Dharma Glimpse: One Million Nembutsu

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    By Daymay Dunsby

    Since the beginning of the year I’ve been engaged in the million nembutsu practice. 2,700 a day for 365 days, recited rapidly over 25 minutes. I’ve found that it has really reignited my love for practice, just for the sake of practice. I didn’t feel lacking in my spiritual life or a particular need for stronger faith. It just felt like a nice thing to do. My memories of the practice from previous years left me with a warm and inspiring feeling that I have felt many times in my spiritual life and I now associate with devotional practices. It feels like my gesture of love for the Buddha is being reciprocated, as the nembutsu acts like a conductor between myself and Amida.

    Practice is inseparable from awakening. The act of practice is imbued with the seed of faith. To take part in spiritual practice is to embody the principles of enlightenment, as demonstrated by Shakyamuni thousands of years ago. We are still benefiting from his vision and his inspiration. But without our participation there would be nothing to enjoy, nothing to pass on. We might exist in very different worlds and lead very different lives, but when we come together we collectively manifest the things that we love. By turning up for and engaging in practice we make the heart of Buddhism beat, we breathe life into our dreams and spiritual aspirations.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Dharma Glimpse by Val

    Categories: Uncategorised

    I’m looking forward to visiting the temple this week. I have been so focused on painting during a residential course, it will be good to connect with the Buddha in the peace, beauty and energy of the temple.

    Have I had a dharma glimpse? Not really, I have been doing very basic stuff like remembering to be my own friend and to love myself and then allowing myself to simply be without having to make any ‘announcements’  while I was with the group of strangers on the painting course.

    No one noticed.

    I simply allowed myself to drop a barrier of criticism towards them and towards me, I quietly sat without judgement, allowing me to be me and them to be them and for a while there a heavy weight lifted and I knew I was safe, I knew I was loved by the divine, by Buddha and by me. Was that a dharma glimpse? It felt like it to me, a slight shift, a door opened, a moment of grace perhaps.

    That happened on day 3 of the course, day one was caution, day two was having a lot to say and many questions to ask and day 3 was the experiment in letting the guards drop, accepting we are all foolish beings and letting the gentler way be my guide.

    LIke I said this is basic stuff, so often spoken about and acknowledged, but to feel it while in an entirely secular environment with a group of people I had known for one or two days was a new experience for me.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    Gratitude

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Dharma Glimpse by Maria Chumak

    If you asked me to choose one word I’m trying to focus on in my meditations these days, I would probably say “gratitude”. It’s something that’s very difficult to grasp in everyday routine as we get stressed and frustrated with so many things in the outside world, and quite frequently also with ourselves. It’s only human to give in to judgement and jealousy, never being happy with what we have in life. Yet gratitude is all I feel when I go on my walking meditations on Malvern Hills and on the Ceredigion Coastal Path in Aberystwyth.

    I am grateful to see the beauty and the vast green spaces around. I grew up in a very different place, heavily polluted, heavily congested and heavily overpopulated. I feel blessed to be here and breathe the fresh air, no matter the weather.

    I am grateful to be able to practice Dharma and have the blessings and support of the Teachers. 

    I am grateful for the music in my life and the inspiration it gives me. I am blessed to be able to share this positive energy with other people sometimes as I’m learning to play harp and write music.

    I am grateful for all the people who support me and are simply kind to me, accepting me as I am. I am blessed to love and be loved.

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    Thirlstane Common

    Categories: dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by David Hope

    David describes a spiritual experience.

    David’s sketch of the moment

    Just over a year ago, in November 2020, I was walking my friend’s dog on the
    common at the bottom of Thirlstane Road. The weather was unsettled with rain
    showers and the clouds were moving quite rapidly in the wind. As they did so a
    crescent moon appeared and disappeared, and sunlight periodically shone from
    the west. When it did so rainbows appeared, apparently close to the railway line.
    My immediate feeling was one of enchantment and I was moved to attempt to
    sketch an outline of the scene on returning home (see attached).

    Here is a short poem composed as another attempt to describe this non-dual
    experience of nature:


    Wind and showers a’blowing
    Dusk approaching.
    Who’d imagine
    A world so chaotic.
    Muddy paths, other hounds
    Straining at the leash.
    Trains crossing on the tracks
    Bound for Timbuktu?
    Somehow outer universe
    And inner subjectivity match
    In a magical moment
    Of oneness with Nature

    Going Online Again

    Categories: newsletters

    Kaspa & I have been watching the situation with Omicron in the UK closely, and have taken the decision to close the temple to the public for a little while. It feels important to do our bit to help reduce infections nationwide and to help our already-struggling NHS.

    We will still offer our twice-weekly Zoom sessions from the shrine room, 7.30pm Wednesdays and 9.30am Saturdays, and all our previous practice can be found at our Youtube channel. If you’re local you can still join us for garden walking meditation on Saturdays at 9am or at our vigil in town every Tuesday at midday. If there’s anything we can do to help you with your practice from here, let us know. Refuge is more important than ever. 

    Our Bodhi day will go ahead as below.

