PolItIcal upheavals are causing widespread anxiety about many issues, including health care, all over the world. Where do we go from here and what can we do on an individual basis to improve our own situation?
First let me say, as a doctor, I see health care as a vital human right. I regard universal access to healthcare as a hallmark of a genuinely humane society which values “love of one’s neighbor”, whereas the absence of such a system may well be a sign of the opposite.
Many health problems arise from causes that we cannot control directly as individuals. among these are accidents, natural disasters, wars, genetic conditions, illnesses caused by pollution of the environment, illnesses whose causes remain unknown, etc. Continue reading
Isa knows this is not her home. Whatever the young girls with tattoos and piercings tell her, their names peppery on her tongue. “You live here now, darling. You’re safe with us.” This is not her home and she will not stay. She is a serial escapee though never got much further than the bus stop.
Her friend and tablemate, Miss Jean Bell, former assistant headmistress, knows this a care home, and turns the words over, wondering how they have changed meaning since she lost her independence. Her mind is strong, her legs not. Her eyes see everything – the monthly noticeboard with its list of activities for every day in big letters. They have also seen that the more exciting activities never happen. “Why,” she asks, “Was there no outing to Dobbie’s? Or the Botanics as promised?”
“No idea,” they reply airily, “but there’ll be decorating golf balls in a minute.”
“I presume”, she delivers the look that caused many to quail, “that this is to fool the inspectors. I shall inform them.”
“Sure you will, Jeanie Darling.” “I am not your darling and never known as Jeanie” falls on ears already attuned for the next emergency buzzer.
The two women bond over the soup, in itself thick and viscous enough to serve in any world shortage of cement. “Salty again. What is it anyway?”, asks Isa.
The carer asks and reports broccoli.”How can broccoli be orange and taste exactly the same as lentil or tomato or…
” She has run out of soups. Jean says, “That’s why it’s called soup of the day. It always tastes the same.” And soup appears twice every day, along with the cakes, pink and white, that taste dryly of nothing but sugar. “The food here is disgraceful”,says Jean and they begin their daily litany of its failings – the too cold, the mushy, the flavourless, the pre-packaged.
One lunch Isa isn’t there. They are all in their places at least ten minutes before service begins. She is brought in late, flushed, smelling of outside, with a glitter about her. “You’re a bad girl”, says the carer, not unkindly, “but we’ve saved you some soup”.
Not even as far as the bus stop this time. It makes Jean thoughtful. All her life she has conformed; but if Isa, with her periods of cloudedness “
as if a pea-souper creeps through my brain, dear”, alternating with moments of clarity, can revolt however briefly, why can’t she? Legs, that’s why. Put us together, she thinks, and you’ld have one functioning human being. But one functioning person might make it, at least long enough to evade lunch.
Isa’s impulses have to be reined in. They now have a camera on the front door and a sensor mat. And Jean will need to be in her wheelchair. Isa won’t divulge the scheme; she loves secrets and anything else gets forgotten. Here is what they plan.
- Handbags and coats while the carers are finishing the post-breakfast duties and heading towards their break.
- Create diversions. Ring buzzers in the hall and lounge. Take away Mollie’s rag doll so she will howl. Remind Annie that she needs to call the police and tell her father. Unkind perhaps but hours of every week have been dominated by the cries of one, the shouts of the other.
- Head to door by kitchen, always open as owner has not installed adequate ventilation. When chef is busy killing whatever flavour is in vegetables. Isa will push Jean out down the ramp and through the side gate.
Not for nothing has Jean spent years timetabling and checking every child was where it should be. Now she is gamekeeper turned poacher, playing truant.
It goes according to plan. But even with Jean self-propelling and Isa pushing, they struggle. A young couple overtakes and turns back, with “Can we help? We’re going to the main road if that’s any use.” He takes the arm of Isa, who is thrilled, and the wife pushes the chair. They soon reach the bus stop. More rescuers have to help them on, then have a whip round when it transpires Isa has only a fiver and some coppers in her purse. Jean triumphantly fishes out a battered bus pass. They are euphoric; who knew the world could be so vibrant? But what next? Jean remembers the birthday treat she would give herself each year, a trip to Luca’s for a cappuccino and a scone. The bus stop is close; they can do this.
Isa isn’t sure she likes cappuccino but is enchanted by the pattern on top and loves unlimited demerara sugar. They dawdle over the scones as if these were the taste of holiday. No one puts a tabard round their necks or spreads the scones for them. The activity is agreeable if messy. Isa is soon hungry again and begging for an early lunch. The special is scampi and chips and they will share a portion. Isa eats with her fingers and after a moment, Jean joins her. “But”, she says, “this has to be the last. We’ve got maybe £16. Two coffees at 2.20, two scones at 1.90 and one special at £6 would be…”
“12.40”, says Isa. “I used to be a book-keeper. I’d forgotten that.” Minutes later, she calls, “Chocolate ice cream and vanilla, two scoops each.” It is delicious, with a side order of guilt for Jean; she hopes the cafe will be able to reclaim the debt through the home.
For the first time it enters her mind, and as if it had summoned them, two policemen appear in the doorway. “Would you be the ladies from the Lilacs?”
