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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

Listen now: Compassion and the Five Spiritual Laws

Amitabha ThangkaLast Saturday I gave a talk called The Transformative Power of Compassion. I’d been reading about the five spiritual laws, a presentation of the five niyamas, and ended up using that model of the universe as context for talking about compassion and other Buddhist virtues. It might sound complicated, but I really like the model and find it helpful in my spiritual practice. I made a little handout for the talk, which I’ve copied below. Do listen to the talk though, the handout might not make much sense otherwise 🙂

After the talk we had a wonderful discussion on topics such as the fetters, and if it’s really possible to help someone. You can listen to both below.

 

Compassion and the Five Spiritual Laws

The five spiritual laws are an interpretation of the five niyamas, passed down to Dharmavidya by Kennett Roshi.

UTU NIYAMA: (non-living matter) The universe is not answerable to my personal will

BIJA NIYAMA: (living matter) Dependent origination

KAMMA NIYAMA: Karma is inexorable

DHAMMA NIYAMA:  Good ultimately prevails

CITTA NIYAMA: (Heart/Mind) Longing springs eternal

 

In Buddhism compassion is most closely associated with Karuna which is the wish for the well-being of others. Karuna is one of the four  divine abidings or four immeasurables, therefore it is outside of normal human calculation and unlimited (divine and immeasurable) .

Acting on Karuna, for the sake of others, has lots of benefits.

The giver and the recipient both receive something spiritual, as well as whatever material support is offered.

There is a reduction of selfishness, or when we find that we are unable to act on karuna, we are shown our selfishness, which is an opportunity for fellow-feeling and tenderness to arise, particularly when we realise that despite our failure we are still in receipt of the Buddha’s wish for our happiness, and nyorai’s blessing.

 

Listen to other teachings from Amida Mandala here: Audio Teachings

Living on The Edge

Kaspalita 1From our Saturday Night Dharma series.

Kaspalita talks about how we stop going around in circles and move to the edge of possibility, using as examples the Buddha’s life, and the stories of Kisagotami and Patacara two disciples of the Buddha who both suffered great losses.

P.S. You can find the paper by Dharmavidya that I mention in the talk here: The Distinctive Character of Buddhist Psychology

Listen/download mp3

 

Or stream the audio from YouTube:

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.

It Will Be Good

There was a really lovely atmosphere at our Saturday night Dharma talk. Lots of laughter and good feeling, and lots of chatting after the talk, which is always a good sign. Kaspa talked about what we have faith in, or wake up to. Inspired by the Lotus Sutra, Kaspa hinted at the qualities of fundamental reality, or the saving grace of Buddhas, and the deep significance of entering into relationship with that.

It Will Be Good Rev Kaspalita Listen/download mp3

Or stream (Audio only) from youtube now:

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.

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