The Power of an Open Question

The following is an excerpt from Elisabeth Mattis Namgyel’s book The Power of an Open Question 



“With All Our Might”
Chapter 12

Surely, if the human condition could be fixed, the Buddha would have fixed it long ago. I’m sure Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi would have cracked the code. And certainly the Dalai Lama would see to it that something was done. The staggering beauty of the efforts of history’s great luminaries, both past and present, is that despite knowing the unfixable nature of things, they did everything thing they could to serve others. In fact, they tried with all their might.

Temple Grandin is an expert in animal behavior and has deep insight into animal mind. She attributes this understanding to having been born severely autistic. She has observed that some patterns of animal behavior resemble the mental, emotional, and physical patterns she and others with autism experience. She is well known for having designed stockyard and slaughterhouse facilities that reduce fear and stress in cattle. A radio interviewer recently asked her, “Why bother creating more humane conditions for animals that are about to be slaughtered anyway?” Ms. Grandin replied, “Why else, but to reduce their suffering.”

Whatever we can do to serve others, at any moment, in any situation, is the practice of bodhi, or awakening. Service awakens in us a natural generosity, not a calculated response that weighs the pros and cons and decides whether it’s worth the effort. It is a matter of the heart. We see a need and naturally move toward it. Shantideva, in The Way of the Bodhisattva, says that if our hair were on fire we would be obsessed with putting it out. In the same way, the process of awakening through service is the obsession of a bodhisattva.

Big Aspirations

Once I drove from my home in Crestone, Colorado, to pick up my brother in Santa Fe, New Mexico—about a three-and-a-half-hour drive. On my way I stopped at a gas station and saw that the lottery was up to one hundred and seventy million dollars, so I bought a ticket. On the drive I thought, “What could I do with one hundred and seventy million dollars?” Hmmm . . . I could financially support members of my spiritual community so they could practice meditation and afford to work solely in service of the Dharma . . . I could build a healing center and a hospice in my town . . . fix up the horse stables . . . support my teacher in an extended retreat . . . sponsor my friend who paints beautiful devotional paintings . . . Three and a half hours later I found myself in Santa Fe feeling unusually fresh and resolved. Without noticing, I had not dedicated a single moment of my fantasy to what I could get for myself. And this, I realized, explained why my mind felt so at ease. Rinpoche always says that focusing on the happiness of others is the purest form of happiness. What could be truer?

On the bodhisattva path we make big aspirations: “May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings”; “May I bring all beings to enlightenment”; “May I take the suffering of others onto myself so that they can experience a life free of suffering.” Sometimes we say these things without believing them. I remember one student actually trying to prove, with a calculator, the impossibility that all beings could attain enlightenment.

“Can we, can’t we?” That’s not the point. The point is to try with all our might. And only when we try with all our might do we see how the effort to serve affects us, and how it affects others . . . and then we understand.

Simple Gestures

Serving others doesn’t have to be grand. Extending a warm gesture to someone that we don’t even know—say, on the bus—can make a tremendous difference to that person. It can bring them out of a deep place of isolation. Together, we share a moment of humanity. It’s priceless.

In his film Land of Silence and Darkness, Werner Herzog documents the work of Fini Straubinger, a deaf-blind woman dedicated to bringing others in the deaf-blind community out of their deeply withdrawn state of aloneness. She “speaks” to them through tactile translation—a system of communication that consists of tapping and stroking different areas on the palm of the hand. As we watch her work, we wonder, “What would it be like to have so little sensory input?” Without this kind of communication, deaf-blind people would be totally cut off from the world. As one person says to Fini, “When you let go of my hand you could be a thousand miles away.”

In the film, we watch Fini first tenderly make contact with, and then hand over a radio to, twenty-two-year-old Vladimir, who is not only deaf and blind but also has Down syndrome. Vladimir can’t walk, he can’t communicate, he can’t dress himself. When we’re first introduced to him, we see him alone, making sounds and hitting himself with a ball. He tries to understand the body he inhabits. He tries to understand himself in relationship to other things, in the environment he lives in. When Fini hands him the radio, although he can’t see or hear, he feels the vibration of the music, and he clenches it in his arms as if he were making it a part of him. We see him come out of his isolation for that moment and become a part of something bigger—this vibrating, pulsating, energetic thing in his arms. That single moment brings home to us the importance of human interaction and love. And, it makes us wonder: how much do we ourselves withdraw into our own painful state of self-absorption?

The Science of Awakening

When we extend generosity to others, not only do we ease their pain, we also awaken—come out of our own isolation—in the process. There’s a science to serving others.

Whenever we visit a big city we can stop and offer money to the homeless people we encounter on the street. So often we see people rushing around, trying to get where they are going. But when we take a moment to make an offering to someone in need, and have a human interaction, it changes the whole atmosphere of our mind and theirs. It takes us out of automatic pilot. Serving others is the antithesis of retreating into the self. It is an energetic shift that moves us toward the open and boundaryless state of interdependence.

Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche often says we don’t have to get rid of the self or ego when we do this. We don’t have to change the basic makeup of our mind at all. We simply need to make ourselves big enough to include others in our wish for happiness rather than just focusing entirely on ourselves. In other words, the more we decentralize the self—the more we spread our wealth of love and care—the freer and bigger we become. We discover a happiness that is not reliant on the conditions and preferences of self-care.

When we serve beings with all our might, our aspiration to benefit them shepherds us toward the bigger truth of interdependence. As our wisdom of the interdependent and the boundaryless nature of things increases, so does our compassion and inclination to serve. Do you see the relationship between these two? Without this bigger view, we would simply try to fix things in our limited, objectified world. And without the practice of service, we would have no way out of that world.

The science of awakening is not a Buddhist principle. It is a shared experience that reflects the laws of cause and effect. When I listen to the news I am often struck by the stories I hear. People who experience great loss and suffering naturally look for ways to serve others. They move from “I am suffering” to “there is suffering,” which inspires in them a longing to serve. The love that inspires this longing is the same love we all have when we stop focusing solely on ourselves and move toward the truth of interdependence.

“Best then,” as my teacher says, “to become the keepers of our brothers and sisters.” Best then, that they become the object of our understanding and love. Best then, that we care for them as our means to awaken to the great interdependence of “things” beyond self and other.’


We often think of engagement as social activism. What we call “engaged Buddhism” is Buddhism that takes on a cause. But the Buddhist path, by its very nature, is a path of engagement. When we make ourselves big enough to include all beings in our love and care—when we accommodate everything—we fully engage the world. We are right there with everyone and everything else.

Our level of engagement doesn’t necessarily depend upon the amount of social action we undertake. We can serve others while being totally disengaged and selfinvolved, in which case our actions will be puny. Or, we can be totally engaged while sitting alone in a small retreat hut. People who have done long retreats often talk about this experience. When they set their boundary at the beginning of retreat they feel isolated. There is a sense of trying to keep the world out. Later, a deep loneliness sets in. But instead of feeling depressed by this loneliness, they feel touched by a heartfelt sense of kinship with other beings, as if the entire universe of beings were sitting right beside them in their small hut.

Some people think that retreat practice is just another way to withdraw from the world, and I suppose it could be. But if we consider how much time we spend running around, distracted, thinking only of ourselves, perhaps it will lead us to wonder . . . whether staying alone and reflecting deeply into the nature of things might actually be a brave and noble thing to do. I personally find solace in the fact that there are people in this world committed to this kind of wakefulness.

The point is that engagement happens when the artificial barriers between self and other, my retreat and the world outside, in and out, begin to fade. Engagement takes us beyond the extremes of complacency or trying to fix things, and demands the courage and presence of the Middle Way mind. The greatest kindness we have to offer others is to not withdraw into our self.

©2010 Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel. Published by Shambhala Publications.


Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel is known for her willingness to question the spiritual path in order to reach a place of genuine practice and awakening. Using the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness as lens, she asks us to take a fresh look at all the assumptions and beliefs we have about reality and liberation.

Republished with the kind permission of Elzabeth Mattis-Namgyel


In Nepal, several types of pudding are prepared.  One popular kind of pudding is that made from fresh corn.

1 cup of fresh corn

4 cups of milk
1 cup of sugar (honey can be used as a substitute)
1/2 cup of dried fruit
1/2 teaspoon of cardamon
2 tablespoons of grated coconut

Boil the milk on a low heat.  stir frequently till it boils down to only 3 cups.  Add the corn and continue heating till it thickens and the corn is tender.  More milk can be added if required.  Add the sugar or honey and the fruit.  Heat for a few minutes more.  When cook, serve in small bowls.  Top the with cardamon and coconut.

Serves 6 persons

bon appetit

Source:  Joys of Nepalese Cooking (S. Devi, Lashkar (Gwalior), India)


 A story of overcoming fear in your workplace, and in your heart. Excerpted from Jaiya John’s new book of healing, Your Caring Heart: Renewal for Helping Professionals and Systems. Online where books are sold.

Harriet Tubman was a baaad woman. She didn’t play. One story I appreciate telling about her (creatively adapted, of course) is a story of leadership. So, the story goes that Harriet and her people had been discussing for some time the idea of breaking away from their plantation and finding freedom. Now, freedom can be a very frightening idea to a slave. Sure enough, as the designated night approached in which the group would escape the plantation, the people began to voice their concerns. Their fears.

