Author Archives: mandala-admin

Meditation Hut Project

We’d love to have a meditation hut in the corner of the garden. This will be a haven within a haven, a place to enjoy solitude in the midst of busy temple life, and a place for gusts and visitors to come and practice as well.

We need your help to raise funds for the hut and we’d like you to come and enjoy the space when it’s ready. Click here to find out more: Mediation Hut Project or on the button below to make a donation.

New Year Message from Rev Master Dharmavidya

David-Brazier Namo Amida Bu! Greetings to all upon the spiritual path. Peace to the world. Love’s labour brings peace.

This year has seen important developments. The Amida Sangha, through the wonderful initiative of Satya and Kaspa, and the Amida Trust trustees has acquired a fine house in Malvern, a beautiful town in the west of England. The house will be a temple called Amida Mandala and will house a small community as well as being a centre for visits and retreats. Our new and youngest Acharya, Susthama has been in action there already leading the Bodhi retreat under the eye of Acharya Modgala who has also continued to be active in a great variety of functions in London. Our fourth Acharya, Sujatin, meanwhile, has moved to Perth in Scotland and we hope to see some flourishing of the Dharma there in due course too. We also have new shu and order members and a new full minister, Shantikara. In fact in every category of membership of our sangha there are new arrivals. How wonderful! It is certainly all a great affirmation of how faith breeds community.

Personally, I have visited the Amida Sangha in Hawaii and conducted a number of advancement ceremonies, travelled to South America for the first time, making three trips this year including Peru, Argentina and Chile, and I have also taught in England, Scotland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, and Korea. I have spoken with prisoners, parliamentarians, therapists, spiritual people, school children, social workers. dancers, retreatants, and people concerned with death and dying, with drug rehabilitation, and many other forms of important work in society. I have also been able to teach in settings that were Pureland, Zen, Theravada, Chogye, and Tibetan Buddhist. From these diverse experiences I have learnt a lot. If one lives to the full – and I do my best in this respect – one is always learning. I have also gradually been learning building skills by doing small projects at my hermitage in France. I have also found some time for writing and my latest (and tenth) book “Buddhism is a religion: You can believe it” came out a week ago.

In the year to come I am invited to speak at conferences in London and in California which should yield more friends. We are holding a conference of ITZI, the International Zen Therapy Institute, in Spain in September – do come. I have also been invited to edit a special edition of the International Journal of Psychotherapy on the topic of “Mindfulness in Psychotherapy” – I’ll be sending out guidelines soon for anybody who might like to contribute. I will be continuing my travels, though perhaps not at quite such a pace as in the year gone by. We are each on a journey and the important thing about such travel, whether it is literal or just in spirit, is what one learns of faith and love along the way.

Recently i have been including the seven factors of enlightenment more frequently in my Dharma presentations and this has led me to see the whole issue of mindfulness in new ways, such that it might be better to express the original concept as heartfulness. It is the first of the seven factors and in a Buddhist context is a great deal more than simply a mode of attention and is concerned with much more than just the present moment. Really it is love and it is the foundation for the other factors of investigation of Dharma (which is really the action of compassion), zest, joy, equanimity, depth, and samadhi. These factors can be seen as things to do on the path, but really they are the colours in the rainbow light of Buddha that always shines upon us. Along this path we see such rainbows and then we feel filled with such delight that, for a moment or more, we forget ourselves.

Wake up! Wake up! the old man cries.
Wake up and doff your old disguise;
the world is new before your eyes.
Wake up! Wake up, before one dies!

Thus spoke the sage so long ago,
but we were dull and oh, so slow;
We did not think, we did not know;
and so we passed our time below.

Yet one fine day, by turn of fate,
we chanced back on an old locked gate
where yet the lock, in rusted state,
gave way unto the ultimate.

Beyond the gate rainbow light
made all the land so pure and bright
we paused, forgetting why we fight,
we saw a realm of sheer delight.

We were so startled, most just fled,
preferred to be the living dead
than pass beyond a gate so dread
that unto light and freedom led.

Wake up! Wake up! He’s still around.
His love’s not lost, it’s easily found;
His words though old are still quite sound.
Wake up! Jump free! It’s just one bound.

Thinking ourselves most important in the universe, we might suddenly take note that in relation to the cosmos we are less than a dew drop to the ocean. Thus we swing from inflation to deflation wondering which is correct. Is it hugely important what I do or is it a matter without the least significance in the greater scheme of things? Are the year gone by and that to come great steps, or are they nothing much? Thus, obsessed with the insoluble question of weighing our own importance, we make confusion reign. A dew drop cannot do very much by its own power and powerless is how we often feel. Between bouts of elation we plumb the chasm of despondency.

