‘No Place They did not Reach’

From the tow-path of the Lancaster Canal

Clouds of radiance of jewels reflected each other: the Buddhas of the ten directions conjured regal pearls, and the exquisite jewels in the topknots of the enlightening beings all emanated light, which came and illuminated them.
Furthermore, sustained by the spiritual power of all Buddhas, they expounded the vast perspective of the Enlightened Ones, their subtle tones extending afar, there being no place they did not reach.

The Avatamsaka Sutra, aka as The Flower Ornament Scripture.

As I sit here at Throssel in my room, recently returned from a visit to Cumbria and Lancaster, the not so ‘subtle tones’ of a chain saw whirring away enters my ears. I can hear it as I type, I didn’t hear it as I read the sutra earlier (perhaps it hadn’t started then). The chainsaw noise is part of a ‘sound scape’ just as visually there is a ‘visual scape’. They come together in my awareness. Not to mention, now I bring my mind consciously to my fingers, and the rest of me as well.

The chain sawing is a noise, it gets my attention. It is constant. Is that noise opposed to the peace that pervades when it isn’t there? Is the rubbish on one side of the canal opposed to the tranquil scene of the barge puttering up the canal?

From the visual, the radiance of jewels reflecting each other, to the subtle tones of the audible, the expounding of the teaching in the Flower Ornament brings EVERYTHING, every separate everything, together. That is the profound teaching of the Avatamsaka. The separate things are a product of our wonderful imaginings and are essential, on a particular level, to our human functioning. Are they not? I can no more bend my mind to make the noise a sound, any more than I can not recoil at the sight of the overflowing rubbish bin.

Very recently I have come to appreciate the profound link between the perception of audio and visual input, between sound and sight. The realization? Part of that is letting sound and sight come into (to receive) my senses eyes and ears, rather than going out and drag that in. Our senses, in themselves, are void (of individual self nature), unstained, and pure (empty of individual self nature). So sings the Scripture of Great Wisdom.

Why not read the extract from the sutra again, slowly. Then read it again more slowly. Perhaps read it again even more slowly? Perhaps now read the words aloud, the sound of your voice as you read to be there too.

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Waving in the Wind

What an imposing presence these Teasels have, growing taller and taller, waving in the wind, the prickly flowering, heads light purple. Each day as I pass the garden I glance over and see them waving – masterfully erect.

This post is for all those, including myself very occasionally, for whom ‘waving in the wind’ can mean: feeling dizzy, light headed, unsteady, vertiginous. Such conditions for most come and go for others, not so. NOT SO AT ALL. All the same those so long term affected go on, perhaps in a completely different looking life, to have an imposing presence in the world. Masterfully erect.

You know who you are.

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The Abode of Enlightening Beings – Our Abode

A boundless host of enligtening beings, the congregation at the site of enlightenment, were all gathered there; by means of the ability to manifest the lights and inconceivable sounds of the Buddhas, they fashioned nets of the finest jewels, from which came forth all the realms of action of the spiritual powers of the Buddhas, and in which were reflected images of the abodes of all beings.

Also, by virtue of the aid of the spiritual powers of the Buddha, they embraced the entire cosmos in a single thought.

Their lion seats were high, wide, and beautiful. The bases were made of jewels, their nets of lotus blossoms, jeweled-abodestheir tableaus of pure, exquisite gemstones. They were adorned with various flowers of all colours. Their roofs, chambers, steps, and doors were adorned by the images of all things. The branches and fruits of jewel trees surrounded them, arrayed at intervals.

Avatamsaka Sutra. Taken from the first chapter.

For those who do not have a stable ‘abode’. It may be humble, it might be compromised (our psycho/physical abode), it could look like nothing very much at all from the outside. From the inside, though?

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Circumambulating the Monastery – The long way round!

Circumambulation (from Latin circum around, and ambulãtus to walk) is the act of moving around a sacred object or idol. Wikipedia

At Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, during a festival ceremony, all present have the chance to circumambulate the hall and offer incense at the main altar. It is a spiritual practice in many traditions – to walk in a clockwise circle around a stupa or a Buddha or Bodhisattva statue. There is merit, spiritual merit, generated through this circling, honouring, blessing, walking meditation.

Once, years ago, at a ceremony to install a statue in a ‘Buddha Garden’ in an open prison, I remember being given a flower,  some incense and a candle to carry while we walked and chanted. We circumambulated three times, which is also traditional.

There is a long distance path looping around Throssel called Isaac’s Tea Trail. Here below is an interview with the chap, Roger Morris, who thought of and developed this trail. The interview by Anne Leuchars is to both publicize and commemorate the 21st anniversary of the trail’s opening. I am glad to say I’ve walked a few sections of the 37-mile path, at least once with Roger and Anne, and with several other monks and lay sangha. It passes through wonderfully varied countryside, full of history, and empty, for the most part, of other walkers. Where else do you find that?

Well actually, once a year the trail is filled with runners and fast walkers, covering the whole length of the path in a day. That’s not for everyone however, but if you are in the area it is worth spending time on some part of the trail. In spirit at least you will be circumambulating the monastery, as Throssel at directly in the centre of the loop. Walking manageable segments is the best way. Carrying a flower, incense and a candle is probably not a good idea though! And walking around it three times? Probably not!

Anne writes a blog Walking Isaacs Tea Trail where if you take a careful look you will see a post about…walking as a religious practice.

On a personal note, Anne is my hero, for several reasons, one being her skill at interviewing. Something I’d aspire to do in…the future. Also she is a great walking companion because she doesn’t race ahead of the ‘pack’. We have ambled together, gladly.

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Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives