The Importance of Practice

    Categories: buddhism

    By Kaspa

    I thought of a really good analogy for practice, with human beings being represented by solar systems and the planets being our bad habits and the sun being our self-concern. I started writing it out and it all sounded so complicated! Maybe I’ll try and present it another time. Today I’ll share a more personal account of practice.

    Around fifteen years ago on a Buddhist retreat, in a shared mediation exercise, I looked deep inside my heart and noticed a black hole. I had a deep intuitive sense that this image was showing me both my depression, and hinting at the sense of worthlessness at the bottom of that hole that the depression was feeding off and responding to.

    Since then I have practiced a lot of meditation and nembutsu.

    Japanese characters reading Namo Amida Butsu, hand written by Honen
    Honen’s calligraphy of nembutsu

    In mediation I sit and aim to pay attention to the present moment. Meditation often gives me a break from my mind going around in circles. Sometimes in that break a completely new thought will appear, or a mental knot I’ve been worrying will unravel. Sometimes it is just a relief to sit quietly for a while. I trust that not feeding the various thoughts and impulses that appear is good for future me as well — if I’m not putting energy into them now they are less likely to appear again. And sometimes in the silence something more profound happens: I experience a sense of interconnection to the whole world, or a deep sense of love for the other people in the room practicing with me, or I catch a glimpse of the pool of love and wisdom that lies deep within each of us.

    Nembutsu is an act of trust. In reciting the Buddha’s name I am reminding myself that my small-mind is not the only or most important way of understanding the world. I am reminding myself that Buddhas exist — that somehow love is present in the universe and that love is always ready to meet me. I am reminding myself that we are all loveable just as we are, even if I can’t manage it for myself or others, and that love is transformative and healing.

    When I look inside my heart now, and bring that image of the black hole to mind, I notice that it is much smaller: maybe an 1/8th of the size it was on that retreat many years ago. Sitting with that image I realise that it is true my depression is much less smaller these days, and I can tell there is much less worthlessness sitting at the bottom of the well.

    I’m not very good at maintaining a regular formal practice, but I am convinced of its value. Hopefully something I’ve said here today will inspire you to practice, or to keep practicing.

    Videos!

    Categories: activism buddhism videos

    Three videos of Kaspa talking about environmental activism.

    Getting Arrested for Touching The Earth – a talk at Buddhafield Festival, Kaspa tells the story of his arrest for demonstrating with XR, about intuitive compassion and finding an appropriate response to the climate crisis.

    Two XR Buddhist Co-coordinators in Conversation Kaspa and Katja talk about activism at the Triratna Earth Sangha Confernce:

    And finally, with Katja again, in conversation with David Loy

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    Coming events

    Categories: buddhism

    Mindful Walk
    This Saturday at 1400 join us for a mindful walk on the hills. 

    Join Satya and Kaspa for a mindful walk on the hills. Booking essential – email hello@brightearth.org to let us know you are coming. These walks are always special!

    The walks begin in various places in Malvern (the temple, Rosebank gardens etc) with introductions and a talk from Kaspa or Satya. We’ll then walk slowly into the hills and back in silence, with brief stops and a longer stop for meditation. 

    This is an offering in the spirit of the Bright Earth temple – a combination of earth-centred spirituality and Pure Land Buddhism, which offers us a simple practice to connect with a loving and wise spirit. We are accepted ‘just as we are’.

    Suggested donation £5-£10 (or whatever you can afford) to support the running of the temple, www.brightearth.org/donate.

    Introduction to Buddhist Ideas

    Sat, 2 October 18:00 – 19:15

    This workshop will be facilitated by Kaspa & Satya who run the Bright Earth Buddhist temple in Malvern. It will include their take on the Buddha’s life story, refuge, and other Buddhist concepts. There will also be time for questions.

    All are welcome, whether you have some experience of Buddhism or if you’re a complete beginner – we are a friendly bunch here! There will be a handout and a list of books if you’re interested in further study.