With dignity Jean replies, “The name is as false as everything else about it. One scrubby pot-bound lilac by the door.” She imagines trees heavy with perfume, dancing in May sun. But Isa is already halfway out on a blue arm.
“Let’s have you, shall we, lo-madam?” hers says as he registers the glare that has quelled insurrection for decades. She assents.
In the car Isa is still happy. “Fancy going home in a police car. I’ve never done that before.”
“Yes, you have, Isa, love” one says wearily. Jean thinks. Not me. We’ve run away, and begged on the bus. We indulged ourselves and left without paying. And now we’re escorted back by the police, too late for soup. Something swells inside her as light and free as blossom in the sun; she thinks it might be pride.
KD lives in Edinburgh and writes for pleasure and distraction.
To make the hypnotic artworks, Krakow-based duo Przemek Podolski and Marta Basandowskaby start by arranging the complex designs as a 3D computer model.
The structures range from simple cubes to impressively complex geometric designs which they use to represent outer space.
Basandowska says that she and Podolski then use a series of different knotting techniques to weave the yarn around various nails and bring the artwork to life.
Once the threads are properly woven around the nails, the couple uses black lights and projection mapping to illuminate the massive installations.
We are making bigger and braver installations every year,” says Basandowska. “It is completely different when you’re making installations with an area of 30 meters supported by steel structures and creating something using several thousand knots.”
The couple’s String Art Installations have been displayed at a variety of arts and music festivals, but if you want to keep up with their future work, you can visit their Instagram page, YouTube channel, or website.
This is a simple, spicy Indian lunch or brunch made with rice and potatoes. Perfect as a side dish with curry, too.
- 4 medium waxy potatoes (such as Charlotte or Jersey Royal)
- 140g/5oz thick poha rice (also called flaked rice or thick flattened rice)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- generous pinch of ground asafoetida
- 1 tsp urid dal
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
- 10-15 fresh curry leaves, lightly crushed
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, to garnish
- 4 wedges of lime, to serve
Boil the potatoes until cooked. Drain and set aside to cool, then peel and cut into 1cm/½in cubes.
Put the rice in a sieve and wash gently but thoroughly under cold running water. Empty it into a bowl, cover generously with water and leave to soak for two minutes. Drain and leave in the sieve set over a bowl.
Put the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the asafoetida and the urad dal. As soon as the dal starts to pick up a little colour, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chilli (whatever type you are using). As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the curry leaves (take care as they will splutter), then the onion and potatoes. Lower to a medium heat and fry, stirring now and again, for 3-4 minutes or until the onion and potatoes are slightly browned. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the top and stir.
Add the poha rice, gently breaking up any lumps, and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and the sugar over the top. Cook on a low heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing frequently by lifting all the ingredients from the bottom of the pan with a flat spatula and folding them over, until the poha is heated through. Cover and set aside until you are ready to eat.
To serve, garnish the poha potatoes with fresh coriander and serve with lime or lemon wedges.
I’m not at all sure how we all in the Bodhicharya Sangha developed the merit to be able to meet Rinpoche in this life – but somehow the good fortune has come to us, each in our own different way, and I think now we just have to see how much further we can clarify our own minds, develop our compassion and so be able to offer something back to others. Continue reading
Can we love our families fully while upholding the Buddha’s teaching on non-attachment?
Sometimes people ask me if there isn’t a conflict between the Mahayana instruction to see all beings as close relatives, worthy of our affection and compassion, and Buddhist teachings on non attachment. Perhaps they are thinking of Jetsun Milarepa’s words:
When you look at your child
Firstly he is a soft-spoken young god.
Then he is a distant-hearted neighbour.
Finally he is an enemy and creditor.
So I let go of children.
We cannot separate Buddhist doctrine and practice from how Buddhists actually live in the world. How do they square non attachment with love and compassion, and what does this say about how we should relate to our families? Most Buddhists in Asia, far from exhibiting some chilly spiritual disdain for such matters, usually demonstrate great affection for their families. I can testify that my own teachers are no exception. Indeed, my master, Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, is a wonderful example of a father and now grandfather who is, at the same time, an unflagging source of kindness and loving guidance to his students. It’s striking how often my other principal teacher, Karma Thinley Rinpoche, though an ordained abbot, emphasizes the value of family life as an environment for training in the key Mahayana virtues.
It is, however, undeniable that we must let go of some level of attachment in our personal relationships. Continue reading
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.
This seems to take 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.
If you are reading these words, it means that you either realize you’re not at peace and want to be, or the sound of the word drew you … it’s something you haven’t really thought about, but it resonates and you want it in your life.
The universal truth is that we all suffer. Whether rich or poor, young or old, regardless of gender or any other factor … we all suffer psychically.
Why? Because we are prisoners of our ego-mind. We are controlled by the feelings and perceptions … the emotions, judgments, cravings, and attachments … that are the ego-mind’s reactions to our life experiences. It is these feelings that are actually the cause of our suffering. But we nevertheless identify with them; we’ve lost connection with our true self, our heart. If we were only able to reconnect with our heart, we would be able to free ourselves from the control of our ego-mind and experience the inner peace and happiness that is our birthright.
