Personal Stories

Black Friday

When you realize it’s black Friday

You are at home doing homework and your pencil snaps so you go to sharpen it but your electric sharpener is broken and  the next day is BLACK FRIDAY!!!!waiting and watching the commercials  and for once excited for the violence to start.Checking the clock every 5 minutes and you purposely get there a day early so you don’t miss a chance to fill your garage with products you won’t even use, but why not miss the chance of super cheap items.At Costco in the dark by the door with lots of people in line behind you just trying to get a flat inch TV for half the price .BOOM!!!! You check your watch and it’s 7:00  the time that costco opens and  you are  soooo close you can almost feel it and later when you are so close to a new samsung printer, but the women next to you  rolls over your foot with a shopping cart and you drop to the floor.You see a light  and you realize it’s the end but you gain enough courage to get back up and grab the last TV.Then you go get the bag of tomatoes and then get a new pair  of socks,water bottles and a new bed frame,but the time you get to the cash you pay the $50 but the cashier does not give you you change .Your are trying to rush out of there because you promised  yourself  to get to sephora by  8:00.Finally you say KEEP THE CHANGE so you get to sephora and go home.Your sitting on the couch just before bed and  you can’t stop obsessing over the new bed sheets you got for $5.You know your gonna have to wait another 365 days till next black Friday but it’s worth it.

Written when Mia Evans was 11

Interested in art, music, math, writing, science and environmental issues. Mia also loves playing on her ice hockey team and aspires to one day be a doctor.  Attends school in Toronto.  This was the result of a school project.

New Day

Me at 2 years old

Today we cannot do, behave, or think the same way as we did yesterday about tomorrow. Today is truly the first day of the rest of our lives. Yesterday’s actions, habits and strategies will not work the way they work before COV-19. The world is at war with this virus and I’m sure that we will unite together and prevail as we have in the past.

But not all is hopeless. Everything, or almost everything has a purpose, and although it may be difficult to see what good can come from something as awful as this we need to learn to adapt, change and resolve to overcome this situation.

Out of every problem is an opportunity to adapt, change and improve our life.

For those of us who are confined to home and have the ability to connect with the outside world through the internet, this gives us an opportunity to tidy up our environment … time to organize our closets, basements, files, hard drives, our thoughts, and our analogue world, exercising at home, walking outside, laughing, singing, learning, talking,  writing, communicating with each other.

We have the tools, the apps, the ways and means to improve our lives whilst going through this transition.

This too will pass.

We also need to help those less fortunate by creating lines of communication between friends and family.

We need to pray, meditate, exercise stay healthy and strong and overcome fear.

Now is the time for us all to find creative ways to improve our future together, to stop being affected by world media manipulation and focus on our family and friends, locally and abroad.

We have to be grateful for every second of every minute of everyday for all we have and more importantly the things we don’t have that we don’t need.

For years, now, my lovely wife and I have become good-will ambassadors, determined not to wait for bad things to happen and to appreciate the good things we have in our lives that we so easily take for granted. Things like clean water in our taps, fresh air, food in our cupboards and shelves on stores.

A few years ago whilst visiting in Florida, where the public were tense and worried about issues like ‘black lives matter’, I saw a Sheriff sitting in his squad car outside a Walmart. We cautiously approached the car and I asked the sheriff if he would help me fulfill a New Year’s resolution. He looked at me cautiously and I continued by telling him that I had resolved to never pass a first responder without thanking them for being here. The change in attitude and gratitude was palpable.

We’ve being doing it ever since wherever we go with bus drivers, baristas and checkout workers in supermarkets, everyone we come in contact. It is important for us to be kind and complimentary to all we  interact with and meet, especially first responders who are on the front line.

Try it.  It can save someone’s day and bring them back from  fear, doubt and uncertainty that we all have.

With Gratitude.

Norman, Toronto

Crazy Wisdom

First Thought : Best Thought. 

Wherever I am, wherever I go, there are many roads to choose from. And sometimes, one of them is the best.

 We are experiencing an amazing moment in history, a time to sit and meditate. In a country under national containment because of a world pandemic, many of us are staying home without any prospects about what is about to happen next. Probably, we have often missed the right moment to sit and to meditate with the thought that we don’t have time; but nowadays, the situation is one of full-time retreat for millions of individuals on earth.

