I’ve been back and forth on whether or not to publicize this afternoons talk I gave via Zoom. But having viewed it I’m reasonably OK with what I see and what I said. Unlike a previous short talk on Zoom where my brain blanked which, I have to confess left-footed me for some time afterwards. Such things happen to the best of us and the only way is to ‘move on’!
I can do no better this evening than to point you towards a talk Rev. Roland recorded titled Learning How to Live. It is intended for people contemplating doing Jukai. A week-long retreat usually held in the spring which unfortunately we were not able to hold this year. We title this retreat or have done in the past Giving and Receiving the Precepts. A fabulous rich retreat which I attend as if for the first time, every time.
What remains with me having listened to the talk a couple of days ago is the kind and compassionate addressing of our humanity; habits, attitudes, views formed early (sometimes out of conscious awareness) and in innocense which benefit from tender reflection. The talk is intended for ‘beginners’ but I feel this is good for anybody however much, or little, they know about Buddhist practice.
It’s three years since this video was taken as I walked along the ridge leading up to Helvellyn called Striding Edge. While watching this there might be a few nail-biting moments however in real life, as far as I recall it wasn’t THAT challenging. Sharp Edge is more challenging by far.
In the Lake District and elsewhere, there are a few walks/climbs/scrambles that have what is termed a ‘bad step’. Striding Edge has one and yes, it was ‘bad’ in that on the downclimb it’s difficult to find the next foothold. With those important three points of contact on the rock the unsupported limb looks for a foot hold. Eventually, that foothold found me and I lived to tell the tale.
Enjoy if you dare! Partway through the walk, I hear myself saying, ‘it’s all about thinking, isn’t it’. I’d call that ‘attentiveness’ and a subject I’d like to explore in another post. It’s a quality of mind/body that is particular. In daily life ones attention can wander with little consequence, when walking the Fells there can be serious consequences to inattention. Death!
It is still very much daylight at this time of year at around 10.00 pm when a senior goes around the monastery locking doors and switching off lights. I was scheduled to do this the night before last and was hard-pressed to remember which lights needed to be switch ON! For security reasons, we keep several outside lights on during the night as well as a number of night lights in corridors. However there is more to it than the physical security and safety of the monastery and all staying here.
In the past when we used mostly Japanese terms the ‘lights out’ monk was called the Tenkein, now translated to ‘Heavenly Guardian’. The spiritual safety of those resident in the monastery is primary and so the Tenkei’s task is to help settle the ‘air’, so to speak after the busy day of activity. The monk on duty processes around the halls purposefully and formally; wears a full kesa, makes bows in several places, offer incense and also recites the Three Homages in front of the main altar and main gate. Needless to say one remains very still inside – it’s basically a ceremony. The whole thing a blessing.
At a certain point by the Skanda Altar at the entrance to The Hall of Pure Offerings, the lay guests came into mind in the form of a wordless blessing. Immediately I thought, ‘Oh! there are no guests here’! Then I thought, ‘there are ALWAYS guests here’!