We cannot change the world around us. It is what it is. But we can change how we relate to ourselves and that world. And by doing so, we can control whether we suffer or experience peace.
This is not some new age theory. These truths have been taught for thousands of years by the mystical traditions of all three Abrahamic faiths … Christian Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and Sufism … as well as Buddhism.
Helping people of all faiths as well as non-believers learn these truths and walk this challenging path is the purpose of How to Find Inner Peace. Why will this book help people when others haven’t? It is reality-based; it grows out of the turmoil of life. And it lays out a practical, step-by-step approach to finding inner peace. If you want inner peace, believe it or not the choice is yours.
The book is available in both softcover – $12.95, and eBook – $9.99 formats.
Ronald Hirsch has had a varied career as a teacher, legal aid lawyer, survey researcher, nonprofit executive, composer, writer, and volunteer. Having found Buddhism at age 49, he has walked the path of Buddhism 25 years now. Along the way, he has had the good fortune to have had some powerful teachers who opened many gates for him. His Zen practice follows no particular lineage but reflects the teachings of his Vietnamese and Korean Zen mentors.
He is the writer of the award-winning blog, www.ThePracticalBuddhist.com, and the author of three books on Buddhist practice and one ecumenically spiritual work, Raising a Happy Child. He is also the author of We Still Hold These Truths, acclaimed by James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic, as “a systematic and serious effort to make the [presidential] debate as clear and valuable as it can be. Agree or disagree with his specific conclusions, the questions he is asking are the right ones for the public this year.” He grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania and resides in New York.
In their miniature world, cramped between wooden crevices of a make-shift dugout, the ants busy themselves with homemaking and egg laying, ensuring their lineage. “Come on lads, let’s all pull together, we can get this done today!” They carry their dainty furniture, food and precious eggs purposefully back and forth, undisturbed by the mayhem around them.
A beetle scuttles past, his proud armour glinting in the late spring sunshine, swift and sure of foot; armed with strong exoskeleton and impressive talons, he scurries to his destination.
A couple of earthworms surface, drag a tasty morsel down into the earth, casting, blindly blinking in the daylight, then to disappear down into the dark moist soil, silently, steadily, unseen and safe, to exchange their genetic code in hermaphrodite heaven.
The deceiving skylark hovers high, unseen in the sky, throwing his voice to confuse and disorientate. Overseeing and watchful, he spies two divisions of soldiers, each in dugout trenches facing each other but a thousand yards apart. He cannot begin to comprehend the scene. Are the guns pointing at him? He wouldn’t be morsel for even one meal, so why this?
His partner, safely on the ground, is nesting a clutch of six, soon to be hatched, eggs; a proud moment, something to sing about. He sees the men below, only men? … all of one sex? This is strange homemaking and nest building, indeed! Down there in the mud, in the dirt, amongst their own excrement; where are their young?
A pheasant clucks and struts, calling to its mate, proud, foolish, flamboyant and pecking; always pecking; scavenging for odd bits of spent grain and seeds, occasionally intimidating and ‘seeing off’ another haughty potential suitor, protecting his own beloved, who bathes beigely in the weak sunshine, broodily thinking of where to produce her impending progeny.
The sparrows chatter and argue amongst their offspring in the hedges at the side of the field, merrily multiplying and going about their daily business. Camouflaged, they watch out for each other, safe in their numbers, constantly communicating and full of life.
The soldiers are dull with desperation, worn out, cold, hungry, desolate and dying. Morally bound and duty called, initial, spurring enthusiasms of glory and patriotism have faded; the futility and frustration of the pointlessness and tragic waste of young lives is eating away at their hearts. Fleeting friendships and comforting camaraderie are brutally broken.
The field mouse looks on quizzically, cuddled in warmth, his fluffy coat protecting him from the elements. Surrounded by his resourceful, home-loving and family-oriented cousins, who are comfortably curled up, and sleepily grooming each other, he skilfully, swings from corn stalk to burdock leaf. He seems puzzled as to why these grey and stinking men quietly sit and wait, huddled in their make-shift shelter. Stranger, still, that they share their space with corpses, stiff, cold and lifeless; they dare not even bury their dead!
Rabbits scamper about at dusk, safe in the half-light and secure in their familiar bunny territory and warren world, ears alerted and listening, thumping their back legs, as a tell-tale sign to others, of impending danger, with white bob-tail warnings of threats to be avoided. Down into their burrows, they scuttle, safe from their predators, watching their ever growing families, populating and honeycombing the area with their tunnels and diggings.
What of these young men? They are in an alien world, mind disorientated and helpless, hopelessly destroyed of bonhomie, having no family to buoy them up, no hearty hot meal to fill their bellies, no women to comfort and caress them. They are at the mercy of the elements, permanently damp and despairing, cold and miserable. They do not even see their enemy, are blind to their own effectiveness and progress; they are merely there, planted by politicians… waiting.
A hare dashes across the field, mystical in his aloofness. Proud, upstanding, mythical creature, long ears dipped in ink, solitary and shape-shifting, a legendary king of his surroundings, mysterious, and representing life and rebirth.