However, as Dogen says, every dewdrop, no matter how small, reflects the full light of the moon. The whole moon is seen therein. The dewdrop is in no way ruptured or harmed by the fact that the whole moon enters into it and appears in its depths. Indeed, the reflection appears as deep as the moon is high, although the dewdrop measures less than half a centimetre.

Thus it is with ourselves. Individually we are small, but in us is reflected a wondrous light and when somebody sees that light in us, it is not our tiny dimensions that they see, but rather the splendid lustre of that distant orb now made close by its being packaged in so minute a drop as we. We have our uses.

It is not our part to rival or displace the great orb above, but simply to appreciate its light bathing us and passing through, becoming apparent to others; and, in like manner, ourselves to see that same light in them. Indeed, if we look closely the reflection in the dewdrop is not limited to the moon, glorious as it is. In one drop is reflected the whole cosmic extent to which no limit is knowable. Infinity reigns in each of us without making the least demand upon us.

Thus looking deeply into another, one sees the meaning of all being, one is touched by what is most personal because it is universal. One’s concern with self-assessment is forgotten, at least for a moment, and in that moment the whole freedom of awakening is known. The moment passes, but the trace remains and in the remembering we find peace.

So, now the new year is upon us. I wish you all blessings. The greatest blessing may be that we go forward together heartfully, protected by the supreme refuge: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Namo Amida Bu!

Dharmavidya

 

Word of the Year

Kaspa writes: Around the time of New Year Satya and I, and a few of our friends, often choose a word each for the year: something we want to see grow within ourselves, or change, as the year progresses.
This year someone asked me if there was a word for the temple for 2015. When they asked I didn’t know what that word might be but during our New Year’s Day service the right word appeared to me.

Kalyanamitra 

This is sanskrit word which means spiritual friend. This is the kind of friend you can take refuge in: a friend who acts as a mirror when you need a mirror. who is sympathetic when you need sympathy, who is kind and who acts without ego.

In 2015 I’d like us to develop spiritual friendship towards each other here in the Temple. Not just between the residents, but also to all of those who come through our doors, or come into contact with us in other ways. We should ask ourselves – how can I best lead this person to the Buddha and to liberation?

Sometimes it’s helpful to ask this question consciously, but often as long as we act with the Buddha in our own hearts and minds, we find that we are naturally doing what is best for others. This is an exhortation to keep spiritual friendship in mind, but also to renew our relationship with the Buddha and choose him as our ultimate spiritual friend.

When talking about developing good friends the Buddha said:

“Beings, born, coming to me in search of a good friend, are released from birth. Decaying beings, coming to me in search of a good friend, are released from decay. Beings with the nature of dying, coming to me in search of a good friend, are released from death. Beings, with the nature of grieving, lamenting, unpleasantness, displeasure and distress coming to me in search of a good friend, are released from grief, lament, unpleasantness, displeasure and distress. Ananda, in this manner it should be known, how a good friendship, a good association and an intimate friendship, is leading a complete holy life.'”

The Buddha is the best possible spiritual friend. If we can reflect even a little of his light to each other, we are doing a good job.

A Pureland full of foolish beings

Kaspalita writes: There is a thin pink streak of light in the eastern sky. The sun is well over the horizon and that last thread of colour tells me what a glorious sunrise I would have seen if I had been up a little earlier.

The valley is heavy with mist; a few hilltops and the tips of the tallest trees stand above the almost liquid fog.  A little closer to me the fields and gardens I can see are covered with a heavy frost. Not for the first time I can understand why C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used to come walking here.

There is something magical about a morning like this one. Looking out to this view gives me a sense of a much bigger world, a world beyond my own concerns and even a world even beyond what I can see outside. Somehow the mist which covers up what is there gives my imagination the space to image what isn’t there too.

It is me looking out into this magical scene: me with my ordinary body that aches in the cold and complains when I eat too much at Christmas, and my ordinary mind that takes selfish concerns and makes them into the whole of the world.

And I am living with ordinary people. Although we live in a space which inspires us to connect with something greater (and I am sure that tempers the selfishness) each of us carries our own concerns and dysfunctions with us.

When I first moved into a Buddhist community nearly 10 years ago I remember imagining that I could leave of all my baggage at the door. Just by stepping over the threshold I thought I could become someone new.

I have become someone new – but that process was fuelled by all of the baggage (excuse the mixed metaphor) rather than despite it.

As we move into the New Year it feels important to me to remember both halves of this picture: the beautiful magical landscape and also the ordinary human beings that live within it.

