Voice of Amida-shu, Amida-kai and The Amida Trust: Pureland Buddhism: Absolute Grace, Total Engagement: Issue 17, Winter 2009 £2.50/€4.25/US$5.00
Creating The True Mystical Connection Dharmavidya David Brazier P. 4 Yule Celebration Rowan Songsmith
We All Like to be Good, Don’t We? Dankwart Kleinjans P. 16
PLUS maitri volunteers talk about listeninG Skills course | The Amida community on the web | the impact of disasters on CHILDREN
In this issue
P. Offers a voice for faith and practice, as well as critical, existential and socially engaged enquiry within the broad framework of Pureland Buddhism. We publish short articles, poetry, pictures, interviews, comment and Buddhist resource materials. Opinions expressed are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Amida Trust, Amida-shu or Amida-kai. Running Tide is distributed by: Amida Trust The Buddhist House 12 Coventry Road, Narborough Leicestershire LE19 2GR, UK Correspondence and contributions Submissions for consideration should be sent to the Editor at: email@example.com Amida Trust A religious charity established in UK, registration number 1060589, for the furtherance of Buddhism. The Trust sponsors a wide range of Buddhist activities. The Amida Trust is a member of the Network of Buddhist Organisations in UK, the European Buddhist Union, and has mutual affiliation with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship as well as The World Buddhist University. Amida Order & School The Amida Order and Amida School are a religious order and communion, respectively, following the Pureland tradition, established under the auspices of the Amida Trust. In this periodical the letters OAB after a name indicate membership of the Order of Amida Buddha and the letters MAS indicate membership of the Amida School. The Amida School is also referred to as Amida-shu. All Order members are also School members. Amida-Kai The Amida Association, an association for spirituality and its application. Amida-kai is the association for everybody interested in the Trust's work, for the application of spiritual principles to empirical world problems, and to the exploration of the meaning of spirituality irrespective of faith alignment.
Articles and essays
YULE CELEBRATION The Winter Solstice marks a special time of year for many religious traditions. In this feature Rowan Songsmith looks at the significance and meaning of solstice 6 through stories and anecdotes
Dharmavidya David Brazier Creating the True Mystical Condition
Greg Krech Gassho to Everyone and Everything
Adam Pick and Marissa Hendry Listening Skills Course
Dr. Yaya de Andrade The Impact of Disasters on Children
Anne Jones A Good Death
SPIRITUAL HEALING The Buddha is often described as the Great Physician . Read and learn about the practice of the Medicine Buddha by Kenneth Mullen 8
Regulars THE AMIDA COMMUNITY Amida’s presence on the web has been boosted with the aid of live broadcasts and more courses by distance learning.
WE ALL LIKE TO BE GOOD, DON’T WE? Take a closer look at the act of doing good with Dankwart Kleinjans 16
Membership Of Amida-Kai Open to anybody who supports Amida Trust and is interested in spirituality and its application, to join please send a donation (£20 per year suggested) to Amida Trust with a covering letter. Membership of the Kai does not imply membership of the Amida Order or School or any particular religious affiliation. For subscription queries contact: The Buddhist House.
COURSES AND EVENTS
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The light of Amida is increasing in radiance and the circle of life is endlessly turning. Our experience of this will probably vary in detail from person to person, and it is this wonderful variety and diversity that is to be cherished in this winter issue. It has been a full year for all of us at Amida and Rayâ€™s photo says it all: a dazzling array of lights, bright and colourful, revolving around the fully enlightened Buddha at such a speed that leaves one feeling ecstatic and open to true love. The indiscriminate compassion of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is boundless and free. Light is omnipresent. Amida's love for everyone and everything warms and softens the hardest and coldest hearts and minds. For those who have entrusted themselves to Amida (p.20), those who have taken refuge in Buddhism a weight is lifted: light is no longer merely seen but felt and experienced (p.4). Even in a shroud of darkness the moon and the stars act as reminders that the light is still there. Photo taken by Ray King MAS The light comes as a form of spiritual healing (p.8) it can transform our lives by lighting up others around us so that we can see that we are not alone but supported by others (p.18). When disasters strike and the protective walls break the light has a chance to enter restoring a sense of humanity and kindness in society (p.23). The brilliance of this light is that it helps one to see that everything is not me, not mine and not self. Other people, other things, other feelings, other opinions, other experiences and other worlds become visible to us. I hope you enjoy this issue.
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Susthama Amida Centres/Groups Newcastle: http://lotusinthemud.typepad.com/amida_newcastle/ Sheffield: http://pureland.wordpress.com/ London: http://www.amidalondon.org.uk/ Belgium: http://www.namoamidabu.be/
Creating the True Mystical Condition by Dharmavidya David Brazier
Photo taken by Ray King MAS
Buddha taught that everything depends upon causes and conditions (pratityatsamutpada). In particular, everything that makes up our mental and spiritual life does so. He taught the conditions and causes for spiritual progress and those for spiritual danger. In particular, he taught that transition and change (birth, illness, loss, gain, conjunction, separation, and encounter) are occasions of danger that can also be opportunity. He therefore taught the method to change danger into opportunity which is to take refuge in a source of wholesomeness. Refuge is the condition for spiritual progress. The most wholesome refuges are enlightened teachers (Buddhas), enlightened teachings (Dharma), and enlightened communities (Sangha), the â€˜Three Jewelsâ€™ and especially Buddhas RT 4
since the Three Jewels always emanate from a Buddha. Since actions are conditioned by mind and mind is conditioned by its objects, holding a wholesome object in mind conduces toward a wholesome life. Since the most wholesome object is a Buddha, keeping a Buddha in mind is the key to transformation. This is the basis for nembutsu practice. Nembutsu is refuge and that is the core of Buddhism and the earliest form of Buddhism. When one looks at the earliest Buddhist sites it is clear that they were set up for circumambulation of the buddhaâ€™s relics. Walking nembutsu practice is an original form of Buddhist practice that brings transformation through grace, merging personal commitment with enlightened inspiration.
The Three Jewels are manifest at various levels: in virtuous living, in the support of spiritual friends, in the forms and symbols of a good religion, in the relics of sages, and spiritually in the figures of innumerable Buddhas. Pureland Buddhism is focused upon Amida Buddha and Amida Buddha’s land which is called Sukhavati. Buddhas are conceived to be constantly working to create Pure Lands. A Pure Land is a domain where ordinary beings shall have optimum conditions for spiritual advance. Thus Buddhas come (agata) to us as from their realms of bliss (tatha) or ‘other shore’ (param-ita). Buddhism, therefore, is to re-centre one’s life upon a Tathagata and to trust that the Tathagata comes to us. By doing so one becomes part of a greater process and even in one’s existing, tainted, state immediately partakes in a universal development toward the salvation of all sentient beings. Giving devout attention to these Buddhas and their lands makes them an ‘other power’ as support for our spiritual life and this makes us into a support for others. This is true mysticism, a ‘groundless ground’, meaning that it gives us courage and assurance in all circumstances not just some situations. It is thus liberation (moksha). Those who live within the gravitational field of the Buddhas will inevitably find that a way opens up naturally.
cleaving to a true refuge, people are taken in by the surface appearances of things (rupa), become entranced (samjna) by them, build mental constructions (samskara) around them, and thus create a deluded mentality (vijnana) characterised by corrupt intention and grasping attention (manaskara). All such constructions are ephemeral and dangerous (sarva samskara anitya, sarva samskara dukkha).
Buddha taught that everything depends upon causes and conditions
The things around us (sarva-dharma) are ‘other power’ as support for our physical and psychological life. All these other powers, spiritual, psychological and physical, including Buddhas and bodhisattvas, friends, all people, the earth, its waters, airs, fires and spaces, all the objects of our senses, the senses themselves, and the mental and bodily organs that we rely upon are not self (sarva dharma anatma). Everything we encounter is ‘not me, not mine, not my self’, yet these things support my being and make it possible. Therefore gratitude and humility are appropriate. So if we are not these things, what are we? Buddha taught that a person is what they do (karma). A person cannot be judged by birth, appearance, physique, gender, or rank, but only by the virtue of what they do. However, beings are burdened by the vestige of past karma which makes them prone to greed, hate and delusion manifesting as attachment, conflict and conceit. Instead of
Thus the situation of ordinary beings like ourselves is that we live in the midst of a world that is, on the one hand, beautiful, wholesome and full of opportunity, and, on the other hand and simultaneously, spiritually dangerous and confusing. Frequently we succumb. Seeing our own weakness and seeing also that we and others are alike in this respect is the basis of compassion (karuna) or fellow-feeling. To take refuge is to have faith that even such beings as the likes of ourselves can be protected by the Buddhas and by associating ourselves with them we can become part of their great purpose of creating Pure Lands and, what is more, that we can do so now, just as we are, before we have attained any other spiritual accomplishment. Faith cuts through obstacles. The maturing of faith through experience generates understanding (prajna) with which comes an immunity to being taken in by the surface appearance of things and this is conducive to generosity, hospitality, energy and patience, but the process starts as soon as we take refuge and establish the nembutsu in our mind.
