Thursday, May 31, 2007
Ever since I've been back here at Throssel my brown hat has been lost and found many times. Other people have walked off with it, I've walked off with similar looking hats only to find it belongs to somebody else. If a hat goes missing I seem to be first on the list to check with. Did you take my hat by mistake Rev. Mugo? I've got a bit of a reputation for walking off in other peoples coats too, they all look much the same in the gloom of the evening cloister after meditation.
Sometimes I've wondered if the hat I have now is really 'mine', but that has all changed. On Tuesday, while fending off a cold, I occupied myself sewing in name labels. My brown hat was top of the list. All those items I least want to loose track of, socks for example, are now labeled as well. Now I can reast easy knowing my hat will return to me, eventually. Why, only this very morning it went walk-about and returned in under eight hours. It's a record!
So, when my hat went missing I broke out into silent song:
I've not-got that sinkin' feelin', now you've gone, gone, gone! But looking up the song I thought I was alluding to I find the lyrics are not even close. Ah well...
I'm reminded of a birthday card my dad once sent me of Wallace, of Wallace and Gromit, in the wrong trousers. Wallace had such a look of dismay on his face and I guess my dad empathized. Perhaps he'd put on the wrong trousers at some point in his life.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The local bee keepers destroy Hornets nests. In the film a Buddhist monk, who harvests honey each year by attracting wild honey bees to his hives, does not do this. Interestingly enough the wild bees were better adapted to protecting their hives than the European ones. They simply smother the scouting Hornet by swarming all over it and flap their wings to raise the temperature. Hornets can't take the extra heat and are thus effectively cooked to death.
One of the monks remarked how interesting it was to watch ones mind while watching the hornets wrecking havoc killing the honey bees and the general death and destruction depicted in the film. With my renewed audio awareness what I was noticing were the sounds. You could hear the munching and crunching and buzzing. I was wondering how on earth the film crew managed to catch the sounds, or were they sound effects...
I'm not sure why in particular these hornets, and the film, grabbed my attention. I do however now remember that the monk in the film had been attacked by a swarm of the Giant Hornets as a child and survived. Now each year he seems to seek out the all important Queen who, early in the season, feeds on tree sap and is easy to spot. He could have been afraid of them, he could at least keep his distance but actually he appears to loves them as he loves the wild honey bees too.
Interesting the choices we can make in life, and how choices in the natural world are few.
Monday, May 28, 2007
The German documentarist Philip Groening waited patiently for 13 years before the Carthusian monastery of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps near Grenoble invited him to make a film about their lives, laying down the conditions that there should be no artificial light, no music (other than their own Gregorian chants), no interviews, no commentary and no accompanying crew. The result is the 164-minute Into Great Silence, a meditation on lives given over to poverty, prayer and solitude. It's an experience from within a repetitive, spiritual existence, rather than an explanatory, exploratory documentary. Groening lived in a cell of his own for a total of four months, covering all seasons, communicating with the monks through letters, shooting 120 hours of material, and in an almost God-like way working as director, producer, scriptwriter, cinematographer, sound recordist and film editor. Read more...
With heightened awareness in the audio department I went for a walk after the film finished and heard such squawking from the bushes. A nest of tiny orphaned birds, most likely destined to die very fast. We think the mother has been eaten...probably Smudge our cloister cat. Spare a thought.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
In the Crimean War British, French and Russians at quiet times also gathered around the same fire, smoking and drinking. In the American Civil War Yankees and Rebels traded tobacco, coffee and newspapers, fished peacefully on opposite sides of the same stream and even collected wild blackberries together. Similar stories are told of the Boer War, in which on one occasion, during a conference of commanders, the rank and file of both sides engaged in a friendly game of football.Read more on the BBC News Web site.
Somehow these stories engender hope.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I stepped across the yard to take a look at our garden. Kanzeon is very low to the ground, in fact the statue is standing directly on the earth. Strictly speaking one would raise it up out of reverence and respect. My guess is that this little patch remains as it is out of respect and remembrance of the person who cared for it, who is no longer resident here. Could be wrong.
Friday, May 25, 2007
For anybody familiar with the writings of Zen Master Dogen you will know what 'Not Two' is referring to. Basically it is pointing towards the non duality of practice and enlightenment. I'm just having a bit of fun with these photos of the sheep and her lamb and the captions. Nothing deep or significant I can assure you. Not everything is teaching, although everything can teach!
On previous visits to the Hermitage in Wales the hill sheep were in a sad state of health. They were basically neglected and it was not uncommon to come across sheep and lambs dying slowly from 'fly strike' or some other difficulty due to a weakened system. You can look up fly strike if you really want to. Believe me, it is not a nice way to go. However on this visit I was so glad to find the sheep well and well cared for. So the stress of being surrounded by sick animals was pleasantly absent.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The hermit hut is for Ryokan a microcosm of life and the universe: "last year a foolish monk, this year no different." It is the setting for the cycle of being which he so sensitively portrays in his poetry.
My life is like an old run-down hermitage
poor, simple, quiet.
A thought: If the hermit Ryokan is so closely identified with his hut he could speak of his hut weeping (the rain coming in) and soaking his book. Just a thought...