How can he square the images he sees before him, of man killing his own brothers? No other species would do this!!! Where is the pride, the heroics, the glory? What such animal would sacrifice its race, put itself at so much risk, or behave in such a suicidal manner? What species would so foolishly challenge the elements, be at the whims of the chilling winds, the killing frosts, the endless mud, the biting snow and the incessant rain? Where is the survival instinct for the human race here amongst the stench, fat flies and riotous rats?
Later, as the red poppies bob and grace the dark and yielding soil, flowering with fecundity, the proud willow-herb salutes the sunset. An owl shrieks at dusk, signalling the shortening days. Fear, death, trepidation, initiation and change are on the horizon; the bat spirit darts to and fro, quieter than a breath.
The men, contracted only for their one grisly task, wait; always waiting, silently, scared, playing their reducing game… dying to get out.
Lives in Liverpool
Aged 68, birthday 18/12/1950
Retired full-time Primary and later Secondary/Special School teacher and college tutor, worked for 37 years.
Read many books related to work only. After retiring, joined a Creative Writing group, with an inspiring tutor, attended courses, and achieved ‘A’ Level in Creative Writing.
Writing (especially poetry) was often a release during emotional and turbulent times in the 1980s working in an area of severe deprivation and unemployment in Liverpool. Now I write for fun!
A group of us meet regularly in each other’s homes to read and discuss our scribblings!
Dying in a graceful and joyful way – the practice that we need to work on.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Our vision for this evolving website is that there will be ongoing guidance and instruction from Ringu Tulku on living a peaceful, purposeful life and how to face, embrace and engage with the end of life, dying and death. From this, and other sources, suggestions can be gathered and offered for the dying person, the family, the care givers, the medical staff, undertakers and the bereaved.
The intention is also to provide information for those who wish to understand a little more about the Tibetan Buddhist way of life and death, and how we can enhance and extend our positive qualities, our loving kindness, compassion and wisdom for ourselves and for the benefit of all beings.
It is a website for everyone but with some particular Buddhist practices that could be adapted and applied to people of all faiths or of no faith. If you are interested, please visit our website:
A conversation with Erlendur Haraldsson: Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Iceland, Reykjavik.
Sitting round a table at the back of a dining hall with several others, Professor Erlendur Haraldsson is explaining his research into reincarnation and the world of the dead and dying.
At the hour of death, people who are about to die have visions, usually about someone whom they have known earlier and have died.
Professor Haraldsson is a psychologist and his theories seem to segue into the field of parapsychology. The appearance of someone at the hour of death acting as a guide into the world of the dying is an experience that is reported in various circumstances when someone is at the point of death.
As evidence of the his phenomenon, he tells of a cross-cultural study and evidence from American doctors and nurses in hospitals as well as in India: Continue reading
We were delighted to have Rinpoche in Ireland again last month. This is his 29th year visiting us and he continues to travel great distances to teach to whomever wishes to hear Dharma. We are very fortunate in Ireland that he spends almost a week here in a very busy schedule.
For the first few days, Kagyu Samye Dzong in Dublin were hosting him and delivered three evenings of teachings.
These teachings were regarding the text ‘Precious Garland of the Supreme Path’ by the great master Gampopa, founder of the Kagyu lineage. The first evening Rinpoche introduced the root text and gave a short Biography of its author followed by an explanation of the first of 27 chapters. He would go on to deliver a teaching on each chapter per night so this work will take several visits to complete. He taught from several translations and cross–referenced the original Tibetan to deliver an accurate as possible explanation always concentrating on the essential aspects, full audio and video recordings were made and are available in the Bodhicharya Teachings Archive. He also gave Lung transmission of ‘Shower of Blessings’ for those wishing to practice this aspect of Guru Yoga and on the last evening a Lung for the ‘Milerapa Sadhana’.
He made himself available throughout his stay in Dublin for many personal interviews and also had a meeting with small group of students from Bodhicharya that took the form of a relaxed conversation: this was regarding the topic of how Buddha Dharma is being delivered and received outside of Tibet in the modern world and personally how he thought the last 30 years of his work is progressing. This rare, unusual and candid conversation is also recorded and available on the same archive under the title ‘Discussing Essential Dharma’.
At the end of the week Rinpoche journeyed to the other end of the Country, down to the tip of South West Cork where Dzogchen Beara were hosting him for a weekend retreat, this beautiful location even more so with sunshine and blue skies that somehow seem to accompany his continued visits.
This weekend was entitled “Meeting Challenges: Unshaken by Life’s Ups and Downs” and co-insides with the release of a new book of the same title in the Heart Wisdom series by Bodhicharya publications. This Lojong (Mind training) teaching is based upon the root text “Bringing Happiness and Unhappiness onto the Path.” Also translated as “Turning Suffering and Happiness into Enlightenment” by the third Dodrupchen -Jigme Tenpe Nyima, A Dzogchen master from the Nyingma Lineage. (The fourth Dodrupchen-Tubten Trinlé Pal Zangpo lives in Gangtok, Sikkim and is a teacher of Ringu Tulku Rinpoche).
