Sunday, April 30, 2006

Moving Days

Now I wonder how I ever managed, now that both computers are upstairs in the same room. No more all-day-long migrations from upstairs to downstairs and back again. Toggling between computers. Sometimes I'd think, "This is crazy", and "I've got to do something about this". Trouble was I knew it involved a huge upheaval. Moving a computer can be a nightmare of cables and connectors, and who knows if everything will work after it's been pulled apart. And there are the spare desks that need to find new homes. Worse, during a move, there is all that untamed office 'stuff', paper clips, staplers, elastic bands, labels (so many kinds of label) spilling over every available surface.

Today conditions ripened for a move culminating this evening with two desks being taken away in a U-Haul truck on route to become part of a young couples first new home together. Everything is working OK and the unruly paper clips are trapped behind a curtain for the moment. They and the rest of the rabble can have their freedom for now.

We would have upheaval days in the monastery, sometimes they lasted several days. Offices would be moved, people would move, furniture would move and garden carts full of stuff would be moved. During one such day I remember walking the cloister with a fellow monk who was a bit put out. Somewhat insensitively I chatted on enthusiastically about how good I thought it was because moving stuff brought the truth of impermanence before us. True, however my timing was poor.

Well anyway. Over the years I've grown to enjoy sorting and shifting, de-cluttering and taming stuff and then vacuuming up afterwards. All the same, there remains the tendency to put off making moves.

This posting is dedicated to those who are poised on the brink of a move. "Come on in the water's fine".
Oh, and good fortune to the couple starting there new life to-day.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Time for Thanks

Sifting through papers this afternoon I came upon this piece sent to me by a dear friend in Southern California. I think she included it in a care package, December before last.

A Time to Talk
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, "What is it?"
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
Robert Frost

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dancing Heart

I've been contemplating those times when a word or a gift or just a gesture reaches through the thin veil of the constructed self to a deeper level. Times when ones heart dances and ones feet skip forwards into life with renewed confidence. Here are a just a few such encounters that have surfaced into memory as I prepare a talk for Wesak on the theme of Giving and Receiving.

An early memory of a special gift was watching my Aunt Paddy spitting in her mascara and then applying the black goo to her eyelashes. It was the 1950's. She brought glamour and a wider world into my country girl life. Latter when I'd reached my teens she encouraged me to write, telling me I had a knack for descriptive writing.

In Singapore 1969, standing at a light box in Kodak's main processing plant. I was viewing slides taken during my overland trip from England. An Australian photographer gazes over my shoulder and we strike up a conversation. Parting he said, "Look me up in Sydney, there may be a job for you". And there was. (In that simple exchange I got what I wanted, recognition as a photographer, and then I could move on).

Twelve years latter, now as a novice monk. I'm walking on the cloister at Shasta Abbey. Miserable! A female senior passes and silently slipped me a few squares of English Bournville chocolate from her robe pocket. Instantly I'm lifted, not so much from the chocolate but from the message it carried. Years latter and I'm with the same monk. She is suffering. I say out of no where, "You know, if there wasn't 'letting go', life would be hell wouldn't it"! I just remember her laughing heartily in response.

I am sitting listening to one of our lay ministers giving meditation instruction to a room full of people. He is inspiring. The teaching is direct, clear and kind. I'm moved to tears. Hearing this one person speak so eloquently brought home to me the jewel that is the lay sangha. A realization of what they have to offer, and what they offer me.

So, back to getting my thoughts organized for that talk.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Who is This?

Does anybody know what this statue is? I thought it was one of the Japanese Noh Theatre characters, Hannya however I don't see horns growing out of her forehead as is traditional for this character. The statue is a simple carved wood one measuring about 4 inches in height. The hair which shades her eyes falls down the back ending in a point. There is a mixture of fine detail and simple single stroke cuts after the style of Enko. (Enko was a 17th century Zen Buddhist monk who carved with a hatchet and left behind an incredible legacy of carved Buddhas.)

Smile Please

Here is an item from an email sent out to priory members to-day.