Many of these people were menfolk, and Harriet being a woman, was used to the challenges of being a female leader. Folks started in with fear talk: “Now, Harriet, this freedom thing of yours sounds great in theory, but I don’t know if it is realistic. Look at our life. We have so much to deal with. So many bad things could go wrong. I don’t know if we have time for this freedom thing. I need to get back to my work or Massa gon’ whup me good. I can’t afford to lose my job. How much work is this freedom thing going to require?”

Does this litany of fear talk sound familiar to you? If so, it is because, bless us all, the slave is alive and well in our society and work. It is a spirit of self-oppression that burrows deep into people and groups, rendering their idea of reality as one of impending doom.

 Harriet listened respectfully to her people. But Harriet knew fear. It was in the nature of being a slave. In fact, her people harvested fear more than they harvested cotton or other crops. It was fear that they brought home to their slave quarters. Fear that they ate together for dinner. Beds of fear that they slept on. Dreams of fear in the night. Fear was their sunrise, their clothing, their daily industry. So, Harriet, she knew fear. And she would not let it get in the way of freedom. On a night absent of moonlight, Harriet gathered her people down by the riverbank. The murmuring water would be their chaplain for this freedom service. The people were now terrified. They risked death, dismemberment, whippings, dogs tearing at their flesh. They risked disappointing their overseers and their masters. They risked losing their precious jobs as house slaves, for few wanted the backbreaking life of a field slave. They risked being sold. This entire river of fears was now pushing up their throats, coming out as angry resistance to freedom.

 Harriet wasn’t sweet. She was fire. A woman, slave, nurse, social worker, leader, healer in those times had to be fire. She used hers. Lifting her sawed-off shotgun, she pointed it directly at the men challenging her leadership. Harriet said these words: “I understand, my people, the ferocity of your fears. But we have been slaves far too long. We have lost the taste for freedom. But here, under cover of this black night, I’m fixin’ to make an executive decision. Those who choose to stay in this life of suffering may do so. Otherwise, whoever wants to have freedom sing in their bones and dreams tonight, follow me. Tonight, my people, we fixin’ to be free.”

 In every group of human beings who care deeply to do this healing work, in the right way and spirit, there must be those, of any title, willing to walk the group through their long night of fear into the astounding daybreak of freedom. There is no other way than directly through our fear. We should do this now, good souls, before we further lose the taste of freedom.



“But what is self Love?” she asked.

And Love answered:

“When your sacredness becomes your deepest song.”

Dr. Jaiya John has served organizations, agencies, schools, and initiatives globally for many years. He is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer, consultant, book author, poet, spoken word artist, and youth mentor. Jaiya is the founder of Soul Water Rising, a global human mission that has donated thousands of Jaiya’s books in support of social healing, and offers scholarships to displaced and vulnerable youth. He is a former professor of social psychology at Howard University, has authored numerous books, and has addressed over half a million professionals, parents, and youth worldwide. Jaiya is a National Science Foundation fellow, and holds a doctorate degree in social psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. As an undergraduate, he attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and studied Tibetan Holistic Medicine through independent research with Tibetan doctors in Nepal.

Soul Water Rising  |  jaiya@soulwater.org  |  soulwater.org

Quantum Emptiness -The Quantum Illusion-like Nature of Reality by Graham Smetham


In his book the Dalai Lama has sketched the beginnings of an exploration of the interconnections and parallels between modern Western science and Buddhist metaphysical philosophy.  The Dalai Lama, true to his nature, is extremely humble about Buddhism’s achievement in this area:  “Our explanations and theories are rudimentary when compared with those of modern science … and will have to be modified in the light of new scientific insights.”  However, in this brief article, based upon the ten year research project which led to my recent book Quantum Buddhism: Dancing in Emptiness–Reality Revealed at the Interface of Quantum Physics and Buddhist Philosophy, I shall endeavour to show that Buddhist philosophy, based upon direct insight and the rigorous dialectical analysis exemplified by the Madhyamaka (Middle Way conceptual analysis), achieved an extraordinary understanding of the ultimate nature of the phenomenal world, an understanding which only became apparent within the West with the advent of quantum theory at the beginning of the twentieth century.

In his interview Nottale focuses primarily upon the central Buddhist notion of ‘emptiness’ (shunyata) as indicating the relativity of all phenomena:

None has its proper existence, but only an existence in relation to another object acting as a reference point.  They are couple properties which cannot be attributed to either of the members of the couple taken separately.

In other words the actual ‘physical’ properties of any apparently independent ‘material’ object are not purely determined by the nature of the object itself but also depend upon its relationship and interconnection with other objects.  However, there is another, perhaps more fundamental, aspect to the Buddhist insight into the emptiness of phenomena which is that all phenomena are inextricably and intimately connected to, and even created by, the minds of observers.

This insight provides the fundamental perspective for the Yogachara-Vijnanavada (Consciousness-Only) and Chittamatra (Mind-Only) Buddhist metaphysical perspectives:

..all these various appearances,

Do not exist as sensory objects which are other than consciousness.

Their arising is like the experience of self knowledge.

All appearances, from indivisible particles to vast forms, are mind.[i]

Common sense, of course, would indicate that such a notion, that what appears to be an independent ‘material’ reality is actually of the nature of mind or consciousness, must be misguided, and in the ‘classical’, or pre-quantum, era of Western science such a notion would have appeared outlandish.  However, with the advent of the quantum revolution the notion that the ultimate nature of the physical world is mind-substance, or Mindnature, has become increasingly inescapable.

This was the conclusion of many of the ‘founding fathers’ of quantum mechanics. Erwin Schrödinger, the discoverer of the fundamental quantum equation, for instance, came to the conclusion that:

Mind has erected the objective outside world … out of its own stuff.[ii]

And Max Planck, the physicist who inadvertently initiated the quantum revolution, came to a similar conclusion:

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.[iii]

More recently, in an article in the New Scientist (23rd June 2007) Michael Brooks, commenting on quantum entanglement experiments carried out by teams led by Markus Aspelmeyer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna, tells us that the conclusion reached by the physicists involved is that:

… we now have to face the possibility that there is nothing inherently real about the properties of an object that we measure. In other words measuring those properties is what brings them into existence. [iv]

This conclusion agrees with the fundamental insight of the Madhyamaka, or the Buddhist Middle Way analysis, that all phenomena lack ‘inherent existence’ or, to use Buddhist technical terminology, all phenomenon lack svabhava (‘own-nature’ or ‘inherent existence’).  Thus Vedral, in his recent book Decoding Reality, has concluded that:

Quantum physics is indeed very much in agreement with Buddhistic emptiness.[v]

Emptiness, or shunyata, is, in one aspect, the Buddhist concept of a fundamental non-substantial ‘empty’ ground of potentiality which gives rise to the multitudinous productions within dualistic experience through the operation of an internal primordial activity of cognition. Within Dzogchen (the ‘Great Completeness’ teachings) for instance the ultimate nature of reality is characterised as being a fundamental ground comprised of ‘emptiness and cognition inseparable’, or ‘empty cognizance’.[vi] And this is the kind of vision of the process of reality which Vedral considers is necessitated by the evidence of quantum theory:

The Universe starts empty but potentially with a huge amount of information. The first key event is the first act of symmetry breaking…[vii]

The results of quantum experiments indicates quite clearly that quantum reality consists of a field of non-substantial (using the term ‘substantial’ here to indicate materiality) potentiality which is triggered into experiential manifestation through the operation of the cognitive activity of consciousness.  This perspective is indicated in the most recent quantum proposal that quantum reality is ‘epiontic’, as quantum physicist Wojciech H. Zurek has indicated:

…quantum states, by their very nature share an epistemological and ontological role – are simultaneously a description of the state, and the ‘dream stuff is made of.’  One might say that they are epiontic.  These two aspects may seem contradictory, but at least in the quantum setting, there is a union of these two functions.[viii]

This cogent insight makes clear that, at the quantum level, being and knowing, perception and reality, epistemology and ontology, are inextricably entangled.  The ‘epiontic’ nature of the fundamental quantum ground, therefore, indicates that in some manner perception creates the ontological fabric of reality. The ‘first act of symmetry breaking’, then, is an act of primordial consciousness. As the physicist Henry Stapp, who has discussed such issues with some of the early quantum physicist, has indicated:

…this evolving quantum state would represent the ‘potentialities’ and ‘probabilities for actual events.  … the ‘primal stuff’ represented by the evolving quantum state would be idealike rather than matterlike, apart from its conformity to mathematical rules.[ix]

The greatly admired physicist John Wheeler wrote that:

The universe does not ‘exist, out there,’ independent of all acts of observation.  Instead, it is in some strange sense a participatory universe.[x]

Wheeler suggests that quantum theory requires a participatory universe, which means that somehow phenomena which appear to be external and independent of the minds of sentient beings cannot be so.  The Astronomer Royal Professor Martin Rees agrees with him:

In the beginning there were only probabilities.  The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it.  … The universe exists because we are aware of it.[xi]

As does cosmologist Professor Andrei Linde:

Thus we see that without introducing an observer, we have a dead universe, which does not evolve in time.  This example demonstrates an unusually important role played by the concept of an observer in quantum cosmology.  John Wheeler underscored the complexity of the situation, replacing the word observer by the word participant, and introducing such terms as a ‘self-observing universe.[xii]

As does Steven Hawking in his most recent book (written together with Leonard Mlodinow) The Grand Design; in fact according to Hawking (following Wheeler) observations have a creative impact even backwards in time:

…the universe doesn’t have just a single history, but every possible history, each with its own probability; and our observations of its current state affect its past and determine the different histories of the universe…[xiii]

Quantum theory, then, suggests that the universe might actually be vast cosmic dream created by all of its inhabitants. This might, at first sight, seem far-fetched, but it is not, which is why Zurek refers to quantum ‘stuff’ as ‘the dream stuff is made of.’[xiv]

Quantum physics clearly shows that we are involved, or are participators, in the existence of the universe. Indeed Wheeler also wrote that:

…no phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.[xv]

And he did not mean by this that some already existing entity is not experienced as a phenomenon until observed, he meant that the observation has a creative role in the existence of the apparent entity revealed by the phenomenon.  Speaking in April 2003 to the American Physical Society, he made the following remarkable; perhaps one might say ‘mystical’, sequence of remarks:

The Question is what is the Question?

