Author Archives: Satyavani Robyn

My grief & coming together

I feel nervous as I write to you – because I am exposing some of my vulnerability, because you might not agree with or like what I’m going to say, and because this is deeply important to me. I hope you’ll hear me out.

A few weeks ago I attended my first Extinction Rebellion meeting here in Malvern. I listened to a lecture about the state of our planet, including all the science. I noticed feeling a few moments of sadness at what I heard, and then I came home and got on with my evening.

My layers of denial were still pretty much in place. I have known the facts about climate change for a long time, and I always believed them in theory – I just didn’t quite see them as applying to me. I see myself as living quite simply, and so felt I was already ‘doing my bit’. I trusted that action would be taken by others. Or I just didn’t dwell on it. 

Over the next couple of weeks I read the Extinction Rebellion Handbook. My denial started to crack. As I read on, I felt shock, guilt and fear. Every time I sat down to read it, something made me weep. I began to lose sleep. 

Now, a month on, I am still deep in a process of waking up. As Kaspa wrote in his recent article, I also have a mix of feelings. Alongside grief for the earth and all her inhabitants, I am in lot of turmoil about what I am willing to surrender.

Some of this turmoil is about big things – will I ever fly again after the flight I have booked? Am I willing to be arrested in a civil disobedience action? And, if I’m honest, many smaller things are causing me just as much (if not more) pain. Can I still drive Aiko for walks on the common? How will I handle that person I don’t like at the meetings? If we try to stop buying plastic, will I never eat a vegan Magnum again?  

As a planet, we haven’t made the changes we need to because we are bombu. We are deeply driven by our greed, hate and delusion, and we are terrified of letting go of our big or little securities. These little securities help us deal with the big fears – of sickness, of helplessness, of the death of our loved ones and of our own death.

There is another way. We can come together as a community, a sangha made of many sanghas, and support each other as we grieve and as we decide on what we can do next. We can take wisdom and courage from the Buddha’s teachings. And more than anything, we can remember that we are held by the Buddha, who will be there for us even if we do become extinct. He’ll be there with us up to the very last second and beyond. 

If you’re ahead of me, if you are deep in this process yourself, or if you’d like to know more, I’d love to hear from you. Write to me. 

Sending warm blessings from the temple, with deep gratitude for our sangha,

Satya

Namo Amida Bu

Thank you

There’s a lot for the temple to be grateful for this year.

People have joined us here at the temple for practice, soaking our shrine room in nembutsu. Our Temple Task Force have volunteered for crucial jobs around the house and garden. Sangha members have offered talks to schools and residential homes, run study groups, led mindful walks on the hills, run a choir, run a Sunday school and helped out in a myriad of ways. We’ve sponsored a toilet in Africa and paid for various expensive building repairs. 

This makes the Buddha very happy.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed – whether you send us good thoughts or tackle the compost or contribute financially or wash the mugs up after service. It all goes into the pot.

We’re looking forward to a year of gentle growth next year – maybe you’ll be one of the newcomers or old friends soaking up light from our shrine room. We hope so. 

I’ll leave you with our talks from Bodhi Day – Kaspa’s is Sun and Clouds and mine is Sparkles.

Happy holidays, everyone. Go gently out there.
Love & blessings, 
Satya & Kaspa 

Sanzen times

Sanzen are twenty minute one-to-one meetings with Satya and/or Kaspa for a ‘spiritual check-in’ – you can ask a question, talk about your practice at home, ask for spiritual direction with a specific situation, or just see what emerges.

Email hello@amidamandala.com to book one of the free slots below, or if you can’t make these times we can find another time.

On the day either ring the bell or if you’re already inside go directly to Satya or Kaspa’s office. Satya’s office is at the bottom of the whole building (go down two flights of steps and into our hallway and the office is straight ahead). Kaspa’s is on the lower ground floor (one flight of steps down) at the far end of the building on the left hand side.

