Wendy

Ringu Tulku–Dharma map

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This is a long quote! But it gives an over-view of the structure of teachings of the dharma.

If you’re lucky you  get a taste of the ‘whole’ and then can access the different aspects from that perspective, or you can work from the aspects to the whole. Either way is valid.  Ringu Tulku’s last sentence emphasises the need to start at the beginning yet he also states that when he himself got the ‘end’ teachings he then worked backwards from there. Our states will vary, but whichever way you go the tale of Gampopa and Milarepa, at the end, is instructive!

Just to note that there are nine yanas in the Nyingma system as explained in the audio talk the view of dzogchen.    Ringu Tulku Rinpoche is a lama in the Kagyu tradition.

Extract : Daring Steps [Sale Edition] www.widom-books.com 0208 553 5020      £3.00

Traversing the Path of the Buddha INTRODUCTION (abridged)

In the Buddhist teachings the necessity of acceptance is often mentioned, but sometimes this is misinterpreted to mean a kind of passivity. With this attitude one might say, “If someone gives me a slap in the face, he can give me another. Whatever happens I’ll just accept it.” This is not quite what is meant, and our acceptance should be more active. If we try to deny death, for instance, and avoid thinking and talking about it, this is not acceptance in the Buddhist sense. Milarepa knew that no one can escape from death, that it will surely come, as an unalterable fact. He saw the problem clearly, in an unconfused way. Consequently, he did not try to avoid it, but exerted every effort to work on it. Once we see our problem clearly with open eyes, we will be able to overcome it. When Milarepa said that he meditated on the inevitability of death to the extent that he attained deathlessness, it meant that he had no more fear of dying. This is the true transformation we need to achieve. It does not mean that he did not die. He did. Yet, since he understood death completely, in its true perspective, it did not haunt him anymore. Once we are able to deal with our problems and work upon them in this way, even the inevitability of our own death, which is usually regarded as something extremely negative and frightful, will no longer constitute a problem. Whereas, as long as we are incapable of the type of fearlessness that Milarepa attained, our problems will remain severe.

Why did the Buddha feel compelled to leave his palace and seek the Dharma? Because he found that the fundamental problems each human being has to face cannot be avoided. We cannot escape from dying, falling ill, aging, getting what we do not want, not getting what we do want, and so on. Seeing this, he tried to find a solution. In this context, we can only work on ourselves. We work on our own hearts and minds. Our mind is the practice. We ourselves are the practice.

The teachings of the Buddha are the expression of his own experience, which he conveyed in accordance with the different and specific requirements of individual people. Human beings differ so much in terms of their levels of spiritual development, their capacities, mentalities, and attitudes, that one way of teaching could never suffice for everybody. For this reason the Buddha gave many teachings and provided a multitude of different approaches. He started with the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, and then proceeded to a more advanced level of philosophy and meditation. This again was presented even more deeply and directly in a third cycle of teachings.

In this way, the Buddha’s teachings were written down in different sutras and tantras, each dealing with a specific subject matter on a specific level. The Buddha himself did not categorize his teachings, but to facilitate study and understanding they have been put into categories. These have emerged as three sets of teachings known as Shravakayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Nowadays in the West, the Shravakayana is commonly called “the Hinayana.” This term is not quite appropriate, though, as it literally means “small or lesser vehicle” and thus bears a falsely belittling connotation. From the Buddhist point of view these threeyanas or vehicles are not separate from each other. They constitute, in their entirety, the one and complete teaching given by the Buddha. This complete teaching was originally written down in Sanskrit and later translated into Tibetan. In Tibet it is preserved in either one hundred and one or one hundred and three volumes, according to different systems of presentation. These volumes are of different sizes, ranging from six hundred to more than twelve hundred pages, and are collectively known in Tibetan as the Kangyur. Together they comprise the entire teaching of the Buddha and present it in terms of threeyanas, or vehides. Their followers today are called Theravadin, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhists, respectively.

Of these, Theravadins rely mainly or even solely on the Shravakayana sutras as their basis of understanding and practice. There is a slight distinction between the terms “Shravakayana” and “Theravada,” with the name “Theravada” originating in the following way. After the Buddha’s parinirvana, or visible presence passing from this world, it was part of a monk’s discipline to recite the Vinaya, the set of rules observed by an ordained person, every fortnight. A certain division developed among the monks regarding this tradition. The elder ones wanted to do the recitation in Pali, a more colloquial form of Sanskrit, while the younger and more erudite monks preferred to recite in Sanskrit. The term thera denotes a senior monk and thus the name “Theravada” came about in reference to these senior monks. From India, Theravada Buddhism went mainly south and is now to be found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, and so forth. Mahayana Buddhism, based upon the Mahayana sutras, spread to China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Vajrayana Buddhism developed mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, and to a lesser extent in Japan, China, and Korea.