Is it all a Magic Show?

Is Reality an Illusion?

What is the framework of the Machine?

Darwin’s Puzzle: Natural Selection?

Where does Space-Time come from?

Is there any answer except that it comes from consciousness?

What is Out There?

T’is Ourselves?

Or, is IT all just a Magic Show?[xvi]

To Wheeler’s question as to the possibility that reality might be an illusory ‘Magic Show’ Buddhist philosophy answers in the affirmative:

Phenomena as they appear and resound

Are neither established or real in these ways,

Since they keep changing in all possible and various manners

Just like appearances in magical illusions.[xvii]

In fact Buddhist philosophers have known about the dream-like nature of the universe for at least two thousand years:

…when we see houses and fields in dreams, we think of them as being external objects that are not created by the mind, even though they are nothing other than projections of our mind. All that we see when we are awake is also nothing other than a creation of the mind.[xviii]

And the Buddhist metaphysical perspective of the Chittamatra, or Mind-Only, philosophy actually gives an indication of the kind of quantum-perceptual mechanism that might be operating at the quantum level in order to create the extraordinary universal dream of the material world and its inhabitants:

The entire world was created through latent karmic imprints.  When these imprints developed and increased, they formed the earth, the stones, and the seas.  Everything was created through the development or propagation of these latent karmic potentials.[xix]

According to the Buddhist worldview all actions performed by all unenlightened beings, including seemingly neutral perceptions, cause repercussions. Karma-vipaka, action and resultant effect, action and feedback, is the universal process of cause and effect which operates on all levels of reality, including the appearance of a material world. This means that there is a dimension of the operation of karma which is involved in the manifestation of what we perceive as an external ‘material’ reality:

…since beginningless time we have been perceiving sights, sounds, smells, tastes and bodily sensations and these perceptions have been creating imprints or latencies in the ground consciousness. Habituation of having experienced a certain visual form will create a latency for that very form.  Eventually, that latency will manifest from the ground consciousness as a visual form again, but it will be perceived as external to ourselves.[xx]

A view which corresponds remarkably well with Wheeler’s assertion that:

Directly opposite to the concept of universe as machine built on law is the vision of a world self-synthesized. On this view, the notes struck out on a piano by the observer participants of all times and all places, bits though they are in and by themselves, constitute the great wide  world of space and time and things.

In other words all the phenomena of the apparently ‘material’ world are produced by the perceptual activities of the sentient beings inhabiting the universe.  And this, furthermore, means that none of the phenomena of the seemingly ‘external’ world are actually independent of mind.

The physicist and philosopher Bernard d’Espagnat uses the example of a rainbow to describe the way that the ‘classical’ world of apparent materiality emerges out of the quantum realm:

…a rainbow, obviously, may not be considered an object-per-se.  For, indeed, if we move it moves.  Two differently located persons do not see it having its bases at the same places.  It is therefore manifest that it depends, in part, on us.  … But still, even though the rainbow depends on us, it does not depend exclusively on us.  For it to appear it is necessary that the sun should shine and that raindrops should be there. Now similar features also characterize quantum mechanically described objects, that is, after all … any object whatsoever.  For they also are not ‘objects-per-se.’ The attributes, or ‘dynamical properties,’ we see them to possess depend in fact on our ‘look’ at them…[xxi]

In other words all the entities and objects of the ‘classical’ world emerge from the potentiality of the quantum realm in a similar fashion to the way that rainbow appear.  They are brought into experienced reality through an interaction of a deep level of consciousness and a quantum realm of potentiality.

The rainbow analogy is also employed within Buddhist exegesis:

By virtue of its all-penetrating freedom this Awareness that has no centre or circumference, no inside or outside, is innocent of all partiality and knows no blocks or barriers. This all-penetrating intrinsic Awareness is a vast expanse of space. All experience of samsara and nirvana arises in it like rainbows in the sky. In all its diverse manifestation it is but a play of mind.[xxii]

In particular the rainbow analogy corresponds with the Mind-Only metaphysical analysis and can be used to illustrate the ‘three natures’ presentation of the way in which the ‘classical’ ‘conventional’ realm emerges from the ground of ‘emptiness’ through conceptual ‘imputation. The Mind-Only viewpoint explains the process of reality in terms of three ‘natures’:

  • imputational nature – an imaginary, and therefore mistaken, perception which imputes an independent existence to an ’object’ which is in fact illusory.  The imputational nature imputes an object as existing independently by its own force or character.
  • other-powered-nature, or dependent nature – what appears as independent  entities are actually devoid of self character, they seem to arise as self contained entities because of the intersection of other causes and conditions.  The other-powered, or dependent, nature resides in the complex field of interweaving causes and conditions which supply the potentialities for possible imputational experience.
  • thoroughly established, or perfect nature – the fact that the other-powered-nature is ‘empty’ of the imputational-nature is called the ‘thoroughly established nature’ or ‘perfect nature’.  This is quite a subtle definition to grasp – it is the relationship of the absence of the imputational nature from the other powered nature which is the ‘thoroughly established nature.

The imputational nature, or imaginary nature, consists of the imputed appearances of definite, inherent and independent entities that are conceived of as existing in an external realm separate from the perceiving consciousness. According to the Mind-Only perspective, the way that the entities of everyday life are imputed as existing independently and substantially from the mind is, from an ultimate point of view, mistaken.  The dependent nature is closer to the way reality actually is, it is a ground of potentiality which arises from the multitudinous perceptions and activities carried out by all sentient beings.  It is a vast karmic echo of potentiality for dualistic experience. The final nature, the thoroughly-established-nature highlights the fact that the imputational-nature is an ultimately illusory imputation, or superimposition, by imagination into the potentialities of the other-powered-nature, or dependent nature:

The non-existence of such an imaginary nature in a dependent nature is a thoroughly established nature.  … An object which is a different entity from a subject does not exist; a subject which is a different object from an object does not exist…[xxiii]

An example which is often used to illustrate the three natures is that of a mirage. The three natures may be likened respectively to (a) the mistaken belief that water exists in a mirage; (b) the appearance itself of the mirage, dependent on atmospheric causes and conditions and the presence of the observer, and (c) the empty nature of the mirage, inasmuch as it is completely dependent on causes and conditions, including the observer. The belief that water exists in the mirage is completely false and is similar to the imaginary, or illusory, nature.  The causes and conditions which give rise to the appearance of the mirage are similar to the dependent nature. The empty character of the mirage, inasmuch as it is dependent and conditioned and exists nowhere except in the mistaken mind of the observer, is similar to the thoroughly-established-nature. The belief in the mind of the observer that there is water in the distance corresponds to the imputational nature.

This analysis can be likened to the quantum situation. The realm of quantum potentiality which includes the observing consciousness or consciousnesses, provides the interdependent ground of potentiality which constitutes the other-powered nature and, because there is a tendency within the process of reality for the inner nature of this ground to misperceive itself, a realm of seemingly independent and inherently existent phenomenon manifests within an illusory field of duality.

It is important to comprehend the fact that the ‘three natures’ analysis describes a deep process of reality functioning at a level of mind corresponding to the quantum level. The Mind-Only analysis asserts that the play of the dualistic world of appearance emerges from a deep nondual realm because of an internal function of cognition which misperceives itself as being divided. The dualistic world is the illusory domain of the ultimately non-existent imputational or imaginary nature, which is the domain of experienced duality of apprehender-apprehended, subject-object. The relationship between the conventional arena of the experienced ‘material’ world, which seems to emerge through the apparent transition from the quantum state to the ‘classical’ state, which is called the ‘collapse of the quantum wavefunction’, can be likened to the ‘superimposition’ of the imputational nature onto the field of other-powered potentiality.