The first teaching session was spent addressing questions prepared by Rigpa students that included: Bodhichitta, A healthy sense of self and, Dealing with our personal practice in an unjust world. He also reminded us that skillful, direct and practical actions should never be forsaken. This was an excellent introduction to the weekend of Lojong teaching and provided a summary of the topic Rinpoche would further explore in relation to the text and the questions that arose from the audience, many of whom were new to such teachings and Buddhist Dharma in general.
Over the next three sessions Rinpoche focused on the early part of the text dealing with challenges and suffering and how they can be an opportunity, he occasionally used brutal and horrific examples of the Tibetans’ experiences––including friends and family, but somehow maintained his familiar warmth and humour throughout.
Regardless of examples, metaphors, stories and jokes the teachings always returned to and demonstrated the essence of such teachings, that it is our perception and reaction to external and internal phenomena that creates our world. With compassion and wisdom, Mind’s true nature can be revealed, this requires diligent training and practise and is of benefit to ourselves, those around us and all beings.
On the forklift truck on a grey morning Boz had a dream. It was always the same dream; he was a man of stubborn allegiances and wild expectation. His luck would turn and he would retire to the seaside, the English seaside. He’d been happy there. Not so much the overpowering smells of vinegar, frying fat and sugar, nor the noises of crowds, amusement arcades, having fun. Even as a child his ideal was to do nothing. Contentment was lying in a deckchair, soaking up the sun which drenched his memory, and watching the sea come in, go out, come in, go out. His mates jeered at the smallness of his dream; they wanted world travels or at least Thailand or Tenerife every winter if their ship came in. Val had dragged him abroad of course, but the ocean was never the same, too tame, too distant, too fringed with the young and sleek. He knew where his dreams were to be realised and soon he knew when and how.
The dream took a lurch nearer and upended the forklift. On the ramp, maybe the wheels weren’t squarely on. He howled when lifted out and was signed off sick for six weeks. The company could find no malfunction in the forklift and alleged driver error, but Boz’s union rep was having none of it. “Mr Boswell has an exemplary record and there was another similar incident here with a truck some six years ago. He is now incapacitated and we have a medical report to indicate whiplash injuries with some trauma to the lower and cervical spine. It is unlikely he can work again, we are told. I would suggest the fair way forward is a one -off payment, equivalent perhaps to three years’ salary. That way we can avoid any question of blame, or escalation through the Health and Safety process.” HR, as usual, said nothing remotely useful; management said “Two years. Terrible worker anyway. Cheap at the price to get rid of him.” The haggling ended up with a nice little nest egg for Boz who was always careful to walk with a stick and a wince. There were disability benefits as well.
Val wanted to chuck in the part-time job at the drycleaners and go somewhere exotic, maybe even move to a little flat in Spain. But Boz knew he had to wait for his luck to flow in again. He went into training, absorbing himself in daytime TV, especially the property programmes and the surprise makeovers. Fortune favoured the bold, those who seized the tide when high. Then he went on the internet. It was a shock to discover how little his lump sum would buy, especially with anything that would pass as a sea view. He’d told Val, “What we need is a nice little place, with a sea view, maybe do it up a bit (he had a sudden fantasy of himself holding a paintbrush), live well, away from all this.”
He found the auction houses for repossessed or unloved properties, got very excited by this lot or that and was cast down when the bidding went above his ceiling. He told himself he was just learning the ropes, realised what he needed was a property no on else wanted. And he needed to go to the auction house, not follow online. The next sale he waited for the fancied flat , bid fast and hard, but again it outstripped him; on impulse born of rejection he went after one for which no one else was bidding. He’d looked at it briefly, definitely sea view, bit back of beyond, a kind of chalet with two bedrooms. Very cheap. He couldn’t remember more – a scattering of neighbours, no pub (but who could afford to drink out these days?), not too far from Scarborough. But raised his hand anyway. The dream was docking. No one else bid, though he was aware of a kind of subdued ripple running through the room – amusement, excitement, applause, he couldn’t say. It was his.
Now he had to explain it to Val. She wasn’t thrilled but suggested they visit. The owner met them with the words, “You do realise the bid is a binding contract and you can’t change your mind?” Val was looking out to sea. “What happened to the garden fence?” “Bit of coastal erosion. You’ll have seen it in the report. But you’re cash buyers so no mortgage to worry about. “
Boz said slowly, “So things do fall in the sea?”
“Yes, but it’s quite a long garden. Most of the neighbours have put in coastal defences – quite expensive but effective. When I moved here twenty years ago, the surveyor said 70-100 years. You don’t need longer than that, do you?”
“As long as it lasts our time”, said Boz. Val gave them both the look she had perfected on clients bringing in embarrassingly stained garments. “We’ll have to make the best of it. But what’s that caravan near to the road? Is that part of the sale?”
“Not officially”, came the reply, “but I’ll throw it in for goodwill.” Val had always fancied a caravan and this appealed to her as a space soundproofed against Boz’s bellows for beer and snacks. The journey home to pack up their lives was less fraught than it might have been.
The paintbrush fantasy faded like sea mist, but the chalet was in fair shape. Boz soon settled into the deckchair, basking in the garden on the better days where there was even a tree to act as a natural windbreak, or gazing out of the sun lounge otherwise, while Val sewed or watched her portable in the caravan. The summer was a good one if not as golden as Boz’ s memory, but knowing good luck came in threes he waited for something else to fall into his capacious lap.