Plastic Bags: As those of you who have dogs know only too well, plastic bags are an essential element in dog walking. Since bags are not in infinite supply could you please help by bringing your, clean and dry, bags to the priory for dog owners to use when cleaning up after their animals. I know the bags will be appreciated.

From right to left; Terry, Ned, Max, Chris.

Now and then all things come together, the sun's shining, everybody is looking at the camera, everybody is smiling and BINGO a great picture. This was captured on the priory steps late this afternoon. And, I had some plastic bags to give away too.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Children's Buddhist Books

To-day the priory received a donation of a book called, Buddhist Stories For Children published by Buddhist Churches of America in 1960.

While looking for an address to write for permission to republish selected stories on a web site I bumped into this site. It has Buddhist stories for children to download, they might be of interest.

The booklet belonged to a chap who is seriously ill. Spare a thought for him.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sensing the World

There is something special about the air this evening. I've just been standing on the front step after meditation, breathing in great gulps of it. Ahhh! Mmmm. Wonderful air, wonderful humid air. And the wind is up, blowing our flags against the guttering. That's our International Buddhist Flags strung along the length of the house at window and door height. I see that they're getting frayed as the wind snatches and catches them on the flaking paint. Ahhh, wonderful humid air. We might even be getting some rain soon. Perhaps a storm.

A chap came for meditation this evening. Together we stood on the step, admiring the air. He thought it even smelt clean. He could be right, the air could even be cleaner. Perhaps something to do with the extra moisture.

My discriminating sense of smell rarely comes into play, for the most part there is nothing that grabs my attention one way or the other around here. Nothing either heady and pleasant or heavy and unpleasant. Although there is a local wood mill that, when the wind is from the right direction, sends a cloying smell into this neighbourhood. It doesn't last.

Now I've traveled back to the morning, in Reading England, when it dawned on me I'd just committed to living with sewage! That is, the almost constant smell of sewage. I was outraged. The smell was in the towel I dried my face on, the bedding I'd slept in. Gusts of it blew in around the window and door frames mixing with the incense smoke as we sat for meditation. There was no getting away from it and I was just about to take on the priorship at Reading. A permanent position with a permanent, truly terrible, smell!

Right there and then I had to come to terms with the situation, and accept it. In the process I was forced to look, not for the first time, at how the discriminating mind works together with the senses. Wanting and desiring the pleasant, rejecting and recoiling from unpleasant. There is nothing like entering into an all consuming, all embracing, stink to get ones attention. I grew to be grateful for my time in it's presence. For one thing I learnt not to complain, make comment or draw attention to 'it'. Complaining doesn't make anything better. "It", by the way, is called the "Whitley Whiff", named after the neighbourhood most effected.

It is dark now and the wind is gently blowing a twig against the guttering outside of my room. But you should have heard the racket before we cut the branches! A monk once kindly said to me, "Where ever you are there will be sound". He could have also said; "There will always be smell, sight, sensation, taste...and thought". What we do with them is our choice. Ay?

Sense: The faculty through which the external world is apprehended.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Life of Buddha

"The Precepts embrace both the goal and the method of spiritual training. The Precepts are seen to be the method of training when we recognize our need for a refuge and an anchor in the midst of the changing conditions of daily life. The effort to keep the Precepts enables us to find this refuge and this anchor. The Precepts are seen to be the goal of training when we have so cleansed body and mind of selfish desire, ill-will and egotism that we live the Precepts naturally without feeling that we are restrained by them. To live thus is to manifest Enlightenment in the midst of daily life. The Precepts are active throughout our training in both of these aspects".
The Precepts, Rev. Master Koshin Schomberg

I mentioned yesterday I'd point towards some 'hidden gems' of Dharma. I guess I'm particularly interested because there are some basic texts from within the Serene Reflection Tradition, as practiced in the O.B.C., that I'd no idea were available on-line.