Namo Amida Bu

 

Wednesday 25th April

Kaspa Satya
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Friday 27th April

Kaspa  Satya
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Saturday 28th April

Kaspa  Satya
8.30am 8.30am
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Wednesday 2nd May

Kaspa  Satya
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Friday 4th May

Kaspa  Satya
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Saturday 5th May

Kaspa  Satya
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Bodhi retreat 2017

Our Bodhi retreat is the annual gathering of Amida Shu and a rare and precious opportunity to spend time with other sangha members, practising together, listening to Dharma talks and eating and talking together. This year it will take place in our temple in Malvern.

This year the retreat will be run by the Head of our Order, Dharmavidya David Brazier. You can attend any stand-alone days or the whole retreat. The rough schedule will be:

Thursday & Friday – services at 8am and 8pm. Morning and afternoon sessions – a mixture of Dharma talks, discussion and practice.

Saturday – all day continuous nembutsu with a ceremony in the evening.

Sunday – a ceremony in the morning and possibly a session in the afternoon.

Cost – £10 a day for food plus dana for Dharmavidya and the temple (a suggested £15 a day or whatever you can afford, whether that’s more or less).

Booking is essential so we can prepare to cater etc – email satya@satyarobyn.com with any questions and bookings. We have no accommodation at the temple – I have a list of local B&Bs etc.

Namo Amida Bu!

Free book for everyone…

Box of booksFREE BOOK FOR EVERYONE 

Yesterday I gave away a paperback copy of ‘Just As You Are: Buddhism for Foolish Beings’. Today I am giving away twenty boxes – or however many you want – through the magic of electricity & the World Wide Web.

You can download your free copy until the end of Thursday: 
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2ut1V6B
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2usMj2V or your own Amazon.

If you don’t have a kindle, search for ‘Amazon Kindle app’ for a nifty free app so you can read it on your phone or PC.

This book is intended as an introduction to our form of Pureland Buddhism, Amida Shu Buddhism. It’s for anyone who wants to live a good life but is tired of endlessly trying to perfect themselves.

Pureland Buddhism takes a realistic view of our foolish natures as human beings, and offers us an alternative to the ‘do it yourself’ self-help movement. With anecdotes of temple life and instructions for simple Pureland practices, the authors introduce us to this ancient and unique tradition of Buddhism and show us how it can make a powerful difference to our everyday lives.

Covering topics such as trust, overcoming suffering, grace, being kind and self-care, the book also contains the voices of different Pureland Buddhists speaking of their own diverse experiences. This book shows us how we are all loveable just as we are, and that understanding this is the key to deep and lasting change.

“This book will not give you a do-it-by-numbers self-help, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-effort ladder to climb. Here two good people have written a lovely book about faith and practice, which explains their own journey and many aspects of Pureland Buddhism in terms that are easy to understand. It will remind you of the love that is already there and the refuge that is already at hand. It will invite you to celebrate it and to do so in company with others similarly inspired. In doing so, it will welcome you home to a place of peace where all is completely assured. A wonderful contribution to the growth of the Buddhist community.”

– David Brazier

If you’re not a foolish being (or if you know any) please feel free to share it. If you find it helpful, that will make me & co-author Kaspalita happy. Also, we always appreciate short reviews as they do make a difference. Enjoy!

“I’ve found this beautiful book highly readable, it’s full of humanity. I wanted to learn some fundamentals of Buddhism and how to incorporate them into my life. Reading the accounts in this book have helped my own life to become more simple, more informed, more graceful…. And more forgiving and understanding of myself and others, which is quite a big deal for me, and yet the pages flowed through my fingers, the words never troubled my mind, I felt warm, inspired and encouraged by this book and my experience of living is richer for it. I’ll be visiting this book again.” Valerie

Join me in starting a short daily practice?

desk shrineA confession: I haven’t been connecting with the Buddha lately. I’m lucky to live in a space full of rupas and I attend three services a week, but on the days in between I sometimes forget the Buddha for most of the day.

I’m re-reading a beautiful book about contemplative ministry which says that the first priority of anyone who ministers (that includes you!) is staying in relationship with the Buddha. If we keep this connection strong, everything else will fall into place.

And so today I have committed to re-starting a simple daily practice, morning and evening, which will put something other than my own concerns at the heart of my day. The practice I’ve decided on takes a minimum of five minutes. I’d rather check in for five minutes daily than no minutes. This morning I did it in my office facing my golden Buddha, but it’s simple enough that I will be able to do it anywhere.