Mother Nature needs a break from the non-ending frenzy of activities of human beings, always stirring the 4 elements. Even though people have much more time at home, it seems difficult to welcome this unusual descent into our deepest selves which is now offered to millions of us. Here is a dramatic but also great opportunity to work on our spiritual health as individuals and as a community. Day by day, humanity, scattered in many places, is sharing similar states of uncertainty and fear since Covit19 leads the show. Continue reading

REMEMBERING LAMA TSERING PALJOR

I thought it would be fitting at this time of year to remember Lama Tsering Paljor, a personable friend who passed away 6-years ago.  It didn’t take long in his company to realise what a genuine and heart-warming person he was.

In 2012 Donal Creedon led a one month retreat in BMC in Sikkim.  He taught from Tsele Natsok Rangdrol’s Lamp of Mahamudra, not an easy text by any means.  In order to retain some sort of equilibrium to the teachings which often left me confused with the complicated techniques propounded, I often found solace and balance in talking to the resident monk. 

I’m not sure how old Lama La was; he had that youthful appearance, which many Tibetans have, and a calm deportment that affected all who came in contact with him.  His easy manner of speech and his openness with others put them immediately at ease, and one felt that they were in the company of an exceptional individual.

During his time in retreat in Pharphing near Kathmandu in Nepal, he told me of his practice of tummo and how he wore three sets of wet robes consecutively and dried them with the heat of his own body.  This he performed in the winter. He also joined me in qigong, together with others early in the morning after performing his ritual offerings at the fire house on the roof of the gompa. We also enjoyed watching a film about Milarepa on the laptop and he would explain each part of the story to me, especially the power of his sorcery and his later tutelage under Marpa.

Lama Paljor also liked to demonstrate his skills in singing and dancing and once led an extended session of chanting the mantra om mani peme hum in the shrine room.

In his little kitchen at the top of the building, he made chai and offered sweets.  These times provided welcome moments of relaxation.  Lama La was a gentle man and enjoyed our company.  He showed us his photographs and it was surprising to see him stand out with his long hair and beard while the others had shaved heads.

To us, the first knowledge of his problems came about half-way through the retreat.  Lama La was experiencing a burning sensation in his chest and decided that he wanted to seek medical advice.  My wife and I took him to consult a homeopathic practitioner in Gangtok and he was prescribed various ‘remedies’, but to no avail.  He was later diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis was not good.

Lama Tsering Paljor passed away at 7 pm on 15 October, 2014.

However, he was able to travel back to Tibet and passed away amongst his family and friends.

Lama Paljor will be remembered fondly by all who met him and he will live on in their thoughts.

[See  Annie Dibble’s article published in Bodhicharya IrelandRemembering Lama Tsering Paljor.]

First published in Many Roads, October 24, 2014

 

THESE FOUR WORDS

One day you will express four words. And these four words will set you free. The words are: This Is My Truth. You will speak, write, sing, dance, laugh, act on, remember, celebrate, feel, dream, and live these words in endless ways.

These four words will clarify your relationships, illuminate who means what in your life. These four words will steady your soul, and introduce the false you to the true you. In the presence of the true you, the false you will grow insecure, unsure, and begin to fade away. Wounds in you will tenderize, then transform like snow in a warm sky. The healer you are will awaken and stretch its translucent muscles. This Is My Truth will be your ointment, herb, tonic, and ceremony. You will pray This Is My Truth when life’s tide roars against your cliffs and the pain of your tenderness extracts grains from your shore. This Is My Truth will fortify you in the storm. It will be your reassuring rainbow after.

Some misty mornings you will go walking into the woods seeking these four words. And you will find them growing wild in a clearing rimmed with tall, sage trees, and you will kneel in the soft moss of these four words and sun bars will bless your skin as you gently pluck petals from these four words and place them in your mouth. And the softness of their offering will soothe what trembles in you. You will learn to stay in wild meadows where these four words grow, and you will stay even as the world’s unwellness swells around you threatening to erase these four words. And you will chant these four words. And you will chant until they become your native language.