The winter was another matter; the house was ill-insulated, the window frames rattled and the draughts had the chill and persistence of benefits advisors. A calm March day drew him down the garden. The rest of the fence had gone…but something else. The rhubarb patch, a bank of nettles, a recycling bin were away. None of them were much missed but this was his domain and he was uncomfortable.
The next year the vegetable bed went – undug, overgrown but the unease persisted. His neighbour Frank said, “What do you expect? We’ve all paid up for coastal defences so the waves are funnelled directly at you.”
Boz went to demand help from the Council. The letter back said, “While we have every sympathy with your plight, we are informed you bought the property while being aware of the problem. Given the many demands on our budget, we regret etc”.
Year four was frightening. A sea surge took a messy predatory bite which swallowed the bench and the tree. Val moved permanently into the caravan. Frank advised, “Think about moving. A house fell in the sea five miles down the coast.” But Boz was planted.
Year six Val moved back to live with her sister in a house on solid ground; he simply found her gone like most of the garden and half wondered if the sea had taken her too. Now when Boz looked out, the sea seemed suddenly huge, its glittering hungry, the land fragile and friable. He cursed it for wrecking his dream. One day he awoke to urgent banging on the door from Frank and the men from houses further along. “Time to leave. Storm surge coming. Take anything you need.” They helped him clear essentials to the caravan. A TV crew turned up to record all this; he’d always wanted to be interviewed but not like this. Then with an almighty crash, more cliff fell, taking half the house with it. The Council later demolished the other half. The footage brought Boz some celebrity, but also attracted the attention of a benefits adviser who had observed Boz moving a large TV with no sign of strain.
He feels cheated, robbed. On good days he sits out in the deckchair and waits for his luck to change. He stares at the sea wondering if it is friend or enemy.
KD lives in Edinburgh and writes for pleasure and distraction.
Multiply the number of groups of people you hate by the number of individuals in those groups. The sum equals the number of reasons, causes, and triggers for you to experience the feeling of hatred in your heart; not only at those times of direct encounter with those persons, but also in each and every moment of your life. Every one of those moments is a fertile ground for you to think about, imagine, and contend with those persons. Your life is literally a minefield you walk, constantly stumbling over the mines of hatred you have chosen to plant. You even intentionally run to those mines and jump on them, so great is your determination to hate.
You can never escape triggering the sensation of hatred, which is not pleasurable but instead is a sour current of misery and suffering you channel through every particle, cell, vessel, and organ of who you are. You have chosen to inundate yourself with hatred, a monsoon flood of never-ending ailment, all because you have decided that you have good reason to hate this group or that group. Your true joy has become a limp, lifeless carcass, drowned in the flood of your reasons to hate.
Some of us are passionate explorers of that barren terrain yielding reasons to hate. We expunge all awareness and memories of any possible goodness in a people, any hint or potential of worth or value, just so we can hunt freely for hate-reasons. We want the open-season without catch or kill limits. Whenever we come upon a flare-up of humanness, dimension, or texture in our idea of a people, fear and discomfort strike us as though we have encountered the beginnings of a forest fire. In the flush of this unsettling contradiction to what we seek-hatred-worthy characteristics in others-we reach for our water pail of mental erasing and douse the flame. We are here in this land, this place of strategic reasoning, to discover artifacts qualified for hating. We are not here to see beauty or worth. And so we kill with volatility whatever gets in the way of our expedition.
In the end, when you have multiplied the reasons for your hatred by the population size of your hated groups, you have unwittingly painted yourself into a corner in which you cannot step, look, reach, breathe, think, or even feel without stumbling over a self-chosen reason for hatred. You have harvested hatred and because your mind is magnificent in its power, you have accumulated a vast and burdensome harvest.
Now imagine a different harvest. Summon the Love you have for someone you hold dear. Experience that feeling of warmth and bliss cascade through your being. You have now blessed and baptized yourself in the endless reservoir of Love that you have in you, all because you have decided you have good reason to Love this particular person. Now you are drowning in Love, your joy a vibrant light illuminating this flood.
Ask yourself: Which feels better to my heart and soul? To hate or to Love? If Love is your answer, you are fortunate, for you have the means to fill your life and vessel with that which feels good to your heart, mind, and soul. All you have to do now is make another decision: Choose to expand your Love. That which you feel for that special person, people, or group, simply break down your stingy walls of exclusion and extend your Love! By nature, Love will flow anywhere you allow it. Like water, it will fill, soak into, and become the essence of all that you let it touch. It is the Bright Monsoon. All you need do is choose to Love.
Decide you have good reason to Love that group, and that group, and that one. Go crazy admitting more and more groups into your house of Love, regardless of their imperfections or the way they discomfort or challenge you. Become a stubborn Lover even in the face of those who scorn you. Become a seer of your Love’s roots in others. Become a graffiti artist with Love as your paint. Spray it over even the most desolate human souls. Beautify and resurrect them. Bring them to life. Your life of Love.