Vajrayana Buddhism aims at presenting the entirety of the Buddha’s teaching. The teachings of the Shravakayana and Mahayana are not considered as being separate from it. All three vehicles form an integral system of instruction, and their categorization is just for the sake of easier understanding. The Shravakayana contains the most fundamental teachings. Without this basis it is not possible to understand the Mahayana or Vajrayana. The relationship of the three yanas can be illustrated in terms of three concentric circles. The outer circle is the Vajrayana. It embraces and encompasses the other two. The next is the Mahayana, which embraces the Shravakayana at the center. Alternatively, their relationship can be illustrated in terms of the levels of a mountain. In this metaphor, the Shravakayana forms the base, the Mahayana the bulk, and the Vajrayana the peak. Whatever is taught in the Shravakayana system is not rejected by the Mahayana or Vajrayana teachings. It is just further clarified and revealed to open the way for our under-standing to develop into ever deepening levels, until true depth is attained.

The teachings of the three yanas should not be discussed and presented on just an academic or intellectual level, we would come away having memorized yet another piece of information. Instead of that, we have to learn how to put the teachings we receive into practical use, how to make them into our path and integrate them into our daily lives.

When I received Maha Ati and Mahamudra instructions, I thought, “This is wonderful, but I cannot do it without having taken the preceding step.” So! retraced my steps evermore back to the actual starting point. At first we will be looking for a swift way out and be attracted by teachings that say, “If you practice this in the morning, you will be enlightened in the evening, and if you practice this in the evening, you will be enlightened in the morning.” When statements like that are misunderstood, they can arouse false expectations. We will hope for a quick result and an easy way to achieve it.

This happened even to Milarepa. At first, he had been an extremely powerful black magician who was able to launch hailstorms and so forth. Then finally he repented of his evil deeds and wanted to practice the Dharma. The first teacher he turned to had mastered a very high and effective instruction. Being slightly proud of that, he said to Milarepa, “You are very fortunate. My teaching is such that whoever practices it in the morning will be enlightened in the evening and vice versa.” This flattered Milarepa, and he thought to himself, “I am really a very special person. First I was a black magician and with just a little effort attained great powers. Now the practice of the Dharma is even easier. I am a genius!” After having bestowed the necessary instructions, the teacher advised him to practice. A week later, he went to Milarepa’s retreat and inquired as to his results. Milarepa replied, “Since your instructions will yield such quick results, I have not yet started to practice. I had a rest first.” Then the teacher realized that he had been too rash and said, “Being so fond of my teaching I have been bragging too much. These instructions are not suitable for you. You must go and find Marpa.” Hearing this name, Milarepa was instantaneously filled with great faith and followed the advice. Then, following that, Marpa gave him real trouble before even accepting him as a disciple. It can happen, therefore, that someone practices in the morning and is enlightened in the evening, but it needs some doing.

Then again, anything that is worthwhile is not easy. For instance, when it is said that it is possible to reach enlightenment in one lifetime, this has to be understood in the right way. Of course it is possible, but only if a genuine understanding is gained and then applied accordingly. It depends on the degree to which we understand everything that needs to be practiced, and then on the degree to which we actually practice it. As for the term “enlightenment” itself, there is also sometimes a slight misunderstanding. When we hear about reaching enlightenment, there is the tendency to think, “Now I am not enlightened, but in the future I will reach this goal.” According to the Vajrayana, though, enlightenment is nothing other than the realization that we are already enlightened. It is probably for this reason that the Vajrayana teachings seem so easy. What they express is the fact that reaching enlightenment is not something that can be compared to climbing a mountain, to struggling hard and then finally reaching the top. Enlightenment is not obtained from somewhere else. Once we know how to look and see everything clearly as it is, without any delusion, this is enlightenment. For this reason, the concept, “I have to reach enlightenment in one lifetime,” this kind of struggling and fighting attitude, can almost become a hindrance. Through our practice of Dharma we should become increasingly more relaxed, up to the point where we almost do not want to reach enlightenment anymore. So when it happens, we might say, “What I thought was so big is just that simple.” Thus an attitude based upon struggle is difficult.