It is all too easy to forget how beautiful the world is. We create our own suffering and our selfishness bumps up against other people’s and then turns in on itself again.

It can be easy to make the same mistake in the other direction as well. To only see the ideal and become blind to the suffering of ourselves and others in case it disturbs the sense of peace we have gazing at the landscape. This is another form of selfishness, harder to see, but equally problematic as what we don’t see piles up and eventually comes tumbling down on us much more heavily than if we had paid attention to it sooner.

I will make a resolution to keep the beautiful landscape in the corner of my eye, to sometimes gaze at it with both eyes, and also to see the ordinary foolish beings (myself included) inhabiting this landscape. It is from the relationship between the two that compassion appears.

Happy Solstice

The light and the dark are perfectly balanced today. The day is as long as the night. Tomorrow the day will be a fraction longer and we begin the move towards spring.

Yesterday around one hundred and fifty people came to visit Amida Mandala, if you were one of them it was lovely to see you. If you were not, then come and see us in the new year!

Perhaps it would have been more auspicious to have the open day today, on the solstice itself. Nonetheless as the light of the day grows, I hope the light of the temple will grow. Of course next winter the daylight will wane again, but I hope that the light of the Temple will keep shining.

All human institutions have their beginnings and ends of course, and some day our light will wane as well.

This light, the love of the community and the warm spirit the Temple generates (that I felt surrounded by yesterday), is a small reflection of Amida’s light, which is without beginning or end, and is not confined by space.

It is only our own greed, hate and delusion that get in the way of us seeing this light all of the time. It is always there of course, whether we see it or not. I hope that the Temple and the Amida Mandala community will help us remember the light a little more often. And the light is love.

Wishing you peace,

Kaspalita

Namo Amida Bu

How to relax – by Kaspalita

This morning I was supposed to be giving a talk on how to relax. I had the flowchart of the talk I had prepared earlier in the week in one hand (‘flowchart’ is the grand name I gave my few scribbles on a page) and a cup of tea in the other. I watched as the clock ticked towards ten, and waited for people to arrive.

No-one turned up.

I might have been disappointed (Why on earth wouldn’t people want to come and hear me speak?) but in fact it felt like a gift.

Satya and I have just been given a tentative moving date. In four week’s time (or perhaps five) we’ll be given the keys to our new home: Bredon House. It has been a guest house since the 1820s and is about to become a Pureland Buddhist Temple.

One of the things keeping me from relaxing recently has been the ever expanding to-do list of jobs that we need to complete before moving, and the anticipation of a continually growing to-do list when we move.

Years ago when I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance one of the few parts of the book that made sense to me was the advice that if worry about an outstanding job keeps interrupting your meditation, getting up from your cushion and completing the job might be the best course of action.

This morning, instead of giving a talk on how to relax, I decided to tackle some of the jobs on the to-do list that had been keeping me from actually feeling relaxed.

A few hours later and the garden is now ready to handover to whoever inherits this house from us, the contents of the shed are packed and ready to move, and I’ve started collecting assorted books from the corners of rooms and packing those away too.

As I closed the shed door at lunchtime one layer of worry evaporated  and I relaxed a little.

So thank you to whoever arranged the gift of a free morning.

In the talk I had planned to say how it’s taking refuge in impermanent things that keeps us from truly relaxing, and there was something of that going on in my worry about getting things ready. I had become attached to the idea of specific outcomes like keeping people happy, creating a beautiful looking space, and having a smooth transition from one place to the next without ruffling anyone’s feathers. With those expectations I was bound to become disappointed at some point, and part of me knew that – hence the worry.

If I can remember the spirit of the move instead, the compassionate impulse and the act of love, then all of those specific outcomes suddenly become less important.

The more I take refuge in what is not impermanent, the more I can step out of the cycle of attachment and disappointment.

Nonetheless, here’s to a smooth move and no ruffled feathers ;)

There is that dimension, monks, where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying; neither passing away nor arising: unestablished unevolving, without. This, just this, is the end of stress

The Buddha, Udana 80 Tr. Thanissaro Bhikkh

 

 

From Kaspalita’s blog: Letters from nobody.

A Wonderful Chanting Day

chanting dayThanks to everyone who came and joined the continuous chanting day on Saturday. It’s one of my favourite practices to take part in. People came in, people go out but the chant  continues nonetheless and I feel held by the whole group. Amida speaks through our collective voices.

Our next continuous chanting day will be part of the Bodhi Retreat, our annual celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment. This year the retreat will be here in Malvern. Do get in touch if you are interested in coming to the retreat or just dropping in to the chanting.