Until these four words rearrange your molecules and juice your atoms with their airy essence. One day, a mountain will rise in the ocean of your soul. And it will be these four words. And This Is My Truth will be your island, your oasis, your paradise. Your power. This Is My Truth will be your mating call. Kindred souls will flock to this song you usher, this aroma that is your atmosphere. And all the family and friends and unfamiliar souls threatened by your four words, and offended, and disappointed, and angered, and left unhinged and unmoored by the blaspheming reality of their own missing four words, all these souls will finally lie down on the soft savanna woven of your four words and they will weep a deep surrender. And their four words, already in them a seed, shall be inspired by your four words and your living of them, and their four words will stir, then sprout, and this great valley of souls will begin a legendary healing. And you will sit and rest your back against an old tree younger than the youngest sun. And you will ease into sacred conversation with all of Creation. And Creation will ask, What is your offering? And your sweetened soul will gather its eons of Love-harvest and it will answer, I shall offer this. This Is My Truth. And Creation will open and receive your offering. And your truth will open and flow profoundly into all things. And your four words will live forever in the breeze, the most subtle dance of pollen and sunlight birthing life, birthing life, birthing all this life.

Jaiya John
May 7, 2018 

PATREON

 

Tashi Deleg House: Yeshe Dorje

 

Tashi Deleg House Samye Ling, the oldest Buddhist centre in Scotland.  Summer’s end brings a breeze that blows the leaves from the trees.  Flurries of light rain precede a heavy, slanting downpour that drenches in 5 minutes the clothes that you wear.

The room we’re staying in has been refurbished with milk chocolate coloured walls and a desk fixed to the wall with a shelf above and on it an expensive silver angle poise lamp.  The room is pristine and from the window looks out to the café and the White Esk beyond fed by the swiftly flowing Clerkhill Burn.  On the bed I have my own pillow.  (There’s something not appealing about using a pillow on which possibly hundreds of heads have lain and dreampt.)

My sleep in deep and full of dreams, none of which I can recall.  Woke several times comfortable to the pattering of rain on the window.

My wife is attending the Drupchen Puja, a ten-day meditation retreat but she can do only two days.  This gives me time to wander about a bit and take some photographs, some of which I’ll convert to black and white/sepia for interest.  I plan to help David in the kitchen this afternoon.  He’s the official soup-maker and he knows his stuff.  Making soup is a learning process: he has his ‘secrets’ some of which are putting the onions in first and slowly frying in vegetable corn oil; adding herbs towards the end of the cooking; using celery at the beginning.

At 10.30 I still haven’t done my Chi Gong but after a longish very hot shower I feel relaxed and calm.

************

Related image

Last night read Carol Dweck’s ideas about the malleability of mindset.

Whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or things that are carved in stone…

The expressoion is that in a fixed mindset everything a person does is about the outcome; while the growth mindset will add value to a process despite the success or failure of an outcome.

Growth Mindset v Fixed Mindset

One interesting point she makes is about parents’ attitudes towards children and how their reactions can help develop a growth mindset.

Surprisingly, too much praise and rewards can have a detrimental effect on their development.  (I felt this when I was a teacher encouraged to make all students winners.)

From her book, Self Theories (2000):

You have permanent traits and I’m judging them.

V

You are a developing person and I’m interested in you development.

If you praise a child too much by always telling them that they are intelligent they become wary about doing anything that might change your judgment of them.  They might avoid the risk of failing and so inhibit their own development.  They may become slaves of praise.

Protecting children from failure has a negative effect on their development.  We have to be honest with them; and without criticism, tell them to try again and harder in a non-judgemental way.

Dweck mentions Benjamin Barber who divides the world into learners and non-learners. And Earl Nightingale distinguishes between “river” and “goal” people.

Goal-directed shows they must succeed in reaching a positive outcome no matter how they get there.

River types will throw themselves passionately into an activity, the activity being more important than the outcome whatever it is.

Water as a symbol for types of personality seems appropriate.

I sleep.  I wake.  The categories of types of personality dissolve in the dawn.

KARMA SONAM RINCHEN

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

STORIES OF REINCARNATION

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

ERNIE BUCK: AN INTERVIEW

 

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?

Brown.

Bath or shower?

Shower.  I haven’t got a bath.

Rain or snow?

Snow for the aesthetics.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs

Summer or winter?

That’s difficult.  Spring.

Zips or buttons?

Zips.

Phones or mobiles?

Landline.

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.  

 

 

 

 

 

The motorhome accommodation at Garwald which served as ‘home’ for three years; situated about 30 metres from the building site.

