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

    No Comments

    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

    1 Comment

    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

    Conditioning and Karma

    Categories: buddhism

    By Dayamay

    In a book by an old teacher of mine, Samsara is described as “the conditioned mind”. Human and all sentient life entwined and impossibly snared in the illusion of materialism, which draws us ever deeper in and perpetuates our predicament – the cycle of birth and death. Karma could be described as the spiritual currency – generated by our efforts to help ourselves – that tethers us to and keeps us invested in the system.

    So I try not to take all this suffering personally. Because, after all, it’s just the universe doing its thing. Dispensing justice without prejudice.

    When you realise the power of the consequences of your actions, even the actions that seem insignificant but quite probably contribute towards the pain and even death of others, it becomes a bit easier to accept what’s coming.

    Christians talk about Eschatology – the science of the final things – judgement by God for our transgressions and the impact that we’ve had on His Creation.

    This resonates with me to a certain point, but I like to think of this as a system of cause and effect, rather than a journey to some personal judgement from a punitive Higher Power. Individual and collective Karma crystalizing on the physical plane, and, if we’re awake enough, providing the catalyst for release from the cycle of pain and death.

    Whether we are the manifestation of the apocalypse, which marks the death throes of this incredible organic universe, or vehicles for transcendence into higher states, the immutable fact of suffering remains.

    It’s useful to have a practice that we can use to reduce the impact of suffering on our lives and it’s great to feel held and loved by a Buddha or some other Divine Deity, but it’s also important to acknowledge the origins and causes of this predicament that we’re in as Human beings in a Samsaric Universe.

    As long as there is conscious life there will always be Karma and as long as there’s karma there will always be Samsara. So when this physical universe ends – which, by the laws of impermanence it must – our individual and collective karmic deficits will be carried over into a different system. And who is to say what that might look like!?

    I consider this relationship with Amida and Buddhism in general, the ripening of my good karma, as accumulated through previous good deeds and accomplishments over uncountable lifetimes in unimaginable timeframes. Although the practice of calling Amida seems quite easy and convenient, the journey to reach salvation has been incredibly long and very difficult!

    Nembutsu is the loving arm of Amitabha, reaching back through beginingless time to guide us into his care and away from the eternal pitfalls of the suffering realms.

    No Comments

    Fluctuations

    Categories: buddhism

    By Dayamay

    It turns out that living in a Buddhist Temple can be a very interesting thing.

    One of the benefits of staying in one place for a long time, is that you get to observe the fluctuations of the world from a fixed standpoint, which can prove quite advantageous at times.

    Here at the Temple we have quite a high resident turnover. The highest I’ve seen anywhere, I think.

    People often seem to use it as a stopgap, sometimes between jobs or relationships and then they move on and the energy shifts a bit as we wait to see who the next housemate will be and then adjust accordingly.

    It often doesn’t feel like a big deal at first, but with each new character comes a distinct vibe that keeps everybody on their toes in subtle ways. There tends to be a sort of honeymoon period, where everybody embraces each other and the new person gets smothered in welcoming love. This is usually closely followed by a more real experience, where personalities can clash and we sometimes struggle a bit to find our way around each other’s patterns and proclivities.

    It always strikes me as amazing how quickly we adapt to one another so harmoniously here. There is an indescribable spaciousness that I’ve never experienced anywhere before, which seems to foster a collective attitude of love, tolerance and understanding.

    One of the things that we’ve always set out to do here is to create conditions which are conducive to the qualities of Sukhavati, or, the Pure Land, in English terms. Love, tolerance, understanding and inclusiveness, to name a few.

    We talk about being “held” in our personal lives, as our faith provides a container for our foolishness and a refuge for our hearts, and this seems to be reflected in the community dynamics, as even the people who are not invested in the practice enjoy the benefits of conscientious living and spiritual friendships.

    In meditation the other morning, as I watched my busy mind secreting all sorts of thought patterns, I became aware of an interesting parallel between it and the ever changing dynamics in the Temple. The thoughts rising and drifting away and the space between then seemed to reflect quite closely the shifting energies in the house. People coming and going, events occurring and then drifting into the back of our awareness as we move towards the next joy or drama that awaits us.