This ‘Quantum Mind-Only’ model of the functioning of reality can be compared with the ‘rainbow’ illustration of the quantum situation (fig 1) offered by d’Espagnat.  In this analogy the sun, raindrops and observer correspond to the other-powered realm of interdependent phenomena and the appearance of a seemingly external rainbow corresponds to the imputational nature.  The Mind-Only perspective uses the term ‘imputational’ to indicate not just a surface conceptual imputation but a directly experienced sensory imputation such as the rainbow example.  The rainbow does not exist at all as an independent phenomenon, it is therefore ‘imaginary,’  This corresponds exactly to the quantum situation because, although all the phenomena of the everyday world clearly are overwhelmingly convincing as being independent of mind and self-existent phenomena, quantum theory tells us this is not so at all. Furthermore quantum theory tells us that all phenomena are like this; they are ‘illusions’ generated out of the quantum realm of potentiality by the operation of mind.  As physicist Lee Smolin has pointed out:

How something is, or what its state is, is an illusion.  It may be a useful illusion for some purposes, but if we want to think fundamentally we must not lose sight of the essential fact that ‘is’ is an illusion.[xxiv]

At the end of the last programme in the television series ‘Atom’ the physicist-presenter Jim Al-Khalili says, looking very serious: ‘if you ever want to see fear on the face of a physicist ask him about the measurement problem.’  The quantum measurement problem is precisely the quantum rainbow problem, the fact that all the ‘seeming’ phenomenon of the ‘classical’ dualistic world are etched out of the deeper quantum level of potentiality by the continuous ‘measuring’ activity of consciousness.  And, indeed, this quantum discovery, the fact that the material world is not really there in the way that it seems to be, did cause, if not ‘fear,’ then absolute astonishment and bewilderment.  As physicists Bryce DeWitt and Neill Graham say:

No development of modern science has had more profound impact on human thinking than the advent of quantum theory.  Wrenched out of centuries-old thought patterns, physicists of a century ago found themselves compelled to embrace a new metaphysics. The distress which this reorientation caused continues to the present day.  Basically physicists have suffered a severe loss: their hold on reality.[xxv]

If one reads accounts of the reactions of physicists as the solid independent reality that we still all think exists ‘out there’ actually disappeared from their grasp one is reminded of the reaction of some of the Buddha’s disciples when he (supposedly) expounded the Prajna-paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) view that:

all phenomena are empty. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. … in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no phenomena … no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment, and no non-attainment.

It is remarkable to find this central Mahayana Buddhist teaching echoed by respected quantum physicist Henry Stapp:

…no such brain exists; no brain, body, or anything else in the real world is composed of those tiny bits of matter that Newton imagined the universe to be made of.[xxvi]

In the Vajjracchedikasutra we are told that there is a danger of becoming fearful upon hearing such an emptiness teaching. As Buddhist scholar G. Schopen points out:

The repeated emphasis on fear, terror and dread in connection with hearing the Perfection of Wisdom being taught or explained would seem to indicate that the authors of our texts were clearly aware of the fact that what they were presenting was above all potentially terrifying and awful, and that a predictable reaction to it was fear.[xxvii]

As physicist Brian Greene has pointed out:

…because experiments confirm that quantum mechanics does describe fundamental physics, it presents a frontal assault on our basic beliefs as to what constitutes reality.[xxviii]

[i] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001)

[ii] Schrödinger, E. (1944) p121.

[iii] Das Wesen der Materie” (The Nature of Matter), speech at Florence, Italy, 1944 (from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)

[iv] Michael Brooks: ‘The Second Quantum Revolution,’ New Scientist 23rd June 2007

[v] Vedral, Vlatko (2010) p200

[vi] Schmidt, Marcia Binder (Editor) (2002) p29

[vii] Vedral, Vlatko (2010) p211

[viii] Barrow, John D., Davies, Paul C. W., Harper, Charles L. (eds) (2004) p136 – Wojciech H. Zurek: ‘Quantum Darwinism and envariance.’

[ix] Stapp, Henry (2004) p223

[x] Dolling, L.M.; Gianelli, A. F. & Statile, G. N. (eds) (2003) p491 – John A. Wheeler (1978): ‘The ‘Past’ and the ‘Delayed Choice’ Double-Slit Experiment.’

[xi] Rosenblum, Bruce and Kuttner, Fred (2006) p

[xii] Barrow, John D., Davies, Paul C. W., Harper, Charles L. (eds) (2004) p450 – Andrei Linde: ‘Inflation, quantum cosmology and the anthropic principle.’

[xiii] The Grand Design p83

[xiv] Kaufman, Marc: ‘Shining a Light on a Dream’ – FQ(x) (The Foundational Questions Institute) February 8th2008.

[xv] Dolling, L.M.; Gianelli, A. F. & Statile, G. N. (eds) (2003) p492 – John A. Wheeler (1978): ‘The ‘Past’ and the ‘Delayed Choice’ Double-Slit Experiment.’

[xvi] Sarfatti , Jack ‘Wheeler’s World: It From Bit?’ – Internet Science Education Project, San Francisco, CA.

[xvii] Brunnhölzl, Karl (2007) Straight from the Heart: Buddhist Pith Instructions p25

[xviii] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001) p16

[xix] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001) p28

[xx] Thrangu Rinpoche, Kenchen (2001) p34-35

[xxi] d’ Espagnat, B (2006) p348

[xxii] Dowman, Keith – Flight of the Garuda

[xxiii] MOE p389

[xxiv] Smolin, Lee (2002) p53

[xxv] Herbert, Nick (1985) p15

[xxvi] Stapp, Henry (2007) p139

[xxvii] Schopen. G. (1989) The manuscript of the Vajjracchedikasutra found at Gilgit. In Studies in the literature of the great vehicle: Three Mahayana Buddhist texts )pp 89-140). L. Gomez & J. Silk (Eds.), Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

[xxviii] Penrose, Roger (1995) p237

Author’s BiographyGraham Smetham, B.A., studied Mathematics at Essex University, England and Philosophy of Religion at Sussex University. During his time at Sussex he taught a subsidiary course for scientists on the interconnections between Western science and Eastern philosophical perspectives and it was through the investigations undertaken during the preparations for this course that he began to have the insights which later developed into wide ranging and detailed explorations contained in his book Quantum Buddhism: Dancing in Emptiness. At Sussex he was also part of the Religious Studies society and at one of its meetings he met the inspirational Western Theravadin monk Ajahn Sumedho, then the abbot of Chithurst monastry, Sussex, who electrified the audience with his joyful effervescent presence. At the time Graham was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Western academic practice of endless conceptual juggling with no transformational practice and the contact with the community of Chithurst monks and nuns convinced him of the need for both intellectual understanding and transformative meditation practice.

Although at that time Graham had a publisher eager to publish his work, personal misfortune, illness and increasing disillusionment with Western-style academic life forced him to abandon an academic career and he subsequently began to lose contact with his intellectual and spiritual roots as he pursued other aspects, ultimately less fulfilling, of life’s pathways. During this time, however, Buddhism and the philosophy of science always played a part in the background as he was always drawn to these subjects and somehow ‘knew’ that they were significant for him. It is very difficult to explain this strange feeling that somehow something which had been left behind was still lingering in the wings, so to speak. An example would be the fact that he would be drawn to various books on the philosophy of science and when he read them instantly and intuitively saw mistakes and ‘knew’ at an intuitive level that Buddhist philosophy had something to offer but did not at that time have any idea of the full scenario.

At a later point, some twenty years after leaving Sussex University, at a time of extreme personal crisis, Graham returned to a serious meditation practice, something that had fallen by the wayside. During one meditation session he was astonished to have a profound meditation vision, like having a cinema screen inside his head, during which he was surrounded by an assembly of Manjushris whilst a bowl of orange nectar at his heart radiated channels of orange nectar to the hearts of the surrounding Manjushris. At the time Graham was not aware of the spiritual identity of the buddhas with yellow hats, previously he had only studied Theravada philosophy. Graham was even more astonished to come across a book in which the vision was described as being one of a set used by Buddhist philosophers prior to writing dharma texts. Graham subsequently joined a Buddhist community and resumed the researches that he had abandoned twenty years earlier. The result is Quantum Buddhism: Dancing in Emptiness–Reality Revealed at the Interface of Quantum Physics and Buddhist Philosophy.

Graham’s website is at http://www.quantumbuddhism.com./ where you can find details of where you can buy his book.

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Happy New Year – 2017 from Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

Circumambulating the freshly renovated Boudhanath stupa I observed thousands of people from all over the world walking around it peacefully with their prayers in heart. This world heritage pilgrimage place was not built by a powerful king, a wealthy sponsor or a teacher with many followers. It was built by a poor and ordinary village woman who worked at the kings chicken farm solely with her resolution, resourcefulness and resilience.

I would like to share with you the peace and tranquility of this stupa and wish that you will face 2017 with resolution, resourcefulness and resilience.

Wish you a Very Happy New Year.


གསར་དུ་ཉམས་གསོ་བྱས་པའི་མཆོད་རྟེན་ཆེན་པོ་བྱ་རུང་ཁ་ཤོར་ལ་དལ་གྱིས་སྐོར་བ་བྱེད་སྐབས་འཛམ་གླིང་གི་ཕྱོགས་ཡོངས་ནས་ཡོང་བའི་སྐྱེ་བོ་སྟོང་ཕྲག་མང་པོ་ཞི་འཇམ་གྱིས་སྐོར་བཞིན་སྨོན་ལམ་བཟང་པོ་རྒྱབ་བཞིན་པ་མཐོང་། འཛམ་གླིང་གི་ཕ་ནོར་བྱིན་རླབས་ཅན་གྱི་གནས་ཆེན་འདི་ཉིད་ཐོག་མར་དབང་ཆེན་གྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ། རྒྱུ་ཆེན་གྱི་ཡོན་བདག འཁོར་མང་གི་བླ་མ་སོགས་ཀྱིས་བཞེངས་པ་མ་ཡིན་པར། བུད་མེད་དཀྱུས་མ་དབུལ་པོ་བྱ་རྫི་མ་ཞིག་གིས་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྙིང་སྟོབས་དང་ཐབས་ཤེས་བརྩོན་འགྲུས་ཁོ་ནས་བཞེངས་གྲུབ་པ་ཞིག་རེད།
2017 ལོ་སར་གྱི་ཉིན་མོ་འདིར་ཁྱེད་རྣམས་ལ་རང་བྱུང་མཆོད་རྟེན་ཆེན་པོ་འདིའི་བྱིན་རླབས་ཀྱི་གཟི་འོད་འཕྲོ་བས་ལུས་ལ་བདེ་ཐང་དང་སེམས་ལ་ཞི་བདེ་འབད་མེད་དུ་འབྱུང་བ་མ་ཟད། མ་བྱ་རྫི་མའི་སྙིང་སྟོབས་དང་བརྩོན་འགྲུས་ཐབས་ཤེས་ཀྱིས་ལོ་འདི་ལེགས་ཕྱོགས་སུ་བསྒྱུར་ཐུབ་པའི་སྨོན་འདུན་དྲག་པོ་དང་བཅས། 2017 གནམ་ལོ་གསར་དུ་བཞད་པ་ལ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས་ཞུ་བཞིན། རི་མགུལ་སྤྲུལ་མིང་ཀརྨ་ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་འགྱུར་མེད་ཕྲིན་ལས་ནས་གུས་ཕུལ། །

Source bodhicharya.org



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  • The first harvest of paddy is received into the house with due ceremony, with rice, curd and a lighted wick.