The methods of the Vajrayana are not accessible through understanding alone. They offer simple techniques, and then the experience has to come from ourselves, once the techniques are understood correctly. In this way these methods are very effective and strong. At the same time, they are not so easy to apply, because we normally do not trust these methods. Our assumptions and concepts that form our intellectual understanding do not allow us to follow them. These techniques need to be to carried out in an experiential way; they simply need to be applied and thereby turned into our own experience. Not being used to such an approach, we will not find them easy. Furthermore, once we are able to apply these methods, we will have to work hard.

Milarepa’s best disciple was Gampopa. After he had received all the necessary instructions and gained genuine experience of them, Milarepa told him togo to a mountain called “Gampodar” near the Nepalese border, where he would find his disciples. When Gampopa was ready to leave, Milarepa accompanied him part of the way, until they had reached a small stream. Here Milarepa said, “Now you go, my son.” Then he hesitated and said, “I have not given you my most secret instruction, though, but maybe I should not do so either.” Gampopa prostrated himself many times, offered a mandala, and entreated him to bestow this teaching. Milarepa would not be moved, and so finally Gampopa went on his way. After he had crossed the water and reached the far bank, Milarepa called him back and said, “After all, you are my best disciple. If I do not give this teaching to you, to whom else should I give it?” Gampopa was filled with joy and prostrated himself over and over again, expecting a very sublime and outstanding instruction. Then, Milarepa turned around and, lifting his clothes, showed Gampopa his backside. It was covered with innumerable scars from meditating sitting on rocks for so long. He said, “Look, my son. This is my final and most secret instruction!”

It is therefore vital to start at the beginning to provide a sound working basis.

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Artificial Intelligence

What is it that the world lacks? Is it a superior form of artificial intelligence? Is this the straw that we are now clutching at to save us from the consequences of our own inhumanity, our pride, our greed, desires and aversions?

Currently there is debate  about whether or not we should fear the consequences of the recent acceleration in the development of a superior form of artificial intelligence. Bill Gates and Simon Hawkins are signatories to a letter suggesting caution in its implementation. However the genie is already out of the bottle, vast amounts of money are flowing into its development. In a program about this on Radio 4 a contributor stated that, although at the time many people were fearful of its consequences, the Industrial Revolution was beneficial for mankind. The implication was that this advance into the application of artificial intelligence was similar in nature and that  anxiety is misplaced.

Nobody queried this statement, perhaps its truth seemed self-evident, but I think there is another way to read this. The methods of increasing productivity in the Industrial Revolution brought disruption to original local or family connections of individuals who became the workforce. The factories, furnaces and mills worked throughout the night and therefore so did the workers. The natural diurnal rhythms of life were disrupted and tasks no longer changed with the seasons as they would have done in the the agrarian economy. The work was often highly dangerous, poorly paid and repetitive; noise levels were high and work took place within confined spaces. Originally toilet breaks were non-existent – a pot was passed around. Pollution was at a high level and people’ homes destroyed to make way for ‘expansion’.

Some people made a lot of money from the life-energy of many who lived day-by-day under atrocious conditions. It tok a long time and a great deal of struggle to improve the conditions of the workforce in this country yet oppression, hazardous conditions, and low pay are still with us. In other countries which supplied us then, and now, with raw or manufactured goods, conditions are appalling.

My understanding, having looked at the some of sadnesses in the world, is that the pride, jealousies, greed, hatred, anger and aversion which are destroying our world do not come about as a result of a lack of intelligence whether human or artificial. It’s not that we need more advanced intelligence to solve our problems but that we are lacking in wisdom and compassion.

Our intelligence has supplied us with a vast database of knowledge about the nature of many ‘things’ and how to exploit them for our own benefit. This has not made for a happy world and levels of anxiety are increasing. We have not learned how to live either with ourselves or others in a harmonious fashion.

Our endless desire for pleasure is a way of keeping busy, it papers over the chasm of the  un-met needs of the heart and is fundamentally unsatisfactory.

In our culture many people have much more than they need but many are very miserable. Getting more ‘stuff’ does not bring happiness. We have prescribed  antidepressants  to mask mental dis-ease to the point that birds now have measurable levels of Prozac in their bodies. Although their existence may become more bearable people are still not happy and at ease.