The first two scaffolding bays erected at the rear of the site and boards being prepared prior to knocking out most of the unsound existing wall in order to ‘rebuild’.

A skyline shot of the blockwork centre part of the walls up to roof height, showing the concrete lintels above the upstairs windows.

This shows a section of the ground floor open-plan living area – giving a flavour of the finished interior.

Ernie Buck is 68 years old and has lived in various parts of Yorkshire for the last 30 years. A continual commuting cyclist, he has done a number of long distance solo expeditions within the UK, but dreamt of cycling to India and beyond for years. 

KEEP SWIMMING

This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around,
I moved my arms around.

Loudon Wainwright 111 “Swimming Song”

Greatness in Small Things

After contracting polio as a baby it was deemed, thankfully, that swimming would be good therapy for me. So I learnt to swim and by the time I was eighteen months old I was splashing freely in pools, rivers and in the sea. It was and is a wonderful thing to feel fully mobile and free of gravity. It feels good to be able to let go of my cumbersome caliper and move swiftly and easily through the water. Ever since childhood I have swum regularly and now at the ripe old age of 58 I swim three times a week. I taught all four of my daughters to swim and I realise now that through swimming we have all learned a great deal about life from the art of keeping afloat in the water.

Continue reading

HELLO FROM GOA

 

AUGUST 30, 2017 in ARTICLESPERSONAL STORIES.

Hello from Goa, land of blue skies, sunshine and palm trees swaying in the balmy breeze. But lest you think that Liz and I are living the languid life of lotus eaters (okay, occasionally…) we are of course as trumped and brexited as the rest of you – but in true Indian style.

Luckily we weren’t here in November when the demonetisation policy kicked in overnight. It caused mayhem and chaos and is still not fully resolved. Basically there is still a shortage of bank notes as they scrapped the 1,000 rupee note and replaced it with a 2,000 note. That’s now £25 quid in UK money with the current crap exchange rate and if you try and pay with it few shops have change to give you or they want plastic money instead. Yes, they are trying to move to a cashless economy where hundreds of millions don’t even have a bank account or their own mobile phone. There are still unreported riots and violence and the poor have no money to pay for fruit, vegetables or milk. Unemployment has risen. Nobody can afford to buy locally built Hero motorcycles, for example, so they’ve had to close the factories. Continue reading

Each Morning You Awake…

Each morning you wake and begin your inner story about the day ahead.  Much of this story is a repetition of the thousands of stories you have spu in your life. What if you could birth a new story, completely untouched by your old stories?  Would it take you somewhere you have not been before?  The beautiful thing about you is that you are a storyteller.  The challenging part is that we are not immune to our old stories or those others tell.

Bless you for being a storyteller.  May your heart’s desires write the fresh new script for your mind to direct and your behaviour to act out.  May the performance be so moving that you decide to write a new play each morning.  The seats are sure to be filled with patrons like Healing, Wonder, Discovery, and Renewal.  The sellout streak will never end.  And friends will wonder how they can get a phenomenal life like yours.

 

From Fresh Peace:  Daily Blossoming of the Soul by Jaiya John

Bardos

‘Live and let die’, a reflection on the summer camp

Summer Camp 2018: 

I had my first experience of the Bodhicharya summer camp this August. It was a life changing experience in many ways. The theme of the camp was ‘Bardos’, which translates to transitions. Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, who I’ll refer to as Rinpoche from now delivered the teachings in a remarkable way. Rinpoche wanted to focus on death and dying, and managed to deliver his message via some core Buddhist concepts and philosophies, making this an open and accessible summer camp. I didn’t have much experience of Rinpoche directly until this week, and what I saw was a very relaxed, informal and benevolent human being. The way he managed to intertwine simple messages in his teachings was exemplary, messages such as ‘you prepare for death by what you do now’, and ‘the only possessions you really have are moments’. These little messages hammered home the hardest, and what is so great about them is that they are so accessible for everyone. Okay, so I don’t mean ‘Live and let die’ in the

I decided to take refuge as the week went on. I knew most of what this meant and what it involved, but Rinpoche gave us a lovely introduction to this and the Bodhisattva vows to really cement the process together. The whole session of taking refuge was enlightening and cleansing. Even though I had been practicing meditation and Buddhism for a few years, this really made me feel like I was properly on the path. The deep meaning and beautiful words of the refuge and Bodhisattva prayers gave meaning and light to the path. Going through the refuge process made me truly understand and think about the words in the prayers we say every time we begin our practice.

