Category Archives: Teachings

Passing on the Teaching

As good fortune would have it I just received, via email, a link to an article on receiving the Buddhist Precepts. There is a lot of good teaching in it for those who have received lay ordination and those who have not, and may never do so. I should mention that we do not follow the practice of new aspirants sewing a rakusu (small kesa) and to not give a Buddhist name at the time of Jukai, (Ten Precepts Meeting). The teaching given in the article about the making a giving of the small kesa still stands very true though. Lay Ministers of our Order wear a blue/green small kesa which is made for them and given by a senior monk when they become lay ministers. Here is a photo so you can see what a small kesa looks like and to take you into the spring heat of China in May…


I’m wearing a small kesa. Iain Robinson who is a lay minister was not wearing his at the time. Taken this May during a visit to Tiantong Temple near Ningbo, Zhejiang where Zen Master Dogen came to practice in the 12th Century. That’s the Abbot and his mother in the middle with other relatives and attendants.

Looking back on early postings I realize that there is hardly a mention of the visit to this temple. Making postings while in China at all was quite a struggle though. Got anything to say Iain?

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Admirable Friendship the Whole of the Holy Life.

We meet on Sunday mornings for meditation and morning service. Afterwards we generally do some working meditation together. Yesterday, and for a few Sundays to come, it was leaf raking the back lawn and pruning the longer branches of a couple of ‘volunteer’ trees growing close to the house wall. (They are probably not doing the foundations of the house much good in the long term when I think about it.) Anyway, we have left the leaves in plastic bags in the garden, with holes punched in them, to over winter for use as mulch in the spring. That will be around…err mid to late March! Afterwards we had ‘tea on the lawn’, a British tradition which my Canadian friends were happy to participate in.


Chris, Terry, Dan and Mike.

Speaking of friends, here is material relating to the subject of friendship in the Dharma that I’d asked about a post or two ago. Thanks to the two adventurous readers who found the quote. Looks like Access To Insight is a good site to remember for references.

Samyutta Nikaya XLV.2
Upaddha Sutta Half (of the Holy Life)
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sakyans. Now there is a Sakyan town named Sakkara. There Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.” “Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path. “And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path? There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops right resolve … right speech … right action … right livelihood … right effort … right mindfulness … right concentration dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the noble eightfold path.
“And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life: It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.”

I hope it goes without saying that, while the Buddha is speaking of monks, the practicing of the Eightfold Path with admirable friends is for all who resolve to tread the path of Buddhist practice and choose to do that along side others.

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Two Weddings and a Memorial.

June and Mark on Saturday and Ian and Rachel on Wednesday. They made their solemn vows and were married at Reading Buddhist Priory with Rev. Master Olwen, the prior, officiating. If somebody had told me that the priory could contain forty plus people at once, all in one room, I’d have been doubtful. These two weddings proved it possible, just!

I’d been invited to witness these two weddings and although I’d originally not planned to attend them my schedule in the UK is flexible enough to allow for change. To go seemed good to do. So last Saturday I caught the train from Exeter, where I’d been staying with Rev. Master Myfanwy at Dragon Bell Temple, to Reading near London. I was glad to be present and to personally wish these couples well in their lives together and to join in the celebrations with their family and friends, many of whom had not been to a anything Buddhist before.

Years ago I attended the annual religious conference at Atlantic College in Wales. The youngsters at that school, along with the religious teachers, were invited to ceremonies from different faith traditions with a view to nurturing tolerance and greater religious understanding. One evening we had a Shabbat Supper, a ceremonial meal within the Jewish tradition. The wife of the officiating rabbi gave some orientation to help us be at ease. She explained as follows, “When you attending a friends wedding you go and participate whole heartedly. However when you leave you do not end up married!” She continued, “So it is with our meal together. Please do join in wholeheartedly, and at the end of it be assured, you will not be a Jew”! This helped tremendously and I have used her words at occasions, such as weddings, to help non-Buddhist relax in the unfamiliar Buddhist setting and ceremonial.

As it happened, at one of the weddings this week, there were people of the Jewish faith. The bride had already mentioned that she was slightly concerned about how her Jewish father would respond to being at the priory. During the ceremony, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a gentleman who at first seemed far away and who then gradually entered into the ceremony as it proceeded. It was touched to catch a fleeting sight of his soft face turned towards his daughter as she made her vows. I related this latter and was told that hearing of her fathers attention was ‘the best present she could receive from him’. I was glad to be able to pass on what I’d observed.

On route from Exeter to Reading, and now on my return journey to Cornwall in what is called the West Country, the train passes through Taunton in Somerset. It is a special place of remembrance since my father died on the platform just before meeting me off a train in January 2000. At that time, as my trained pulled out of the station, I was silent witness to a touching scene. I observed from across several tracks the paramedics arrive and attempt to revive a gentleman, unknown to me at the time. Considering the odds of being present at the time of my father’s death, given my tendency to travel, I am always so grateful for what happened in Taunton since I was able to be there for him. There, even though I didn’t realize it at the time! I was also conveniently placed to attend to all that follows the death, identifying the body followed by funeral arrangements. My father and mother are buried in the grounds of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland.

Each time I pass through Taunton on the train, as I have just done, I remember my father with great gratitude. I also remember with a smile, at the circumstances of his death, he would have smiled too!

So there we have it ‘Two Weddings and a Memorial’! For those who don’t watch movies the title of this posting is a sideways reference to ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.

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Dogen’s Ordination Platform on Mt. Hiei.

There is no single temple on Mt. Hiei known as ‘Enrakuji’ – the name is used for the whole complex of temples that can be found along the summit ridge overlooking the city of Kyoto to the south and Lake Biwa to the east. The temple was founded by Dengyo Daishi in 788 and although this has always been the Head temple of the Tendai sect in Japan many of the most important priests who founded other Buddhist traditions also trained here.

Dogen came to Mt. Hiei as a young trainee monk in 1212 and took the Bodhisattva Precepts the following year. The building used for this ceremony was the Kaidan-in (Ordination Platform Temple) completed in 828 and still probably much as Dogen would have seen it. It’s an important site in the history of Buddhism in Japan too as the formal separation of Mahayana Buddhism from other schools was first announced here.

Dogen is mainly associated with the Yokowa area of Enrakuji to the north of the main To-do and Sai-to temple groups. Few of the buildings he would have recognised survive – most of the original temples were destroyed by the shogun Odo Nobunaga.By Iain.

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The Pagoda

The pagoda.

This was the last temple in a long line of visits in Kyoto and Nara. I must admit I was flagging a bit, however in the museum was an item I have always admired in photographs. The statues, three of them, are on lotuses rising out of a single stalk set against an ornate screen. (anybody know the name of that?) Yes, I was very please to set eyes on that. Latter, as we came upon the museum of temple textiles it was closing time. Too bad.

We had caught the train out of Nara to visit this temple having left our luggage in a locker at the station. As luck would have it we just made the rail connection which took us on to our next destination, Kameyama. The memorable event there was asking at the hotel where we could get onto the internet and being lead at a very brisk pace down the road for a perhaps ten minutes by the man at reception only to realize that he didn’t in fact know of a place…he did try though.

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