This dis-ease cannot be medicated away.  Attending to the symptoms rather than the cause will not bring about a satisfactory resolution to the existential angst of existence in a world where the intellect and productivity is privileged over wisdom and the compassion which arises from that wisdom. Compassion arises as a response to the suffering of others. For this to be evoked there needs to be a feeling of connection and  an empathic attunement. This response is not  one of ‘rationality’ but  of humanity, of warmth, sensitivity, connectivity, and kindness.

This requires the ability to go beyond the thinking, computational, aspect of mind. It requires us to listen with our hearts to what underlies the semantic content of a conversation. It requires dropping judgement and seeing situations clearly, without the screen of our conditioning. It requires a willingness to feel how others are – not to stop when we have read the label which tells us ‘what’ they are.  In order to be  appropriately responsive  to the  situation of others we have to be able to soften and receive how they are even if this is painful. Often our way of coping with our own losses,  sadnesses and disappointments is to unconsciously repress them and to ‘toughen-up’ which means we are then guarded against or desensitised to the suffering of others.

Einstein said that “the intuitive mind is the gift of spirit, and the rational mind is its servant. We have created a society which honours the servant but has forgotten the gift”. I’m with Einstein on this; he also said that he regarded the pursuit of ease and happiness as ends in themselves as a suitable ambition for a

A car controlled by artificial intelligence might override my intuitive action to drive my car into a bollard rather than kill a passerby. While this might be logical from  the point  of view of maintaining my existence what if  my intuition is correct and the passerby brings more benefit into the world than I can? My freedom to be is curtailed in favour of an algorithm .

Left-field responses, blue sky thinking, happenstance, serendipity or accidental discoveries are not driven by logic but all can be beneficial.Rational decisions can turn out badly in the long run and those which initially seem irrational or ill-thought out can work out well. Because the world itself is neither rational nor fair, working effectively with circumstances  requires a broadness of perspective, a lightness of touch and the ability to make a precise and unique response into each unique situation. Artificial intelligence does not sit well with this world which, rather like our bodies, is a complex organism. Changes in one part brings about changes in other parts at different times;  activities are interconnected rather than discrete.

The rational mind would suggest that very few people will read this and I could be better employed. The same kind of rationality might suggest that arts and music, culture, humour, the unconventional, religious devotion and carnivals are all a waste of time. The old, the differently-abled, non-conformist and other seemingly less productive members of society can be seen as of little value and edited out.  This has happened before in other part of the world where a dogma has been taken as a truth and people are de-humanised with  ghastly consequences.

In the long run artificial intelligence may decide that controlling or deleting the variables – human beings – is the rational but deadly answer to the human condition!

In the meantime, any one for a bit of open-hearted dharma, for meditation, for being? Or is there already  so much to do that there is no time left to be?

 

Response to Dylan’s rage

Last night i heard a poet read Dylan Thomas’  “Do not go gentle into that good night”.

This heart-breaking expression of a son’s attachment, facing his father’s imminent death, was so desperate and grief-filled that this morning i wrote this response –

 

Oh love, go gently into that good night…and give your peace to those whom death doth fright.

Why would you rage at sunsets, rainbows end? –
the  leaf that falls responds to winter.

When death calls, be soft with love and not uptight

– there is no ending to the light.

wendy 1 March 2015

People sometimes say that they become more  fully alive in the face of a terminal diagnosis – letting go of the unimportant, more free to express and appreciate than ever before.

Around 300BC  the Greek philosopher Epicurus  wrote ” The art of living well and dying well are one ” and Montaigne wrote in the 16th century that ” Death is one of the attributes you were created with; death is part of you. Your life’s continual task is to build your death ”

Are you ready to die? If not, then you might begin some preparation. Most readers of this will die this century, and death is constantly beside us…as Montaigne urged “One should be ever booted and spurred and ready to depart.””

Living ‘with death in the heart’ as a practice is enlivening rather than depressing. It intensifies the experience of each arising moment and  brings our short existence into relationship with the infinite. This in turn can refine our relationship to ourselves, to others, and how we are in each heart-beat of our lives.

R.I.P is a wish, or prayer, often inscribed on tombstones for the peace of the departed…but it’s surely far safer to find the way to rest in peace before then – in this life.