    Tickets £8 each – Let us know if you want a lower cost ticket by emailing satya@satyarobyn.com – all are welcome and we don’t want cost to be a reason for you not to come. Places will be limited to 12.

    Book online now

    Introduction to Buddhist Practice

    Sat, 16 October 18:00 – 19:15 

    This workshop will be facilitated by Kaspa & Satya who run the temple in Malvern. It will include instruction and background to meditation, chanting mantras, bowing and making offerings and how we might experiment with these ancient practices in our everyday life (and how they might help us). We will have a go at some of these practices, and there will also be time for questions.

    All are welcome, whether you have some experience of Buddhism or if you’re a complete beginner – we are a friendly bunch here! There will be a handout and a list of further resources including our free online course if you’re interested in further study.

    Tickets £8 each – Let us know if you want a lower cost ticket by emailing satya@satyarobyn.com – all are welcome and we don’t want cost to be a reason for you not to come. Places will be limited to 12.

    Places will be limited to 12

    .Book online now

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    Human Hearts

    Categories: buddhism

    By Kaspa

    a golden Buddha statue sits on a shrine in front of tall windows looking out over countryside
    The Buddha in our shrine room

    I have been thinking about the foundations of spiritual practice, about what it means to be human and about what we are hoping the temple will become a container for.

    Sometimes our hearts are open to things as they are and the concerns of body and mind drop away.  We are sweeping up leaves but it feels like there is nobody sweeping, just hands moving a brush and no worries, no busy mind, just peace and spaciousness and the leaves are being swept.

    Sometimes our hearts are open to things as they are and we are moved to tears by the suffering in the world; by witnessing the climate and ecological crisis, or listening to the story of the person in front of us, or remembering grief and loss in our own life. Sometimes we move from a feeling of deep personal sorrow to what Suzuki Roshi called the ‘great grief’, a welling up of tears for the whole world.

    Sometimes our hearts are open to things as they are and naturally we wish for the well-being of others, sometimes we sit with this and send that love out into the world, and sometimes it moves us into taking compassionate action.

    Sometimes our hearts are open to things as they are and we feel a deep sense of gratitude for the infinite love and wisdom of the Buddhas that is ever-present in the universe.

    Sometimes our hearts are closed. Our senses are dulled; we are tired and feeling low and want to curl up under a duvet. Or we are reactive and frustrated and everything is just wrong. Or we close our hearts by distracting ourselves, by diving into compulsive behaviour.

    Sometimes our hearts are closed and we feel awful and we long for something better and we’ve run out of steam to make any changes so we call out to the infinite love of the Buddhas trusting that whatever state we are in and however little we can do for ourselves (sometimes the meditating cushion feels impossibly hard to get to) we are received and held by that love.

    Sometimes our hearts are closed and the light of the Buddhas allows us to open them a little more. To be curious about what created that closing and to be more open to things as they are.

    This is our spiritual practice, remembering the qualities of our own open hearts, remembering the dullness and reactivity of being human, and remembering the love of the Buddha reaching out towards us and all living things.

    Namo Amida Bu

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    Temple in the News

    Categories: buddhism

    by Kaspa

    Today’s story in the Malvern Gazette

    At lunchtime today a photographer for a national news agency came and took a photo of me standing in front of the temple.

    About ten days ago Bright Earth Buddhist Temple was in the Malvern Gazette. Then we were in the Worcester News, then the Birmingham Mail. Today we were in the Gazette again and this agency photographer rang the doorbell unexpectedly.

    Why all the attention?

    A few months ago when we were repairing the rendering and repainting the front of the temple we took the opportunity to change the highlight colour. We had some independent advice that assured us that a recent change in planning law meant we no longer needed to apply for permission to change the colour.

    It looked so much better after the repair and repaint. Tending to the front of the building was long overdue and after a hard winter the building looked pretty tatty.

    A few weeks ago someone from Malvern wrote to the council to complain about the change. Contrary to the advice we received Malvern council insisted we applied for retrospective planning permission. I spent half a day filling out forms and thought no more about it until someone sent me a link to the story in the Gazette.