Buddhas teach 84000 different methods by which those who have faith can live a spiritual life. This means there is a way for everybody. Each person’s path is unique. Each person is individual in their relation to Tathagata and in their experience of refuge, but all are equal. Buddhas, by definition, accept all beings just as they are and want only to help them overcome the spiritual danger inherent in this world and attain liberation through faith. Although there are many ways of manifesting the spiritual path, it always begins with an act of faith in something wholesome that liberates and starts a process of transformation working. In Pureland and many forms of Far Eastern Buddhism, this act of entrustment is expressed through uttering the nembutsu and that is also our choice here in the Amida sangha. RT 5
by Rowan (from a talk given at the Solstice Gathering of Leicester Unitarian F
Today, we are celebrating the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the longest night and the shortest
day of the year. The word solstice means 'the sun stands still' and is the point at which the North Pole of the earth is furthest away from the sun, and it seems as if the world holds its breath for a moment and pauses before swinging back into orbit as the days begin to lengthen again. We traditionally decorate our homes with greenery from sacred evergreen trees and plants - holly, ivy and fir trees. The season is replete with symbolism and I want to look at what the solstice and the tradition of evergreens symbolise for our spiritual journey through life. The word Yule is from the Scandinavian word Jul meaning 'wheel', and the wheel of the year turns and pivots around the solstices, around the sun, as each season arises from the one before, just as our lives follow their seasons. In winter, the darkness grows and the sun wanes, the land lies fallow and it is cold, and it is a season of want. It appears that the sun dies, or is going to die. And then, a miracle! After the longest night, the sun returns and the light is reborn, bringing new life, new hope, new promise to the land, to us and to the world, and the days grow longer again. Yule is probably the most important festival of the year, because although we can celebrate the other seasons, we need to know that the sun is reborn. If it didn't, we would all die. Therefore, we mark the occasion with stories of birth, of miraculous happenings, of life returning, of myths that impart hope of renewal. Out of the darkness the sun is reborn. Out of the darkness of the womb, the child is reborn. Humanity itself is reborn. Our myths are very ancient and primal, and resonate in our collective unconscious, which is why they are so powerful and enduring. This happens in all spiritual traditions, of course we have recently had the Sikh celebration of the birth of Guru Nanak, the Buddhist celebration of the birth of Buddha and also the Diwali celebrations, honouring the RT 6
light. Here is a story from an American Unitarian Universalist, Carol Sampson Rudisill: â€œIn the deepest, darkest depths of winter, when the ground is so icy, it crunches beneath your feet, and the air is so cold that every breath hangs as a cloud in a windless sky, when the days get shorter ... and shorter... and the darkness is upon you every evening before you know it... remember... remember the ancient stories that have been told and retold, written and rewritten, and passed down the ages... remember the stories told in the deepest darkest depths of Winter... Deep in a cave, on the night of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, every year since time began, a woman, a human woman, a goddess, a virgin, labours to bring forth an infant to birth. Attended by the creatures of her realm, she pants, she moans, for childbirth is difficult work. The child she brings to birth is special, as all babies are special. But this child represents the returning sun, the reborn sun. This child represents our hope of renewal, of new life, of a new chance, and the promise of the future. This child answers to many names Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Jesus, Dionysus, Mithras. This child brings light and warmth and hope... In the deepest darkest depths of winter, with our candle flames, our hearth fires and our bonfires, we rekindle in each other our abiding faith that the seasons will turn, that the great Mother Goddess of ten thousand names, will once again give birth to the sun, that the days will lengthen and that each one of us has the power and the magic to nurture the seeds of the future.â€? So - a timeless story, whether we celebrate the actual rebirth of the sun or whether we celebrate it symbolically through our myths and stories. I said that this season is replete with symbolism and in the northern hemisphere, we also have the tradition of sacred evergreen trees at this time.
n Songsmith Fellowship on Sunday 21st December 2008 at The Peepul Centre)
It is supposed that Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband brought many of the Christmas traditions that we have here from Germany - for example, bringing a fir tree into the house to decorate. But people I am sure, have always had special decorations at this time. In fact, one of the signs by which archaeologists know that a culture was established is the evidence of decoration, in caves for instance, and in those great megalithic structures built to honour the sun. I am thinking particularly of Newgrange in Ireland, where every year at dawn on the winter solstice, the sunlight travels slowly up the stone passage decorated with carved patterns, to the interior dark chamber, which becomes flooded with light as the sun is reborn for another year. Absolutely magical and spinetingling! And bringing in an evergreen fir tree to decorate is symbolic because it retains the promise of summer in the heart of winter. It remains green throughout the year and cheers our hearts when most other trees have lost their leaves. And of course, we bring in holly and ivy, as well. People have always had stories which symbolise the seasons, and another lovely old story is of the battle between the holly and the oak, when each vanquishes the other in turn to become the King of the Forest - wood of course being of the utmost importance to us traditionally for our fuel and building materials. In the summer, the trees fight for supremacy and the oak wins, because it comes into leaf and growth, and stands mighty in the forest. It is the king and the holly is unimportant amongst the rest of the trees. However, in the winter, when the battle for supremacy is fought, the oaken king falls, loses its leaves, and dies back. And the holly reigns supreme, with its abundance of cheerful red berries and rich glossy leaves. In dying, the trees are reborn in the eternal cycle of life, like the seasons, with each dying and giving way to something new. The story is thought to have come down to us from hunter gatherer days when there were two seasons; one of want and one of plenty. Ivy of course, clings to the ground and keeps seeds safe and warm. The
song 'The Holly and the Ivy' is a very old traditional song, and is really about this battle between the oak and the holly, not about the Christian story of Jesus' birth. So how can we use these stories for our own spiritual struggles and journeys? We know that our lives follow the seasons with birth, maturity, old age and death: spring, summer, autumn and winter. But as well as that chronological order of life, we can be living with the darkness of winter in our summer lives, indeed, at any time of our lives. People live with heavy burdens, with awful secrets, with fears and doubts, with loss. We have the expression, 'the dark night of the soul', to describe the journey that we undergo when we have lost heart and hope. And this time of the year symbolises that for many. In fact, there is even a syndrome that some people suffer from in winter, called SAD (seasonal affective disorder), in which the lack of sunlight physically affects them, leaving them literally sad and depressed. And yet, despite blights and set-backs, we do acknowledge that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that to everything there is a season and that the light is indeed reborn. The solstice reminds us that in our darkest hour, there is hope of renewal. There is hope of change; there is faith that we shall overcome, that we too shall be renewed. So while we struggle with our own darkness, let us also celebrate the solstice and the eternal wheel of the year, with season giving way to new season; let us celebrate the sun and its warmth and light reborn; let us celebrate ourselves, knowing that we arise like the sun, blessed by all things; knowing that each one of us has the power and the magic to nurture the seeds of the future. Blessed be.
LUF - an independent spiritual group (not following any particular religion) that meets on the 3rd Sunday of the month to celebrate the value of themselves and the world - all welcome - and which has a wonderful website!
