rev. A. at Throssel who admired the photo of Muji the miniature Schnauzer published several days ago. I have it on good authority that Brew in Brittany is a standard Schnauzer. And all around postman chaser as well!

An Oblation to the Absolute

There is another kind of spiritual courage as well, quieter and less celebrated, but just as remarkable: that of making each day, in its most conventional aspects — cooking, eating, breathing — an oblation to the absolute.
— Philip Zaleski, From a New York Times book review. July 24, 1994.

Sorry, I can’t track down the actual review.

Years ago in the mid 1980’s I wrote a Journal article titled, To Proffer Abundant Oblations. I loved that word oblations, wonderfully expansive and all embracing.
Here is the definition of this phrase at the start of the article:

To offer for acceptance that which is intangible, in ample sufficiency, in thanksgiving to the Eternal Buddha.

Vicarious Adventure

The group of cyclist riding south from Watson Lake to Yellowstone just posted news of their first nine days on the road. Reading it I’m transported to days past when I’d take off on long bike rides, rides before monastic life. Riding in Ireland in the rain, peddling up hills to the sometimes fast, often slow, rhythm of the Can Can. Dah, da, da, da, da, dah, dah da, da, da, da,…. My how it can rain in Ireland; and on the road south from Watson Lake by all accounts.

Monday August 25th
Rain thru the night and into the morning. We lie in our tents waiting to see who will be the first to make a move. We rally around 9:30 AM. Cook up the rest of our oatmeal which is around six bites per person and heavily supplemented by spoonfuls of peanut butter. The dirt road we came to our campsite is now a mudslide puddle mixture so we push our bikes through the woods and up the steep embankment to the road. The rain subsides and we are back on the road. We make good time into Fort Nelson. The forestlands give way to cleared pastures affording us magnificent views of the country. To the West we can see snow capped peaks of the coastal ranges. We spot the old remains of a blackbear road kill.
Great photos too.

This post is offered in memory of Cuthbert who, in his early years in Montana, would pick up road kill and bury it. He was known as ‘the man who picks up animals’. Later he was killed in New York. A truck ran over him, and his bike, at a crossing. After that I sold the priory bicycle and didn’t climb aboard one for well over ten years. Taking a short ride to break the biking fast seemed like a good thing to do at the time. My serious biking days are over though.

Good fortune to the riders in the wilds.

Errr! 11.30 p.m. That sounds like the Racoons out in the garden again, pulling up the lawn and washing their spoils in the fountain. Wild life in Berkeley. Bless em.

Change of Direction

Muchie, blue eyed priory cat with robe.

Fancy cat, fancy ceremonial robe. Those golden ties so tempting. Briefly a paw flexes to pounce as I pick up the robe before the ceremony yesterday morning. Poised. The paw twitches again and…. No! Paw washing next. I’m not sure I can attribute this change to a deliberate decision on her part, non the less, I’m grateful she chose washing over pouncing.

A recent visitor reminded me of a helpful telephone conversation he had with one of the monks. He and his wife were caught between going to a retreat or standing by at their home to offer help to a small monastic community should the threatening forest fire come close enough to require evacuation.

Continue on with the original plan, while at the same time be prepared to change direction at any moment.

In the end they helped the small community. And, to maintain balance here’s a picture of their dog. Muji.


Muchie is a, mostly Siamese, Tortoiseshell Point. Muji? A miniature Schnauzer. Both are special needs animals.