Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beautiful Lake, Inspiring Story

Yesterday was a lake/hike/swim/hike/swim day. Formerly Beautiful Lake, Buntzen Lake near Vancouver is a great area for outdoor recreation. And it's a marvel of early engineering to provide hydro power for Vancouver. The project was started in 1903 and continues to-day.

The project involved raising the level of the dam on Coquitlam Lake and excavating a 3.6 km tunnel to carry water from Coquitlam Lake to Buntzen Lake. The tunnel runs under Eagle Mountain, reaching a maximum depth of 1.2 km below the surface, and empties into the north end of Buntzen Lake.

With talk of tunnels I was reminded of Beyond the Pale of Vengeance.

"This novel is a compelling story of a Buddhist monk who undertakes a seemingly impossible task in order to fulfill his spiritual purpose to help those he had previously harmed. It shows how, in the process of converting his karma, he also transforms the lives of others. It is based on a true story from 18th century Japan." A story of personal 'revolution' and how one persons act can change the lives of others, as well as their own.

Phew! One minute to go before leaving for the ferry to Vancouver Island. Such kind and compassionate hosts. Thank you, I'll be back.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

With Basket in Hand

Never before have I checked in at an airport with a basket. A basket containing, essentially, a picnic! What ever was I thinking? But climbing up above the clouds, seeing the North Saskatchewan River snaking it’s way through the city, the sun glinting off the water, I was glad to be eating the picnic. Like in the olden days.

An aunt, now no longer with us, would tell of her early aviation adventures. “Yes my dear, we would dangle our legs, open up the picnic basket and have lunch”, “the wind blowing one’s dress you know…” “So VERY exciting”! “Yes, of COURSE, everything open-air”. That must have been the 1920’s. Later she was companion to the British Ambassador's wife in Peking. “Yes. I did learn Mandarin, one should you know”. And “This very nice Taoist monk taught me to meditate, in the bazaar.”

Everybody would benefit from early exposure to an adventurous, unconventional aunt and I had two.

As a young monk, visiting my parents, the same aunt called me to her room. “Now my dear, I’d like you to teach me to meditate”. The story of the Taoist monk came out during this interview. I did my best to instruct her and afterwards, to my amazement, she pulled out a five-pound note and gave it to me. This recognition from my bold and unconventional aunt, her act of gratitude, meant a lot. Later we had crumpets with far too much butter!

Let us remember those adults who came into our early lives and whose stories allowed for, showed the possibility of, a personal revolution.

Revolution: A drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving.

Landed in Vancouver OK, basket in hand!

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Silly Season

Some years ago I learnt to refrain from complaining when getting into a hot car. It's an almost involuntary reaction to exclaim, its like an over in here. Because it is! My priestly companion at that time had learnt to keep her mouth shut as a child because she, and her siblings, knew if they complained about the hot car there mother would start to complain. And not stop! Being such a strong taboo for the Reverend, and indeed not complaining a matter of maintaining family sanity, I too learned not to complain in sympathy for her. Not a bad practice. Why not try it? It would seem just about everywhere in the world is baking at the moment.

It's been a tad too hot for thinking these past days, let alone driving. There have been all time highs recorded here in Edmonton. Phew! What a Scorcher. That's the kind of head-line the newspapers in England would run during the silly season, with a picture of people frying on Brighton Beach with hankies on their heads to protect them from the sun. BTW, the silly season is "the part of the year when Parliament and the Law Courts are not sitting (about August and September)".

I grew up on the south coast, east of Brighton, near Romney Marsh and with recent talk of trains I remembered the summer holiday childhood treat, that never happened. A ride on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature Railway. Iain writing for Railway Roundabout remembers his ride on this train.

