The Warm Life Of Buddha

Perhaps it was rude to look at the woman’s face as she dealt with the bank deposit. It was a glance, rather like noticing detail on a mountain side. You know how it is walking along taking in the gullies and streams and the rocky outcrops, perhaps catching a movement in the brush? In this case I briefly scanned the lines and grooves of a skillfully made-up, middle aged, face. Nothing was moving, the expression impassive. Transaction completed we met, smiled and I turned and went on about my business.

The young chap behind the till at the computer shop turned out to be the owner! The lad who had fixed my computer appeared in his The Computer Shop top. Fresh faced with a steady and considered manner. Faces, faces and more faces. Expectations, assumptions, interest, beauty, dignity. All taken in at a glance. Images that can be recalled, however for the most part forgotten. Snapshots.

One of the rules of the meditation hall is not to look at another’s sitting place. Literally, one does not gaze around and look at other people as they sit. Not even a glance, unless it is ones responsibility to do so. Leaving the formality of the hall the teaching informs one’s day. Engage with others, yes. Gaze into their sitting place, no.

No need, no point and ultimately not possible.

This way stands one in good stead on the high street, in the airport or where ever. It all may seem cold and indifferent however that is very far from how it is.

For Mike, the original owner of The Computer Shop, who died on Tuesday.

Answering The Call


It’s the twenty first of January and the anniversary of my late Master’s monastic ordination. That was back in 1962. What better time to get back at it and start posting regularly again. This was an expression she often used to informally signal a gear shift. Community tea to work. Informal get-together to…work. Getting back at it was basically the same as get on with the next thing. What is the next thing?

When I think about it get back at it is fundamental to how we function within this tradition. Do the work that comes to you is the guiding principal. And one can drive a bus load of confusion through that phrase, however taken simply and directly, this means…get back at it. All day every day switching gears happens almost imperceptibly and in there is a sort of call and corresponding response.

Thank you to those who have been asking after my health. Even though I’m still limping along on borrowed computers I can say, with reasonable confidence, that I’m now back on my feet. And dare I say it again, back at it!

And a special thank you to the two monks who brought springtime to my room, pictured here. They too have monastic anniversaries today. Congratulations.

Half A Smile

Books are rarely part of my life and now I’m surrounded by them. Dipping in, but not staying long. Still unwell, it’s not so easy to concentrate for any length of time. Computer’s at the menders. Replacement computer so so. Still surrounded by books but loosing touch with where I am for lack of suitable markers. (and I NEVER turn over the edge of a page, except for paperbacks.) Then I remember a posting on The Logogryph about bookmarks.

And, since I’d ran out of things to mark my places, in all of these books I’m surrounded by, I resorted to the unthinkable. (unfortunately I’m not able to upload the photograph of my handiwork,) I cut up my favorite inspirational card, of a hut on stilts, into three strips. Perfect bookmarks. And, if I arrange them just so, I can still see the roof poking out like one half of a smile.

Thanks to Tom for the posting and to all of those enjoying sub zero temperatures in Edmonton, Canada.

Smoking Memories – Coughing Better

Coughing better he’d say jovially having cleared his bronchioles once again. (Coughing was both necessary and also had become part of who we knew and loved). Then, spitting in the rose bed, he’d light up again. Sometimes, to be playful, he’d waft Balkan Sobranie in my direction. Ah! Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette, or in his case pipe. Ah! How the tide has turned now.

This was my boss from aged seventeen through to late twenties. On and off. A man, and his family, I owe a great deal to. A love for photograph for one. He had however a healthy disregard for health matters in general, as so many did of his generation. In particular a disregard for noxious fumes. My daily lung diet was, for years, a tobacco and chemical fume fug. All much intensified by being within an unventilated darkroom.

Last time I saw my old boss alive I was already a monk and he was severely disabled with Parkinson’s Disease. Would he recognize me? Know who I was? It was so sad. Then, suddenly he pointed at me all bright eyed and laughed and laughed. My bald head perhaps? I don’t know. I went over to him and held his hand, patting it and silently reciting the three Homages of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in blessing. It was all I could think to do. It was the last time I saw him.

Now I’m wondering if his dear wife is still alive…

We watched a film called Thank You for Smoking a satire on the tobacco industry. It’s well worth watching. Funny too.


Somewhere in The Threefold Lotus Sutra the gathered multitudes all simultaneous cough and snap their fingers thus signifying that they speak the One Truth and will, I’m presuming, all teach it.

I had to smile when I read about the collective cough. Made me feel so much better about my bouts of mad coughing that well up from nowhere, go on and on and then leave me exhausted. Dignified affirmation of the One Truth? I think not! Sorry for myself? No. Just embarrassed about the explosions!

I’m reading the Threefold Lotus Sutra, Kosei Publishing Co. Japan. It’s a deeply significant work within this tradition with segments of the text used in our ceremonies.