    The Gazette had seen the application on the council website, seen that there were three comments objecting to the change in colour, took a few quotes from the paperwork I had submitted and created their story. They didn’t come and ask me for a comment.

    Satya mentioned the news story on Facebook and within a day or two there were lots of positive comments both on social media and on the planning application. When I counted yesterday there were about seventy positive comments on the council website.

    In response Worcester News ran their second story: local community approves of new paintjob! And the press agency dropped by.

    I’m grateful and pleased so many people took the time to say they like the new look, and I’m sorry that not everyone likes it. Despite those few complaints I’m happy with the change myself.

    The highlight colour used to be red. A colour strongly associated with the Buddhist organisation we left at the end of last year. Whilst we were having the render repaired and the front repainted it seemed like a good opportunity to change that colour.

    Turquoise is associated with awakening in Buddhism, and is the predominant colour of the Earth seen from space. Both those reasons appealed to us.

    What will the national press make of the story?

    I suspect that ‘local community likes paint job’ is not that newsworthy. The agency photographer and his editor said they were aiming for a more sympathetic story and wanted us to put our version across. We’ll see if anything comes of it.

    Personally I’d much rather the press gave their attention to more important matters, like the urgent action that’s required to mitigate the climate crisis.

    Of course we hope that the planning permission goes though. After a year and a half of being closed our donations have been lower than usual and it would be great not to have to spend any money on repainting.

    If you’d like to make a donation to support the work of the temple you can do that here.

    Buddhism and the Climate Crisis

    Categories: activism buddhism earth

    By Kaspa

    Buddhism and the Climate Crisis

    A selection of newspaper front pages responding to the IPPC report. two of the headlines read 'code red for humanity' another reads 'PM: wake up to red alert on climate crisis.
    Newspaper front pages on Tuesday

    At the beginning of the week the IPPC released its sixth report. You’ve probably seen the headlines in newspapers and on the radio and television. The headline from the IPPC press release is: climate change: rapid, widespread and intensifying.

    This is a longer post than usual. But it’s an important topic to address. Perhaps the most pressing issue of the day. I also wanted to share with you the video from last Saturday’s practice session, which included our first refuge ceremony since the temple’s change of name: Practice, Sh*t, and refuge.

    Over the past few weeks the news has been full of flooding in Europe and wildfires around the world, in Turkey, Greece, California, Siberia and so on.  The fire in California now covers 724 square miles. There have always been forest fires there, but the climate crisis means they are bigger, more damaging and more unmanageable.

    On Monday morning I sat and watched the beginning of the live-streamed press conference from the IPCC. I listened to a couple of speakers and then I couldn’t listen any more. I stood up and decided to get on with the day’s work. I went into the bedroom to change into my painting clothes, collapsed onto the bed and sobbed.

    After a minute or so I picked myself up, got changed and carried on with my day. Throughout the morning the grief and upset sat just behind my other thoughts and feelings.

    Later that day Professor Kimberly Nichols tweeted and asked: How do we find the courage to face the climate crisis?

    She suggested there are five stages of Radical Climate Acceptance:

    1. Ignorance
    2. Avoidance
    3. Doom
    4. All the Feels
    5. Purpose

    I guess I was in ‘all the feels’.

    I’m fortunate to have spaces where I can share my emotional response and be heard. I’d encourage you to find those spaces as well. (Like our listening circle on Saturdays at 6pm) It’s so important to be able to hear and feel our own reactions to what’s happening in the world. Being listened to with compassion, or listening to ourselves with compassion can help move us through those stages outlined above.

    I’m also fortunate to have found a community within XR Buddhists that has a shared purpose in facing the climate crisis. But I still sometimes wonder how other Buddhists might or might not face this emergency.

    Some might say that what’s important for Buddhists is to become awakened. We know this world is one of suffering, and the Buddha taught either to leave this world of suffering by entering nirvana after death, or to become enlightened within this world of suffering depending on who you ask. He didn’t say much about making the world a better place.