Rinpoche handed me a card with my Tibetan name, Sonam Gyatso, which means ocean of merit. Rinpoche didn’t specifically choose this for me, and he said not to read too much into this, which I agree with. I do like the name though, and I think it can also serve as a specific reminder to oneself about their own dharma path. To me it serves as a reminder that we must all go to the efforts of gaining merit through our positive actions in order to traverse the path to enlightenment.

My week was characterised by uncertainty and impermanence. As a fledgling to the Bodhicharya circles, I was learning a lot and was faced with lots of new and exciting challenges. My uncertainty usually changed to confidence through practice which demonstrated the power of impermanence, a key tenet to the Bardo philosophy, about transition and change. Everything changes.

Jay Rao is a member of the Bodhicharya London sangha, and lives in Watford, UK. He started meditating sporadically to improve his well being, and stumbled upon the London sangha after work one day, who helped him to improve his practice. Jay was born in Pondicherry, India, a multi-cultural and spiritual town with a blend of Tamil and French heritage. He moved to Lancashire at the age of four and his family settled in Sale, Cheshire at the age of ten. He is interested in world history, economic development and Buddhism and manages urban regeneration projects for Watford Council.

 

 

5 Reasons Jews Gravitate Toward Buddhism

In Jewish and Buddhist circles, there is the story of the Jewish woman who schleps to the Himalayas in search of a famous guru. She travels by plane, train and rickshaw to reach a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. When she gets there she’s shvitzing and exhausted but she is committed, and thankfully she is wearing sensible shoes. An old lama in a maroon and saffron robe opens the door, and the woman promptly requests a meeting with the guru. The lama explains that this is impossible because the guru is in silent retreat, meditating in a cave high on a mountaintop. Not willing to take no for an answer, she insists that she absolutely must see this guru. Finally the lama acquiesces while insisting on the following rules: The meeting must be brief, she must bow when addressing the guru, and she can say no more than eight words to him. The woman agrees and says a silent prayer that her years with a personal trainer will pay off and somehow get her up the mountain. After hiring a Sherpa and a yak, she sets off for the grueling trek. With hardly an ounce of energy left, her spiritual search brings her to the opening of the cave high on the mountain. Keeping within the eight word limit in addressing the guru she breathes in deeply, sticks her head in the opening of the cave, bows and says, “Sheldon, it’s your mother. Enough already, come home!”

A JuBu refers to someone with a Jewish background who practices some form of Buddhism. It has been estimated that 30 percent of all Western Buddhists are of Jewish heritage, and many of the prominent Western Buddhist teachers were born Jews. Here are five reasons why Jews are attracted to a Buddhist path:

Spirituality

Many Jewish seekers find that the Judaism they grew up in lacked a spiritual component with which they could connect. While many Jews today can identify with the cultural, social and historical aspects of Judaism, the spiritual dimension for many is significantly lacking. Today, increasing numbers of rabbis are acknowledging this problem. They maintain that there is a deep spiritual Jewish practice (through mystical Judaism and study of the Kabbalah) but that it has been inaccessible to the majority of Jews based on the way that Judaism is practiced in most synagogues across the country. Jews seeking a spiritual connection often find it in Buddhist philosophy where practices such as meditation and mindfulness are both central and accessible.

God

Because Buddhism in non-theistic in nature, Jewish believers in God, as well as Jewish atheists and agnostics, can find a home in Buddhist practice without having to compromise or struggle against opposing belief systems.

History

Jews and Buddhists have no baggage with one another, making exploration of this spiritual path much easier and more acceptable that joining a religious tradition where there is a history of conflict.

Open Invitation

In contrast to other religions, it is unnecessary to formally convert to Buddhism in order to follow this spiritual path. There is room for the decision to practice and identify as a Jew while embracing a Buddhist belief system and Buddhist practices.

Suffering

Both Jews and Buddhists share a deep understanding about the nature of suffering.Buddha’s Four Noble Truths explores this concept in depth, offering a way to understand both the causes of suffering and a path to end suffering. These ideas resonate with Jews who have struggled with a history of persecution that culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust. Applying a Buddhist perspective to such atrocities can offer many a path of healing.