With love on Valentine’s Day

 

Maybe you got a Valentine’s card on Feb 14th, maybe you didn’t, but either way you could see this as a flower from the oasis of your own heart – inviting you to consider the meaning of love.

Romantic love is one kind of love, one which can often be blind and is inevitably partial, but there  are different kinds of love.  The love evoked by the  the wish for all beings to know happiness and to be free from suffering is infinite and profound…and you might find yourself to be an aspect of this bigger kind of love.

This happiness this kind of love is different from that which arises from the transient pleasures of money, status, power, feelings of worth and so on, but is instead a feeling of being at home and at ease that keeps time with every heartbeat of life…and this wish is made immeasurable by wishing complete happiness and freedom from suffering for all beings – for all time!

It follows that the true causes of happiness need to be examined and understood  – how does happiness come about? and what are the causes of suffering? and how can we be free of them? These are things the Buddha examined nearly six hundred years before the birth of Christ and the teachings arising from his conclusions developed in methods and practice through time.

He taught that all actions have consequences, both for ourselves and others.  Although these consequences are experienced in the moment  of the action  their repercussions continue into the future as patterns of behaviour are established.

We can see this occurring on a global scale as well as the individual.  In Four Thought, The Shadow of the Cold war,  Professor Sachs, a renowned economist, explains how the USA was happy to assist Poland in their financial crisis however when Russia under Gorbachev requested  assistance under similar conditions, help was refused. His suggestions… that this decision was instrumental in creating the kind of ‘Russia’ that we see today, and that victors rarely learn the lessons of history… did not meet with much applause in the New York bookstore where he was speaking yet had a ring of truth about them.

In the same way,  how much tolerance of Western-style democracy is likely from the Hong Kong government official who, when he was a young man, experienced brutal repression of political dissent and the imprisonment of his sister  under the ruling  colonial British government.  At this timeHong Kong was acting as a sweatshop for our country and dissent and disruption was crushed partly because of politics and partly for financial reasons.  This particular official, who had been intending to join the colonial government, left the country to study finance and politics in Beijing and has now returned to take up a leading role in the current Hong Kong government. (i’ll add the radio 4 link for this program if i find it)

Just as you cannot extinguish an electrical fire with water so the right methods are needed to put out the fires which rage in our own and others’ hearts. The Buddha taught that to live in love amongst those who hate is the way; that hatred never conquered hatred. True love simply cannot flow from actions inspired by our assumptions, our hatred, or our greed.

In our ignorance we tend to project our hatred onto other people and act as though the environment is there for our consumption; alternatively we may repress these tendencies. Either way we suffer from a dis-ease where the lack of integration between ourselves and the environment has a detrimental effect on our physical or mental health.

The buddha taught that our  tendencies to jealousy, pride, greed or desire, hatred or aversion, envy and wrong views… of ourselves and others and situations (our assumptions)… can be examined, seen in their true nature for what they are, and let go.

We are not powerless, we can do much that is good and kind and tender both for ourselves and others. We can take steps to grow in wisdom and compassion and, as we change ourselves and our views, we see the world differently… and love is there…no matter what.

If  you are met with love today you can imagine sharing that with everyone who is in need of it.  Even a drop of water is more than some people will receive today so if you hold those who are thirsty in mind then, as you drink, people who seem other, yet are part of our world, are held in your mind with love…. and your heart is growing in size to accommodate more and more. That’s one method, there are many others which bring about a greater sense of connection.

The bodhisattvas vow connects us with all beings with compassion… and the practice and accomplishment of the perfection of wisdom/dzogchen leads to a compassion grounded in truth.

If this way of looking at things appeals to you do have a look at the website and get in touch, or check the wealth of information on simplybeing.co.uk

And here is a valentine’s present for you…  it’s Yasmina Khadra, an Algerian writer now living in France reflecting on personal identity in the light of the challenges currently facing Europe.  For me it was  poignant and beautifully expressed. The programme on radio four on Wednesday morning lasts for just fifteen minutes  yet expresses so much truth…with love, Wendy

Hang up your crook!

Happy thoughts and sad ones

Anxious ones and scary ones

Scamper around like new-born lambs

Let them go where they please…

You are no thought shepherd!images

 

 

Enjoy your retirement….

 

to John and all …

We have John Chettoe  and his son to thank for these recordings … and Peter Farrie who published them and also designed this web-site.