There are a lot of children around the world climbing into hot cars ready for family outings. Why not tell them about the complaining mother, and how and why the children learnt not to complain. Might make an impression on them, it certainly did on me!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ending and Beginning

These photos of the Canadian, which runs between Toronto and Vancouver, were taken in Jasper on the way back from the retreat in Lytton. I toyed with the idea of going to Vancouver on the Canadian however the cost, as well as basic practicalities, makes flying an all round better proposition. The ride through the Rockies must be quite something especially with those observation cars.

All curves and chrome, all the way from Toronto.

....pulling out on route for Vancouver.

With the closing of one door new doors show themselves. The hard part is to keep moving towards the doors while, at the same time, not knowing what's behind them....Boo!

Fear of the future.

And once through, what then? More doors, more choices. Then, looking back. BOO!

Regrets from the past.

Oh Buddha, going on, going on, always going on, always becoming Buddha.
The Scripture of Great Wisdom.

I've a ticket to fly from Edmonton to Vancouver on Monday afternoon.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Way Things Are

Long ladder needs loooong car!

It's late. Too late to do anything other than smile and sleep.

The Butterfly Effect

If this butterfly flapped its wings in the Amazon who know what would happen on the other side of the world! Or how fast.

I guess everybody has heard of the 'butterfly effect' which is the popular way to make reference to something really very amazing. Namely the Chaos Theory. The subject of chaos came up a few days ago when I was sorting out my emails and now it has come up again, in somebody else's household. And here's some tofu and potatoes research on the subject too. Read on...

By pure dumb luck I stumbled upon a butterfly identification site and see that this is an Atlas Moth. Not a butterfly at all. I see that the wing span is from 8 to 11 inches.

This photo was taken back in May while on a visit to the Devonian Botanical Gardens close to Edmonton.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rustling Mind

It’s evening time. The wind is getting up again. Huff, puff, and rustle, BANG! The house doors slam and papers fly across the table. And just as quickly it is still.  Save for the rustling trees, the humming fridge and sounds of children back in the play park.  

Oh, but that the inner storms would come and go with as much ease! The huffs and puffs are, after all, just as air moving through the mind, catching and flying the thoughts like papers in a wind. And like the storm, if sitting still is part of the practice in our house, just as quickly all may settle down. Save for the gentle sounds of papers falling to earth! The echoes in the mind and they fade too, given half a chance.

Come to think of it, listening to the echoes fade rather than drowning them out with more noise is an excellent practice. I’ll have to remember that. There’s quite a bit of paper rustling in my mind this evening!

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Hall of No-Form

Evolving Space has been to the Hall of Singapore.

Just Giver

On the Resistance Ferry (AKA Reaction Ferry) crossing the Fraser River at Lytton, B.C.

I've generally resisted retracing my steps. Anything re or un in fact. Un-picking, un-packing, un-doing, re-making or re-moving. I usually attempt to find a way around, if there is a way around. And to-day there was no way around. I had to go back and retrace my steps. But not with out some mental resistance.

I'd just arrive back at the car park having had a picnic lunch, some distance away, among the sapling willows by the waters edge of our local river. Then only to find that my mobile phone had parted company with me. Only one thing to do, walk back to the picnic spot. About 40 minutes there and back. It was the only place it could be.

I'll not treat you to the wild rationalizations as to why I need not go and fetch it, enough to say I went. But what spurred me on was catching sight of a slogan on the back of a tee shirt as it walked past in the car park. "Just Giver", JUST GIVER! On the front of the shirt was an Oilers symbol. According to the Urban Dictionary Just Giver means, To give it all you've got!

In Buddhist practice terms Just Giver might well translate as, "Do the very best you can". That's no small thing and my Master would often say, "Do the best you can, that's all you ever can do". She didn't say, "Do the second best".

To resist however is a very human trait and to resist dealing with the consequences of ones actions is also common. Looked at positively the arising of resistance can be the very thing that gets ones attention and propels one forward. And that's just what a resistance Ferry does . The power of the water flow hits the hull and drives the ferry across the river. The hull of the ferry does need to be skillfully angled to the flow of the water to drive it across.