As Jews continue to explore Buddhism and its practices, more JuBus will be able to discover the “OM in ShalOM,” creating a rich and fruitful spiritual path. Both traditions have much to offer and boast a rich legacy of dialogue and thought provoking debate to cultivate both wisdom and compassion and a whole lot of JuBulation

Reprinted with the kind permission of Ellen Frankel

Articles in her Blog by Ellen Frankel

Faith and Reason,

In my book, Scratching the Itch: Getting to the Root of Our Suffering, I hypothesized the reason for there being so many instantaneous enlightenments reported when reading about the life of the Buddha or of Zen Master Benkei.  I said that people back then were more open to blind faith, to the promise of religion.  Whereas today, people are suspect of blind faith and rely more on reason.  I think, therefore I am.  Also, the ego-mind is much more developed now than in those days.

Recently, in reading Montaigne, The Complete Works, he notes that if faith does not come from some mysterious inner source but instead is founded on reason, then that faith is subject to being constantly beaten down by competing reason.  Whereas faith founded on some mysterious inner source is inviolate, not susceptible to being pierced by the ego-mind.  Reason can be used to support faith, but not to give it birth. Continue reading

When No Place Feels Like Home

WHEN NO PLACE FEELS LIKE HOME

In SACRED WORLD by Cristina Luhmann11/24/2017Leave a Comment

Since I began this life of a modern nomad, one of the things in time you start to get used to, is the ability to detach oneself from things and material stuff. It becomes more evident when you stay one year or less in one place. At that time the feeling of home just doesn’t ring a bell anymore. The sense of having something secure is not there. We have to say goodbye to people and friends more often than not. We sell or give away our things so many times that after a while we feel like it’s a waste of time to buy anything. And the houses or apartments we live in always have this temporary feeling carved on it.

When I arrived to Congo, not having dishes, I just bought one of each and have to say I was really tempted to buy plastic or paper dishes, and just didn’t do it because of my environmental consciousness.

Don’t get me wrong this type of life has the ability to open us up, to give all sort of meaningful experiences, but what to do when no place feels like home and we know that all this is passing? Do we close ourselves trying to find that permanent feeling somewhere else? Or do we open even more and try to go with the flow, allowing everything to collapse without any safety net? Do we try to grab onto an ideal of something somewhere permanent, or do we accept that life as we know it, is this constant flow of changing conditions resulting from an interdependent flux of other changing conditions? What would you choose? I know by now that it is futile to try to find some safety in something that always. Change happens all the time; every second of our days, we are bound to change.

Our thoughts and emotions change in microseconds, what is to say about everything else? So do we bravely connect with everything and everyone around us knowing that all will change anyway? Do we flow like the river? Sometimes diving in its rapids? Other times following its gentle course? Or do we close ourselves in a dam with all the possible neuroses that may come from it? What to do when no place feels like home? I chose to open myself freely to whatever happens outside while being in an inward retreat, which means I try to protect my mind while knowing the absolute ridiculousness of dwelling, getting attached to thoughts, emotions and the dream-like world.

This is more easy to say than to do because most of the time no place feels like home and, as I try to follow the direction of my teachers, I have to be aware of the thoughts and feelings that kind of emotion brings and not go astray in hopeless depression.
One of the great Buddhist masters of the last century, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, said: “When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves to the entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self-protection.” The great Tilopa also said: “Have a mind that is open to everything but attached to nothing”
Though this seems that we stop caring about others, it is far from being true. It means to have a openness and a malleable mind that cares for others while not being over run by the whatever condition we face. The renowned teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche says: “Happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.”

When I struggle with this familiar feeling of no place feels like home, I find some comfort in what Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said: “When sunlight falls on a crystal, lights of all colors appear, yet they have no substance that you can grasp. Likewise, all thoughts in their infinite variety are utterly without substance.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cristina Luhmann

CRISTINA LUHMANN

I am a writer/blogger, a world traveller, a mother and a volunteer currently living in Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo.

Photos by Public Co, USA 

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[This article first appeared in Levekunst.]

 

Through the Gateway of the Senses

When we cleanse our perceptions of grasping and attachment, we experience a universe that is infinite, awakened, and full of delight. Francesca Fremantle on sight, sound, touch, and other miracles.