The Creative Visualisation of th by Kenneth Mullen
Healing is a topic that can transcend differences in religious approach. It is also a topic that engages not just the religious but also the secular world. It is therefore an ideal theme for bridge-building and demonstrating the power of compassionate action. Siddartha Gautama discovered that enlightenment could only come about when there was a healthy mind in a healthy body. Spiritual development can only come when one avoids hedonism, devotion to pleasure, or asceticism, and mortification of the body. The Buddha is often described as the Great Physician because his analysis of the human condition proceeds as a doctor might in observing the condition, seeking the cause, prescribing the cure and applying it through the use of skilful means. Skilful means is an important philosophical idea central to Buddhism. The concept of skilful means (upayakausalya) is: 'the ability to bring out the spiritual potentialities of different people, by statements or actions which are adjusted to their needs and adapted to their capacity.' (Conze, 1988:50) Meditation practice can thus be described within the context of skilful means. I will describe the Tibetan Buddhist healing meditation practice in its shortest and simplest form. This practice involves the creative visualisation of the Medicine Buddha, Vaidurya in Sanskrit, Sanje Menla in Tibetan. It is a skilful means for harnessing the mind's general business by letting it become preoccupied with the details of the visualisation. This draws it from the outside world and its concerns, so that it can calm down of its own accord. The colours and content of the visualisation provide interest but at the same time lead to stability. It is believed that in the medicine pure realm called Tanatuk: 'Pleasing to Behold', the Buddha in his mystically altered bodily form of Vaidurya expounded the medical treatises (Donden, 1986). Praying to the Medicine Buddha and reciting his mantra is believed to have health giving effects. RT 8
The practice of the Medicine Buddha can be divided into four sections. Preparation: Involves the chanting of prayers covering the two elements of going for refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddhist teaching), and the Sangha (the community of Buddhist monks and nuns) and the wish to engender the enlightened compassionate mind. Meditation on the Medicine Buddha: In its simplest form this involves the two aspects of visualising the Deity and the recitation of his protective name or mantra. His colour is deep blue, the colour of lapis lazuli. It is always insisted that the visualisation should not be solid but translucent filled with light and similar in appearance to a rainbow. At the end of these prayers multi-coloured light is visualised as emanating from the body of the Buddha, this light radiates throughout the practitioner in all directions and is also imagined as purifying all beings in all realms of the universe. As this is being visualised the practitioner would commence to chant the mantra: Teyata: Om Bekanze Bekanze Mahabekanze Bekanze Raza Samudgate Swaha (see Clifford, 1992: 87). Dissolution and Awareness: Just as the visualisation has been gradually built up so now it is dissolved. It is recommended that the practitioner rest in this awareness for a short period of time. Dedication of merit: As the practitioner rises from meditation s/he is exhorted, at all times, to see all thoughts as sharing the medicine Buddha's mind, perceive all sounds as his mantra and all forms as his manifestation.
he Medicine Buddha The bodily form of the Buddha is extremely important particularly as it relates to the central Buddhist religious doctrine of the three bodies or kayas of the Buddha. In Mahayana Buddhist religious philosophy (which encompasses not just elements of Tibetan, but also of Chinese, Korean and in particular Japanese schools) the distinctions are between the Nirmanakaya, the historical Buddha; the Sambhogakaya, which encompasses the whole range of celestial Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; and finally the Dharmakaya, which because of its absolute and formless nature cannot be conceptualised or indeed visualised (Dalai Lama, 1975). These philosophical distinctions also have their individual personal bodily correlates. These are the three centres or 'gates', each correlating with one of the three bodies of the Buddha. The first is the head centre (at the crown of the head, or between the eyebrows), this corresponds to the Nirmanakaya or physical body. The second is the throat centre which corresponds to the Sambhogakaya and subtle energy flows and speech. And the third is the heart centre which corresponds to the mind or the Dharmakaya. During the practice different coloured lights emanating from the three different sources and aspects of the Buddha's body are visualised as merging with the same three aspects of the practitioner's body. The focus is on the purification of the bodily elements, and this may be accomplished by means of sound and visualised light (see Govinda, 1969; and Singh, 1976). As Clifford states: ‘In Buddhist tantric yoga the sacred universe is internalized. The basic practice is to understand the correspondences between “the cruder karmic body,” the human body, and the body of absolute truth, “the pure essence of Buddha's Body,” which has been concealed by clingings and confusions. The intermediary links between these two bodies
Kenneth Mullen is a student of Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, and is a member of the Pure Land Buddhist Fellowship.
are the subtle life-force airs, psychic veins, and vital essences which support physical existence. Through tantric practice, the clingings and confusions are cleared away and these life-forces, veins, and essences are purified and transformed to reveal the three inherent bodies of Buddhahood.' (Clifford, 1992: 65) A key issue is the idea that everything can be viewed as forms of energy. Not only reduced to forms of energy but also transformed from one type or modality of energy to another. Notions of solidity are thus counterbalanced with ideas of change and mutability. The attempt is always to move away from the fixidity of the normal mind and its attitude towards the world. In the form of meditation under discussion all elements of the individual's lived experienced field (i.e. samsara) are visualised as being temporally replaced by elements of a pure land - in other words nirvana. Generally it is recommended that the visualisation be carried out with the eyes open. Closely connected to the idea of the inseparability of the relative and the absolute worlds is the central philosophical tenet within Mahayana Buddhism of the empty or void nature of all phenomenon. This is reinforced in the final stage of the meditation practice: 'Vajrayana meditations are divided into two phases: ... The phase of creation ... during which one mentally creates the appearance of the deity. The phase of completion ... during which one dissolves the appearance into emptiness.' (Bokar Rinpoche, 1991). The meditation practice is a skilful means by which one may recognise, or get a taste of, the empty or conditioned nature of all phenomena; that each is nothing in and by itself. As has been stated phenomena include such entities as physical and mental sickness.
References Bokar Rinpoche (1991) Chenrezig Lord of Love: Principles and Methods of Deity Meditation. San Francisco: Clear Point. Clifford, T. (1992) Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry. York Beach: Samuel Weiser. Conze, E. (1988) A Short History of Buddhism. London: Unwin. Dalai Lama (1975) The Buddhism of Tibet. New York: Snow Lion. Donden, Y. (1986) Health through Balance. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. Govinda, A. (1969) Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism. London: Rider. Singh, L.P. (1976) Tantra: Its Mystic and Scientific Basis. Delhi: Concept.
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We are launching a month long course looking at attitudes to food, eating and body image. The programme includes exploratory exercises, guided meditations, and theoretical material based on the insights derived from Buddhist psychology. This month long programme helps you to look at your eating behaviour and your relationship with your body in new ways. The multi-media course uses meditations, work charts, guided fantasy exercises and practical experiments. It also contains theoretical and inspirational material related to the subject. Participants join an on-line support group and are given access to many resources. They remain registered after completion of the programme thus having access to an ongoing community of peers. COST : ÂŁ40 http://www.buddhistpsychology.info/eatingonline.html
DISTANCE LEARNING IN BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY Buddhist Psychology offers an understanding of mental process that has developed over the past 2500 years. It offers the West an important new perspective on Human interaction and mental process. The web-based course consists of two years training, each made up of nine units grouped in three modules. Each unit includes theoretical material and experiential exercises. Year One covers basic theory. Year two covers applications. This programme will suit those interested in Buddhist psychology and its therapeutic applications, whether in one to one psychotherapy, or in other settings. It is not itself a full psychotherapy training, but will compliment practical training with Amida or elsewhere. COURSE STARTS OCTOBER 2009 COST: ÂŁ405 plus Amida-kai membership Zen Therapy and Buddhist Psychology are required reading for Amida students and present the basic theoretical position which underlies Amida courses.
THE AMIDA TRUST The core of Amida Trust is the Amida-shu denomination including the Amida Order. Pureland is the most ancient form of non-monastic Buddhism: devotional, inspired, spiritually authentic, socially engaged, psychologically informed, and, above all, grounded in complete faith in the transformative power of Amida. The Amida sangha is a collectivity of diverse people - lay and ordained, married and single, old and young - working together in an organically growing pattern of relations. The Amida paradigm is based upon the belief that if we remain modest about human nature and just entrust ourselves, miracles of creativity and growth will constantly erupt in our midst. Important expressions of this creativity have been developments in Buddhist Psychology, Buddhist Arts, Social Engagement and Aidwork, and Volunteering, as well as religious vocations and the creation of communities. The difference at Amida is what is called â€œOther Powerâ€?. Other power is the flow of love and creativity that comes from Amida Nyorai. You could call it the cosmic creative force, or the accumulated merit of the Buddhas. Consequently our Dharma centre is different. It is a place of happenings. According to Pureland Buddhism, Amida is always at work transforming things. Amida loves our mess and confusion and humanity and uses it as raw material: a fertile ground from which new beauty, new life and new truths arise. We are not, therefore, a conservative orthodoxy but a framework for inspiration; a repository of tradition from which new growth is continually springing forth. We are a conduit through which heaven flows into this world; and it does so not because we are special beings in any way but precisely because we recognise our ordinariness, our inner ignorance and outer limitations, and so are willing for Amida to take charge.