Here is an old photograph of the ferry taken in the 1950's.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

When the Opposites arise

Will it ever get dark? Really. At this latitude, up here in Edmonton, it hardly gets dark at all at this time of the year. The birds don't know what to do with themselves and I certainly don't either. It's coming up to 10.00 p.m. and the sun is going behind the clouds. The world here is awake, alive and chirping. And so am I.

This evening I was taken on an outing to a near-by dog park, with dogs. Edmonton is blessed with huge areas where they can run free. They can even take a dip in the river, if they must. Doggie heaven. "Is that bear scat"? Bears in the city, surely not! Bending over, taking a close-up look. "Yep, that's bear scat alright". We walk on, a little more aware of the rustles in the bushes. Will it come out and 'get us'? Probably not. Bears tend to be shy and retiring for the most part. All the same, bears in the city, extra awareness and care is needed.

Bears shy and retiring? Maybe. But not shy, and hardly retiring, the other weekend during the retreat in Lytton, B.C.

A retreatant and I were having tea and cookies on the back lawn on Saturday afternoon. All was peaceful. We were deep in conversation about spiritual matters. The bugs were buzzing but nothing drastic. The temperature was rising up into the 30 c range, yet not unbearable. A rustle under a tree in the underbrush at the edge of the lawn caught our attention briefly. 'Ah, a deer resting in the heat of the day'. Then the fuzzy ears emerged followed by the long nose. 'A bear'! For some un-thought-out reason we continue to talk, although I did take the cookie plate into the kitchen. The logic being, bears like to eat cookies not people...

Time passed. Suddenly a noise from the bushes and a flash of white and a hollow sound and the bear was up on its feet. Our harmless fuzzy friend had not been resting but privately wrestling with a cooler. What do you do? You chase the bear away, shout, throw firewood, wave arms. Show your very strong disapproval. So our one year old bear lumbered off into the neighbouring property and the cooler, much chewed upon, was retrieved.

BTW. This story is an example of how NOT to behave around wild animals. And, once again, a reminder for me of how easy it is to become involved in the rights and wrongs, shoulds and should nots of wild animal law. Good story though.

Take care.

I once ventured to ask a senior of our Order what the extinction of suffering was. That's the fourth of the Four Noble Truths. He said, 'The absence of views'. This, of course, is linked to the final sentence in yesterdays posting. We are talking about the truth of no seperate self, not in theory, in practice.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Got diverted into backing up old emails to-day. This is miles away from what I'd intended to do however I'll be ever so grateful should Outlook crash or some other disaster strike in the future. There has always been that question in my mind. "Do I need to, should I, file emails"? Filing however is in my blood, injected at an early age.

In the days when we typist made carbon copies, sometimes up to four of them at a time, we would be filing mad. Or was it go made filing! Office work, making those carbon copies, correcting them, was a craft. Yes and now I think about it there was the use of the eraser, to rub out letters. That was before 'white out'. You had to rub, not too hard not to soft, almost scrub at the paper. What a life! Filing all of those copies. The contortions to reach up, down, around or even between the drawers of the filing cabinet. Trying to make sense of where to put letters. Hoping and praying you'd be able to find them again.

My laptop arrived soon after the Head of the Order died, May 2003. I still have emails sent from that time, scattered about Outlook. Filing has been low on my priory list, as if I had one. However I have 'backed up' from time to time, but that I knew where they were.

Today I did a proper job because in a months time I'll be handing on this laptop. I really do not want to transfer every single message ever written onto that clean new hard drive. So I've dead filed my sent messages into years-worth bundles and put them in a folder, 'Sentemails'. Zipped them, password protected them, sent them up onto the internet and copied them onto a CD. Copied my .pst Back-up file, password protected it, zipped it, sent it, copied it. The state of Outlook is not perfect, yet better than it was this morning. There's always maintenance work on filing systems but at least I'm not battling with stuck filing draws, or wading through eraser dust.