On May 17th we, in Edmonton, are going to have a modified form of the Renewal of Vows Ceremony. This is when trainees rededicate to keeping the Precepts as well as make a statement of intent to do so in the future. Reading the three files listed here may help prepare those who attend the ceremony on the 17th. And they may be of help for people who don't.

The Kyojukaimon and Commentary, Great Master Dogen and Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett.
Reading the Kyojukaimon and Commentary, David Powers.
The Precepts, Rev. Master Koshin Schomberg.

The article by David Powers was first published in 1981. At that time both lay and monastic practitioners were encouraged to read the Kyojukaimon and Commentary daily. I'd imagine novices are still doing their spiritual reading on the 'wing' in their spare time, as I was. Hum, perhaps that's a good practice to pick up again for a bit.

Our Scriptures

What a find! I'd no idea that all, or at least the majority, of the scriptures used daily within our Order are posted on-line.

The Dharma Cloud Trust is the web home for Rev. Master Chushin a priest of our Order living and teaching in Newport, South Wales, UK. So, South Wales is where you will find the scriptures.

Rev. Chushin has a special place in my life as it was through a friend of his that I learnt about Throssel. Previous to that I took photographs for a community newspaper he started in a Newport neighborhood. Latter he was the OBC Journal editor at Shasta, and I typed it. A long and happy association. Grateful to him for getting permission and then posting the scriptures.

This link was found by a congregation member in Edmonton, thanks Mike. And tomorrow there will be another link to a hidden gem of Dharma found by him on an Order web site.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In Search of Spring

Monday afternoon with no particular place to go and with the car radio on, I pointed south towards America. I quickly fetched up at an antique's mall in the small town of Leduc, 30 mins south of Edmonton. Leduc is directly under the flight path of Edmonton's International Airport, the main north/south train line run past one side of town and the main north/south road runs past the other side. A great town for train or plane spotting, most people just drive past on their way to somewhere else.

After a long wander in an antiques mall and a quick spin around a Dollar Store I followed directions to a lake, Telford Lake. Hiking briskly down the trail beside the lake there didn't appear to be much of anything going on in the wild life department and everything was brown and still. That's until I got up close to some catkins hiding their exuberant red new life. Spring is on it's way, bursting through in unobtrusive and delicate ways, easy to miss if you're looking for daffodil's!

Ruffed Grouse

Big Bird

Blue Lake

Flat field

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sleep Deficit

Yesterday I was talking on the telephone to a long time acquaintance. "How are you"? I asked. "Fine". "Well, fine except for a huge sleep deficiency". This had me wondering. Not enough sleep in the sleep account I guess! So how does one know? How to tell the difference between simply feeling tired, which I feel most of the time, and an actual deficit? (See also here for an article on the subject).

Last evening around 8.00 pm after meditation I was having jabs of pain in my chest, generally felt unwell and so went to bed. Couldn't have done anything else. Eleven hours latter I woke up! Now I know some of the signs of sleep deficit; and now you know the reason why there was no posting yesterday. From now on, if I've not posted by 9.00 pm I'll not post. That's my blogging resolve from now on.

It is so very easy to burn the candle at both ends. I'm beginning to see that this can be a form of greed.

A visitor from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition told me the other day that his teacher told him that 'greed' or 'desire' are not strong enough words for the first of the three poisons. He uses the word 'addiction' instead. I can understand why. And I can understand why one of the chapters in Rev. Master Daizui's book, Buddhism from Within, it titled 'Radical Sobriety'.

Yes, Buddhist practice is about sobering up, radically!

Uh! This is posting number 300, another mile-stone. And speaking about stones, how about that big one balancing in the previous posting? And for those who concern themselves, I'm much rested and fine.

Golden Rock (Myanmar)

I have often wondered where this rock was since I have received cards with it on but with no reference to location. Now I know, Myanmar formally Burma. Apparently this rock has been balanced in this position for hundreds of years already.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Temple Elephant

Jaja, a temple elephant in Sri Lanka, had been celebrating the Buddhist New Year the day before yesterday, and got sick as an...elephant!