  • Fruits and flowers may be stolen but whoever steals a pumpkin will grow a goiter.

  • Don’t point at the fruit in a tree with your finger; the fruit will go bad.

  • The bachelor’s button is essential for ceremonies during the Tihar festival.  Because the flower keeps fresh for a long time, it is a symbol of longevity.

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Bachelor’s button

  • The red rhododendron is Nepal’s national flower.  It is found in the hills at an altitude of about 6,000 feet from the sea level.  The colour of the flower changes to a light pink in higher altitudes.

  • The peepul tree is sacred as it is believed to be the god Narayana; only a Brahman may pull it out.  On all the main trails in many parts of the hills, platforms known as chautara are built and peepul and banyan trees provide shelter and shade for travellers. The construction of the platform is more than a public service.  It is the joining of the two trees in sacred wedlock.  The peepul is also the haunt of the goddess Kumari.

  • Image result for banyan tree photos

    Children playing on a banyan tree

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Leaves of the peepul tree

  • Neither the banana nor the bamboo should be grown near a house.  The man who plants these must not let his shadow fall on the plant;  for if he does, the plant will not grow.  On the other hand, if the man steps into the shadow cast by the plant, he will die.  If a bamboo bears flowers, the man who owns it will die.  The bamboo must not be cut down on Sunday.

  • The tamarind tree must not be grown near a house either.

    Image result for photo of tamarind treeTamarind fruit

  • The palm tree is sacred in Patan.  It was brought to the town centuries back along with Machhendranath, the patron saint of the town.  The tree must not be cut down but it may be killed by driving a nail into it.  It must be allowed to grow wherever it takes root.  If it grows inside a house, a hole is made through the roof so that it can grow unchecked.

  • When a tree has to be cut down in a forest, it is customary to worship Ban Devi, the goddess of the forest.

  • The tulsi (balsam) plant is sacred and is grown in a pot or in a specially raised platform in the courtyard in many homes.

  • The kush is a sacred grass needed for certain religious ceremonies.  The dubo used as an offering to the gods is evergreen because the crow is said to have wiped its beak upon the grass after taking amrit, the elixir of life.

    Dubo Grass Garland – (हरियो दुबो घास को माला)

  • The seeds of the rudraksha tree (eleocarpus ganitrus) are used to make rosaries.  A seed without crinkles is very rare.  There is believed to be only one seed in Kathmandu – in the temple of Pashupati.  To test if the seed without crinkles is genuine, pour some water upon it and it should rise up with the steam of water.

    Image result for rudraksha tree imagesRudraksha seed specimens

  • The lotus is the seat of some gods.

    Image result for photo of lotus flower

  • The Kalpabrisksha is a mythical tree that bears anything one can wish for.

    Image result for kalpavriksha

Faith and Doubt: Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

elizabeth 1The path begins with an investigation of the unreliability of things. Sometimes when we contemplate impermanence and the unreliability of things we feel afraid or insecure.


Question: In my mind my primary deity, Guru Rinpoche, is the only reliable refuge. Is there any difference between Guru Rinpoche and the outer refuge you describe in your talks? Thank you so much for your talks I found them empowering in many ways.


Response: Thank you for your question Danny. I’m trying to recall how I spoke about outer refuge…and I can’t remember. But maybe I can take this opportunity to talk about refuge and we can look at different ways we do take refuge and how it does or does not support us. I will try to address your question. It seems to me that we all take refuge in our attempt to find a resting place…a place of ease…something we can trust. In an ordinary way we often take refuge in relationships, in our work, in our beliefs about how we think things are, in material wealth and so on. But because the nature of things is that they change, we often experience a lot of heartbreak.

This is why the path begins with an investigation of the unreliability of things. Sometimes when we contemplate impermanence and the unreliability of things we feel afraid or insecure. But there is nothing more scary than relying on something that is not dependable. So to begin understanding refuge we need to look at our ordinary ways of taking refuge and how it doesn’t serve us. When we free ourselves from the fantasy that we can find ease in worldly things, we naturally begin looking deeper. The Buddha suggested we look into the causes and conditions for happiness and suffering. It is noble and reasonable to want happiness…but if we just follow our impulses rather than deeply investigating these causes and conditions, our actions won’t meet our intention for happiness. It is all quite practical…if it were not practical, what would be the purpose of following a path?

So when we start to question cause and effect we ask: what happens when we practice patience vs. aggression, generosity vs. selfishness, compassion vs. fear? When we practice compassion or patience we observe freedom in the mind. Freedom from discord and fear is a sense of wellbeing and clarity…a place of ease. This is what we want. So finding this kind of freedom, wellbeing and refuge is really the purpose of the dharma. So we can use the Buddha (as an example) the dharma (as a path) and the sangha (as our companions on the path) as a support of refuge.

I am in the middle of reading a very touching and profound book by Fleet Maull called “Dharma in Hell.” He talks about practicing the dharma in prison. He says that in prison he decided to take some Buddhist precepts, not because they were morally ‘right’ but because he had to find a way to support his mind not to fall into the darkness and confusion of the prison environment. One of those vows was to engage in what is called, “right livelihood.” In other words, he decided not participate in the smuggling and black marketing that goes on in prison. He got involved in hospice work and was there for the passing of many prisoners…In such a place where the odds are so against anything positive taking place, this man found creative ways to support his wakefulness. These positive supports are refuges.

There are infinite ways to support wakefulness. Extending loving-kindness to others supports our wakefulness. Structuring our lives in a wholesome way, supports wakefulness. Not acting out aggressively or blaming others, supports wakefulness…even recognizing the goodness in others supports wakefulness.

Relying on these kinds of supports is taking ‘outer’ refuge in the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha. This has nothing to do with deification. Deification is looking toward something outward to save you and perpetuate your fantasies. Taking refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha is seeing how there is something we can rely upon to support an inner wellbeing. It is the alternative to relying upon our fantasy that the outer world can save us.

In the 3rd series of teachings the Buddha gave (the third turning) we find an interesting explanation of the outer refuge that begins to move us to an even deeper way of seeing things. In a very famous text called “Uttaratantra Shastra”, rather than speaking about the Buddha as an external being or historical person, it describes the Buddha as: that which is inseparable from our own true nature – the mind that is completely blossomed and clear of defilements.” Then it describes the dharma as the mind of natural intelligence. This is an intelligence we all posses…but it is obscured by ignorance. According to the text, the dharma of realization (not the dharma of letters) is the ultimate refuge. There is no higher refuge than the realization of the nature of things. The sangha refers to the unbroken line of realization.

So we see in the later teachings of the Buddha how the refuge changes. This text is said to bridge the notion of ‘outer’ refuge with the Vajrayana refuge. It is seeing the ‘inner’ aspect of refuge. The objects of refuge are not personified but rather seen as qualities innate in all beings.

Now in the tradition of the Vajrayana we practice deity yoga. So for instance, we take on a support like, Guru Rinpoche, and develop a relationship. When I think of GR, I think of him as completely awake and fearless…just based on the qualities I read about him and what I understand from practicing his sadhana. But this fearlessness and wakefulness is not separate from our own nature. We can recognize it more and more in ourselves as we practice. So the relationship with the teacher or deity is meant to connect us to a way of being that goes far beyond ourselves or the teacher as a person.

It seems like people approach this relationship in different ways. In a place like Tibet it is just natural to love Guru Rinpoche. In modern cultures people often question whether the Guru is real or unreal…or worry about blind faith. But in Tibet to simply say his name or mantra, to simply honor his qualities is the support or skillful means for awakening. I have spent a lot of time in Tibetan culture and I can see elderly people who just recite his name…and they have this incredible sparkle in their eyes…and you see they are not afraid to die. You see they are so open and beautiful…and that everything is simple for them.

I know a lot of modern people have trouble with this approach. To adapt this foreign image and then just chant the mantra can feel quite artificial for them. I really understand this too. I am also a Western practitioner. So, it is important to look deeper into the nature of this relationship. It challenges a lot of our cultural concepts. But if we are willing to try it, it can be really powerful and amazing to open up into such a world.

So in short, I suppose the difference between the outer refuge (which is seeing the Buddha as the historical Buddha), the dharma (which often refers to the dharma of letters\texts) and the sangha (our community) and the practice of guru yoga (for example taking refuge in GR) is that in the Vajrayana there is more emphasis on seeing the qualities of the guru as inseparable from the nature of our own mind. I suppose if we see Guru Rinpoche as a person, that is also an outer refuge. If we see him as the embodiment of our own nature, then he is the ‘inner’ guru. It seems like both can be powerful.