I had to smile. All through the day I bumped into the file name Sentemails, and I unfailingly saw sentimental! No, not filing for that reason more perhaps out of habit and a touch of natural pride. I love to gaze at a row of files, colour coded, nestling in their drawer. Seeing icons rowed up neatly on the screen isn't quite the same yet a whole lot lighter, cleaner, brighter than those metal monsters of my early days.

We have a blessing verse, it goes like this:

We live in the world,
As if in the sky.
As lotus blossoms
Above unclean water.
Pure and beyond the world,
Is the mind of the trainee.
Oh Holy Buddha,
We take Refuge in Thee.

Helpful to remember lest one gets over involved in the refuge of attempting to create order out of email chaos. Oh, and it is always so interesting to look up the meaning of words...

Chaos. (Greek mythology) the most ancient of gods; the personification of the infinity of space preceding creation of the universe.

We teach in Buddhism that the creation of the universe started with the first stirring of the discriminatory mind.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Provoking Thought

It's late in the evening, too late to write. Then I bump into this blog entry which has me thinking.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Happy Meetings

Well, here are the photographs I took in Taiwan last May. They do not even begin to touch the hairy moments of the journey, or the day of visiting temples with dear DurAn, or the heat... DurAn, wonderful monk, four month ordained charged with the task of showing me around with no common language between us save nods and smiles and waving of hands.

The nun we met had been ordained since childhood. She turned her rosary, constantly. I remember signaling, and using our electronic dictionary, to say something like, "I hope we are doing as well, when we reach her age"! We both could appreciate her commitment, and the hard training of her life. It was a happy meeting for all of us.

Temple grounds, Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan where the relics of Xuan Zhuang are enshrined.

View of the Sun Moon Lake, with incense burner

DurAn with 80 or 90 year old nun who takes care of the temple single handedly.

* * *

This image of Xuan Zhuang, our Buddhist Pilgrim of yesterday, rests in the grounds of a temple in Naruto, Japan. Behind him is a garden devoted to Kobo Daishi. "Is there a connection,"? Or perhaps the question is "why is this image here at this temple, in Japan"? The only connection I can find is that Kobo Daishi traveled to the town, Xi'an, in China where Zuan Zhuang was based, but not at the same time.

For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to this image. The traveling monk I guess.

Long and Winding Road

I have at last managed to return the photograph of the pagoda, taken by Nancy during her recent visit to China, to it's rightful place in a posting from over a week ago.

Here below is some information about the famous Buddhist priest associated with the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. If I have it right, the story of the priest Xuan Zhuang and his journey to India was told in The Journey to the West. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was both the starting and ending point of this epic journey.

And Nancy saw the actual scriptures brought back from this journey. Wow!

Travels of Xuan Zhuang -- Buddhist Pilgrim of the Seventh Century

Xuan Zhuang was born in AD 602. As a child he became already absorbed in the study of the Sacred Books of Chinese literature. While still a boy he was ordained as a Buddhist priest to the Temple of Heavenly Radiance in Hangchow, and soon there after was transferred to the Temple of Great Learning in Chang-an, a community of monks who devoted their lives to the translation of the Sacred Books from India. Listening to the variety of their interpretations young Xuan Zhuang conceived the bold plan to travel to India and bringing back more Sacred Buddhihs Books to China.

Xuan Zhuang traveled between AD 627-643. His detailed account provides the first reliable information about distant countries, terrain and customs. He traveled over land, along the Silk Road west toward India. However, the further west he traveled it became increasingly difficult to cross desert and mountain ranges. Of the Taklamaken desert he reports:

"As I approached China's extreme outpost at the edge of the Desert of Lop, I was caught by the Chinese army. Not having a travel permit, they wanted to send me to Tun-huang to stay at the monastery there. However, I answered 'If you insist on detaining me I will allow you to take my life, but I will not take a single step backwards in the direction of China'."