Around about this time of year Buddhist celebrate the Birth and Enlightenment of the Buddha, termed Wesak. In our Order we tend to go with some time in May for our celebrations. In 1950 at the first Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (W.F.B.), held in Sri Lanka, they resolved that Wesak be celebrated on the full-moon day of the month of May and urged Heads of governments to grant a public holiday for Wesak. In the Gregorian calendar Wesak fall on May 5th this year.

In the end I guess it doesn't matter which date we choose to celebrate on, enough that we respectfully and joyfully honour the Buddha. Food making and offering, as well as eating, has a big place in this celebration and not only for elephants!

Found in Melaka, Malaysia.

I notice that Walter posted a poem to mark Wesak, on April 8th. Nice poem too. When I was traveling in East Asia last year I consistently managed to arrive one day after the celebrations. Here in Edmonton all of the Buddhist groups come together on May 6th, we will be there.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Jeweled Net of Indra

The point I was making in the article I just, mercifully, sent to the editor of a community newspaper was the infinite interconnectedness and interdependence of every thing; a universe without edges you could say. Thankfully there is the old metaphor which describes this truth. The metaphor, Indra's Net, is mentioned in The Flower Ornament Sutra, also known as The Avatamsaka Sutra.

"Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net's every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite".
The Avatamsaka Sutra, Francis H. Cook:
Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra, 1977.
Copied from here.

A few people have asked if I will publish the article on Community and I'm think about doing that. As mentioned yesterday, up until now I have kept away from overt teaching on this blog. One reason is that blogging is an informal 'come as you are', kind of format. Where as the offering of Dharma has a more formal, 'dignified' feel. So Blogging may not lend itself to passing on Buddhist teaching, perhaps the spoken word would be more appropriate, Podcasting for example. The Blog is fine for implied teaching, as Jim said in a comment "Teach without teaching", or something like that.

Blogging is characterized by the flowing of time. Each post has a time and date and an imperative to keep talking, keep posting daily. Daily life is where the teachings of Buddhism are put into practice, where one has the most powerful 'life lessons'. I feel my contribution, in this format, is to highlight this by talking about my impression and thoughts about stuff I encounter in my day. For example the truly cosmic experience of seeing real live Bison walking across a frozen lake! What did I learn? That the capacity to encounter existence with Wonder and Awe is a fabulous gift that keeps one humble in the vast scheme of things. I'm back to Indra's Net, always a great favorite with me.

Yes, I am in reflective mood, perhaps because 'what next' is hanging before me as we prepare for changes in Edmonton. A move to a smaller place in June, and my leaving in September.

Down to the Wire

These past days I've been working away at a very short article for a community newspaper on the subject of 'community'. The words have not come easily and it's taken more time than is spare and yet I've persisted. The agreement was to produce around 500 words by the 13th April and that's done, with 45 mins in hand! Deadlines are a blessing because they make one do something that otherwise would get put off until latter. And they can be a problem because of the very human tendency to work right up to the last possible moment before submitting causing a huge sense of pressure.

Writing for this blog is relatively easy, I type what is in my mind and the words tend to flow. Not so this article. The difference is I was deliberately trying to make a point about community from a Buddhist perspective. I rarely try to make a point of teaching while blogging. If there is teaching it tends to fall into place all on it's own.

My carefully crafted, 475, words will now 'sit' over night and be sent in the morning. What it must be like to be an actual 'writer' waiting at home alone for ones book to be rejected, again, I cannot begin to imagine. Next time a writing request comes I'll think twice and perhaps pass it on to somebody who can produce words faster.

It's been one year and two days since my first posting on Moving Mountains and exactly one year since arriving in Japan. Naturally enough I've been reflecting on what has been said here and thinking about the frequency of posting and future directions. Not a bad thing to reflect on ones actions from time to time.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Critter Magic

One of the monks sent me an email with several photos of an acrobatic bear. The antics of this resourceful creature deserve a wider audience. The photographs were originally posted here, an on-line journal based in Prince George, British Columbia.