There are a wide variety of interesting audios on the main Simplybeing web-site. These are there thanks to the kindness of many others, those who make and edit the recordings, to Christian, in Germany, who publishes them and to Barbara who keeps both connections and the main web-site going in London…also to those who sponsor the main web-site.  I play my part with some editing and offering this site.  (This is just to give you an idea of some of the effort  that goes on behind the scenes when you click a link to listen!).

Also to see here the working of dependent co-origination.. ‘on the basis of this, that arises.’ From a dharma perspective to see the  interconnectivity and interdependency of all that arises. You can expand this looking in many ways — through all the factors needed to come into play for you to find yourself reading this just now— to all those that brought James to teach on that weekend in Bristol…and so on…..

Whiplash

This film is showing on Sun 11th Jan at 11am at a special screening at the picture house in Exeter and on general release from 16th.

It’s an extraordinary film about a young man’s  drivenness to excell as a drummer in a jazz band.

From a dharma perspective there’s a lot to see.. impermanence–dependant co-origination–ego striving–taking for granted/assumptions–humility–life-purpose–pride–fixation–making ’special’/above/apart/separate–?the means justifies the end… and fantastic drumming!

Appointments and disappointments.

I have been thinking about appointments and disappointments, expectations and assumptions…. so whether you are new to the group or an ‘old hand’ I would ask you to read chapter 15 in the book Simply Being by James Low as I think it  is important to explore your own expectations about the Dharma and how it is taught.

Just as a student cannot be known and labelled judged and discussed as if they were  a thing, so neither can a teacher.

It’s wise to check a teachers credentials and important find out if there is a connection and whether you learn anything from them. Later, if issues arise which cannot be integrated then it is appropriate to raise this directly with the teacher. Friends will often confirm each others assumptions or opinions, and then what started out as  a thought can end up as a ‘solid definition’.

If the student is disappointed with the teacher, or the teacher disappointed with the student, this means that one party has made an appointment for another to behave in a particular way, and an expectation has formed which has not been met.

Expectations are usually based on assumptions formed from past experiences mixed with imaginary hopes or fears, yet these can be taken for granted as self-evident truths. ‘You should be this…  or you should not be….!’

Whether you are practising with a hinayana view,  a mahayana view,  or that of a non-dharma practitioner  then a teachers behaviour will  not always fit your frame of reference. This may trouble you but does not necessarily mean that an error has occurred. However if they should get  a bit lost, and teachers are finding their way too,  an apology should be forthcoming.

The dharma is very precise, as a medicine it has been used, tested and proven to be effective over thousands of years. However, as with contemporary medicine where only fifty percent of chronically ill patients take the prescribed medicine correctly, students can forget to take it, double the dose, mix it with other things or apply it incorrectly.  Whilst the dharma teachings are the antidote to the ills of samsara  the patient has to both trust the doctor and take the appropriate medicine regularly for it to work.

Others will have more facts at their finger tips and surely greater teaching skills but I have been given validation, within a lineage, to teach hinayana mahayana and vajrayana buddhism, including dzogchen, by someone who has full authority to do this. If you are unsure about this then you can check with me or with James Low. At the very least, this should mean that you have confidence that from the  dharma point of view there is sufficient realisation and understanding to teach, and that I can be trusted never to be malicious.

I have also completed the Bangor mindfulness teachers training course…this kind of mindfulness is derived from one of the eight stages of the Noble Path practised  in the Hinayana view.

At times i can be teachery and sometimes even preachery but i am also in the process of change!

When the recluse speaks much ’tis on and of “the Way” (zen saying) …

They criticise when he says too much

and when he says too little…

and when he does not speak   (the Dhammapada)

So…it’s genuinely hard to strike the right balance.

But whatever occurs, the Dharma speaks of the truth of impermanence and dependent co-origination (on the basis of this, that arises) so any opinion, view, situation or behaviour is transient and contingent. Learning how to teach is a process and hopefully my skills will increase with practise. James Low teaches in a very different manner now from that which he employed twenty years ago..

So for students all this invites examination of the assumptions they hold about the dharma and the teacher.

In your opinion should the good teacher leave you to travel at your own pace or encourage you?

Should they be always sympathetic and understanding  and never challenge your views?

Should they be kind and gentle or a bit rough and acerbic?

Do they have rules to follow?……

A good teacher will do  what’s appropriate – this will vary…their function is not to fall asleep with you but to help you wake up.

I wrote a verse which relates to this

What we can do with super glue!