    There aren’t many/any examples of the Buddha being an activist. The advice he gives to kings is very good advice, but he delivers it in a very diplomatic way, and unlike some of us he was never arrested for meditating in the road and stopping traffic.

    But over and over again we are implored to be kind. We are taught to make compassionate responses to each other and the world.

    We are now in a state of global emergency – and what can be more kind and compassionate than facing that together?

    What?
    Dr Charlie Gardener lists the five most important things we can do in response to the crisis:

    1. communicating
    2. influencing
    3. activism
    4. building better alternatives, and
    5. looking after ourselves

    The most important thing we can do is talk about the climate crisis and to put pressure on our leaders to make and enforce the changes we need. 67% of carbon emissions come from fossil fuel. Whilst personal change is important, personal change along won’t mitigate that.

    Satya is travelling to London in a couple of weeks to demonstrate on the streets again, some of us from the temple community will go up and join her for a day. Satya and I will be on the streets again outside the international conference on the climate in Glasgow in November.

    How?
    As Buddhists we are fortunate to have practices and teachings that support us to do the inner work that is required to both be effective responders and to demonstrate a way of being that is not based on greed, ill-will and ignorance.

    When we make our responses to the climate crisis it is important to bring both of these aspects together: To choose wise, effective action and to do that action in a way that embodies compassion and loving kindness for all.

    I encourage you to have courage and to find your own compassionate response to this emergency.  There are lots of resources on the XR Buddhist website. Or drop us a line if you want to talk things through.

    Namo Amida Bu

    Kaspa

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    Taking refuge

    Categories: Uncategorised

    By Kaspa

    This Saturday as part of our morning practice in the shrine room we’ll have a refuge ceremony. Refuge is what we call it when we place our trust in the three jewels: The Buddha, The Dharma and the Sangha. Refuge is when we stop being taken in by our defensive, calculating mind and trust something wise and kind. Refuge is at the heart of every Buddhist tradition, and every Buddhist practice can be seen as supporting refuge, or even as refuge.

    The ceremony of taking refuge is a public setting of intention to keep taking refuge as our practice, and is sometimes seen as the moment one formally becomes Buddhist.

    This is the first letter to the templemates I’ve written in sometime. I used to write more or less monthly on some Buddhist theme, or using Buddhism to bring some light to something happening in the world. After November last year when many of us left our old teacher, the energy to write dried up. I think I wrote once or twice.

    Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the energy was spent elsewhere.  Tending to the often painful unfolding of leaving and creating something new took time and energy. Time spent looking inward and treating each thought and feeling with compassion. Time spent holding wise and kind spaces for conversations and listening (and sometimes managing this and sometimes not). Time spent resting and recovering.

    Sometimes that’s what refuge looks like. Continually trusting the Buddha (both the Buddha as teacher and our own Buddha-nature) leads us into unexpected places. Ultimately taking refuge in this way leads to a flowering of love, to more energy and to more compassionate action, but along the way it can look like all sorts of different things.

    I’m reminded of William Stafford’s poem The Way It Is:

    There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
    things that change. But it doesn’t change.
    People wonder about what you are pursuing.
    You have to explain about the thread.
    But it is hard for others to see.
    While you hold it you can’t get lost.
    Tragedies happen; people get hurt
    or die; and you suffer and get old.
    Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
    You don’t ever let go of the thread.

    So this is refuge. Trusting the thread that is loving kindness to all beings and following it wherever it takes you. Sometimes it will take you into tangles, and sometimes into open spaces. This is the path of love. It is not always easy to follow, but every step we take is a liberation.

    With love

    Kaspa

    Engaged Buddhist Writing

    Categories: activism buddhism earth

    Satya and Kaspa have written various reflections on their engaged Buddhism over the past year. Here are links to some of that writing:

    Mindful Walk

    Categories: buddhism earth
    Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

    To my left I noticed heaps of dried brown leaves on the ground, above them tender green leaves were beginning to uncurl in the sycamore tree.  A robin jumped onto a fallen branch, moving in that clockwork way that birds have, and looked into my eyes before flitting away.