Eventually you will be able to calculate an incredible mathematics. You will be able to multiply the number of groups you have chose to Love by the number of individuals in those groups. If you decide to decimate all your walls and come up with reasons to let the whole world in, you will have blessed and baptized your entire life and every moment of your life. You will have blessed yourself with causes, reasons, and triggers for your heart, mind, and soul to be flooded with and experience the blissful sensation of Love. Not because the world came begging for your charity, its carts loaded with reasons for your Love, but because you chose to come up with your own reasons. Because you wanted to have endless triggers for your stream of moments in which you could not help but constantly, in your movement, thoughts, and imagination run into human reasons to let loose your Love. Make this choice and you will have solved the greatest calculus of them all.
A Soul Water Rising Publication
Essay Copyright © 2010 by Jaiya John
January 2010 Draft
This essay is part of the Soul Water Rising essay series. All essays in this series are archived and available at jaiyajohn.com. New essays are announced through our journal, Soul Blossom. Dissemination and reposting for educational and inspirational use only is encouraged.
While strolling down the main boulevard in Shigatse, the home of the Panchen Lamas, in 1987, I see only a few people and almost no cars. Tibet has just opened up for foreign travellers and back-packers some months before. Standing on the pavement, perusing the items displayed on makeshift tables in the market stalls, my eyes had suddenly fallen on a tiny text. The print is on handmade-parchment, fashioned in the age-old style of inked woodcarving. It is a revelation from many hundred years back, and its Tibetan title means Refined Essence of Oral Instructions. It contains the parting words of Padmasambhava as he is just about to leave Tibet, the master who is admired and loved throughout the Himalayan countries and now all over the world as being the main teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism. My breath stops and my heart skips a beat. The words are like hearing him speak to you in person. I buy two copies without hesitation.
Homage to the master. Continue reading
When and how did you first discover Buddhism?
Oh heavens! In a conventional sense I would say by accident. I started doing TM in about the early nineties or late eighties. I had a quite stressful job at Bradford Chamber of Commerce; lots of squabbles and small ‘p’ politics, that sort of thing. I got into TM as a totally secular thing. It worked fine. The mantra I used to do – a couple of times a day, twenty minutes – it did what it said on the tin. It was very effective for me. I did it for about a year and then … you gradually get out of these things. So that all finished.
Fast forward to about the early nineties now. I got a phone call from an ex-colleague of mine from the chamber of commerce days. “You used to meditate, didn’t you? It worked for you.”
And I said, “I did.”
She had seen meditation classes advertised in the Bradford Interfaith Centre. She didn’t want to go on her own. Would I go with her? Along I went. It happened to be Buddhist. Having been brought up Roman Catholic, and spending some 5 years in the Middle East as both soldier and civilian, I was pretty much au fait with Christianity and Islam but I knew nothing about Buddhism at all. So, that got me into it. And that was with the New Kadampa Tradition.
Again, I got very interested in that to the point where I became connected to their new Losang Dragpa Centre in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. In the end I bought a derelict cottage which was in the grounds of Dobroyd Castle – the original name of the Centre. Because they’d overstretched themselves with the initial borrowing, the bank made them sell it. I bought it freehold for £35k (the independent surveyor’s valuation) and sold it for £150k a few years late so I made a bit of money on it.
Things I learned while I was travelling in Dharamsala and Bodhgaya about the setup of the NKT in the UK made me think, “Well, perhaps we had to part company.” There was all the dorje shugden thing that you’re familiar with. There was this split with the Dalai Lama and so on. I wasn’t really comfortable with it.
Came back from my journey. A friend of mine was coming up to Samye Ling for Christmas/New Year. This was in 2007, I think, and I came up with her. Ken Holmes was the course teacher. I was very impressed. All though my experience so far had been with Gulugpa Tradition’s teachings, it wasn’t a subject that was new to me….….but all the lineage stuff is the same or similar in the Kagyu Lineage. But he was a really, really good teacher. So that’s what kept me coming to Samye Ling and finally prompted me to move here when I retired.
What was your first impression of Samye Ling?
Samye Ling, this was much more established than what I’d been used to. The usual friendly atmosphere, but being a bit long in the tooth I knew that, if humankind is involved, it’s not all sweetness and light. But it was very positive. Put it that way.
What made you decide to come here to stay?
I’ve got family connections but I’m free, single: my family’s down in England in various places. I was retiring…past retirement age so I thought, “Why not settle near Samye Ling?”
How did you come across the property that you decided to renovate?
Again, from a conventional point of view, by accident. On the last half day of the Samye Ling 2012/13 Christmas/New Year course, three of us went for a walk and we wandered up to Garwald; a mile and a half up a forestry track. We met someone who was known as Irish Tony living in a cottage, part of what could be described as a little hamlet – all owned by Samye Ling, as we subsequently discovered. We had what was quite a surreal conversation with him. Within about 20 minutes, the couple that I was with, and me, decided we would like to renovate a row of derelict barns; they would use two thirds of the row as a family home, and I would use the other third as a single person’s dwelling.
We rushed back to Samye ling and breathlessly related all this to the Abbot’s Assistant, Ani Lhamo. She said, “Well put it in writing”, which we did. That’s how it all started.