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The amida learning community COURSES AND RETREATS Winter 2009
17 - 18 JANUARY Peer Learning Weekend An annual convention for students on the psychotherapy training course, this selfprogramming weekend is a good opportunity for students to bank up Peer Learning Hours (required by the course) and spend time in each otherâ€™s company. Always a stimulating environment in which to develop your skill in methods taught on the course, to discuss basic principles, and to explore the processes at work in our lives. An opportunity for one to one and group based practice and for giving and receiving feedback, as well as to clarify points of theory.
FEBRUARY Buddhist Psychology 21 Feb - 1 March
Creativity and Focus In Therapy Caroline & David Brazier & Gina Clayton
Human beings are psychologically healthy when they are creatively engaged and have a sense of purpose. This course block explores the way that assisting the client to develop creativity, find purpose and to focus beyond their small world, investing their energy in activity that feels worthwhile, can bring change and growth. 21-22 February : BRIEF COUNSELLING AND THE USE OF CREATIVE MEDIA
There can be many reasons why counselling is brief. When time is limited, the nature of the counselling relationship can take on a different ambience, enabling a more consultative style of interaction. In this creative techniques can be very useful in on the one hand achieving depth quickly, whilst on the other keeping focus. This weekend will offer students a chance to explore the use of a range of methods and exercises and a chance to experiment with the effects of these in facilitating change.
23-27 February : THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN CULTURE AND THERAPY
A positive life is an inspired life. Creative activity often comes out of cultural clash and yet for creative work to happen, we also need a context which is enabling and stimulating. Can the therapeutic context be perceived as a creative milieu and if so, how can we best understand and enhance our clients' capacities for creative growth? The course section will offer a varied package of learning situations, including practical creative work, personal exploration, seminars and discussion. It may involve some evening attendance. 28 February - March 1 : BEING IN SPACE
We are energetic, embodied beings existing within and occupying physical space. The impact of the environment we inhabit is felt at a bodily level and in this way further impacts on our mental process. This final weekend of the course block will focus on the physical dimension of mental health. It will look at different aspects of our bodily state and the way these can enhance our feeling of purposefulness and focus or detract from it. We will explore the way that the client's space and the manner in which they occupy it can be brought to awareness and modified to create more healthy mental states. This course block is part of the Psychotherapy Training Programme. All courses are complete in themselves and may be attended by the general public. If you would like to join us for all or part of this course, please contact
email@example.com RT 13
The amida learning community
23 - 26 JANUARY
10 - 13 APRIL
HONEN MEMORIAL RETREAT
DEVELOPING THE SPIRIT THROUGH ART AS PRACTICE
Honen Shonin started a movement that revolutionised Japanese Buddhism, not only in his own school. He took the teachings to the mass of ordinary people and emphasised the all inclusiveness. He was opposed to elitism and religious criteria that excluded many people. His approach to teaching was very down to earth and his practices simple. This weekend is both a time to celebrate tradition and what it brings into our lives and to reflect that this tradition has, at its core, a call to new life, new vision and new faith. We can reflect upon our own commitment to a path of practice for the benefit of the ordinary people of the world.
19 - 29 MARCH OJO RETREAT "Right Effort within Other Power" The overall theme of this retreat period is "Right Effort within Other power". There is a common fallacy that Other Power and personal effort somehow exclude one another, whereas both are central elements in the Buddhist way. It is, therefore, important to understand the correct relation between them. This week includes memorials for Gisho Saiko Sensei, Amita Amrita Dhammika and Gyomay Kubose Sensei. All three were inspired by a deep Buddhist faith and all three were exemplars of Right Effort in the service of all sentient beings, though in three different ways that complement each another and together constitute three important dimensions of the Amida approach. The retreat also includes Paramita Day (21 March) and this focuses our attention upon the bodhisattva ideal. The Larger Pureland Sutra which is the principle text of Amida-shu has as one of its main themes the establishment of the Bodhisattva ideal at the heart of what it means to have faith in Amida Buddha. The Retreat Period will be in four sections: March 19-20: "The Nature of Spiritual Danger and How to Overcome It". Memorial for Gisho Saiko Sensei. March 21-22: Weekend Practice Period: "The Six Paramitas", including celebration of Ohigan ("Paramita Day"). March 23-27: Study Week: Reflection upon the Bodhisattva tradition of going forth for the benefit of all beings. Readings, seminars, writing. Memorial for Amrita Dhammika. March 28-29: Weekend Practice Period: "The Dharma Community" including memorial for Gyomay Kubose. RT 14
April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain." ~ T.S.Eliot Spirituality and art share much in both being explorations of inspiration. The Other Power of spirituality and the Artist's Muse are forces that establish traditions of expression through human activity that is "for its own sake" yet speaks of the deepest meanings of which people are capable. Thus much of the greatest art is religious art, the world's spiritual literature includes some of its greatest poetry and prose, even secular art speaks of an influence that goes beyond the mundane, and art itself in all its diversity is a language of the Spirit. One does not have to be highly talented to participate in this. One of the aims of Amida Trust is to make it possible for ordinary people to participate, not merely be a passive audience. To this end the Trust sponsors pandramatics, poetry days, and a range of workshops. Easter is the time of rebirth after winter darkness. Let us meet together and have a collective flowering. Different participants may be drawn to different modalities of work, but all can stimulate and inspire one another. During these four days we shall have opportunities to practice arts including: Plastic Arts: Painting, collage, craftwork, construction of art works, flower arranging, etc. Performance Arts: using the pandramatics approach to improvisation Verbal Arts: Poetry, writing, scripting, etc. Each day will include periods for creative work, seminars on method and meaning, and gatherings for sharing. The aim is to establish a creative community for the four days. Participants are, of course, also welcome to arrive early or stay longer if they wish to extend the time they devote to this work. The art room is always available.
NEW BOOKS Gassho to Everyone and Everything by Gregg Krech There is a story about a bodhisattva named Jofugyo bodhisattva. The name Jofugyo can be translated as follows: Jo = Always fu = Not gyo = To look down on people (to disparage others) So he was really the bodhisattva who never looks down on other people. Jofugyo was not considered especially intelligent, but he was very devoted to the teachings of Buddhism and had a sincere heart. Whenever he met someone, he would place his hands together in gassho and bow reverently. He would even bow to animals and people of the lowest station in life. When he bowed he would often say, "I have profound reverence for you." Basically, he treated everyone and everything as if they were Buddha. Jofugyo didn't appear very intelligent. He wasn't eloquent and didn't study the Buddhist sutras. He just did gassho wherever he went. When I was first taught about gassho in Buddhism I was told that when you put your hands together it was an expression of reverence or respect. But when you bowed your head you were indicating that you not only respected the other person, but you put them above you by putting your head below theirs. So this man was so humble, he was willing to put everyone above him and show them the most sincere respect. Some people just found this curious, but others laughed at him and made fun of him. Some kids would pelt him with stones and adults would verbally abuse him. How did he respond? He simply put his hands together in gassho, even to those who made fun of him. Many of us distinguish our greetings depending on who we are meeting. If we meet a wise teacher, we bow with the deepest respect. But if we meet a janitor or a parking lot attendant, we may not even offer a smile. In part, this may be because we have a great desire for wise and powerful people to like us, but we really don't care much either way about people with nothing to offer us. Jofugyo went beyond such distinctions because he could see that each person he met had the Buddha nature. Each person possessed a heart that was created as an expression of Amida's great compassion. I can't help but wonder how the world would be different if we all had the spirit of Jofugyo and treated and greeted each person like we would treat the Buddha himself. from Naikan and the Path of Pure Land Buddhism by Gregg Krech. Expected publication, Spring, 2009.
Guilt An Exploration Caroline Brazier Publication date: February 2009
Guilt is a journey; an exploration into those areas of life which both fascinate and repel us. In her new book, Caroline Brazier weaves together an account of a group of young people, fine grained analysis of the emotional and ethical basis of guilt, and illustrations drawn from a variety of life circumstances, to draw the reader into the complexity of a subject which troubles many people in the modern world A book that crosses boundaries, this is one of the few on the topic which will have you reading into the small hours of the morning, eager to discover the secret worlds of the characters whose lives illustrate its themes.
â€œThis is an extraordinary book which brings a novelist's art to the exploration of humanity's most pervasive and complex affliction. It is a spiritual thriller which defies categorisation and is compulsively readable.â€? Brian Thorne, Emeritus Professor of Counselling, University of East Anglia; Lay Canon, Norwich Cathedral Caroline Brazier is the author of Buddhist Psychology and The Other Buddhism. She has spent many years working as a psychotherapist and in a variety of educational and community based work. She now spends her time organising and teaching on the Amida training programme for therapists, travelling, writing and supporting other aspects of the work of the Amida community. Caroline is a founder member of Amida Order and has lived for the past few years in its spiritual community in Leicester. She is married with three adult children.