While over on the BC coast why not visit Hornby Island where a webcam is permanently pointed at a Bald Eagle's nest. Apart from the nesting Eagle there's lots of bird song and general spring-time carry on happening in the background. While I have been watch the Eagle took off for a moment and revealed two eggs she is hatching. This is a very popular site and I am not surprised: "April 3, 2006 Here at Infotec we are counting over 2-million hits a day and an average simultaneous connection count of 5,000 viewers!"

Yes, I've had my bird song fix for the evening, definitely more uplifting than coffee and with no adverse side effects either!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Coffee in my Mind

Sorry to say I drank coffee this afternoon! Now my brain can hardly gather itself together on the page. I will be sticking to will(ingness) power from now on. Here are a couple of coffee related thought threads.

A monk told me recently about a chap who came to him for emergency counseling a few days into a retreat at one of our monasteries. He couldn't keep up with the schedule, he felt exhausted all the time, he had a headache to beat the band and was trembling all over! His problem? Coffee withdrawal. He'd gone from twenty cups a day, to none! Gosh, how they can mount up, ay?

The origins of coffee. The way it was told me, a goat herd in Ethiopia noticed his goats were dancing and then chewed on the red berries they had been eating, and felt pretty good. Fairly soon the word got out and a world wide phenomena was born. There are a number of different stories however I like this one the best so I'm sticking with it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Once Lost, Now Found

It's been three weeks since I registered my lost purse on the Vancouver Airport web site. And since doing that the purse has faded from memory. Lost, forgotten and let go of. This evening I received a phone call. "We have your purse!", she said brightly. "I'll mail it on Monday".

I feel like I have been given the purse all over again; wonderful. So, a big THANK YOU to Dawn and all the staff who deal with found items in Vancouver Airport, and airports everywhere. And I will certainly 'look up' should an item of mine ever get lost while I'm traveling. 'Lost' doesn't automatically mean 'stolen'. There are crowds of good people in this world who find things and who then take the trouble to hand in what they pick up. And thus grateful people get their stuff back. That's me this evening, a grateful person.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Neat Stuff

I love yard sales, car boot sales and estate sales. Flea Markets, jumble sales, auctions, charity shops, thrift stores, you name it. All wonderful places to find useful things such as things for altars, household stuff, fabric, linens, unusual tools....

Once in Berkeley, at a place called Urban Ore, a fellow monk found me an item used in ceremonies which would have cost hundreds of pounds, or millions of yen bought new in Japan. Seeing this gleaming item being held aloft and processed past beaten up old wardrobes and office furniture is a sight indelibly imprinted in my brain.

While looking around for inspiration for a posting tonight I stumbled upon this site called Jalopy Junktown. From now on it is where I will go and have a look around when I want to see neat stuff.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Flying Wood Bison

On Monday afternoon I drove out to Elk Island National Park to take in some open-air. The snow had mostly melted in Edmonton so I was surprised to find the trails still filled with snow and hard going. The main lake, which stretches far into the distance was white and thick with 'mystery'. Gazing out I pictured a woman waiting for her trapping folk to return, or stuck alone in a frozen cabin miles from anywhere, longing for company, any company. Being out in the white wilderness can do strange things to ones perceptions.

So when I spotted two black specks far away in the distance I became fixated on them with excited anticipation. 'Were they moving'? 'Yes'! 'Men carrying heavy packs - really big packs'? Gradually as the specks advanced, excruciatingly slowly, they developed into animals. Closer still and two male Wood Bison emerged, taking their long journey across the frozen lake, perhaps in search of grazing.

They were like two four wheel trucks in an invisible traffic queue. A couple of steps (were they testing the strength of the ice?) then a few minutes stationary. Then a few more steps. I found myself mentally willing them to move, to move faster, to get closer, so I could fill my frame with hulking great brown fuzzy beings. But the wild walks it's own walk and my wish for 'Bigger, faster, closer, better' made no impression. Of course!

Getting closer.

Close enough!