What was your very first action concerning the property?
A couple of days after arriving home, I received a phone call from the couple saying that they’d had second thoughts and decided to back out. They lived on the south coast of England and didn’t want to move so far away from friends and family.
Through Ani Lhamo I organised an official interview with Lama Yeshe (Abbot) to get permission for the build, which happened in February 2013.
To be honest, when I went in to see Lama Yeshe with my kata in hand, because of the enormity of the original row of barns project, I was half hoping he would say “No”. I felt it would probably be too much for me, both physically and financially. Lama Yeshe is a very wise old guy. He pointed me in the direction of the site where I’ve subsequently built. That’s how it got going.
How long did it take to finish the project?
From moving up there with a motorhome in April 2013, I moved in three years later in May. So, it was basically three years. That’s everything. That was to get the planning permission sorted, get the building warrant, get hold of an architect and then literally do the work. During this time, I lived in the motorhome.
As a rough estimate, how much would you say was your expenditure?
It’s hard to give you a straight answer. I must sound like a very bad accountant. It was difficult because I had some savings when I came up and I thought I’d have that stretched to the limit. But as I paid my way month after month some of it came out of my pension income so I wasn’t exhausting my savings so quickly. I’d discounted any sort of income when I planned the job. So, putting all things together I think it was about £65k. That’s everything…fitting it out, kitchen, decorating, furniture, etc, the lot. That’s not just the bricks, mortar and so on.
What happens to the property now?
I have a lease agreement with Samye Ling which gives me that piece of land and the house until I die and then it is bequeathed to Samye Ling which was the original intention; that’s what made it a good idea for me at the beginning.
Is there still an opportunity for others to develop a property in Garwald?
Yes, there is. There are three barns which, at the moment have bits and pieces stored in them. I was going to say derelict barns, but they are watertight presently and in fact, we’ve just renewed the guttering on them. The exterior is usable and they would make good single-person living properties with an open-plan living area downstairs and a sort of a mezzanine type bedroom. So, there are three options there. And there’s also that long row of derelict barns which I was talking about earlier. So, there’s plenty of options to do what I did.
What advice would you give to someone who in interested in developing a barn?
Think carefully. It might not be for everybody. You might not want to do it the way I did. Apart from the exterior stonework, I virtually did all of the rest of it myself. Luckily, I’m reasonably fit. I don’t have a building background but gradually accumulated a wealth of experience. So, I was able to do that – and I had a really good architect. If you’re the sort of person who sees self-build as a project management situation it would cost a bit more than it did me. But it would still be doable.
Physically what would they do? Would they go and meet Lama Yeshe first?
I would advise anyone to do what I did. See someone in authority in Samye Ling. The people I’m thinking of are Ani Lhamo or Lodro Dorje. Probably, they’d point you in the right direction. I’m assuming that it would then be the same process as I experienced. An interview with Lama Yeshe or Katin Lama perhaps and get permission to do it.
Did you have to take out some kind of insurance for this job?
Yes, I did. I took out building insurance…a conventional self-build policy. I got the details from my neighbour Steve Kent, the only other person who’s done this at Garwald and he built his house about six or seven years before I arrived. And I used the same insurance company as him. It wasn’t too expensive. I took out eighteen months of cover and renewed it as necessary.
As far as the facilities were concerned, did you have any problem with electricity or anything else?
No more problems than anybody else in a remote area. In fact, the infrastructure, the lines up the valley have been refurbished very recently. Whereas, we used to get power cuts every week it’s a reasonably rare occurrence now. To be honest, Scottish Power were brilliant with me. I submitted a plan to have electricity on to the property which had meters put into one of the barns temporarily. I had to move somebody else’s meter which was serving another place about a quarter of a mile away up the valley. I made my application. When the surveyor came, he was very, very helpful and he said, “Look you can do this temporarily much more simply than putting it in this barn.” And that helped me a lot. I’ve got a standard meter box which was literally stood temporarily on a couple of cement blocks and is now embedded in the finished wall.
Did you have any problem getting materials up there?
No, I didn’t actually. I had accounts with Keyline and Jewson, nationally known builder’s merchants, and various other organisations. Samye Ling regularly use them. The Garwald track is not the best in the world but passable. I got to know the delivery guys and it worked extremely well. There was hardly ever a weather situation when they couldn’t deliver up there.
I’ve absolutely no regrets and I’m really pleased with what I’ve done and I’ve been living in it now for eighteen months.
Tea or coffee?
Tea. A preference by taste is coffee but it scours me out.
TV or radio?
A bit of both. I like radio 4 but I like BBC television.
Meat or veg?
A bit of both but very little of the first. Once a week perhaps.
Folk or rock?
Well, given my hearing disability, probably folk.
White bread or brown?
Bath or shower?
Shower. I haven’t got a bath.
Rain or snow?
Snow for the aesthetics.
Dogs or cats?
Summer or winter?
That’s difficult. Spring.
Zips or buttons?
Phones or mobiles?
Cycling round the world or building a home?
[Laughs] With hindsight, I think cycling round the world was easier. It wouldn’t seem like that in people’s minds but it was more straightforward.