Which good deed are you planning today? Giving your darling an extra much, not on the ordinary occasion, but on an extra one? Donating mo Trust? Being kind to the plants in your garden, not your ordinary kindne weeding around them with extra care, and maybe even talking to them practice today with extra attention and compassion for all living beings
We all like to be I guess we, you as much as I, like to do these good things. It is nice to do them. They make us happy, as they do the one to whom we give. They are daily practices, yet, they are special. In a way, they don't fit into the ordinary course of things. They are more than a means to obtain a certain end. They are a certain surplus. Why do we perform good deeds? This seems an interesting question, and the answer is not that easy to find. Do we act in this way to feel good? No, there should be more to it. Do we act in order to be paid back? That wouldn't be authentic. Do we act good to make the other feel good? It should be a little more than feeling good as such. The good deed seems to be good in itself also, but it is more than that. I guess for every good deed we perform, there's a complex set of reasons and ends we want to achieve, and at the same time there are no reasons for it at all. In every religion, good deeds are an important aspect of the canon, also in RT 16
institutionalized practices. In the past, reasons for good deeds were straightforward: to gain entry to Heaven (in the Middle Ages we could still buy it, by means of indulgences but after abuse of that system, the rules became much more strict again.) In Islam, when you fight and die in a Jihad, a holy war, you are also granted a place in heaven. Whatever these rewards were or are, they are attractive. In India, the Karma system was developed, in which good deeds led to all kinds of rewards, like prosperity, luck, and even reincarnation into a much better position, like being enlightened or so. We won't discuss Karma here, this is a long and multifaced discussion, but at first sight, the rewards we can obtain by doing good deeds are very attractive. However, our position towards good deeds is more complicated than a means to obtain an end. They are something in between a means in itself, and something totally irrelevant in respect to a true religious life. What we will discuss is this tension between the intrinsic value of the good deed, and the total irrelevance of it, in the perspective of
being a foolish being. But let's first consider the structure of the good deed, it differs in interesting aspects from normal human acts, and the web of influences in which all our acts are embedded. We can discern two kinds of good deeds: those towards strangers and those towards people we know. At a first glance, the only difference between them is the more specific content of the good deed towards people we know. Good deeds have very specific characteristics: the end of the good deed is the person to whom the deed is directed, we act to do well to that person. However, the goal is not making the person happy, this is a good consequence of good deeds, but not an intrinsic goal. It is directed towards the person as an end, not as a means towards other ends, like receiving something in return. If we expect something back, our act is not a good deed anymore, the good deed marks a stop in the concatenation of means and ends. The reaction of the person to whom the good deed is directed also has no intrinsic value for the good deed (and the same
hug while saying that you love her very oney to UNICEF, or even better, to Amida ess, but in a burst of affection for them, m? Or trying to do your Nembutsu s? by Dankwart Kleinjans Member of the Belgian Amida Sangha
good, don't we? counts for the content of the good deed) can be anything, but that does not change the value of the good deed. Another point is that it has to be a surprise for the receiver. We can summarize all this as follows: We can consider the good deed as an unexpected gift, of which the value consists of being given to the other. The other as other is the only intrinsic goal, and its content, other ends, reactions, consequences and expectations are irrelevant, since the good deed does not fit in the web of our normal way of acting and behaving in our life. Good deeds are generally considered to be valuable. Our next question is: “How do we fit good deeds in a truly Buddhist way of life?” Important note here: I don't want to give any advice to anyone, these are only thoughts that I hope you think about. The main problem for Buddhists is that good deeds are a result of ‘selfpower.’ Self-power is bad, but still, good deeds are good. How will we manage
this? A solution is doing no good deeds anymore, and so giving us no reason to reinforce self-power, but this is not satisfying, especially since doing no good deeds can also result in reinforcing self-power: “I'm that pure that I renounce them...” Another possibility is classifying good deeds as bombu, a part of the foolish world. In that way, they lose their specialness, but they can still be executed as good deeds. This is the most humble solution, and at first sight it seems to me to be Dharmavidya's point of view (I'm curious to hear his opinion about it). Another solution is a double one: On the one hand being humble and recognizing the foolishness of everything, and on the other hand being proud about a good thing we have done. The goal of the good deed is not being proud of ourself, but I think it is reasonable to be allowed to be proud about something good we did. As long as this pride doesn’t end up becoming
a goal in itself, it is not that bad, it is only a side effect of something good. A tendency in Pureland Buddhism to abstain from self-power, and to surrender to other-power motivated me to write this piece. A double path, a middle way between self-power and other-power still allows us to do good things, to value them in a modest, human way, and to be attached to them. Attachment makes us human, let's attach ourselves to the things, and of course, the people we consider good and important. Of course these things are impermanent and relative, but a life without important people, things and values is not a human life. At this moment, Buddhism seems to me a balancing exercise between attachment to our daily life, surrendering to Amida: the bigger world, and realizing the relativity of everything: realizing that we are all foolish beings. These positions can only be taken one at a time, the art is switching between them at the right moment. RT 17
Through The Eyes of a Trainee
Reflections on two years in community by Kaspalita Thompson OAB
This is my second attempt at writing this article, in the first, I tried to be very clever and compare my experience of the last two years, living in a Buddhist community, training and becoming ordained as a novice, to Plato's allegory of the cave. The point I was aiming for is that in many ways, my journey here has felt like a movement into the light. There have been many significant moments, the first time I stepped through the door, wearing red, with my belongings in tow...and so on, but life in the past couple of years has been more than just a series of significant events, it has been a time of growing up. A journey into the light. A phrase which covers many sins. It's true that there have been moments of religious rapture, but perhaps the most significant thing about a bright light is...it shows all the dirt. Like the first time you open the curtains in a teenager’s bedroom suddenly you are confronted with all the mess you have created. Once you see the mess, you can start to clean up a little, but the initial moment of discovery can be shocking.
Training is about taking you to the limits of self, and beyond, of finding a way through, of becoming better than you were, of constantly moving forward, into the light. There are always more layers to work with, and the more the light shines, the deeper you look, the more you find.
something, the Buddha, that still loves me unconditionally, that supports my life, in spite of my own nature. When I really feel this in my body, it almost knocks me over. It's immensely powerful, and I have sometimes struggled to accept it as true, (even whilst knowing it in my bones) because of its radical nature.
I know that from the outside, people say I've come on a great deal, taken on more responsibilities , become more confident and part of me knows that this is true, but it's also true that through the training, and through exercises like nei-quan and chih-quan, I begin to see much more how dependent I am on others, and much more how much trouble I cause.
This faith, or vision of something greater than myself, is what keeps me going in times of darkness. In the most difficult times something breaks through and I know that things are going to be okay.
There is one lesson that I have learned over and over again, and I think the Pureland Buddhism taught here is especially good at this, treating the Other as Other. Letting people exist for their own reasons, which I don't often know, learning that I can't fit people inside my head, and that whilst I might be at the centre of my world. I'm not at the centre of everyone else's.
Like the first time I caught a glimpse of my bombu nature, a glimpse of my selfish self, when someone asks me to do something, and suddenly that inner teenager, (the one that in real life, didn't rebel) screams out “I don't want to.”
Sometimes this is just a feeling, or a knowing, from somewhere beyond, but sometimes it's a very real manifestation of unilateral kindness, from another community member for example. Often just a word or two, and sometimes something much more. Letting me know that whatever happens, it's still acceptable to the Buddha and to the Sangha. It blows my mind, this unconditional kindness. It moves me to tears.
I remember when this used to happen, and I'd hold on to that feeling, right through the job and for days beyond, holding it in, I thought, but it leaks out, perhaps not in a flash of anger, but in other ways, a look, an angry walk, or silence. These days I still feel the reaction, but it fades away much faster, often within moments. RT 18
In some of my conversations with people outside the house recently, people have told me how they see the step I've taken, becoming ordained, trying to keep the precepts, as impossibly large, and difficult to contemplate. And how Buddha Shakyamuni exemplifies this, the ideal spiritual being. “How could he be so selfless?” I have been asked. It's a matter of faith, I believe. The most powerful spiritual experiences I have had recently, are of knowing my bombu nature, and knowing that there is
This is what feeds spiritual growth, encountering difficulty, encountering times of crisis, learning to face these nobly, and even if we fail, when we fail, encountering kindness, despite ourselves. Now I am doing things that two years ago, I could never have dreamed of. And it is entirely down to the conditions here, to the koans that encountering real life throws up, (and to not running away from them...or at least, walking back to them, again) and encountering these acts of kindness. Like lotus flowers opening all around me.