    Finally, I’ve started writing my ‘Letters from Satya’ again – with stories about temple life, dogs, cake etc with the intention of making you FEEL BETTER – find out more & sign up here. Go gently out there,
    Namo Amida Bu


    Satya

    • 0900 Garden Practice – in person 
    • 0930 Practice in the shrine room – via Zoom
    • 1030 Talk: Green Awakening – via Zoom (use the same Zoom link as for weekly practice)
    • 1200 XR Vigil for the Earth at Belle Vue Island in Malvern – in person
    • 1315 Bring a packed lunch and join us to eat – not going ahead
    • 1400 Mindful Walk – meet outside the temple – in person
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    Sal-vation

    Categories: Uncategorised

    by Dayamay

    The word salvation is related to the word commonly used for sodium chloride – salt. In alchemy it refers to the ‘fixed-salt’, which is central to the intimacies of the tri-unity principle and mediator between the other two substances of great symbolic significance, sulphur and mercury.

    There is an immense amount of quite cryptic rhetoric to be found on all of them. But, most importantly, together they form the sacred and mystical Trinity on which the great alchemical work can be founded. In this context, the Sal part of the word salvation refers to the cohesive and harmonising action of the fixed- salt on the otherwise polar-opposed properties of mercury and sulphur. Without the salt the two would remain in perpetual conflict and complete fulfilment would be impossible. Mercury is the spirit, sulphur is the soul and salt is the body; and just as the body of Christ is said to be the saviour in the Christian Trinity, so the salt is what solves(salv) the chaotic disharmony between mercury and sulphur… hence sal-vation.

    So, salt is the most fascinating of the three, for me. The mysterious qualities of fixed-salt are numerous, of a profoundly abstract nature and present in the core mechanics of the universe. Salt is said to be one of the active principles in the evolutionary process. Some of the more obscure texts on salt refer to it as being the only aspect of the physical form that survives the death and decomposition process, which all organic matter undergoes, from which it is re-integrated into the earth and informs the ongoing transformation of the great unified organism, sometimes known as Gaia.

    From a religious perspective, as an avid practitioner, I take these holy philosophies to heart and consider them to be an indispensable component of the vehicle by which my faith manifests. In Buddhism we have a similar concept. One that in some ways corresponds to the highly intriguing alchemy enigma.

    In Pureland Buddhism we learn about the Trikaya nature. The threefold body of Buddha. The cosmic Buddha body is composed of three fundamental aspects, Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya. These three spiritual fields interpenetrate one another, producing an effect that at once manifests as physical form, whilst also providing the source of life and creativity throughout the universe. Dharmakaya is ultimate reality, the unconditioned, Sambhogakaya is the dream and vision realm and Nirmanakaya is the manifest form that results in the merging of the three.

    It’s easy to see how all of these traditions (interestingly 3), Alchemy, Christianity and Buddhism, express this same principle in quite similar ways. And the objectives in all three methods are pretty much the same – seeking spiritual purity based on material experience. The alchemist’s gold gets imbued with the adept’s experience and the effect is reciprocated, there is a divine union between the man and his holy work. In Christianity the form is perfected in the crucible of suffering and the Buddhist transcends the hell realms through countless cycles of painful existence in the mire of Samsara.

    There is a common theme here, showing us the paradoxes inherent in the nature of life, the universe and our journeys from the coarse(ignorance and pain) to the fine(awakening and transcendence).

    One of the first things that we learn on the spiritual path is that the journey begins with us. If we want to change the world or have a positive impact on it, we first have to alchemize ourselves. The world holds up the mirror that reflects our imperfections, which provide the raw materials through which the great work can be approached.

    Namo Amida Bu( ,

    Dayamay

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    Green Awakening

    Categories: Uncategorised
    Photo by Simon Berger from Pexels

    Bodhi Day

    The Buddha’s awakening was supported by the Earth: a great naga serpent cheered the Buddha on towards enlightenment, he was awakened under a Bodhi tree and when challenged called upon the Earth goddess to witness and verify his awakening. What can we learn from the Buddha’s relationship with the natural world and how can it support our own practice?

    Join us on the 11th Dec for our Bodhi Day events as we consider this theme and these questions. We’ll have events you can drop in to throughout the day.  Our shrine room practice and the talk will be live on Zoom as well as in person. Full details on our calendar.

    0900 Garden Practice
    0930 Practice in the shrine room
    1030 Talk: Green Awakening
    1200 XR Vigil for the Earth at Belle Vue Island in Malvern
    1315 Bring a packed lunch and join us to eat
    1400 Mindful Walk – meet outside the temple

    Musical Dharma Glimpse

    Sangha member Maria has created a musical dharma glimpse. To listen to this beautiful piece of harp music see the video on YouTube.


    Sacred Activism: A Year of Sitting With the Earth

    Satya recently spoke about her year long outside meditation vigil at a conference on sacred activism. Watch the talk here.

    True Faith?

