is now booked… for January 24th, on setting intentions. Read more here.
Namo Amida Bu!
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.
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,
Namo Amida Bu
We have moved into our beautiful new building and we are full steam ahead… there has been lots to do and not much time to update this blog, but we hope to spend more time letting you know how we’re getting on after a good rest in the New Year. We hope you might come and visit us sometime soon…
Thank you to Sanghamita Adrian Thompson for this beautiful photo of our Buddha in the shrine room.
Namo Amida Bu, Satya
A retreat and gathering. A time to practise together, listen to the silence, and listen to one another, A time to celebrate and explore the relationships that make a deeper life possible. In the history of Buddhism, it is apparent that the great majority of experiences of spiritual awakening come as a result of an interpersonal encounter. What is transmitted? What is released? What is the special quality that made Buddha hold up a flower and wink? What is special between ourselves? This is the inaugural retreat at the new Amida Mandala and, therefore, a good time to look into the connections that have made this achievement possible and upon which its future and our separate paths all depend.
For more information or to reserve a space contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be moving in this Friday the 28th… you can come & visit by dropping into our all-day chanting on Saturday the 6th of December, or we have an open day between 11 & 4 on Saturday the 20th of December. More details on events.
Counting the days…….
Namo Amida Bu!
Satya writes: Time is ticking on. We’re still waiting for a date, but all being well, in three or maybe even two weeks we will be moving into the new temple in Malvern.
We are incredibly lucky to have had lots of offers of help both locally & from our sangha across the UK. Something that’s going to be a bit more challenging for me is accepting all that help.
There are various reasons for this. I worry that people will offer us too much and then feel resentful. I don’t like to be in people’s ‘debt’. Accepting help makes me feel vulnerable and that I can’t-do-everything-myself (which is true of course, but I still don’t like to acknowledge it). I don’t trust others to get things ‘right’. And so on.
This resistance to being helped isn’t helpful for me or for the people offering their help. We human beings like to help. We like to know that we have been of use to people & projects, especially if we care about them. Different people will bring their own unique talents & perspectives to the temple, helping to mitigate our blind spots and creating something much more amazingly wonderful than the sum of our parts. Community is glued together by people helping & people receiving help.
And so my practice over the next few weeks will be gratitude – for the offers we receive, and for all the things people do to contribute to the project – which isn’t mine & Kaspa’s but OURS.
Getting better at receiving help will be one of the gifts the temple has for me. What gift might it have for you, whether you visit or are influenced from afar?
Namo Amida Bu _/\_
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.
Thanks 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.