For example, when we are studying a text (the dharma of letters), it can really give us a great deal of confidence and clarity. In this way we can take refuge in\trust the information the text imparts…but ultimately, the greatest dharma (as it says in the Uttaratantra) is the dharma of realization.

This article published with the kind permission of Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel

guru 2


Calm Abiding Instructions


A first practice: meditation – training the mind

Introductory notes
Our minds will naturally find peace, compassion and wisdom if we give them the opportunity. Living with these qualities present leads to a very good life – a content, happy – even an enlightened life. However, due to the way we’ve lived our lives and the mental habits we’ve developed we no longer know how to find this good and pleasant state. So ways of training the ‘heart-mind’ have come into being to help with this – meditation practices.

There are many meditation practices, some come within a religious framework and some do not. Basically though they all fall into one of two types – ‘calm abiding’ and ‘insight’.

‘Calm abiding’ meditation helps you become more at peace and helps you stay in that state even after you’ve finished the practice. It can also help you see your life more clearly – and so give the opportunity to make changes and live life in a better way.

‘Insight’ meditation helps you develop the qualities of calm abiding meditation more deeply – you find yourself becoming more compassionate, and insights into the nature of your life arise more frequently. We come to see ourselves, others and the world about us to be inherently perfect, and we find ourselves living in ways that produce good results for all.

You do not have to believe anything in order to do this practice – except that you can change, can live life in a better way. And you have to want to do that.

Calm abiding – practice guidelines for counting the breath
Meditate in a quiet, well ventilated room. The room should be neither too bright nor too dark. Wear clean clothing that does not restrict your waist or legs. Find the most stable position you can – sitting on either a chair or on a meditation bench. If you are very flexible you can use a meditation cushion sitting in a cross legged position. Sit on the front half of the cushion and, with each meditation period, alternate the leg you place on top. Do not persist in using a meditation cushion if you find the position painful.

The most important thing is to be sitting in an upright position, not resting against anything, and at the same time to be completely relaxed. The stomach in particular should not be held in or constrained.

To centre yourself, sway the body gently from left to right and then backwards and forwards. Allow the natural curves of the spine to form at the neck and in the small of the back. The head should be held upright – the chin should be slightly tucked in. The tongue is held lightly against the back of the top teeth with the lips and teeth closed

The hands are arranged into a kind of circle – put your right hand on your lap and then cover the fingers of the right hand with the fingers of the left-hand. Now bring the two thumbs together to touch in such a way as to make a circular shape. The hands should then be placed gently against the stomach with the thumbs roughly at the height of the naval (an alternative to this is to place the hands separately each one on or near its knee). Keep the eyes open and lowered, allowing your gaze to fall on the wall or floor in front of you. Keep the eyes gently focused – do not stare. If you wear glasses it’s generally best to leave them on.

Now check and make sure that there is no tension anywhere in your body or even in your neck, head or face that you are able to let go of (some tension is so habitual we cant completely let go of it).

For this meditation practice there’s no need to try and adjust the depth or speed of your breathing. But, just to start with, take two or three deeper breaths – follow the breath up the back on the inhalation and down the front of the body on the exhalation, thus describing a circle. Then sit steadily with an alert and bright mind.

Now we come to the counting practice: as you exhale the first breath count ‘one’. Then inhale. As you exhale the second breath count ‘two’. The counting should be continued throughout the whole out-breath. Carry on in this way counting up to ‘ten’ and then return to ‘one’ and repeat the sequence. If a thought comes along, finish counting that breath and then return to counting ‘one’ on the next exhalation.

Meditate regularly, every day if possible, if only for a few minutes. Mornings and evenings or a regular quiet time in your day is best. Decide how long your sessions will be and keep to that as much as you can. Meditating with others in a group is helpful, as is keeping in touch with a teacher.


Best wishes with it all, Rinchen monk.rinchen@gmail.com

What the Buddha Said About Eating Meat

Ajahn Brahmavamso


Since the very beginning of Buddhism over 2500 years ago, Buddhist monks and nuns have depended on almsfood. They were, and still are, prohibited from growing their own food, storing their own provisions or cooking their own meals. Instead, every morning they would make their day’s meal out of whatever was freely given to them by lay supporters. Whether it was rich food or coarse food, delicious or awful tasting it was to be accepted with gratitude and eaten regarding it as medicine. The Buddha laid down several rules forbidding monks from asking for the food that they liked. As a result, they would receive just the sort of meals that ordinary people ate – and that was often meat.

Once, a rich and influential general by the name of Siha (meaning ‘Lion’) went to visit the Buddha. Siha had been a famous lay supporter of the Jain monks but he was so impressed and inspired by the Teachings he heard from the Buddha that he took refuge in the Triple Gem (i.e. he became a Buddhist). General Siha then invited the Buddha, together with the large number of monks accompanying Him, to a meal at his house in the city the following morning. In preparation for the meal, Siha told one of his servants to buy some meat from the market for the feast. When the Jain monks heard of their erstwhile patron’s conversion to Buddhism and the meal that he was preparing for the Buddha and the monks, they were somewhat peeved:

“Now at the time many Niganthas (Jain monks), waving their arms, were moaning from carriage road to carriage road, from cross road to cross road in the city: ‘Today a fat beast, killed by Siha the general, is made into a meal for the recluse Gotama (the Buddha), the recluse Gotama makes use of this meat knowing that it was killed on purpose for him, that the deed was done for his sake’…” [1].

Siha was making the ethical distinction between buying meat already prepared for sale and ordering a certain animal to be killed, a distinction which is not obvious to many westerners but which recurs throughout the Buddha’s own teachings. Then, to clarify the position on meat eating to the monks, the Buddha said:

“Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you.” [2]

There are many places in the Buddhist scriptures which tell of the Buddha and his monks being offered meat and eating it. One of the most interesting of these passages occurs in the introductory story to a totally unrelated rule (Nissaggiya Pacittiya 5) and the observation that the meat is purely incidental to the main theme of the story emphasizes the authenticity of the passage:

Uppalavanna (meaning ‘she of the lotus-like complexion’) was one of the two chief female disciples of the Buddha. She was ordained as a nun while still a young woman and soon became fully enlightened. As well as being an arahant (enlightened) she also possessed various psychic powers to the extent that the Buddha declared her to be foremost among all the women in this field. Once, while Uppalavanna was meditating alone in the afternoon in the ‘Blind-Men’s Grove’, a secluded forest outside of the city of Savatthi, some thieves passed by. The thieves had just stolen a cow, butchered it and were escaping with the meat. Seeing the composed and serene nun, the chief of the thieves quickly put some of the meat in a leaf-bag and left it for her. Uppalavanna picked up the meat and resolved to give it to the Buddha. Early next morning, having had the meat prepared, she rose into the air and flew to where the Buddha was staying, in the Bamboo Grove outside of Rajagaha, over 200 kilometres as the crow (or nun?) flies! Though there is no specific mention of the Buddha actually consuming this meat, obviously a nun of such high attainments would certainly have known what the Buddha ate.

However there are some meats which are specifically prohibited for monks to eat: human meat, for obvious reasons; meat from elephants and horses as these were then considered royal animals; dog meat – as this was considered by ordinary people to be disgusting; and meat from snakes, lions, tigers, panthers, bears and hyenas – because one who had just eaten the flesh of such dangerous jungle animals was thought to give forth such a smell as to draw forth revenge from the same species!

Towards the end of the Buddha’s life, his cousin Devadatta attempted to usurp the leadership of the Order of monks. In order to win support from other monks, Devadatta tried to be more strict than the Buddha and show Him up as indulgent. Devadatta proposed to the Buddha that all the monks should henceforth be vegetarians. The Buddha refused and repeated once again the regulation that he had established years before, that monks and nuns may eat fish or meat as long as it is not from an animal whose meat is specifically forbidden, and as long as they had no reason to believe that the animal was slaughtered specifically for them.

The Vinaya, then, is quite clear on this matter. Monks and nuns may eat meat. Even the Buddha ate meat. Unfortunately, meat eating is often seen by westerners as an indulgence on the part of the monks. Nothing could be further from the truth – I was a strict vegetarian for three years before I became a monk. In my first years as a monk in North-East Thailand, when I bravely faced many a meal of sticky rice and boiled frog (the whole body bones and all), or rubbery snails, red-ant curry or fried grasshoppers – I would have given ANYTHING to be a vegetarian again! On my first Christmas in N.E. Thailand an American came to visit the monastery a week or so before the 25th. It seemed too good to be true, he had a turkey farm and yes, he quickly understood how we lived and promised us a turkey for Christmas. He said that he would choose a nice fat one especially for us… and my heart sank. We cannot accept meat knowing it was killed especially for monks. We refused his offer. So I had to settle for part of the villager’s meal – frogs again.

Monks may not exercise choice when it comes to food and that is much harder than being a vegetarian. Nonetheless, we may encourage vegetarianism and if our lay supporters brought only vegetarian food and no meat, well… monks may not complain either!

May you take the hint and be kind to animals.