William Blake famously wrote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite, for man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.”

That purified perception, looking out into the “immense world of delight” that Blake communicated to us through his paintings and poetry, sounds very much like the sacred vision practiced in Vajrayana Buddhism, the experience of everything around us as a pure land. It is a realm beyond our ordinary senses, yet one which our intuition instinctively recognizes, and which comes upon us from time to time like a gift.

How is it that we have become separated from this realm, so much so that spirituality is often thought to be unrelated to sensory experience, or even opposed to it? A Dzogchen poem tells us: “Appearances are not mistaken; error comes through grasping.” In other words, the senses and sense-objects are no problem.

Texts such as these describe how mind can either rest in the awakened state of openness, clarity, and sensitivity, or suddenly feel afraid of such vastness, seeing itself as separate. This is said to occur “in the beginning,” but it is taking place at the most subtle and hidden level of our mind at every instant.

This is the root of all confusion, the moment in which grasping arises. Grasping is both internal and external. Internally, it creates the sense of an unchanging “I.” externally, it projects the concept of “other,” seeing everything as a challenge to its existence, either a threat to be overcome, an object of desire to be seized, or some- thing to be ignored in the hope that it will go away.

Having deceived ourselves into believing in the existence of ego as subject, we project a world of objects. In the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s graphic expression,we have “solidified space.” Instead, he suggests, we could dance with space as our partner. In this dance we ourselves are part of the ever-changing magical display of appearances, ungraspable, transparent, and luminous as rainbows, which arise spontaneously and unceasingly as the creative activity of space.

The buddhas, who remain always in this state, do not need the senses; they experience directly with jnana, the five wisdoms. These include the ability to see everything throughout all of space and time simultaneously, as in a mirror, and at the same time to focus on each individual part of the display.

For us, though, the senses are part of our manifestation as sentient beings, and, in the way we normally experience them, they are obstructions to genuine knowledge. Trungpa Rinpoche called them “unnecessary complications of existence.” Yet he wrote of another way of experiencing, in which:

All the miracles of sight, sound, and mind
Are the five wisdoms and the five buddhas.

For the doors of perception can be cleansed. Blake said, “The whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.” He gives us a clue as to how this can be accomplished in his much-loved verse:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy,
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

Infinity. Eternity. These are the words Blake uses to point toward an indescribable state where space and time collapse. Space (or place): the sense of location, direction, and distance. Time: the sense of flowing from the past to the future. These are powerful basic assumptions that we make about the world, but that in fact only limit our knowledge.

For we do not really know what the world is at all. We each create our own world through our sense perceptions and mind, with all its conditioning, memories, expectations, reactions, and so forth. When we look at a tree, we do not actually see a tree. We know only our own experience of it, arising from the complex physical processes of sight and the equally complex operations of our mind. A “tree” is a concept of our human consciousness. Blake would have seen its spiritual form, perhaps as an angel; this is an intermediate level, corresponding to the Buddhist sambhogakaya imagery. Behind that is the ultimate level, the totally mysterious and ungraspable aspect of openness, the inherent nonexistence of all that seems to exist.

Yet it is only through the senses that we can penetrate beyond the surface appearance of things. The Buddha himself gave a meditation on the senses to the wanderer Bahiya:

In the seen, there is only the seen,
In the heard, there is only the heard,
In the sensed, there is only the sensed,
In the cognized, there is only the cognized.

Meditating in this way, the Buddha said, Bahiya should realize that “There is no thing here … no thing there… nor in any place between the two. This alone is the end of suffering.” There is no longer the illusion of a grasping ego, nor any object that can be grasped. There is simply pure perception itself—“the miracles of sight, sound, and mind” that are the living expression of the primordial awakened state.

We can begin to move ourselves in this direction by focusing on the simplicity and immediacy of our perceptions—just the bare experience of sound, color, shape, smell, taste, and bodily sensation. Then we can notice the ways in which we obscure this directness: how we immediately label every sensation (how unsettling we find it to catch a glimpse of something and have no idea what it is!); how we continually react with attachment, aversion, or indifference to whatever occurs; how our expectations and preconceptions affect what we perceive; and how habituation dulls our responses.