I know that Amida will love me whether or not I check in with him. But I also know that as a foolish being my life runs more smoothly when I get into good habits, and this is the most important habit of all.

If you’d like to join me in committing to a short daily practice of your own, or tell us what you already do every day, click here to do so at our virtual temple (let me know if you get stuck registering or logging on). I’ve said there what I’m going to do in my own daily practice. Do put some time aside to add your comment – it will help others to feel supported if they know they’re not alone.

Here’s where you can find information and links to texts and audio to inspire you to create your own daily practice. If you’d like some extra accountability, reply to this email and tell me what you’re committing to – I’ll check back with you in a couple of weeks to see how you’re getting on : )

Whatever inspires you, whatever consoles you and keeps you safe, whatever helps you to go out into the world and do good things – here’s wishing you more of it. Namo Amida Bu.

A busy weekend in the life of the temple

Peter and PoppetIt’s 5pm on Sunday. Roshi is chasing a pistachio shell around the kitchen floor – it makes a satisfying noise on the tiles as it skitters away from his patting paws.

In an hour or so we’ll climb the two flights of stairs from our flat up to the shrine room, where we’ll sit in a circle of chairs and listen to each other as we take turns to hold a stone and share about our weeks. The stone warms up as is passed from hands to hands, and so do we. This listening circle will be the fourth temple event this weekend.

Last night I gave a Dharma talk about a Buddhist approach to relationships. I started by proposing that suffering in our relationships is unavoidable, and then used the Four Noble Truths to look at what we can do about that. Energy arises in us in response to this suffering, and we can then choose to harness this energy and ‘do the right thing’ rather than just falling into compulsive, reactive or avoidant behaviours. If we can manage this, a Right Relationship will follow. That’s the cut-down-from-forty-minutes version!

This morning Acharya Susthama led our monthly family service – there were 25 people in the room including 7 little ones, a record. Little Selena helped her mum with the water offerings, and after the service the children all came down into the garden to visit Peter & Poppet bunnies, who were grateful for extra cabbage and strokes.

Then a real treat – some of us left the chaos of conversation, children & cupcakes in the dining room and came downstairs to the living room where Andrew Cheffings led 12 of us in the first session of the Pureland Sangeet Choir. We learnt 3 of the 1000 Pureland hymns he’s written this year (no, I didn’t type too many zeros there) with their sliding Indian melodies and devotional lyrics, accompanied by Andrew on tanpura and his partner Ian on cello (and Caroline on tingsha for the all-important ‘tings’ between Namo Amida Bus). There was a good sprinkling of laughter during the hour and a half we sang. I’ve copied some of the lyrics below and when we’ve practised a bit more we hope to record some of them so you can listen and maybe sing along at home.

By the time we’d come back upstairs the mugs had been washed and the room was cleaner that it had been before everyone arrived. The golden offering bowl was full of money and our hearts were full of the grace of Amida.

The temple enjoys both being full of sangha and returning to silence, as we all do. Kaspa & I will appreciate our quiet Sabbath day tomorrow. Then we’ll start looking forward to our Wednesday night service…

(If you’d like to be sent my Dharma talk on relationships do sign up to Amida Mandala’s mailing list of you haven’t already – if you’d like to receive news of events here tick ‘weekly local news’ too – click here.)

Pureland Nembutsu

Na-mo A-mi-da Bu,  I en-trust my-self to You,

In the garden of the Pure Land,

With the love and faith That of Your own ac-cord And through us, You will rescue all   beings-

Na-mo Ami-da  Bu, Na-mo A-mi-da Bu, Na- mo A-mi-da Bu.

Honen

Honen went out walking To gather fresh herbs.

The  Earth and the Pure Land Were One in his  eyes.

A rainbow of lotus flowers, A mountain, a waterfall,

A-mi-da’s temple a-mong the clouds,

And herbs that he knelt before- Namo Amida Bu-

And carefully plucked.

People brought flowers as offerings to his hut.