The person in the foreground is a photographer, ecstatic to encounter these grand creatures roaming free. As his companion and I retreated we fell into conversation. She told me about the thirty Bison due to fly next day, to Russia! Bison high in the sky, who would have thought.

There are warnings everywhere in the park not to approach the Bison since they are unpredictable and may charge for no apparent reason. They seem so heavy and ponderous however they can be light on their feet, it would seem.

So easy to be fooled by appearances isn't it?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Type of Truthfulness

Rev. Master Daizui served as the head of the O.B.C. from November 1996 until his death on 4th April, 2003. As a tribute to him, on the third anniversary his death, I have republished his teaching on 'Mindfulness' with bows of gratitude.

Rev. Master Daizui latter expanded on the text on mindfulness in his book 'Buddhism From Within' published in 2003. Here is a paragraphs from the chapter, 'Radical Sobriety', p 56.

"The essential ingredients of this practice (Mindfulness) are to pay very close attention to what one is doing, to be fully aware of it, and when one's attention wanders off to something else, to bring it back again. In the practice of Mindfulness, attention and awareness are applied without inner reactions to the things one is aware of. It is a neutral sort of observation of oneself and the world, uncompleted by thoughts, feelings, judgments, and the like. The heart of this type of practice, in other words, is simply to be fully aware of what exists, with nothing added and nothing hidden from view. This way of training is bound to assit a Buddhist with what he or she is trying to do: just to be aware of things, large and small, on a daily basis cannot help but lay the groundwork for being able to view the entire universe for what it really is. Mindfulness is a type of truthfulness; it is the truthful perception of exactly what is really there".

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rise, Great Sun

This afternoon I went out of town to do a House Blessing Ceremony, followed by a memorial for a young man who died four years ago. At the end of the memorial the mother read a poem by Kahlil Gibran from 'The Prophet'. There is no way that I can reproduce the steady depth of feeling and emotion as she read the poem, On Children, for her lost son. His three siblings stood silently listening.
this is an audio post - click to play

The father then read a verse, with equal depth of feeling.

The dew is on the lotus - Rise, Great Sun
And lift my leaf and mix me with the wave.
Om mani padme hum, the sunrise comes.
The dewdrop slips into the shining sea.
The Light of Asia
Sir Edwin Arnold

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dharma Games

"Learn important Buddhist principles while playing these specially designed computer games. They have zero violence and lots of Buddha Dharma"!

It looks like these games are suitable for children of any age. Unfortunately they are well beyond my ability to comprehend, a child of around six could have a wonderful time with them though. You will need to get Micromedia Flash Player and there is a link you can follow to get it.

Oh, and I see there is a link to download the entire Dhammapada onto a mobile phone!

Have fun.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Buddhas Disappear

'Being there' with somebody who is in a serious condition can be a cause that opens ones heart to simply give in faith. These are the times when 'Buddha recognizes Buddha and Buddha disappears'. Through giving of oneself with no expectation of reward the illusory barrier between self and other dissolves. This happens all the time, we just don't tend to notice. That's fine, and just as well too!

Dear Reverend Master,
On my way to work this morning, I came across an accident. A 4-wheel drive car had collided with a cyclist. She was in agony, barely able to speak and she started to keep passing out before the ambulance arrived. I just hope that she'll be ok. The poor car driver had simply not seen her. We had two medical professionals also supporting her.
In gassho,

* * *

Dear Friend,
Always there are the opportunities, that arise naturally, to be there when somebody really needs somebody to just be still. Mugo

* * *

Dear Reverend Master,
Yes, that seemed the most important thing to do, to be with the lady and holding her head, whilst her eye started to balloon out. She had no cycle helmet and I wonder if she had internal head damages. She was in a very poor state. It was distressing to hear the two medical people joke and laugh and chattering with each other. I tried to get them to quieten down.

We watched a film on BBC2 last night, 'How to have a good death' presented by Esther Rantzen. Similar episodes, to the one I encountered, were mentioned there. It made we wonder and want to help people during their life journey's end. Please could you add Leila, the cyclist, to your transfer of merit notice board. Thank you.
In gassho,