Wendy

Finding freedom in the finest compost….

I have been slowly reading, re-reading and inwardly digesting the contents of the book ‘Finding Freedom’ and was, today, inspired to write a review on Amazon.
In 2013 as Lara Bates I reviewed ‘Simply Being’ and, as wendy, ‘Sparks’ in 2018. It was easy to do, but times have changed… now I find that before posting a review I must first have spend forty pounds this year. I haven’t done this yet (though I have discovered that putting money onto an Amazon gift card bought in a supermarket is a way to purchase without parting with card details)….so in the meantime, below, is a preview of the review!

I seem to have been getting busier, and not having time to detour to the garden centre and also wanting to support the village shop, I bought  the three bags of cheap compost which they had on display. A neighbour, a keen gardener, saw them and recoiled, saying ‘What is that???!!!’ with a look of utter disgust. I felt that was quite a strong reaction but replied ‘compost’ and left it at that…

It turned out she has a point. I’ve been planting plants and seeds in compost for a long time and have never before had plants which did not grow. The culprit had to be the compost… I looked at its constituents.  The bag didn’t give much away apart from mentioning that a fair proportion of it is ‘recycled’ … one wonders… recycled what?… this does matter! (relatively speaking) and inspired the review.

Finding Freedom – A Most Enriching Compost!

The dharma is  good in the beginning, and in the middle, and in the end…just as it is with the three approaches to awakening elucidated in this book.

‘Finding Freedom’ contains recent revisions of texts from the Theravadan, Mahayana and Dzogchen traditions which James Low had translated earlier, under the guidance of C.R. Lama.

The orientation and explanations accompanying each translations are easy to follow and invaluable…comprehensive notes further clarify the meaning and intent.

Planted in the compost of samsara… growth is stunted, blossom’s absent and there is a failure to thrive.
Life’s full flowering and realisation of our infinite potential depends upon access to the nourishment of that which is true…offered in ways we can absorb.
The different  formulations offered here address our conditioning in different yet harmonising ways which seep through our ego-self, penetrating right down to the roots growing in samsara – and withering them…. facilitating freedom to rise like the sun. Then, facing towards that as the sunflowers do, the roots of practice find the openness… and the buddha smiles.

So…this is compost of impeccable provenance and peerless quality!

James Low’s translations arise from the dharma, in connection with us at this time, though a lifetime of study and deep practice.
He had the opportunity to clarify his interpretations and understanding with other great teachers for whom the dharma was their life-blood.
So, allied with his facility with the English language, one can have confidence that the translations, although being as he says provisional in nature,  reliably accord with and express the meaning intended to be conveyed.

This is not a ‘page-turner’ of a book but one to stop us in our tracks…leaving each page open…to savour

…leaving me with a sense of most profound gratitude for the dharma, the teachers through time, and the opportunity to practice.

 

 

 

Sunday sitting…?

A few people  have expressed  a wish to come to the group but are too far away for the travelling to and fro to make sense.Some might like a little longer to practice together.

So I’m suggesting that we might meet occasionally on Sunday with a little talk and sit maybe between 10 and 12 then share a bit of food afterwards.

The dates available currently are 11th Aug. 1st Sept and 15th Sept.

R.S.V.P.

The people in your phone….

Many years ago I remember sitting in Macclesfield listening to James inviting us to look around the room at the objects we could see and then to see if there was any more to them than meets the eye, the back story.

I remember  feeling gormless as I looked at thankas, bowls, tables, brocade… and thought how could i see more than what I do – thankas, bowls, tables, brocade… what more could there be?

What more could they be than what they are?… I was very stuck in believing that what I called them, the  labels I put onto the objects, was what they were…I  mean what else could they be? What more could there be to them… how could you see them differently?

He then started to talk about the bowl in front of him… marked by the hammers of somebody probably going deaf in some little workshop in India or Nepal.  About how the figuring, the designs on it, would be ‘just patterns’ to some… but meaningful to those who had incorporated these symbols into their way of interpreting the world. That the symbol itself comes alive through the interpretive matrix of the onlooker and the strength of affect evoked, whether positive or negative or neutral. ( retrospective creative licence in these words which I hope you’ll allow!)

That was not a lightbulb moment for me except in realising that I was missing what someone else could see, that my view might be a tad limited!
As a child I had the luck to be able to look at paintings and I remember thinking that the shadows around the fruit in still-life paintings were put there because that’s what artists do when they paint…I didn’t notice them in real life.