Identity is a CV— a story used to limit me, which  stunts my creativity.

If you stick stories onto me you’ll make a shape which seems to be a person of ‘solidity’.

If I bind with your certainty I compromise our liberty and movements are no longer free.

The truth of our reality is openness and vitality displaying momentarily.

So, if ever you’re upset by me the Bristol talk – first MP3 is a perfect  apology.

(the talk is on this web-site under audios and videos)

Growth and change is not easy. If you’ve seen a chick picking its way out of  an egg, a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, or a snake sloughing off its skin you know that perseverance is vital…samsara with just a sprinkling of dharma doesn’t taste too good and is not sustaining.

A student may be keen for a while, even very appreciative of the teachings, however the winds of karma blow and off they go.The teacher cannot hold on to them, they themselves have to do the holding  on until the view becomes not ‘second nature’ but first nature. Progress is not necessarily onwards and upwards. There is hope that students will study, reflect and practice —  that they will respect the Dharma and the efforts of teachers  who for thousands of years have studied practised and made many sacrifices to maintain the continuity of the teachings  but they may not. So teaching also helps the teacher with the  development of equanimity. Thank you if you have contributed to that somewhat uncomfortable process!

We are lucky to have James’ advice and I had a chat with him about the way forward for the group this year. The thinking is to  give a short (15 mins) talk, meditation for half an hour and then study maybe fifteen lines of the Dhammapada. We’ll see how it goes.

As always, if there are issues which you would like to discuss outside of the class i am happy to talk on the phone or meet up with you and have a chat.

best wishes….

Wendy

Muslim or Mancunian….what do we know?

How many different worlds could be conjured up in yours by the word Muslim… or Mancunian?    So very many.  But if we know what a muslim is…or we know Manchester why would we enquire further, why would we really look at the basis for our knowledge and question its validity ?

I used to live near Manchester and in other countries the  mention of  Manchester would often elicit a response along the lines of ‘Ah…I know Manchester! Manchester United — Ryan Giggs!!’. In this way a complex and dynamic city is equated with a footballers name.

Currently there is  an excellent series on the radio about Manchester by Jeanette Winterson and  called Manchester – alchemical city   ( you can listen to this on radio4 i-player). It speaks of Manchester’s multiple faces – social political economic geographic and demographic – which change through time, dependent upon many different causes and conditions.

Naturally this is Ms Winterson’s perspective, with its particular biases. As listeners, although our ears may hear everything she says, we find ourselves paying particular attention to aspects which interest us  and giving less attention to others (dependant upon our own particular biases). But whether expansive or limited our opinions about Manchester are unlikely to do harm.

However when we view people of other faiths, or groups, from a biased or ill-informed perspective  this does harm. To think ‘they are all the same’ and say ‘I know what they are’ is both a violence and untrue.

Unfortunately when people hear the same thing repeatedly, whether they are saying it to themselves or someone else is saying it, eventually it ‘rings true’ for them and they  believe it. ‘It must be true – I have heard it so many times!… everybody says, everybody knows that…surely you know that too…it says it in the paper! But what ‘it’ says in the paper is affected by many factors including the editor’s bias or prejudice.  Activities perpetrated against others on the basis of such beliefs are committed in ignorance…an ignoring of our shared and linked existence, our common ground, and an ignoring of the consequences and ramifications of such actions over time.

Early coverage on the radio referring to investigations into religious practice in Birmingham schools mentioned a poster of a ‘warlike god Ram’ on a wall in one of the classrooms. I wonder whether a poster of King Richard ‘the Lionheart’ or St George and the dragon would have caused similar qualms? The person being interviewed seemed unaware that Ram is actually a Hindu deity who is seen as embodying chivalry and virtue. It would be nice to think that he has read the Koran but perhaps this is unlikely.
The understanding of any religion is complex, the translations and interpretations of texts and the manner in which the beliefs are practised is variable — one size does not fit all.

Excerpts from a book by Moshin Hamid called Discontent and it civilisations    (also available on radio 4 i-Player) give a delightful glimpse  into the life of an acclaimed Pakistani author, his views and experiences of living in Pakistan the U.S. and the U.K., and also into the rise of Islamophobia.