Zee-Zee Heine Looks towards Faith Communities as the Answer to Climate Change
Climate Change is caused by human activity. You can get “experts” saying climate change is just a natural phenomena, but look more carefully and you will find that their research is not peer reviewed and/or they are not meteorologists and/or they are being paid by oil companies, or others with an interest in keeping things as they are. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced its 4th Assessment report in 2007. The IPCC looked at 1,000 papers and reports that had been peer reviewed. All of them were saying that climate change is being caused by human activity, so the IPCC concluded, in the cautious way of scientists, that it is now 99% certain that climate change is being caused by human activity. Even a 2°C global average temperature rise is sufficient to risk substantial sea level rise and other scary impacts. To limit the rise to 2°C, the world CO2 emissions need to fall by 85% by 2050. In order to allow people living on less than $1 a day a modest increase, we in the West should be aiming to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by over 95%. Even to cut by 85% needs a 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per year every year. However, due to the fact that in most years the economy is growing, to achieve a 5% reduction, needs an 8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per British pound of GDP across the whole world. Can this reduction be achieved by technological change alone? Unlikely.
This is a summary of the points Zee-zee made in a talk on Tuesday 16 Dec.2008 at Sukhavati, North London
The only example of technological change on this scale is Japan after the second world war. However it was importing the technology rather than developing it from scratch. There are no examples in history of whole economies developing new technology at this rate. The maximum historically has been 3% per year. As a 3% reduction achieved through technological improvement is less than the 5 to 8% reduction needed, the difference of 5% reduction per year every year, will have to come from us consuming less. So, although technology can help ease the adjustment needed, basically our lifestyles have to change as well. Can this reduction be achieved by technological change alone? Unlikely. The only example of technological change on this scale is Japan after the second world war. However it was importing the technology rather than developing it from scratch. There are no examples in history of whole economies developing new technology at this rate. The maximum historically has been 3% per year. As a 3% reduction achieved through technological improvement is less than the 8% reduction needed, the difference of 5% reduction per year every year, will have to come from us consuming less. So, although technology can help ease the adjustment needed, basically our lifestyles have to change as well. If we want to do something to cut our greenhouse gas emissions, the three big areas to look at are travel food and central heating. Together they account for 67% or two thirds of our emissions. Emissions for the average UK resident are:
air travel 1.4 tonnes 13%; other travel 2.0 tonnes 17%; together that is 30% just on transport; home energy 2.4 tonnes 20%; food 1.9 tonnes 17%; materials and waste which only includes materials thrown out in household collections, not cars, building and DIY waste or large appliances 0.6 tonnes 5%; Public sector includes schools, hospitals, the military etc 1.6 tonnes 14%; everything else which includes supply of clothing furniture, electrical equipment, house building, and services such as telecoms, finance and entertainment 1.6 tonnes 14%. Total 11.5 tonnes per year per person of CO2 equivalent. People's sense of well being does not depend on their material consumption (apart from below a fairly low level covering basic needs). So it would be possible to transform Britain into a low carbon economy AND have people enjoying life more than they do now. People who have down shifted to a low carbon lifestyle are not less happy indeed they report a quiet satisfaction and a deepening in the quality of relationships. Yet change is not easy. If we contemplate a change for example giving up or reducing the number of flights we make, the benefits are not obvious and it feels like we are giving something up. There is no direct link between consuming less and a deepening of the quality of relationships to act as an incentive. There are several ways being part of a faith community, such as Amida shu, can help: Changing ourselves seems the hardest thing to do. By our own efforts we will never manage the scale of change needed. We need the infinite light and measureless awakening powers of Amida, to enable us to do it. Making practical changes in our life is also not easy. If we each on our own, struggle away trying to do something difficult, we tend to get discouraged and loose momentum when the going gets tough. We may keep trying for a little while, but then lapse and give up altogether. But if we are in a supportive group who are also trying to make changes to their lives we can find the encouragement and strength to keep going. Who we are and how we see ourselves is defined in relation to our peers. For example if I am the least efficient person I know, I may see myself as an inefficient person. But if all my peers are super efficient high flyers, I still may be far more competent and efficient than the average person. So in relation to green issues, if a faith community has adopted climate change as an issue and other people in my Sangha are making changes towards a low carbon lifestyle, I may find I want to start making changes too. Not because anyone is putting peer pressure on me and saying I ought to, but because I cling to the self image I have of myself. Finally to make changes in the context of our spiritual community is spiritually demanding but hugely rewarding.
I lost all my hair . . . . . . I got new name . . .
. . . I received a ro
I'm VERY Grat
By Sumaya Budko
I have very short hair, and to introduce myself I will use my new name Sumaya. On a recent trip to the dentist I was asked to fill in my job/vocation and I wrote a novice. . . a nun.
All that changed during my ordination: the 7th of December 2008 frosty morning, clear sky, rising sun I am standing in front of ancestor shrine. full of gratitude for what I have received from them and telling them what I'm doing taking refuge taking the precepts … how deficient I am by comparison I make prostrations to Dharmavidya I lost all my hair, I got new name, I received a robe,
my vow in the end: I vow to be very grateful for all moments when giving to others and receiving from others is happening, when in the heart, instead of a big stone representing, “my perfect human foolish being's self ” there will be some other empty space which makes relationships possible to exist. I vow to entrust myself to and to be making offerings to Amida, to all Buddhas, to all others. And what made all that real? …. others …. sharing with all people, care from others, wonderful atmosphere, Amida’s presence, the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha and the Pure Land. I'm very grateful. . .namo amida bu, namo amida bu, namo amida bu …. RT 20
Listening Skills Course On Saturday November 15 I had the privilege to undertake a listening skills training day, run by Kaspa and Mudita, at the Buddhist house, in Narborough as part of the Maitri Project. I went knowing very little about listening, and what to expect once I arrived. I had been to the house once before, and was keen to open myself up to a potentially beneficial learning experience. The setting for the listening course had a huge impact upon my mood from the moment I arrived. The shrine room, the stillness of the house, and the beautiful views from the window all helped to ground me before we began. I am usually an anxious person, but this setting, combined with the topics very quickly made me feel at ease. This in itself affected how much I was able to get out of the day. I was surprised by how complicated the skill of listening actually is, and the different techniques and ways of listening really impacted profoundly on me. I think part of this is that I realised after an
I am a volunteer at the Maitri Project and the main reason we are there is to listen to the people who come in. I wasn't sure what the course on listening would be like but it sounded good and I was interested. At the beginning there was a stone in the middle of the table and each person who wanted to speak took it and then passed it onto whoever they wanted to share their thoughts with us next. We were first encouraged to give feedback on what we thought the course would be like, who we were and what we hoped to get from
Adam Pick and Marissa Hendry Share their experience and views on the Listening Skills Course
hour or so that I listened without actually really hearing, it was a very mechanical reflexive thing for me, I hadn't really ever developed active listening skills before, and learning about reflective listening, and different types of questions, and how they can either open up a conversation, or close it down, were all very new things for me. I feel that the listening skills training day is the beginning of a journey for me, rather than the end of one. It has made me much more aware how my body language, my posture and the way I look at someone really affects a personâ€™s ease, and this is something I want to learn much more about. The day was amazingly thought provoking for me personally. Whilst finding it difficult to look so deeply at how I affect people in these ways, I have found it so beneficial to my wellbeing, that I would recommend this course to anyone who, like me has had no previous training in this area. I know that I personally would welcome any other training in this area that is available. Adam Pick
it, what could be good and bad about how it would go and that sort of thing. We had fun doing role plays and games as well as learning different techniques used in listening and how to get people to talk more if you feel they want to, but without asking too much. Some of the techniques we learned were asking open-ended questions and reflective listening, which is repeating or summarising what the other person has just said. At the end we gave feedback on how the course went and what we thought. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone interested. Marissa Hendry RT 21
VOLUNTEERING On 26 November, several terrorist attacks took place in different locations in Mumbai which lasted several days and ended with more than 100 people dead. Sahishnu, Amidaâ€™s Chaplain over seeing the project in Delhi, and Sophie, a volunteer assisting her, encountered hostility as well as a need to talk about the attacks in the local community they serve. Here is an extract taken from a post on Friends of Amida Ning after this difficult situation:
Behind the anger and anguish of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai was a confusion, a bewilderment as to how people arrive at the point where they kill indiscriminately, coupled with compassion for the people and families who had lost their lives and an attempt to understand, not condone the terrorists position. Later talking to a non-Amida group of Buddhists the tone was very different with anger, frustration, and vengeance to the fore. We all did some Quan Yin Chanting and the monk and I reminded the people to be compassionate to all being the Buddhist way but there were some very cynical looks and 'yes, yeses' from the men as though to say that's religion but this is real life. When it is an academic discussion it is easy to be compassionate but when friends and family are being killed or your country attacked then it is much more difficult. I have been heartened by Shanti's response, a member of the Amida-shu in Delhi, to hold a special service on Monday as a response, as well as the people from Loni who are now asking to attend. Namo Amida Bu, Sahishnu
Above: Rev. Sahishnu doing walking Nembutsu with Amida India group. Below: Sophie, Amida volunteer teaching English. RT 22
News from Zambia Autumn 2008
At last we are able to have more frequent contact with John Zulu now Modgala has succumbed to having a mobile phone. This miracle of technology now enables us to hear little stories from Tithandizane, a centre where people help one another. There has been sad news: Severiano Banda, the secretary of Tithandizane died in the summer. He was a very good friend and wise guide of Modgala during her times in Zambia. However, there has been some great news too: Esther has recovered. In the summer, we were struggling to get money out to cover her medical In the last decades, it has been evident that treatment and for a while things were very worrying. But for now at least she has a clean in any disaster, children, among other groups, bill of health. Last yearâ€™s food stocks were must be given special running low and the worries there have been consideration, due to the long standing impact of eased as John's allowance was used to buy maize for the winter. Also, finances stretched such experiences on their overall health and to buy subsidized fertilizer for this yearâ€™s development. My planting. Then we heard - nearly as soon as experience in Kalmunai, a small community in Sri the maize was planted the rains came Lanka helped me to somewhat early this year but great for the better understand how crops. Not so good for the buildings. people cope with the Exceptional storms damaged some of the roofs challenges that life presents to them. of the buildings and now they are busy, with After the tsunami, the the help of their old builder, salvaging what reality for many children they can of the timbers. Many of the buildings in Kalmunai changed are eight years old and that is old for timbers abruptly. Many of them lost a parent, their home, in Zambia! The termites love them. Modgala their school, they remembers well the ominous creaking and became displaced, and groaning of termite ridden timbers ten years while some were able to ago. The skills workshop roof is now live with relatives and friends, others were in completed but more money is needed to buy camps abruptly emerging roof sheets and timbers for some of the other in the surroundings of buildings. This is on its way thanks to help the city. Most had no from some of our Amida friends; more help is routine, but schools always gratefully received. Life is not easy in slowly became available. Zambia but John and co. sound in good spirits. Our work was to provide support to children at Today we received warm greetings from John, school, and to help their Esther and all at Tithandizane wishing all their teachers to better understand their Amida friends a happy and peaceful 2009.
The Im Assis
struggles dealing with an
mpact of Disasters on Children sting survivors by Dr. Yaya de Andrade, Registered Psychologist, Vancouver
internal reality which reminded them of the difficult and trained to assess and intervene in class, to respect the painful losses and changes; and the external reality the children's grief, and also to provide them with simple on-going demands and opportunities to learn. intervention techniques, such as breathing, that placed them back to the reality of a caring context. Some children had to adjust to new people coming to their community, speaking a different language, sharing new cultures, and they had to learn to tolerate memories of what has happened to them. On the other hand, as the case has shown with most adults, children have been resilient, and most of them have shown the great ability to bounce back when supported and offered with opportunities to improve their well being. I realized that even in destroyed surroundings, the children were eager to enjoy life again, to cope with their fears and grief. And they show genuine happiness when they could occupy themselves with familiar activities, for example, flying a kite, even in the middle of all the destruction around them. One of the most important aspects after a disaster, is to restore a routine for children, and when possible, to have them returning to school, with a structure familiar to them. The children are also eager to tell their stories, and in fact, this is one of the most effective strategies to increase their sense of safety and coping mechanisms. Evidently adequate basic needs such as food, water and shelter must be a priority, while being around loved ones, families, and adults caring for them, becomes an additional buffer, diminishing their distress. In my view, the “wording of the world” is our way to reconnect, to be mindful: to continue making sense of the path of our lives. The effects of a disaster on children and families vary, but usually most present normal reactions to an abnormal, unexpected situation. In schools, we developed programs to help children to prepare for, and better cope with the changes that have occurred in their lives. In Kalmunai, teachers and counselors were
One must consider not only physical trauma but also the psychological effects of disasters, wars, and other terrible circumstances people have to go through in the world. When caring parents and adults are around, and able to take care of themselves and children, the adjustment is easier and everybody adapts better even to major changes. When there is violence or conflicts, children show more difficulties to recover, and will be at a higher risk, and I realized the importance of support in another project in Sudan, where despair was evident. Many children after disasters and wars regress and become emotionally upset, and they will need adults to lead them again to hope, to help them rediscover the joy of life. Nevertheless, it is important to monitor their behavior patterns and moods so one can prevent more complex psychological difficulties. Some children must cope with losses, the greatest being the death of a loved one. They may grieve for a long time, their search for meaning is personal, and it proceeds in different ways. Anniversaries may trigger reactions, and sometimes children will need extra support around these times. It is important that adults understand that a child's view of what happened may be different from that of his/her parent, teacher, or officials’ view. It is essential that children are able to talk freely about their experience, and one must normalize their fears and sadness with support. Some children talk while others would rather make drawings or “replay” what has happened and they need permission to deal with it in their own way. When children remain anxious and their behaviors continue to be a concern, long after a traumatic event, a mental health professional consultant may help parents, teachers and community leaders to prevent more complex difficulties. RT 23
A Good Death
by Anne Jones MAS
These words sound paradoxical, referring as they do to a 34 yr old musician whose talents in music and writing were just being publicly noticed; but my dear son Jim, youngest of three children, organised his dying years and notably, the final weeks, with clarity of purpose, unflagging energy and a joyful lust for life in spite of the crushing disappointment and terrible pain of terminal cancer.
Playing music has brought me so much pleasure. I can only say, 'Go out and find what you love doing, do it well, for that is the way to truly live.â€™ Were his words five days before his death to the audience at 'The Vortex' in Hackney where he performed from his wheelchair with his satirical song group 'Soup'. The previous week his performance of his short play at the Battersea Arts Centre had been well received, and a few days before that his klezmer group, Shekoyah, had busked at Columbia Rd flower market, in the early autumn sunshine where a delighted crowd had danced and clapped then quietly listeneded to the intriguing, haunting, intricate melodies of klezmer. Jim did not adhere to the formalities of any religion but he had meditated in ashrams in the Himalayas, lived amonst Muslim fishermen in Kerala, studied at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem: his band Shekoyakh reflected his Jewish roots. He possessed a fundamental wisdom and enjoyed friendships with every type and condition of person. I am convinced that his attitudes, and his openness with his music, demonstrated what Dharmavidya (2007) has called 'giving merit' in that a good act is one in which a person is trying to do something ideally for all others, and is not intent upon doing it in order to get something in return. Getting something for oneself was the norm in the Thatcher era when he was a teenager but Jim made his stance against this philosophy in a variety of ways, challenging, frequently exasperating adults. Unable to cope with the narrow conformity expected of him when he entered the 6th form he and his soul mate Ollie went to work in orphanages in Romania where their work set in motion a small charity that offered a basic play programme to an institution of 200 neglected children. A memorable sight that greeted me on a visit there was of those children singing delightedly the words taught them by Jim and Ollie, 'The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.' At his burial in a quiet Sussex wood, where the sun shone unexpectedly through the amber leaves of the trees, his friends showered their love and respect upon him and everything he stood for, digging his grave, writing and painting beautiful words of love upon his cardboard coffin, bringing food and cakes to share. We lowered him gently into the ground as the light faded and a shuddering breeze rustled the leaves and the remaining musicians of Shekoyah softly played an ancient Yiddish lament. Ollie movingly sang, 'He was my friend.' Then we sat together round the campfire, a few quietly sang, we ate baked potatoes and cake. Merit and goodness were all around. I felt lovingly contained. I reflected on how much joy his company had given us all. Finally, we all drifted late to our tents, wanting to keep him company on his journey to wherever it might be. I knew he wanted to become one with nature and to have the worms feast upon him.