Gradually over time, many years and explanations later… about vases that someone thought beautiful but would end up ignored on a charity shop shelf, and ‘roses’ that were not their name… it sank in. Light slowly dawned that the meaning and value of ‘objects’ does not depend on labels, is not intrinsic, obvious and ‘out there’, but in the observer who creates the meaning through the patterns of thought possibilities available to him/herself… and then projects that onto the object. That moment of meaning is transient… and the repetition of it as a ‘given’, something known and inevitably so, is dulling, obscuring the freshness of each presentation.

It is we who ‘make special’ or not by our selective attention. Someone who knows nothing about buddhism can see a statue and say ‘that’s a buddha’ just through the kind of pattern recognition that we did when we were finding pairs of apples or bananas or whatever in a child’s card game… ‘I know what that’s called!’… but meaning and value are not in the affixed word, nor what’s there, they’re given by us.

Can statues really be buddhas? … these lumps of metal or clay or wood?

Absolutely, if you take the word that matches and is ‘hung’ around the objects neck as definitional… But buddha has different meanings even within buddhism… let alone outside of it. If it’s one who is awake to the unchanging truth and the relationship between that and what we generally take to be true…then a statue does not pass the test…especially if there is also a defined requirement to teach!
Others would say that buddha doesn’t do anything and this is a reflection, or refraction, a gesture arising from that frameless view…not separate from buddha…

And, in observing any form, different aspects will be highlighted by some and diminished by others. If the ‘Buddha’ is dusty, that would be very troubling for some and they would get ‘a dusty Buddha’, whereas others would be more concerned about the lineaments of the face – did it look friendly or not ‘friendly Buddha’, where did it come from ‘well-travelled Buddha’, or are the jewels real ‘valuable Buddha’ or fake ‘tawdry Buddha’ and so on…

Then there are all the causal factors  connected with the arising of the form. This is what James was gesturing to when he spoke about the bowl…
The desire which leads to the mining, the miners, smelters and those involved with the equipment and activities around that… and the designer, the artist the shopkeeper… the notion that this would sell well for a profit… and on the purchaser’s side that this would be a lovely buddhisty thing to have. All the thoughts and connections that have led to further notions then into activities, spread out across the world.The aeroplanes that bring the tourists across to buy or ship the bowls out into the world, the fuel required and all associated with that… more connections with thoughts and life energy of so so many beings at each moment and going back through time.

As there are so many ways of interpreting the presenting form, it is clear that an object cannot be ‘just what I take to be’…it is not any ‘fix-ed thing’ but a site for a multiplicity of potential interpretations…and so the world is not ‘fixed solid’ as it was before but energetically vibrant and dynamic.

When I was small I was quite convinced there was a minute orchestra playing inside the radio. This was so obvious that it never occurred to me to check this certainty with anyone. Maybe there is much that we treat in the same way as adults, taking for granted and assuming rather than putting into question and really looking closely without knowing in advance of seeing.
In fact there was, in the radio, the orchestration of so much in the way of science and technology, composers, musical appreciation, teachers, parents, schools instrument makers, a live orchestra of musicians, and thousands of hours of practice, all coming together with my attention, as i sat on the yellow plastic top stool made by…

So are there people in the phone…?

It’s 200 years since Karl Max was born and this dramatisation of Das Kapital by Sarah Woods  addresses this question in a way which I found moving

… perhaps you will enjoy too if you have an hour to spare… its available for 20 days or so.

It is clear how much aggression occurs, and will it occur increasingly, in the pursuit of limited resources which are not essential to our life and well-being… and are in fact actively detrimental to that of others…

‘But it’s just a phone’… maybe not…

 

 

 

 

Finding freedom – Wandel Verlag

To find freedom we may not have to do so much, it is free and it’s always there, but if we don’t see this directly, then there is so much richness and diversity in the different aspects of the dharma with which we can engage, and which may release some of the rigidities and tensions…

…some of the teachings are spoken, some are written, and some are neither.

The books may bring great richness and depth to the dharma view to which they pertain and each book is the fruit of the labours of many different people, some of the the last being the publishers.