[1] Book of the Discipline, Vol. 4, p. 324
[2] ibid, p. 325

Ajahn Brahmavamso Mahathera, known as Ajahn Brahm is a British Theravada Buddhist monk. Currently Brahm is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia, the Spiritual Director of …Wikipedia

ajhan                                                       Ajahn Brahmavamso


Green Sweet Cicely Seed Sweets

sweet 1

How to make sweet cicely seed brittle, a form of boiled sweet, and mukhwas, a foraged wild take on Indian sugar coated fennel seeds.

sweet 2


Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is found growing wild in the parts of the British Isles that have a cold enough winter for the seed to set. This is mainly north Wales and the Midlands and north, being abundant in Scotland. It is easily distinguished from other umbillifers as it has a distinctive aniseed smell, has velvety soft leaves that are marked on the base fronds with faded, whitish patches that, at a casual glance, look like a bird shat on it. It has very juicy stems that, containing anethole which is sweeter than sugar, can be boiled with rhubarb instead of sugar. It makes delicious crumbles, ice cream and an excellent rhubarb, sweet cicely and ginger jam. Alternatively infuse it in vodka to make a wild sambuca!

The seeds, eaten young and raw, are reminiscent of the aniseeds found in the centre of traditional gobstoppers (in the US, jawbreakers). So it was only a matter of time before I experimented with sweet cicely candy!


2 cups of young green sweet cicely seeds
2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup of water
1 dessertspoon of glucose syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste


Pick the young sweet cicely seeds when still tender. If you leave it too late in the year they become fibrous. Late May is a good time to harvest in Scotland.

sweet 3

Put the water and sugar into a saucepan over a gentle heat, stirring, to slowly dissolve the sugar. Then bring to the boil. Once it has reached a slow boil, add the sweet cicely seeds. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you can put a drop of the sugar solution onto a cold plate and it keeps its spherical shape without collapsing flat onto the plate.

Now, using a pot holder to hold the pan, hold the pan lid on leaving a small gap, tilt and strain the excess sugar solution off into a silicone flan case leaving the seeds trapped in the pan. (Carefully: Hot sugar burns!) Allow it to spread out thinly in the case by tilting it from side to side while still warm. Leave to cool before scoring and breaking into pieces.

sweet 4Return the pan to the heat and ensure any remaining sugar solution is mixed evenly through the seeds and fully absorbed. Empty onto a silicone sheet and separate with a fork to make a version of mukhwas – a take on Indian sugar-coated fennel seed mouth fresheners.

sweet 5Store both, when cool, in airtight containers.

Mixed Vegetable Pulao – Nepali: तरकारीको पुलाउ – नेपाली


This type of mixed vegetable pulao is occasionally prepared, especially for feasts and in picnics.  It is a very rich dish.

1 1/2 cups of rice (basmati or masino/fine)
3 tablespoons of ghiu (clarified butter)
1 cup of cauliflower pieces
1/2 a cup of peas
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 green cardamoms  or 2 black cardamoms
6 black peppers
2 cloves
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 a green chili
1 or 2 bay leaves
3 cups of hot, boiled water
small quantity of chopped coriander leaves

Soak the rice in water for five minutes.
Wash and drain the water from the rice.
Heat the ghiu and fry the onions till they are brown.
Add all the spices.
Add all the vegetables and cook for a few minutes.
Add the rice, salt and green chili.
Fry the rice till it is dried and looks brownish in colour.
Pour three cups of hot water (2.5 centimeters above the level of the rice).
Cover and boil gently till the rice grains become tender and the vegetables are cooked.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.

bon appetit



Because of the complexity of various forms of meditation, the text is broken up into two main areas, although it could be broken down much further.



Christian meditation takes the form of prayer in order to appreciate the revelations of god.  This can be done by concentrating on a passage in the bible and considering its meaning in the context of a love of god.  It is also a tool used to increase knowledge and cognisance of Christ.

The main distinction between Christian and perhaps the more mystic forms of meditation is that the former is focused on the revelations provided by god in the bible and through the life of Christ: whereas the latter is more focused on technique and mantras, though they are not mutually exclusive.

So, god is central to the Christian form of meditation.  But with Christian meditation the mind has to be filled with thoughts of god and his message; whereas in eastern, non-Christian forms of meditation the mind is much more passive and observant.

Although I’m using the word meditation, the practice in Christianity can really be defined as contemplation, in that there is a conscious attempt to praise god through appreciating and understanding the words of the old and new testaments and the life and deeds of Christ in the latter.

Patricia Carrington in The Book of Meditation writes:

Some forms of Christian meditation, particularly those practiced in monasteries, are true ‘meditation’ in the sense in which we are using that word in this book.  Other Christian practices loosely termed ‘meditaton’ are, however, actually forms of ‘contemplation’. [p.30]


There is an organisation called The World Community for Christian Meditation.  They declare that the practice of meditation has become suspect and marginalised and talks about a great recovery of the contemplative dimension.  Again the word contemplation is used as a synonym for meditation.

 A mantra is also suggested, maranatha – our Lord is.  You can make up your own minds about that.  The recommended posture is similar to that for Buddhist meditation.

I won’t say much about the Jewish tradition of meditation except to say that it is a highly complicated affair and that it is based on the Kabbalah.  As I understand it, the Zohar is at the foundation of Jewish mystical thought informing the Kabbalah.  The meditative practices are based on the tradition of visualisation and intuitive methods which should lead into some kind of insight brought about by a contemplation of god.  Wikipedia defines it as a conceptually directed intellectual method of meditation.

Core meditation techniques are basically methods of meditation that are transmitted from a teacher, usually of a particular tradition, passed on to a practitioner.  However, in the west, many people have adopted the Buddhist model of meditation without declaring that they are Buddhists.

Rather than go into detail about other methods of meditation, I’ll list the main types and be brief about them as the subject is quite exhaustive.

goenkaGoenka, who recently died, taught the vipassana method of meditation which he learned in Myanmar. All participants follow the role of a monk for ten-days, arising at 4 am, not eating after mid-day, having no contact with the outside world and remaining silent.  There is in excess of 10-hours of sitting and walking meditation.

Practitioners are free to discuss any problems with a mentor.  The focus is mainly on the breath; and the word, vipassana, literally means insight meditation.

rob-nairnRob Nairn is trained in both Buddhism and psychology and became a teacher in the Kagyu Tibetan lineage, mainly in South Africa. His teaching is based on mindfulness, being present in the moment and thus accomplishing tranquility leading to compassion for all sentient beings and acquired wisdom.

The word zen derives originally from the Sanskrit word dhyana which can roughly be defined as a meditative state.  As with other Buddhist meditations, the ultimate goal is enlightenment through direct insight.  There is a de-emphasis on knowledge and a focus on zazen, similar to other methods of meditation, by letting thoughts pass by without becoming involved with them but being mindful of them.

Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to a couple of books which I found interesting in the context of modern, western life:

The Quantum and the Lotus
This book is a synthesis of Buddhist thinking and recent theories of scientific thought.  Although it is a bit dated now, there are some insights into the nature of reality from different points of view:  from Matthieu Ricard who began life as a researcher into cellular genetics and became a Buddhist; and Trinh Xuan Thuan who began as a  Buddhist and later taught astronomy at the University of Virginia.  He is the founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion.


The Book of Meditation
As mentioned before, this is described as The Complete Guide to Modern Meditation.  Patricia Carrington is a clinical psychologist, researcher and psychotherapist specialising in stress management techniques.  She uses meditation with many of her patients and has published papers on the subject.  She calls her methods EFT or emotional freedom techniques.  I find the way she blends science and meditation quite fascinating as it is widely researched.

Carrington uses scientific methods to verify the advantages of meditation using a wide variety of studies concerned with the physiological advantages, stress management, dreaming, the use of mantras, creativity, education and many mores areas.

Lastly, I would like to recommend the book Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics and is a senior scholar at Princeton University.  There is no direct reference to meditation, but concerning how the mind works, his insights are invaluable.  He writes about two systems of thought:  System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little effort and no sense of voluntary control; System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations.  The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration.

System one, I believe, is the precursor and nearer to a meditative state.  The reason I’ve included Kahnneman in this talk is because I think it’s important to know as much about thought processes in order to identify what is being dealt with in meditation.  An analogous situation might be the learning processes involved in cycling, driving a car or swimming.  At first, there is a conscious effort to transfer the skills into habit-forming actions which eventually become ‘second nature’.  We are not consciously aware of changing gears and avoided obstacles:  rather, they become automatic or intuitive and we are able to ‘let go’ of a conscious effort to drive, swim or ride a bike.

I think the best example I’ve come across in the distinction of these two states and how system 1 can exist as an automative function of the mind whilst system 2 is in operation.

Finally, see Andy Puddicombe describing mindfulness on TED .


http://www.ted.com/talks/andy_puddicombe_all_it_takes_is_10_mindful_minutes in TED.

[Presented at a meeting of University of the Third Age by Yeshe]

Labels: Andy Puddicombe Daniel Kahneman Goenka kabbalah Matthieu Ricard Patricia Carrington Rob Nairn The World Community for Christian maranatha Trinh Xuan Thuan vipassana zazen zen zohar


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News Update on fundraising for car/ambulance for Dr. Chuga

Latest news on the fundraising campaign to get a car/ambulance for Dr. Chuga. Just £3,000 needed to reach the target!


Great news! We have now raised about £7,000 (still £3,000 to go) for the vehicle thanks to the many very generous donations given so far. If you are still considering donating to this very worthy project please donate here Dr. Chuga ambulance/car and if you pay UK tax and would like us to claim 25% extra on your donation please consider filling out a gift aid form downloadable here:  Gift_Aid.

