Tweet 1001! A New Place of Buddhist Training Starts

It was all due to Heather in Edmonton who showed me boldness when I was but an innocent aboard the Internet, stepping falteringly into it. She signed me up for Twitter in 2006 at the very start of what has grown to become a huge micro blogging phenomena and this post is Tweet 1001. A screenshot of my 1000th Tweet is copied below.

1000th Tweet.
1000th Tweet.

Before those of you who shudder at the tinkling of social media talk move on, the tinkling can’t be all bad. Not all silliness, inane jabber, time-wasting and brain cell degrading. This 1000th Tweet above is, by shear coincidence, about the Field of Merit Project renting a property. This is a major step towards opening the doors to another place where people practicing within our order can go and retreat at. Well I couldn’t be more delighted to use SM to let people know about that. Over on the Field of Merit Facebook page 232 people have so far seen this: Facebook

More photographs of the new property can be found here. And yes, I’m rather careful about how I use SM and especially how long I spend gazing at my computer monitor. A story from China to wonder at.

What’s in a Cobweb?

The other afternoon I was laying on the floor resting my back when, glancing up towards the window, I spotted a cobweb. The light from the window catching the grey and fluffy thing made of web strands  – nothing complex or fancy! No sign of an actual spider. Today I’ve been thinking about cobwebs. There is something about them that has one recoil if it’s yours, or stand in judgment if it isn’t! Without too much forethought we bring it down, remove it, get rid before somebody else sees it.

Fluffy cobwebs heavy with accumulated dust and who knows what else indicates what? Poor house keeping, irregular dusting, infrequent cleaning, a slovenly attitude generally? Spot a cobweb in a public place and ones attitude towards that place might diminish. Cobwebs signal neglect and following on from there that the people responsible for the place are negligent. Cobwebs just cannot be tolerated at home or away. They have to go. But like anything that brings on a strong response they are teachers showing us our own minds. Over hasty removal of cobwebs means their teaching can easily get missed. What a shame.

It is all too easy to rush and remove that which is causing a disturbance. That’s to fix the situation out there so (we imagine) peace can return in here. But really we all know that doesn’t work in the long-term. There are an endless procession of cobwebs in our lives which, especially if guilt and shame are in the picture, almost without thinking we jump in to push it into a cupboard, burn, bury or bin it! Out of sight maybe, but like my teaching-cobweb, not out of mind and eventually one acts. Hopefully wise action based on something deeper than guilt and shame or judgment. So, it doesn’t hurt to allow disturbances to hang around, to be with/sit with our webs in a gentle and compassionate way. Welcome cobwebs but best not to let them hang around too long! Mine went this afternoon.

Information about the difference between cobwebs and spider webs here.

To Know Her Was to Love Her

Memorial Altar for the late Rev. Mildred, Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey.
Memorial Altar for the late Rev. Mildred, Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey.

This afternoon a number of us gathered around the kitchen table at Throssel drinking tea and reminiscing about the late Reverend Mildred. Earlier the community had gathered in the ceremony hall for a ceremony in her memory it being ten years today since she died. She and I lived at the Reading Buddhist Priory in the early 1990’s and several people who read Jade will remember that time. She was a novice monk and it was my job as senior (and Abbot) to train her to be what’s termed in our tradition the Chief Junior of the temple. The CJ’s job is to make sure everything runs smoothly in the temple and instructs visitors and guests. Perhaps those of you who were around then would like to leave a comment to this post to add to the reminiscing.

One regular member of the priory once said she didn’t remember much, if anything, of the teaching I gave during Dharma talks. My heart sank. Then she followed up by saying how much she learnt from seeing how I dealt with sometimes tricky situations that came up between the Reverend and I. She assured me the learning was good. Thankfully! Living in such close quarters it was essential to deal with upsets as they arose and kindly too.

One time when I was traveling to visit meditation groups in the South, I’d do a three day tour, I picked up a mug for Rev. Mildred. I was fairly pleased with it and I think she appreciated it too. On the mug was written, To know me is to love me. I remember Rev. Mildred with huge gratitude for our time together, testing as it was for both of us at times.

Needing Meaning?

Another Sunday meander. The colours and textures and shapes reached out and grabbed me! But it was yesterdays walk-photograph that gave me something to write about. Appreciating the Known posted on Field of Merit blog.
Going on
And from Brain Pickings a book review: Godliness in the Known and the Unknowable: Alan Lightman on Science and Spirituality. Here is an extract from the book:

There are things we take on faith, without physical proof and even sometimes without any methodology for proof. We cannot clearly show why the ending of a particular novel haunts us. We cannot prove under what conditions we would sacrifice our own life in order to save the life of our child. We cannot prove whether it is right or wrong to steal in order to feed our family, or even agree on a definition of “right” and “wrong.” We cannot prove the meaning of our life, or whether life has any meaning at all. For these questions, we can gather evidence and debate, but in the end we cannot arrive at any system of analysis akin to the way in which a physicist decides how many seconds it will take a one-foot-long pendulum to make a complete swing. The previous questions are questions of aesthetics, morality, philosophy. These are questions for the arts and the humanities. These are also questions aligned with some of the intangible concerns of traditional religion.

Deepest Wisdom of The Heart

When one with deepest wisdom
of the heart
that is beyond
discriminative thought,
The Holy Lord, great
Kanzeon Bosatsu,
Knew that the skhandas five
were, as they are,
in their self-nature,
void, unstained and pure.

For those not familiar with them these words come at the beginning of The Scripture of Great Wisdom, or Heart Sutra. There are many other translations of the S.G.W. however the above quote comes from the translation we use in the order. It’s Kanzeon Bosatsu, who is teaching in this scripture and from a depth of wisdom beyond discriminative thought.

The Five Skhandas are a traditional Buddhist way of analysing the self or ego by splitting it into five components parts namely form, sensation, thought, activity and consciousness. These five components make up self. It is very easy to misunderstand this scripture as saying there is no self, no individual persons, no sentient beings, which just doesn’t mesh with everyday experience. What’s being pointed out is that, on the deepest level of discourse, there is no SEPARATE self. Which doesn’t make sense in terms of ordinary everyday thinking either! Kanzeon, talking from the deepest wisdom of the heart, knows that not only ‘selves’ are not separate it follows that the senses are not separate from their objects either. No ear separate from sound etc. no taste separate from tongue. This too doesn’t mesh with experience!  If the Scripture of Great Wisdom is not understood in the wisdom department life would get seriously strange. Obviously.

It is not that unusual for people to have a deep insight into the way things are at a relatively early age. Having a flash of insight is not the whole picture however, more just a snapshot however profound, and if clung to can cause people to become off-kilter in their lives. That’s especially if there is fear involved and/or no context, religious or otherwise, to set such an insight within. In the last few lines of this scripture there is a clear instruction to keep moving on continuously from what’s known and understood. I can’t count how many times I heard my teacher Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett say this, to me and to others.

O Buddha, going, going, going on beyond’

Always becoming Buddha.

So, while keeping this ‘going on’ instruction in mind everyday there is the encountering, appreciating and acting (or not acting) within the world of appearances, of separateness. And accepting and loving that.

Kanzeons deep wisdom is born out of great compassion and great love.