The latest work of James Low –  ‘Finding Freedom’  will shortly be published by Wandel Verlag  a small publishing house in Germany… and i’d like to appreciate and highlight how valuable is all the work that goes on behind the scenes there and elsewhere in the world, in the production of books which encapsulate the richness and diversity of the dharma in a way which maintains the integrity of the flow of the continuous stream of dharma teachings into and through the world.

The various books James has written all have quite different flavours… reading, thinking about, and absorbing them into practice/life brings about different possibilities of being and relating. This recent book will be readily accessible to practitioners of different strands of dharma…and illuminating of their interrelatendess.*

Some of the other books published are of practices which are very particular in their context, application, and effect – including the works of Martin Boord (Rig-‘dzin rdo-rje) . As with all teachings these are tools to be picked up and used in the correct way, a way which needs to be explained by someone who knows how, or they will be ineffective or have the potential to harm. Recently I met someone who had spent eight years doing a Tara practice from a translated text which he had found, and said it had made no difference… I’ve also met a Chod practitioner who said she had been practising for seven years… but was just miserable… neither were taught or supervised within the tradition from which the teachings come.

*Ordering ‘Finding Freedom’ from Wandel Verlag before August 3 bring benefits in terms of discount and timing!

 

 

 

 

Two updates… The book – ‘Finding Freedom’ also a change for Friday 8th November

Firstly just to draw your attention to the change of venue in Oxford on the evening of Friday eighth of November.

The public talk James is giving will now be held in Talbot Hall, Lady Margaret Hall – the same venue as for the Saturday and Sunday.

 

Secondly the book: Finding Freedom

…. you may have noticed some publicity…some of which is included below… around the latest book ‘Finding Freedom’ which will be published and widely available from 3rd August…however, pre-payment to the publisher has benefits! (see bottom of post.)

‘Finding Freedom’ includes texts from the Theravadin, Mahayana and Dzogchen Buddhist traditions, introduced and translated by James Low. The book consist of profound introductions and revised translations of classical and some more recent works, most of which had been first translated under the supervision of Chimed Rigdzin Rinpoche.

These texts, which were very important to him, are of immense value for our practice, e.g. to deal with everyday difficulties, to recognise and include the cause-and-effect principle in our path, to recognise emotions and their cause and to cut off the illusory ego, or, in the final section, to experience and realise emptiness in its diversity through the wide all-inclusive view of Dzogchen. All texts are a deep inspiration and this collection shows the great richness of Buddhist teaching’.

 

The Four Immeasurables

Here is the link to that prayer.

The words in the translation wish for all beings to have happiness and the cause of happiness…
To  be free of sorrow and the cause of sorrow.

Following James’ talk in Macclesfield  this year i have changed the words above that to those he used:  wishing ‘for all beings to know the root of happiness’ and  ‘for them to cut the root of suffering’.

Apologies… and also

Just to apologise to those who have already read Dungeons and dragons 1.

It was unfinished, incomplete, the ‘key note’ was a bit off…i’ve revised it so please would you have another look.

And just to draw your attention to the recent posting of the Emerson 2018 recordings shown below…i made two posts at the same time…and i’m not sure how the notifications work but you may just have noticed  ‘Dungeons’ which would be a shame as these invite a beautiful and much deeper look at ‘what is’.

Dungeons and dragons 1

When I was first finding some freedom in living, I found myself on the seafront at Sidmouth and the jazz festival had just begun. It was early evening, the sun was setting over the sea, and a young guitarist was playing a song about the world being divided into prisoners and jailers. A woman next to me was enjoying the song just as much as I was and we exchanged a few words and smiles. I had a feeling that she also felt that he had missed out another vital group – the liberators.

I identified strongly with the prisoners without seeing that, relatively speaking, the jailers are equally imprisoned and, at that time, I had a sense that for the prisoners to escape, it just required the glorious liberators to arrive with the keys, unlock the doors to the cells, and then they would be able to walk out  into the sunshine… Forever free!

Somewhat wiser now I realise that whilst the ‘liberators’ with wisdom can do a great deal with compassion to help if the circumstances are right…
They can help the prisoner check out whether or not the walls are as strong as the prisoner feels they are, whether there is really a locked door to the cell; give the prisoner some sense of their own capacity and what they might enjoy were they able to move in an unconstricted fashion. They may also use their own life force, their time, their energy to encourage this move towards wisdom in any way they can… 

But the prisoner has to actively engage in this process, overcome the fear of the unknown – dragons, ghosts from the past, or whatever makes them shrink…stepping into the bright light…
But also, having walked through the open door, to grow… through the growing pains as the tightnesses work free… into a shape fitting to the spacious environment…and keep releasing…and releasing…no prisoner, no imprisonment. 

