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.

Merit Walk In The Wind

Two hours hard walking
One hour up
One hour back.

Thinking of a
Sangha Friend
in Canada.

Another health adventure
not knowing more than
the next breath.

Breath just
keeps on
breathing – you.

While I walked today my thoughts were very much turned towards a long time sangha friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Hard and heart-breaking.

There is No (Separate) Self

Continuing on from the last post, here is a link to site with a transcript of (some) of the Questions of King Milinda. He must have been a very interesting person and kept on coming back to Reverend Nagasena who patiently answered his questions at length and in a creative way. I’ve always appreciated how Nagesena used the image of a cart to teach about the truth of no separate self. He verbally dismantled it asking the king repeatedly , ‘is the wheel the cart’?, ‘is the axle the cart’? When you click on the link, scroll down to the section ‘There is no Self’. Engaging in self-education is not a bad thing. Good enough for the King, good enough for us!

You will note that the King was most reverent and polite in the run up to his questions and in his answers.