The practice of the dharma can lead to an appreciation of the way in which we create a simulacrum of a world of absolutes and certainties out of that which is inherently labile and impermanent. Investigating the nature of the self, the mind, and thoughts is far from ‘navel-gazing’.  It is through this meditation that we can gently come to see what we are up to and find a different, more healthy, way of relating both to ourselves and to the rest of the world.

wendy                                                                                                                                                     10.12.2014

To study the self is to forget the self – to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.

 

 

Distraction

Dec. A few of us were sitting in the Bristol YHA at the weekend grappling with the notions of ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’. This video http://vimeo.com/22123553 which is  an open talk, explains a lot about this including the truth about ‘you and me’.

STOP FOR A MOMENT

pause

Meditation acknowledges basic bewilderment and the space in which basic bewilderment forgets to create its tantrum. Then there’s some gap, some room somewhere. However, it seems a long, long way from there to everyday simplicity. When we discover this space in meditation, it’s as though we have gone to the peak, to Mount Everest. Then what? It seems to be a long way down to the ground. There are actually many opportunities for relating with bewilderment. There’s the opportunity to finally stop everything. We decide not to rush, not to run anymore. We stop for a moment, just to be quietly with the meditation technique, whatever it may be. Then there are just teeny-weeny stars shining through the darkness—an occasional glimpse.

From ‘Karma’ in Chogyam Trungpa’s book Work,Sex,Money

Dharma or samsara?

Homage to the Guru – our own true nature, and the embodiment of that….

 

Thoughts and feelings

sensations, sounds…

the natural radiance of the ground.

 

If I relax and let them be

I find the openness of ‘me’.

 

If I grab hold, I’ll make of me

what’s called by Scots

‘a wee stookie!’*

 

* Stookie …a rigid dressing, usually made of gauze and plaster of Paris, used to immobilize an injured body part, as in a fracture or dislocation – a plaster cast (urban dictionary )

You could see the plaster of paris as the energy of attention which, when applied to the gauze of the constructs/concepts, seems to create a fixed shape or pattern which restricts the degree of free movement or play in the world.

wendy Dec 2014

 

 

How should a teacher behave?…

Well…. perfectly! Surely that is obvious.

But what do you mean by ‘perfectly’?

Well… perfectly…  according to the  rulebook in my head.

But if the teacher  shares your  rulebook you might not learn very much from them. As my teacher’s teacher told him —  ‘the buddha is not a “nice man”.’

Awakening to the unborn natural state or ‘buddha nature’ results in a change of operating system…no longer standing apart and judging with a dualistic perspective but responding to dynamic situations with freshness and attunement.

A good teacher acts to wake us up to our attachment to the illusory nature of the fixed patterns we use to create  the duality of samsaric existence. Some will even be kind enough to continue to point out that our shoes are far too tight until we wake up and feel the pain of our blisters, callouses and corms. At the same time they remind us that our feet are naturally beautiful and, with the right kind of dharma massage, these corms and blisters will become wings. Then we will work at freeing ourselves from these shoes and discover the pleasure of walking barefoot and moving through space in different ways!

Depending on your condition these may be the kindest teachers of all, but sometimes they may seem unpleasant. We want them to appreciate our lovely shiny shoes and sympathise with our limp however whilst they see our view  they do not share it —  they see beyond our felt limitations.

On the other hand a teacher may  be just being rather unpleasant; karmic winds can shift a teachers behaviours, so this is something to look at —  can we learn something by engaging with this person as they are and as we feel uncomfortable?

The ego will not readily choose to engage in a struggle where it feels its existence to be threatened but in dharma practice we are engaged in a process of softening and becoming undefended, allowing the ego to be what it is, just an aspect of our awareness,  relaxing to the point  where this awareness is revealed to us.

There is  more on this theme, and  about the relationship between teachers and students  in chapter 15 – The Transmission of the Dharma —   in the book Simply Being by James Low. It is important to try to have a sense of this relationship so please let me know if you have any questions.

I’d also be delighted to hear from you when you have read the preceding chapter, on refuge and bodhicitta…we can formalise taking the taking of refuge and bodhicitta vows  if you would like…and discuss any questions which arise.

 

 

…be soft in your practice…

For those of you who come and go…

This comes from the introduction to a lovely book – Sayings and tales of Zen Buddhism —  Reflections for Every Day, by William Wray… and it has helped me to think of dharma practice in a softer way from the habitual striving —  yet keeping the connection throughout changing circumstances.

‘Be soft in your practice. Think of the method is a fine silvery stream not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go its own way, meandering here trickling there.It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you.’