The key point is for the prisoner to discover how the prison was created and their part in that. That the walls are made of thoughts, held together by attachment, arising from the misidentification, the misunderstanding, as to the prisoners own nature…and, concomitantly, that of the jailer and all other phenomena used in the illusory creative construction. 

Without this wisdom it’s a case of ‘out of the frying-pan into the fire’ – never mind ‘pop-up’ shops…’pop-up’ prisons are two a penny!

So this wisdom is the true key, one which unlocks all doors; one you can always use as the ‘get out of jail card’ if you sense yourself imprisoned by falling into constrictions and fusions arising due to previous deluded activities. 

By ourselves or with some help, eventually we realise that these jails occur when we get small and tight…and hot and dense and dim! 

If we’ve not been using the key for a while, have gone to sleep, and woken up in the dark and forgotten where it is…don’t worry… just relax, this makes the practice of releasing from con-fusion with the mental construct  easier; if you’re not at home with that practice, then ask and pray and use whatever practice you are familiar with…the dharma always responds. The light will come on, brightly or as a little glimmer, and you’ll sense it’s at your fingertips (where it always was, both as the ground of your embodied existence and that of all arising phenomena).
You’re never truly trapped though, without space, it can surely feel like that.

Qs as clues, reminders, aides memoir:
Which is bigger: the mind or the jail?… and where exactly is the jail located?
Which is real and persists unchanged through time: the pattern or the ground – the ‘jail’ or the mind itself?
What is the relationship between the ‘liberator’ and the nature of the mind,
the relationship of the ‘prisoner’ to the ground,
the relationship between the ‘liberator’ and the ‘prisoner’? 

And if this realisation is merely intellectual how much will it help in the lived situation when old patterns are insisting?
How would that result compare with regular on-going practice to actualise the view and keep the lens clear?
Is it perhaps something to do with our own huffing and puffing on the lens that mists it up, our tensions that distort it ?
: )… knowing that answer from experience! and going Key-less is the way:

Like the Moon’s Reflection on the Water

The enlightened mind
Is without coming or departing.
It is neither outside nor within.
Transcending thought, it has no partiality.
It is ultimate reality, unlimited and unconfined,
Wherein there is no wide or narrow
And no high or low.
So set aside all anxious search for it.
Excerpted from:
Finding Rest in Illusion
The Trilogy of Rest, Volume 3
Page 35
Finding Rest in Illusion

 

Emerson 2018 audio recordings

These recordings are now available for your delectation…sweet music for your dharma ears!

Here’s the link to their location, with lots more, under the audio section of the simplybeing.co.uk website.

 

Springing into life… at Emerson College and Oxford

I realise that it’s time to spring-clean and blow the dust off this website…various projects and a pilgrimage have intervened…and it’s so long since I wrote anything that it just taken me twenty minutes to find the password!

Someone sent me an email today asking when James was next teaching in England… so i can see that it’s good to have this up-to-date, supplementary to the Simplybeing.co.uk website.

Today it’s a pleasure to bring dharma spring, summer, autumn, and winter together in a  paragraph or two.

Spring – new leaves will be showing on the Emerson recording tree with the completion of editing and sound improving the recordings from last summer. Hopefully these will be ready for posting in  the audio section of the Simplybeing website ( you’ll find it under publications) in a week or two. It has taken a very long time to get this to spring back to life and you would be amazed at the amount of energy of various kinds… from buddhas and beings… have gone into this, from inception to delivery, all for our ease.

For various reasons I have listened to most of these recordings many times and, as usual, every time I listen different aspects sink in deeper.
A long time ago James alluded to a friend of his who just got a teaching from his teacher every six months…  the friend made good progress –   digesting, assimilating, and then attempting to apply what he had learnt before he met up again with his teacher for something more.
There is an enormous depth and richness to those few days of teaching and i would have liked you to have the full six months to enjoy this before we are meeting again… but it’s, as usual, a case of working with circumstances.

Summer – the time and date at Emerson College is now shown here, as well as on the Sb. website.