    I was at the front of our single file mindful walk, and my thoughts about how quickly or slowly I was supposed to be leading the group had cleared enough for me to pay closer attention to the natural world.

    It is not always true, but more often than not when I move slowly through the natural world my habitual busy mind begins to quiet and leave space for something else. Sometimes that something else is the natural world —the intimacy of experience that comes when we are really quiet and paying attention —and sometimes that something new is a thought or feeling that was previous hidden or unformed.

    After half an hour or so of slow walking we came to the furthest point of the walk. There was a saddle between two hills on the right, a valley of scree and dirt and scrub between the peaks, at the point our path curved away to the left. We found places to sit here, in a kind of beach with the hills at our back, the view opening up between the trees in front of us, and the valley dropping away below.

    As we settled into meditate here I felt like we were inhabiting a sacred place. The sky was clear, we could see for miles across Worcestershire, and the air was full of birdsong. A family walking past us fell into silence as they noticed us sitting in meditation, and this added to feeling of sacred space.

    I already knew this curve in the path, and this view. There was a bench there that I had sat on before, and yet there was something particular special that day. I’m sure the act of walking mindfully to that place changed my experience of it.

    On the slow walk back I began to notice the noise and smells of the town again. The air quality changed – got worse –the further down the hill we got, and the noise of the traffic became louder and more insistent.

    Here was all this beauty and I was acutely aware of what has already been lost and the damage that we are continuing to do to the natural world, and that much of the comfort of my own life rests upon the progress that has created this suffering.

    An ambulance passed on the road below. Will our efforts to take care of the earth be enough to make a difference, I wondered?

    As we approached where we had begun I noticed pale yellow primroses coming up through the grass. There was a small flowering of hope in me then, seeing these wild flowers pushing up through the civilised straight edged lawn.

    What should I do?

    Categories: buddhism

    by Kaspa

    Image by Mathieu Vivier from Pixabay

    ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.

    The Kalama Sutta

    There are so many different kinds of suffering, and so many available teachers and teachings claiming to speak to that suffering. How can we know what to trust? How can we know what to do?

    At one time the Buddha visited Kalama and was asked about what teachings the people of Kalama should follow. They had various visiting holy figures, which teaching should they trust?

    The Buddha encouraged them to observe the result of practising those teachings, to test them and to observe the people who are practising them. If they lead to happiness for all beings, follow them. If they lead to suffering, reject them.

    I think this advice works on two levels. We can consciously observe the practices and results and think through the teaching and the situation we are in. This kind of working out can be very useful and valuable.

    There is also an intuitive process that becomes easier to access the longer we have been practising for.  As our meditation or nembutsu practise deepens we occasionally receive guidance from something outside of our own small minds: the wisdom of the Buddha appears spontaneously and we have a deep confident sense of the next right thing.

    Often this is so obviously the right direction that there is no need to question or test it. We can simply trust and follow the wisdom of the Buddha.

    Sometimes we may doubt what we receive, and then we can test it by asking is it in line with the precepts? Will it lead to happiness? Is it in the spirit of generosity and compassion?

    Rev Koshin Schomberg describes receiving wisdom at this deep level:

    “From this position of meditative effort, one can entrust every problem to the Eternal, waiting patiently for the teaching that will help the need…

    …We do not have to be any kind of special person to receive the Eternal’s Teaching. Nor is it ever far from us. Anyone who has sat down to meditate in some state of confusion about what is truly good to do in a situation, and got up from meditation less confused, has experienced the follow of Wisdom to need. — All we need to do is to settle down, stop running around in our head, and allow the Eternal to get a word in edgewise.”

    How to Grow A Lotus Blossom: Reflections by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

    In a complex world, where there are many difference teachings and many different kinds of suffering, knowing who to listen to, what to practise and what to do can be confusing.  Using these two approaches — careful observation and thought, and developing our connection with ‘The Eternal’ —can help us find our way.