Being a Contemplative?

Through my twenties I knew I would end up being a contemplative. How I knew that I’ve not a clue, I just knew. And here I am many years later a member of a religious order, the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. Who would have thought that possible considering I was not at all keen on ‘organised religion’, back then. As the years went by I waited for the right time to come when I’d know where to go to BE a contemplative. I’d imagined I’d need to go to India. And more importantly I was waiting for a clearer idea of what being a contemplative involved. As happens in life the right time did come, after many twists and turns. My understanding of what a contemplative life is/means has evolved although, to be honest, I rarely think about it.

A chance meeting and a certain set of circumstances came together to lead me towards this tiny corner of Buddhism and this tiny organization. As the years have passed since I first came to Throssel in the late 1970’s I’ve found myself grateful. That’s for having found Zen, for being able to practice as a monastic and for the huge impact that has made on my life. But the question this evening is, What is being a contemplative?. An interesting thought. What marks out the life of a contemplative?

At the moment I am spending some weeks in the monastery in Northumberland, Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey. Tonight I joined a small group of younger monks for an informal tea. They were kind. It’s so nice to have you here Rev. Mugo. Blush. You don’t say much however you always seem to be listening!  Double blush! (I checked later and nobody remembers say that!) Well if that is what being a contemplative is, I’m happy with that.

A last thought:  what comes in through the ears and the other senses comes in when the doors and windows are open. You don’t need to go out hunting. That’s the best of it.

And you don’t need to be a monastic or a member of an organized religion to listen either. 

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7 thoughts on “Being a Contemplative?”

      1. :-)
        Your mention of the Order brought back a precious memory. (I’ve always said that Jiyu Kennett Roshi was my first teacher.)
        I had purchased Trungpa’s “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism”, and settled down to read it one evening. Aroun 4:30AM I put the book aside, picked up the yellow pages, flipped through to Religions, and had a look at what was listed under Buddhist. 5:45 I was parked outside the Zen Priory. 6:30 I had my first ever sitting session. By noon I was a resident, and by that evening I was moved in.

        The iron hook of dharma, ehh whot? :-)


        1. That is an amazing story Ben. Lovely to hear of this story from way back. I’m presuming you went to the priory on Telegraph Ave.?

  1. Many, many years ago I listened to a broadcast on the then BBC Home Service quoting from a mediaeval Christian text, “The Cloud of Unknowing”. That started a journey that brought me to Throssel and Rev. Master Jiyu’s teaching.

    The rest as the saying goes, is history, probably.

    The so-called journey is ongoing but ceased to be a quest some time ago and more a way of being.


  2. I liked”you don’t need go out hunting” sentence. A friend said to me last week ” why are you so set on this group…surely you can find one closer..theres a Buddhist Temple downtown…go there”. I replied when I had set out looking for something, somewhere, years and years ago I went there. And lots of other places. But when I wasnt looking Rev. Jisho Perry showed up to do a talk and I wandered in, not looking. And found ” this group”. Wasnt hunting but found what I needed.

  3. Yes Gay, things can happen as they did for you which is great. And others ‘go on a journey’, sometimes very long ones, and on the way find what they were looking for. Or on their return discover they already have what they were looking for. Each to their own and I’m glad you found this group and find it good.

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