My anxieties of the previous weeks evaporated: the practical issues such as his meals, his bedding, clothes for his warmth- to which he seemed oblivious concentrating intensely upon composing and writing and walking on the Heath watching sunsets even in a hailstorm. Such is my deluded nature, that when he was first diagnosed, three years ago, the shock hit me so hard I would sit at the back of the 'Little Angel Theatre' in the dark watching his performance and weeping quietly where no one would see. I had been brought up not to let others know if I felt pain. Soon afterward, discovering Pureland Buddhism was liberating: learning the basic tenet that Life IS suffering, that all things are impermanent, that we deluded beings try to hide ourselves from these truths by all kinds of unnecessary activities, I began openly acknowledging that my son had cancer yet he still lived life joyfully, and my life had to adapt. He wanted me to hold happy memories. I needed a greater awareness of the deluded behaviours I indulged in. For 'deluded' read, sometimes, 'magical thinking' an idea from anthropology wherein performing a certain act will make an important event occur, or not occur. I found myself invariably compelled to buy some small item from cancer charity shops if I happened to pass one. This became such an attachment, as if the act of purchasing would stave off the inevitable day of death. When that day came I was unprepared, believing he had a few more days of quiet peacefulness in the company mostly of his beloved brother and lovely wife of only 6 weeks. For although I knew he and I had always enjoyed a good relationship, he had told me very sweetly, 'please don't be offended, but the person I most want with me is my wife, then my brother.' This was hard to accept at first because the need to protect my son was so strong. But he was an adult and the most loving thing I could do was to let go of my unreal attachment to him as the child he once had been. I told myself that parenting is a prime example of impermanence as children develop through different stages to independence.
I had left him at 5 on the evening before, after feeling a sudden unexpected sense of deep calm and joy in his presence. He had spoken about another 'walk' on the Heath on the next day, so next morning I set off unhurriedly. The train I might have got was cancelled, incurring almost a half an hour delay. When I received a call, at London Bridge station, saying the end had come I did not believe this but jumped into a taxi in order to get to his home as fast as possible. Anyone who knows London knows that a taxi from London Bridge to Hampstead is not the quickest way. More delusion! On the way the taxi driver 'entertained' me to a diatribe of racist claptrap that I did not want to hear and I reflected that this in itself had to hold a significance. When I arrived my dear son's face looked peaceful but slightly angry, and as the afternoon wore on the anger faded and a beauty overcame his thin features. I rested against his poor chest, so ravaged by that terrible illness, and thought how unprepared any of us had been for what cancer truly means, but how nobly he had borne its savagery. I cannot recall much else except lots of tears and family and trying to smile at the worried faces of the tiny grandchildren. As I write this, it is 'Remembrance Sunday' and the final bars of Britten's War Requiem are drawing to a solemn close. I am reminded of the women of my grandmother's generation who lost fathers, husbands, uncles, and brothers. I wonder whether there is a hierarchy of grief, are some losses worse than others? I do not believe grief can be measured for it is unique to each of us. But wars arise from the basic poisons described by the Buddha: greed, hate, and delusion, and these we need to be reminded about. These thoughts link me back to reflect upon that taxi driver's commentary: I now believe it signified that there is much work to be done out there to bring about the kind of peaceable, tolerant way of living that my Jim walked, talked, sang and danced.
References: Who Loves dies well (Dharmavidya 2007. 'O' Books) The year of Magical thinking (Joan Didion 2008. Fourth Estate) Vera Britain: Testament for a Peace Lover (1988 Virago Press) Tom Morris's Obituary in The Guardian 22.10.08
Shekoyah and Soup CDs available : contact firstname.lastname@example.org
From the kitchen
Nut Loaf (modified Cashew Loaf Recipe) by Sue King MAS 250 g ground mixed nuts 400 g carrots 250 g onions (optional) 6 cloves garlic* 150g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp tamari/soy sauce 1tbsp cumin powder 1 stock cube in 200ml water Olive oil Pepper
Set oven to gas mark 5 (190째C) Grate carrots Peel and finely chop onions and garlic* and fry in olive oil, add cumin. Add tamari and hendersons to stock. Combine all ingredients and press into a loaf tin. Cover with foil and cook for about an hour . Remove the foil and cook for a further 30 minutes. *Garlic is one of the ingredients that most Mahayana monastics avoid.
Faith and art Keeping Vigil - Jason Ranek Gravåsen, Norway It was fear drove me to the woods, And nothing to be done but walk For I was tired of sitting and the work Of life had come to nothing much, And I was unashamed to say so. I found the fox skull on the ruin Of a funerary cairn among the oaks. Bone exposed had shed itself Slower than the buried would, but both Would eat away to common dust… No less the bone of my worried head. Amida Buddha and the blues Of Blind Willie Johnson conspired Somewhere in the ear’s memory, And I was moved to keep vigil. I took a sharp stone and scratched A crude nembutsu on a rock face And set the skull before it as an altar. A milky sun lowered in the sky, Trees hardened in the failing light. Clearing the dry leaves from a ledge I sat down. Somewhere, a vole Went grappling in the talons of an owl. Night unveiled. The dead slept on Around me, in dirt beneath my nail. From the woods I came a man dying Backward to his birth, the world almost Radiant, collapsing ever to the root, And nothing to be done but walk As fear fell from the tree, a rotten fruit.
yes, just like a cat sun covering my body goes deep into me when a friend appears around again; time to play, to live
an empty paper is waiting to be filled like an empty life but just look at the paper something is already there
Suddenly I hear cracks in the meditation hall what, who can it be? cat, temperature, mouse, stranger Buddha?....life is really full
loved just as you are. No, I should be better. I'm such an evil person no really just as you are trust really just as you are Sumaya Budkovska
SPRING AND SUMMER PROGRAMME AT THE AMIDA BUDDHIST CENTRE IN FRANCE TEACHINGS GIVEN BY DHARMAVIDYA
April 9 - 12 Easter Retreat Tathagatagarbha
Mon 20 July - Fri 24 July 2009 - The Spiritual Dynamics of Applied Buddhist Ethics
Easter was originally a pagan celebration of renewal and rebirth. Celebrated in the early spring, it honored the pagan fertility goddess Oestre. In Buddhism the idea of Tathagatagarbha is an important concept. Garbha means womb. Tathagata means the Buddha who comes to save us. The idea of tathagatagarbha is interpreted differently in different traditions. In this retreat we shall practice together, enjoy the new growth of spring life in the world around us, and also examine the notion of spiritual transformation through the medium of the analogy of gestation and giving birth.
A series of talks on the basic principles of spiritual life with a particular focus upon the ethical precepts as a description of the Buddhakaya. Dharmavidya's teachings spring from the wisdom of the Pureland Buddhist tradition that advances high ideals while recognising the vulnerable character of human nature. The dynamic of Pureland teaching springs from the contrast between personal and Buddha natures and between this world and the Pure Land of harmony. These are practical issues for those wishing to embark upon a life of service and spirituality. In this teaching week there will be Dharma presentations, seminars and small groups focussed on the issues raised.
Mon 13 July - Fri 17 July - Sesshin Sesshin, from setsu-shin, is a Japanese term meaning to be in touch with and transmit the heart (shin). A sesshin is a period of intensive spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is to dwell in the presence of the Unconditioned. Whether one retires from the world as a hermit saint or goes forth into the midst of society for the benefit of all sentient beings, one's ground is always ultimately the holy power of love. Buddha called this the Divine Resort (Brahma Vihara). It can be recognized by followers of any serious spiritual path. It is not exclusive to one faith. In this sesshin all can together practise insight, tranquil abiding, and invocation in a variety of ways. Instruction will be given in basic spiritual exercises and extended periods of practice will be included. Much of the retreat will be in silence. We can reflect upon our nature, imbibe the power of peace, and deepen our sense of spirituality. This retreat is for seekers and practitioners of any tradition and is devoted to universal love and peace.
Mon 3 Aug - to Fri 7 Aug : Buddhist Psychology Summer School Led by David Dharmavidya and Caroline Prasada Brazier
An opportunity to join with staff and students from the Amida Psychotherapy Training Programme for five days of workshops, lectures and experiential sessions in the French countryside. This event will provide an excellent introduction for those interested in the topic who have no prior experience, as well as offering regular students a chance to gain course credits in a different setting to that of our regular course blocks in the UK.