    We are taught that nothing ever stays the same, that everything arises depending on causes and conditions, which are themselves subject to never ending change. So, according to this principle, it is actually impossible to experience true consistency in the physical world. Which is why we look to the spiritual realm for the meaningful and reliable sustenance that keeps our feet on the ground as the universe continues to move the goalposts around us!

    No Comments

    Opening up after the pandemic

    Categories: Uncategorised

    From Wednesday the 21st of July, in line with government advice, we will be opening up our shrine room to the public for the first time.

    We will be leaving coronavirus safety up to the individuals who attend.

    There will be sanitising hand gel on entry, which we’d encourage you to use. We won’t make mask-wearing compulsory – of course you are very welcome to wear a mask during practice and/or afterwards when we have a cup of tea in the dining room. We will leave the door to the shrine room balcony open to allow air to circulate, and keep chairs and cushions further away from each other than usual whenever possible to allow social distancing.

    If for any reason you feel unsafe when you arrive or during practice, do feel free to leave the room.

    If you would prefer to practice with us from a distance or in the garden for now we offer practice in the temple garden every Saturday at 9am, and practice on Zoom for every practice sessions – see our calendar for more details.

    If you have any questions or concerns do email Satya and Kaspa at hello@brightearth.org.

    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:

    In memorium: Suvidya Gautam

    Categories: Uncategorised

    Remembering Suvidya.

    I was very sad to hear the news that our dear friend, colleague and dharma brother Rev. Suvidya, from the India Sangha, has passed away. I knew he was very I’ll but somehow had assumed that he would be one of the lucky ones who pulled through.

    I have very fond memories of being with Suvidya, who was my host and guide when I visited the Indian Sangha in 2018.

    He was a very special person, overflowing with love and grace, always ready to sacrifice his own needs or comforts for the good of others and to fulfil his duties as a Pureland Buddhist Priest.

    He was, unsurprisingly, very popular with his congregation and followers, who all seemed to look up to him with adulation, as if he represented some kind of father figure or role model. I was very moved by the effect that he had on the people he came into contact with.

    On hearing the news, after the initial shock, my next thoughts were that, if anybody is destined for the Pure Land and qualifies for the salvifific power of Amìda Buddha, Suvidya would be at the front of the queue. His devotion was absolute.

    As always, when somebody close to my heart leaves this world, I am left with the question of how to balance these losses and hold them as part of my faith without attachment or aversion. Faith in Amitabha does not protect us from death, that was never the promise. In fact, we are encouraged to embrace death as an important part of life and to accept it as an integral component of our journeys in this impermanent world.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved Suvidya, I hope that we can all find comfort in the joys of his life and the fact that, as a Pureland devotee, he will now be residing with Amida in the Land of Peace and Bliss.

    Namo Amida Bu.

    Dayamay

    Rooms available for new residents

    Categories: Uncategorised

    We have a couple of rooms available for new temple residents from mid-May in our Pure Land Buddhist temple in Great Malvern.

    We’re looking for someone who’s already connected to our Buddhist practice, or someone who’s willing to come along to practice sessions and see if what we offer here is a fit. Find out how to attend via Zoom or come to our garden practice if you’re local.

    We’re in the centre of Great Malvern and it’s a beautiful place to live for the right person. People have their own jobs and lives, and we come together to practice and to eat together once a week on a Friday night (along with occasional film nights etc). We have members of the public in for Buddhist practice twice a week and to events like Dharma talks and volunteer days when we open up to the public again in June. We currently have 7 lovely residents, plus Satya and Kaspa who run the temple and have their own flat at the bottom of the building, 3 dogs, a cat and three bunnies. There’s no alcohol, meat or fish allowed in the building. It is a mixed vegetarian and vegan household (vegan preferred) and our Friday meal is always vegan. Satya, Kaspa and a couple of others in the community are engaged in environmental activism.

    The rooms are single with an attached shower/bath and toilets – one has a view across the valley. There are lots of shared spaces and a big garden. The rooms are from £360 pcm including most bills.

    If you might be interested or know someone who might be, do write something about yourself to Kaspa & Satya at hello@brightearth.org and we can set up a conversation. Find out more about our practice and philosophy here at our website.

    Namo Amitabha.