More here...

It turns out that last year I visit the temple in Taiwan where the relics of Xuan Zhuang are enshrined. And wouldn't you know it, the Silk Road that Xuan Zhuang traveled opened again on July 6th.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rest Debt

This recording is about the need to rest and renew body/mind and in order to spend time 'doing nothing', constructively, one needs be open to the possibility that this is a good thing!

powered by ODEO
The audio takes a bit of time before it starts to play. You'll know all is well when you see small lettering saying 'loading'. As it often says when dealing with Odeo, 'be patient'. And this is a very good, free, service too.

For those who are interested this was recorded on a portable source and then uploaded. Yes! This is a success. I'd be interested to hear from anybody who has listened to this recording with a dial-up connection.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Wisdom of Animals

Iain Robinson in Japan has been writing for 'Little House in the Paddy' for one whole year. Congratulations! Here is an article he wrote about his cats...

"When she saw she'd caught my eye she gave a whisk of her tail as if to say "What? The other human allows to do this!" like some sulky teenager. I almost burst out laughing..."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Will You, Won't You?

This is the pond where I put those three pebbles sent to me from England.
* * *

The Lobster-Quadrille, from Alice in Wonderland.

....(and then) the Mock Turtle sang this, very slowly and sadly:

“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail,
“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle—will you come and join the
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the

“You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out
to sea!"
But the snail replied, “Too far, too far!” and gave a look
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join
the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join
the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join
the dance.

“What matters it how far we go?” his scaly friend replied.
“There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The further off from England the nearer is to France—
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the

YES! We will join the dance.

Going on Home

We stand and gaze at Mt. Robson in wonderment and awe. This great mountain is so rarely revealed in all it's pristine splendor. Lofty sights pull us up, inspire. They point to that which we long to know and be.

Breathing in, breathing out,
Going in, going out,
Living, dying, coming, going -
Like two arrows meeting in mid-air.
In the midst of Emptiness
There is a road that goes
directly to my True Home.
Geshu Soko

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Onwards to Edmonton!

Last Wednesday evening I was packed up and prepared to leave Edmonton. Then at about 9.00 pm I checked my email and discovered that a house sitting opportunity in south Edmonton had turned up. This was an option I'd long hoped would open up, and it did. Just in time!

In the last week five of us drove for two days to Lytton (where it was very hot) and then drove two days back again. We had just a two night stop in Lytton for a brief, yet rewarding, retreat over the week-end. And now I sit typing in a very pleasant home in the evening heat of Terwillegar Towne. This house provides a place and a time for me to rest as well as catch up on OBC work that's been waiting in the wings for my attention. And hopefully in the next month or so I'll see some familiar faces from time to time too.

* * *

High Level Bridge Great Divide Waterfall. Sourdough River Festival in July.

I have been waiting to post this photo ever since October when I took a walk over the High Level bridge which spans the North Saskatchewan River. I saw a strange sign which read something like "Take care! Sidewalk slippery when waterfall is on". Please do read on, to be suitable impressed and 'amazed'

The Great Divide Waterfall is 210 feet high (about 24 feet higher than Niagara Falls). Water for the facility is supplied from a nearby 42 inch water main on the north side of the river. A special valve was designed to connect the water main to a 20 inch pipe leading to the top of the bridge. Extra pumps are used when the waterfall is running to supply the extra demand needed to maintain pressure throughout the water work system. Water pressure alone forces water to the top of the bridge where it enters a horizontal pipe above the bridge at sidewalk level. This horizontal piping is filled with nozzles, one foot apart, for a distance of 300 feet along the expanse of the bridge. The waterfall effect is created when approximately 11,000 gallons of water per minute rushes out through the nozzles. For a two hour waterfall showing the water measures approximately 4,600 cubic meters. The cost for operating the waterfall is approximately $2,000 per hour.

Glad to be back.