    Categories: buddhism

    I’m interested in the different interpretations that arise in various contexts about the nature of faith. What is faith and how do we define it in spiritual or religious terms, and how do those definitions differ? What is the difference between religious and non-religious faith? Is it all tantamount to religion really? Sentimental or superstitious instincts or feelings pertaining to sacred universal principles? Is it possible for practitioners or ordinary people to experience spiritual fulfillment outside of dogmatic ideologies?

    I have heard some interesting and somewhat conflicting ideas about the nature of faith and the difference between it and belief. I think that there is an interesting and quite important distinction that can be made between the two.

    In my opinion, belief is a component of faith and can form part of the structure in which faith is realised, but it alone does not constitute the substance of faith.

    I often hear people referring to faith in the context of a sort of inspiration that comes from a historical or even mythical person, that maybe showed great strength of character or endured some immense suffering. I can see how individual strength can be derived through the awe inspiring stories that filter down through the ages, indeed, I often feel empowered in particular ways by the stoicism and courage that certain humans display – but my faith is something different.

    There are aspects of it that are or seem distinct from any mental constructions or projections onto any form or powerful people or compelling concepts. It feels far deeper and more pervasive than any kind of charisma or form of sentient intelligence.

    For example, there is an electricity that infuses my being when I practice Buddhism. Whether it can be explained in biological terms or whether it does actually pertain to some more profound esoteric mystery, it invigorates and sustains me, however difficult the condition I happen to be languishing in. This, for me, is closer to an accurate description of faith than the deifying of humans or influential archetypal beings can come. For me, it is the core component. The active ingredient. Everything else is essentially decoration!

    It’s possible to believe in all sorts of things, some of which may appear more rational because we can reach out and touch them, see them and hear what they have to say. There are millions of people in the US who currently hold a very firm belief in Donald Trump. They might even say that they have faith in him. But when he inevitably falls from grace, disappears from the public eye or dies, will their belief still sustain their hopes and dreams? Or will they be swayed and persuaded by the next man in a suit who claims to have the answers to all of their problems and fears?

    When I hear about faith in the more fashionable sense – ie, popstars and politicians posturing in ways that make them appear more powerful – it often feels like a sort of misappropriation, like greed or self centred determination or some other pernicious force being mistaken for faith. Or, the idea of faith being used or weaponized in the pursuit of material gain.

    However, this could easily be part of my own prejudicial complex, rejecting the notion that worldly power is or can be compatible with true faith. Maybe it is more subjective than I believe or than my own experience allows me to see, but I believe faith to be the manifestation of a spiritual energy, that exists regardless of any personal strength or ideas/beliefs about mystical deities or religious figures. That’s not to say that these figures are not important, just that it seems important to remember that it is not the person or being that controls or produces spiritual power, they are merely the vehicle of transmission.

    I think what we largely don’t realise or tend to acknowledge, is the way that religion and faith show up in our day to day lives.

    One of the more interesting definitions of religion is the term Organized Spirituality. When we think about the implications of this we can extend it to almost every aspect of human life. Spirit inextricably permeates the material world and is therefore inherent in every activity that we can possibly imagine or undertake. The spirit of family, friendship, creativity and so on, all express some of the principles that describe religion. Even the evil that we see and hear of in the world is perpetrated in the spirit of some nefarious belief system or other, whether wrong or not, the intention is underpinned by a spirit of some form, desire, anger, etc.

    All of these examples can be squared with the concept of seeking higher truths or levels of reality and consciousness. And, by this premise, it is not too much of a stretch to associate these every day human activities as fitting the definition of Organised Spirituality. So, in a certain sense, it is all religion.

    Having said all of that, the things that we put our trust and faith in do tend to be the kind of things that are inevitably destined to let us down in one way or another. In a materially conditioned world, there can be no eternal bonds; everything is subject to the ravages of time. Whereas the spiritual realm is unconditioned, not subject to age or decay.

    I think that it is possible to be distracted from the heart of the matter – which should surely be the improvement of the state of the world – and seduced by the idea that the human mind is capable of thinking itself out of hell. We look to the potential of ourselves and others as distinct from the infinite wisdom and guidance that preceded us through millennia, and allow our prejudices and resentments to close the door to the wonders of the kind of traditional religious faith that we collectively feel has failed us.

    There does seem to be a certain amount of bitterness in the kind of logic that separates the human race from the power of traditional religion. It is possibly the same bitterness that causes the divisions that are endlessly and increasingly apparent in our societal dynamics. I believe traditional religions to hold the cohesive power that has the potential to dissolve the boundaries that keep us in conflict with ourselves and each other. If we can break the habits of self, that keep us struggling to maintain and justify an unsustainable way of being in and relating to the world and everything in it.

    It is interesting to see that the dry cynicism of the scientific fraternity has begrudgingly given way to a more religious way of thinking. Quantum mechanics has been instrumental in the beginnings of the dismantling of our super-materialist ways of interpreting the universe. It shows us that separation is merely a perspective, inherent to our subjective experiences. When we try to intuit the foundations of material phenomena, we find ourselves thrust into a much deeper mystery. This could be a great example of the apparent paradox which shows us that, the harder we try to turn away from the divine, the closer we come to it!

    Namo Amida Bu.

    Dayamay

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    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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