But since awakening is our natural and original state, ego is not nearly as powerful as it thinks it is. our day-to-day experiences are never entirely confused. Although we may perceive the world in a distorted manner, even that distortion points to the reality that lies behind it. Trungpa Rinpoche often spoke of “natural symbolism,” meaning that everything points to this deeper truth of its own being. He said that the universe is always trying to tell us something, but we do not listen. or, as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in a Christian context, but in words so beautiful that they surely transcend religious differences:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flare out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed.

We all experience moments of heightened perception, when it seems the universe has a message for us, one that is filled with profound but inexpressible meaning. suddenness, the sense of being taken by surprise, before ego has a chance to put up its barriers, is often important here. Any of the five bodily senses can open this door for us. The sense of smell, in particular, is well-known for arousing deep-buried memories, which, if we let go and do not grasp at them, can open up the dimension of timelessness. such experiences are often intensely emotional, and we should not forget that in Buddhism the mind too is a sense-organ, whose objects are thoughts, feelings, memories, and so forth. These too can act as symbols.

Through the gateway of our senses, we can enter a realm infinitely wider and deeper, where the limitations of time and space dissolve and the whole universe is present in one moment, in one single point.

Forms are released from the constraints of solidity; floating in dimensionless space, they become transparent and interpenetrating.

Colors glow with a power that transforms our ordinary way of seeing, or draw us into limitless depths where the sense of self and other becomes lost.

Music frees itself from the laws of time, suspended in a beginningless and endless stillness, where every tone can sound simultaneously yet individually.

Physical sensation escapes the limits of the personal, so that one cannot tell where one’s own body ends and the body of another, or of the world, begins. We feel that we have touched some essence of pure sensation in itself. Because of our human form, they manifest to us as sound, color, touch and so on, but they really lie beyond the characteristics of the individual senses. The senses are its channels or its messengers, but they cannot contain it.

Marcel Proust is the author who has perhaps written most perceptively about this hidden dimension. In his great novel In Search of Lost Time, all the senses appear in this way. The most famous example is the taste of tea and the little madeleine cake, which eventually leads the narrator into the lost world of his past. He is overwhelmed by the power and mystery of the experience:

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory—this new sensation having had the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather

This essence was not in me, it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savors, could not, indeed, be of the same nature.

In the final minutes of Tristan and Isolde, Richard Wagner hints at this state in his music and poetry (words that otherwise seem incomprehensible) when Isolde perceives the essence of the dead Tristan as he dissolves into the five elements. First she sees him become a body of light, then she is submerged in waves of sound and billows of sweetly scented air. The senses merge together as she surrenders herself to the waves of pure sensation. she does not know whether to breathe them in, to listen to them, drink them, or dive under them into “the billowing space of the world-breath.”

Isolde’s final words, “highest bliss” (in German, höchste Lust), could even be seen as a translation of the sanskrit mahasukha, a Vajrayana term referring to the “great bliss” of the awakened state. This has nothing to do with our ordinary idea of happiness. It transcends joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. It is the ultimate form of responsiveness or sensitivity, entirely free from bias toward attachment or aversion. every sensation, every movement of thought and feeling, even those that we normally consider painful, can produce mahasukha. To experience perceptions in this way would be like making love to the world, which is indeed exactly what Wagner’s music suggests.

Experiences such as these are glimpses of awakening, which may reveal themselves to us unexpectedly at any time but which we are unable to stabilize and sustain. Indeed, in our present state, we could not bear such intensity for long. As George Eliot wrote in Middlemarch: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

That which gives us the greatest joy can become the most powerful means of letting go of grasping. This is why the intensity of sexual pleasure, along with the surrender to the being of another that it requires, is used in Vajrayana as a means to awakening. But at the same time, such experiences can bind us more tightly to delusion, as we grasp at them ever more desperately and try to repeat them, not caring who gets hurt in our search for satisfaction.

Nevertheless, our body, mind, and senses are the only means we have to practice dharma, and to develop sacred vision. Insofar as mahasukha can be experienced by beings in the six realms, it comes through the body and senses. The Hevajra Tantra asks: “Without the body, how could there be bliss? one could not speak of bliss.” Only the element of grasping needs to be abandoned. Then (and only then!), as the Guhyasamaja Tantra says, “By devoting oneself to the enjoyment of all the senses, one can quickly reach buddhahood.”

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