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
A pair of gay flamingos have become foster parents after taking an abandoned chick under their wings. Carlos and Fernando had been so desperate to start a family that they had resorted to stealing eggs at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. Read on...
All credit to Jonny of Do They Hurt for this link. Thanks.
Monday, May 21, 2007
A couple of proselytising persons had found their way to the isolated cottage where I was staying these past couple of weeks. They had come in a large 4 x 4 with a spiritual mission, and I accepted that. They looked like regular folk. But how to answer the question? It was one of those moment when the mind goes literal. HAD I thought about the state of the world? Recently?
My answer, not thought through and following quickly on the heels of the question. Uh! sorry I'm really very busy with something inside. I excused myself and went indoors and they turned and left, no hard feelings. It was the best I could do at the time. I'd excused myself from the inevitable debate, politely and respectfully I hope. There was not an intention to deceive or to tell an untruth yet all the same, looked at from a certain perspective, I'd not been completely truthful.
The end of the poem that has been posted these past couple of weeks has the protagonist telling a fib. Moved by profound emotion while reading, his tears had soaked the book. A neighbour came by and asked about the wet book. Our friend said the rain had come in during the night and soaked it.
Actions, such as my response, are not without consequence of course, however the basic guiding principle is to do as little harm as possible and intention is paramount in terms of keeping the precepts. In a way the above two examples are about saving both self and other from lengthy explanations about subtle matters, which are difficult to negotiate at the best of times even with like minded listeners.
We will just have to continue to sit balanced on the tip of the sword of justice. This is not a comfortable place, as any parent with small children know only too well! Maturing to spiritual adulthood is our task.
Thanks to Miles for raising the question about truthfulness of speech, an important question.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
When there is no place
that you have decided
to call your own
then no matter where you go
you are always heading home.
I've had this quote beside me while I've been away. Now back at Throssel, where I'm able to look up the author on line, I discover he was both a Buddhist priest and designer of Japanese gardens. As coincidence would have it the book, The Art of the Japanese Garden, written by two Edmonton congregation members is advertised in the above link to Muso.
Good to be back.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
On a somber spring evening around midnight,
Rain mixed with snow sprinkled on the bamboos in the garden.
I wanted to ease my loneliness but it was quite impossible.
My hand reached behind me for the Record of Eihei Dogen.
Beneath the open window at my desk,
I offered incense, lit a lamp, and quietly read.
Body and mind dropping away is simply the upright truth.
In one thousand postures, ten thousand appearances, a dragon toys with the jewel.
His understanding beyond conditioned patterns cleans up the current corruptions;
The ancient great master’s style reflects the image of India.
I remember the old days when I lived in Entsu Monastery
And my late teacher lectured on the True Dharma Eye.
At that time there was an occasion to turn myself around,
So I requested permission to read it, and studied it intimately.
I keenly felt that until then I had depended merely on my own ability.
After that I left my teacher and wandered all over.
Between Dogen and myself what relationship is there?
Everywhere I went I devotedly practiced the true dharma eye.
Arriving at the depths and arriving at the vehicle—how many times?
Inside this teaching, other’s never any shortcoming.
Thus I thoroughly studied the master of all things.
Now when I take the Record of Eihei Dogen and examine it,
The tone does not harmonize well with usual beliefs.
Nobody has asked whether it is a jewel or a pebble.
For five hundred years it’s been covered with dust
just because no one has had an eye for recognizing dharma.
For whom was all his eloquence expounded?
Longing for ancient times and grieving for the present, my heart is exhausted.
One evening sitting by the lamp my tears wouldn’t stop,
and soaked into the records of the ancient Buddha Eihei.
In the morning the old man next door came to my thatched hut.
He asked me why the book was damp.
I wanted to speak but didn’t as I was deeply embarrassed;
My mind deeply distressed, it was impossible to give an explanation.
I dropped my head for a while, then found some words.
“Last nights’ rain leaked in and drenched my bookcase.”
Translated by Daniel Leighton and Kazuaki Tanahashi
Copied from Moon in a Dewdrop, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi
Friday, May 18, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Monday, May 07, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
This photograph was taken last October/November at the Westmoreland Service Station on the M6 Motorway, southbound. It has absolutley nothing to do with the text that follows! I just like the picture.
I was up late last night preparing the postings for the coming two weeks. Reviewing them this morning I realized that some of the photographs connect with the text. In some cases that is intentional and others it was pure accident. Where the connection seems a bit strange please know, there isn't one! There is always a danger when words and photographs are used together and my hope is the pictures and text together convey, contemplation, joy, gratitude, humility and all those qualities that come of themselves when one just sits. In fact, just use your visit as an opportunity to just sit. That's what I'll be doing for the next little while.
I'll study Dogen's works while on retreat. This is something I've not done in great depth because I've tended to feel, likes so many, that he is too difficult to understand. As you will see as the poem by Zen Master Ryokan develops, Dogen was neglected for centuries and only relatively recently been recognized widely. That's as a great innovative thinker and a radical in his approach to Mahayana Buddhism. I'm with him already!