Everyone in the Rigul Trust team are very grateful for your generosity to the people in the remote region of Rigul in Tibet who will soon be able to benefit from the all terrain vehicle used as an ambulance and to collect the mountain herbs necessary for the clinic.
Thank you so much and much joy to you!
Colin Rangdröl Moore



Fermented Wild Garlic

The bright green shoots of wild garlic are one of the most heart-lifting aspects of an early Spring. I eat it fresh, in salads, in cooked dishes, as pesto, or soup. By the summer, it is gone again. I love having wild garlic later in the year but I can’t dry it like most other plants, as it loses it flavour and those ethereal sulphur tones! Freezing it in bags just leaves a defrosted slightly slimy mess. So I have a couple of options: making a wild garlic pesto or fermenting the wild garlic.
Fermenting wild garlic

Fermented Wild Garlic

There are different methods.Some people like to add salt to their vegetables, crush them and allow their own juices to do all the fermenting. I am often short for time, or tired at the end of a day’s foraging and just want to put my feet up when I still have baskets of foraged goodies to clean or stash. So I am drawn to methods that are quick, simple and easy to do, without compromising on taste! For wild garlic, I use the brine method.

To do this I make a 2% brine. Basically that is 20g of salt to 1 litre of filtered water.

I chop and prepare the garlic, adding a lot of flower buds, white stem, and only a little of the darker green leaf. The I pack it tightly into a clean preserving jar and pour the brine over until it covers the contents. Then I put a glass over the mouth to weight down the green stuff, to make sure everything is below the surface of the brine.

I then leave it in a cool place and wait for the bubbles! After a day or two you will realise that there is a strong smell of sulphur being emitted from your jar. Don’t worry. This is part of the transformation, just apologise to visitors to your home!

Fermenting wild garlic

These are ready to eat in about 2 weeks.

Sometimes, to get a stronger flavoured ferment, I will just soak in the brine for 24 hours. Then I’ll drain it and press it under it’s own juices and let it ferment in its own juices which have been released by the salty brine.

Occasionally I’ll add garlic… or chillies. There are no rules!

If you’re interested in fermenting, consider investing in Sandor Katz’s book ‘The Art of Fermentation’. If you have this, you’ll never need another book.

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Renewable Energy

wind turbines

The plan to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Devon, in the light of the recent developments of power sources in the world, seems to be an anomaly.  While many countries in Europe are turning to renewable energy in order to cut emissions, the UK seems to be determined to build this reactor while the rest of the world, with only a few exceptions, sees the decline of this energy source.

According to an article by Robert Kunzig, a respected scientific journalist, in a recent article in the National Geographic:

Germany has invested heavily in energy generated by offshore wind and expects one-third of its future wind energy to come from offshore farms…After the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, Germany vowed to quickly abandon nuclear energy.  of 17 operable reactors, nine have since been shut down.  The rest are set to close by 2022.

Yet  in the UK going ahead with plans to enlist France and China to build a new reactor in the South West of the UK.

The arguments against this initiative are too numerous to mention but can be found in the pages of the Stop Hinkley pages.

In a recent visit to Holy Island, I got talking with Dr Martin Hird who is looking into the viability of building wind turbines to supply energy for the small community who live there. We discussed some of his ideas about this project.

Renewable energy means something which we can do and never have to stop doing.  So it doesn’t use up a finite resource of any kind. An example is wind energy.  The turbine blades won’t last forever so they have to be replaced.  The towers will last for a huge amount of time and they can be recycled.  There is no cut-off point when we have to stop using them.

Coal doesn’t have a future.  Every year Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  publish a summary of the climate science that’s going on around the world.  They produced a report last year and a summary of last year (2015) which you can get on the web.  It’s about 30 pages long and contains a recommendation for policy makers on planet change.  We must stop emitting carbon dioxide by the end of the century if we hope to keep the increase to less than 2 degrees c.  Even at 2 degrees c we just have to stop.  What we’ve done already is catastrophic for the planet.  The scientists have a high level of confidence, up to 95% confidence, that the effects caused by carbon dioxide emissions is harmful.

Producing animals to eat is a colossal use of greenhouse gases so being vegetarian is a very good contribution to reduce gases.  But whether it’s actually viable to continue some form of animal husbandry for people to eat meat is doubtful…the very big difference from a Buddhist viewpoint or going by dharma is that we have to understand that we’re a part of everything and we behave as if we’re not; that the earth is just some kind of storehouse that we can plunder until our heart’s content and it will be fine, and that’s obviously not the case.  We’re part of the whole thing and we need to behave in recognition of that.  There is no independent arising and we behave as if there is and all the dharma teaching points out that that’s not the case although still we behave as if it is.

In the short term, there are people who say that nuclear energy is the only possible way to go because of what’s going to happen in the world because of the climate change already.  For instance, there were studies published this year in the New Scientist (June/July 2015) saying that 5 meters of sea-level rise is now certain because of the melting of the glaciers in Antarctica which are in a runaway condition now: and also the effect of heating on Greenland glaciers.  So 5 meter sea-level rise without all the other changes is going to devastate a lot of low-lying land.  And that’s only one aspect, the sea-level rise – the devastation that’s going to caused – is huge.  The only thing we can do in the long term is to reduce our consumption to reduce pollution.  The real problem is over-consumption and the apparent need to consume more and more and more.  While we continue to do that, there is really no hope, to be honest.

What the environmentalists say is that there is no chance of that happening – reducing the consumption of energy – of people changing their behaviour.  The amount of energy we require is so big, the only way to provide that amount of energy is through nuclear power; and that’s probably true because there just isn’t the will to install alternative sources of energy.

Wind energy as well as wave energy has the potential to provide everything we need in the UK.  The potential for wave energy in the north Atlantic is absolutely colossal. But the amount of money which is put into research to make that viable is a dribble.  It seems like the seriousness of the situation and the response to it are not yet matched.  The lack of will of the people responsible to do what really has to be done by taking on board just how serious the situation is not evident.  That’s how it seems to me.  Personally I’m strongly opposed to nuclear because of the waste.  You can create an even longer-term problem by using nuclear.  Nuclear fusion, if someone could figure out how to do it is an alternative possibility.  There’s a lot of research going into fusion at the moment, it has the huge benefit of producing no radioactive waste.  That would be a massive benefit.  It still requires a source of fuel.  The material used to produce fusion is readily available on the planet [tritium produced for lithium?].

The EU is very proactive in this area.   European countries, especially Germany, has a strong green party who are getting things implemented much more quickly than here.  The UK seems to be always behind in these things.

There’s a lot of research going on in the UK as well.  Up until recently the implementation has been going on quite well till this present government came into power.  Denmark also is a world leader in wind energy and has a huge proportion of its needs produced by this method but they’re supported by the Scandinavian grids.  The states has a big potential.  I don’t know if it’s really happening there yet.  I’m not involved in research in that area. [See National Geographic the Climate Issue for information on world climate change.]

I’m involved in the energy project on Holy Island which is very small.  We’re trying to put in a small wind energy project, less than a hundred kilowatts anyway, sixty to ninety kilowatts, that sort of region.  The planning permission is in for that so I’m hoping to get that built this year.  I’ve also been working on a system at the men’s retreat centre in Arran.  For quite a few years it was stuck on a land ownership issue.  I’m also hoping to get that built this year.  These are the two main voluntary things I’m doing.  I also do consultancy work in Glasgow.  Most of their work in recent times has been wind farms.

One of the biggest problems today is caused by gas emissions.  Pollution is also a problem but carbon dioxide, methane and the other greenhouse gases are the biggest problem.  Those come from burning fossil fuels, coal, gas.

When you read what the scientists say it’s very bleak to be honest, it really is.  You have to be aware of what they’re saying.  The the tropical sea will be too warm for coral by 2050.  In thirty years time.  there may be no more coral in the world.  It’s staggering.  The oceans are more acidic than they have been for a millennium now and the rate of change in becoming is increasing.  So the shellfish which take the calcium out of the sea to make their shells will be unable to do that.  When you read about it all it’s not very happy reading and it’s only really a question of when.  What we do from now will determine just how bad it’s going to be and how quickly or slowly these changes come about. [See WWF report.]

We can only do what we can do and just do it.  In the long run, reducing our consumption is the only thing to do.  However, Tich Nath Hanh gives me hope for the future.

Protecting the planet must be given the first priority. I hope you will take the time to sit down with each other, have tea with your friends and your family, and discuss these things. Invite Bodhisattva Earth Holder to sit and collaborate with you. Then make your decision and act to save our beautiful planet. Changing your way of living will bring you a lot of joy right away and, with your first mindful breath, healing will begin. 



Dr Martin Hird

Mushroom Curry च्याउको कढी


Mushroom or chyau, Agaricus conpestris, family Solanaceae, is a summer vegetable grown in Nepal, especially in the high mountains.

1 cup of mushrooms

4 teaspoons of mustard oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
2.5 cm of ginger
1/2 teaspoon of chilli (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
salt to taste.

(The following method is used to detect poisonous mushrooms in Nepal)

Wash the mushrooms with boiled water two or three times.  Beak them into small pieces by hand.  Mix turmeric by consistently rubbing with the hands and allow them to stand for at least 10 minutes.  If they turn black, the mushrooms may be poisonous.  If the colour does not change, then they are edible.

The second method of detecting poisonous mushrooms from non-poisonous mushrooms is to use a silver spoon.  If the spoon with which the mushrooms gets a black coating on it, then the mushroom is poisonous.

Heat oil an fry fenugreek seeds till they jump and become brown.  Squeeze out the turmeric and add the mushrooms.  Add salt and fry again.  Add the ground spices and some water so as to let it become a paste.  Cook them with a little more water if needed.  Serve hot and dry.