They saw the Buddha statue, He saw A-mida

In a beam of light a-bove.

Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu.

The light will work its own good work

Odilon Redon BuddhaAll weekend Kaspa & I were on a training weekend led by two experienced ERT trainers – psychotherapists who use their own bodies in relationship with their clients. This includes movement, paying attention to the sensations in our bodies, inviting our clients to amplify any symptoms they might have, and other forms of ‘conversation’.

We learnt new ways of working and we did practice sessions (using real material from our lives) with our fellow students. More than anything, the leaders welcomed us all and created a safe space where we were able to be vulnerable, support each other and discover new things about ourselves. This kind of learning can be pretty intense and often involves pain, sadness and other emotion as reorganisation happens at a very deep level.

Last night I slept for 13 hours. This morning I had a dream in which there was a young girl who’d been wronged somehow at work. I talked to her, accompanied by an expert in workplace legal issues. I started to explain at length to the girl how my colleague would help her, but then I realised it wasn’t necessary as the expert could and would do that herself. I told the girl she’d be safe with the expert, and handed her over.

The young girl was a young part of me that needs healing, and that hasn’t had the necessary resources to do so. The expert was the new knowledge (knowledge doesn’t quite cover it – something much more visceral, that includes courage and love) I came away with after the weekend course.

The realisation that I didn’t need to be the middle-woman between these two parts was a real revelation to me. The expert would be able to look after the girl without me keeping an eye on them both, controlling things. This phrase from Tai Shi Chih’s prayer came to mind:

“The light will work its own good work
If only we will trust it.”

How do we lean into the light?

This weekend I made an effort to drive to the course and spend time with people who also trust the light – not explicitly the light of the Buddha, but the light of the body’s great wisdom, which might be the same thing anyway. As I spent time with them, and in the sacred space they created, I was able to relax.

As I relaxed, the light got on with doing the job it knows how to do. Reaching the scared and wounded parts of me. Bathing them with care and attention. Allowing them to unfold and begin to give off a light of their own.

I hope you can catch some of this light as you read this.

The light will works its own good work, if only we will trust it.

Namo Amida Bu.

Getting-it-wrong and the Buddha’s smile

buddha-2Everything in your life is there as a vehicle for your transformation. Use it! ~ Ram Dass

We are continually presented with opportunities to grow, to learn something about ourselves, to be courageous, to be kind. I see these opportunities offered to others too. What I notice is that, it’s generally not very easy to take them. To say, yes, I will give my last piece of chocolate away. Yes, I will acknowledge that what I said was hurtful. Yes, I will see this deep flaw in myself plainly, as if through crystal clear water.

I know the theory. If I can let go – of my clinging, of my frightened habits, of my need to control and manipulate – then my heart will open up and grace will stream in. I block it at every turn.

The Buddha knows how we are. I can see him now, the golden one in our living room, sitting behind the red incense bowl and beside some last purple verbena from the garden. He is smiling gently, unperturbed by our comings and goings. Sometimes when I look at him, and the other Buddhas scattered around this temple, I imagine some gentle amusement in his smile. Oh, there she goes again…

Step ten of the twelve steps tells us that we should ‘continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admit it’. I think that this is good advice. When I am left with a feeling of regret, for example after a conversation with a friend in which I tried to fix them rather than listen to them, I try to say sorry. Continually measuring ourselves against the precepts shows us where we have turned away from the Buddha, and gives us the impetus to investigate what might have happened and why. It gives us an opportunity to make amends.

Sometimes I see my life as one never-ending stream of getting-it-wrong. This is what Ram Dass is speaking about. Everything that we bump up against shows us something new about our crowing ego. This is one of the joys of being a Pureland Buddhist. It reflects our deep experience, if we allow ourselves to see it, that we truly are foolish beings of wayward passion. It encourages us to use it if we can.

But when we can’t, when we slump into eating the last bit of chocolate ourselves, or letting off steam by slandering a mutual friend, or doing the terrible murky things that we sometimes all do, the Buddha just carries on smiling. He sees us – with a depth and an accuracy that we can only imagine – and he smiles his indulgent smile. Namo Amida Bu.