Autumn – well probably early winter really, but anyway… will see us meeting up back in Oxford on 8-10 Nov…details coming soon.

Winter – the Oxford recordings from last December are also now available. You can now listen to the public talk  as well as the weekend teachings.

– James has agreed to teach again in Oxford 8-10 Dec. at Gio’s invitation. Further details will soon be available.

I once heard someone sing a song about the yogin Milarepa and his disciples… ‘their meeting and their parting mark the change of time’ …..and so it does for us

Photo credit

Being your (appropriate) size…whatever that is!

Once upon a time long,long, ago… I was meditating, sitting on the grass in the Deerpark at Sarnath. It was early morning and relatively quiet, the light was soft and there was not yet much heat in the day. There were no deer, I had checked that out earlier… the animals had changed… there was  a crocodile instead!

So I was sitting at a place where I had sat in before and slipped into some meditative state. I always used to sit cross-legged with my small pack underneath my right knee and I would often slip the leash attached to this around my leg.

Packs can disappear in a flash, one moment they are beside you, the next moment whisked away.  I had found the advice I was given to put a leash on my big pack also useful in England before setting off – looping it through a chair or table leg to slow down anyone wanting to snatch it for long enough for me to get a drink. There would be some commotion in the pulling over of the chair or table which might help…and usually i had my weight on it too…so this leash gave me freedom from clutching my belongings with security.

So…there i am, meditating…and dropping into a state of being less conscious of what is going on around me… then suddenly feeling a tugging. Tugging where? Lots of different places!….
From whom… Lilliputian thieves!

Very strange  to have some of this gang of little beings trying to pull your pack away at the same time as others worked on removing your shoes, undoing your watch strap, removing your necklace….etc.

They were too small for me to whack at, and that thought did not cross my mind at the time – but anyway it was too muddly – using force i might injure one accidentally… If i had focussed on stopping one pair of hands in particular, another pair might have succeed…

So i just kind of exploded up and out… very, very, big… and they ran away..no harm done.

With the thoughts envisaged as little binding threads, as in the previous Gulliver post, practice of the hinayana in the bodhisattvayana and tantrayana methods can bring about a change in the kind of thoughts or apparent quality of the thread.
With each view, because of the varying way oneself and  ‘others’ are regarded, a ‘revising of sizing’ is required and facilitated.

In the practice of dzogchen, resting in the openness, the variations in focus from infinite to very small, openness to precision, is ongoing and become more attuned.
The use of the syllable ‘phat’  can break the ‘golden threads’ as well as the ‘mundane’; or one can simply relax out of any particular shape or size …….

….becoming more and more shapeless gives more potential for different shapes to show…

 

The little story above relates to the second time that slipping into an altered state had been an unhelpful disconnection from my lived situation. The first time was when my bag was stolen, in a library in England, as i stared transfixed at my first sight of the Simplybeing website… which had just come into being! It’s much safer to be awake, able to take different shapes, than in a fixed or altered state, when moving in the world.

P.S. The crocodile was in my mind…and so were the deer in their pen…leaves were being brought in from the countryside to feed them. The deer park was not as i had imagined!

 

 

On being… or caught by thoughts

What a distressing picture I beheld as a child…. opening the book ‘Gulliver’s travel’s and seeing the poor man stretched out on the ground and pinned there by hundreds of tiny ropes. There were so many that despite their insubstantial nature he was fixed so tightly to the ground that he could not move at all.

More than ten years ago I repeated James words that he ‘would never be caught by a thought’ to a student. She was so taken with those words that she relayed them to a lady on the checkout in the local Morrisons store. ‘ You must never be caught by a thought!’ she laughingly admonished….and the lady thought that was such wonderful advice.

I also told her that James had once instructed me to… ‘take the ring from out your nose’.  Clearly he was referring to my lack of   freedom in being led around like a cow… both by the nonsense of others (first step to be free of that) – then secondly, and with much more difficultly, to be free of the nonsense of myself!

Since then both she and I – and no doubt the lady in Morrisons – have been captivated by many a thought.
Knowing what’s  good for you when you hear it one thing… consistently applying the advice for long enough to bring about a change is very much another!

At first noticing the difference between moments of openness… and then the felt tightening in the body as an attention-invested identity-thought fuses  (or goes into a fugue) with another…or  noticing the rudderless, life-consuming drifting, and the ‘home-coming’ in meditation… over and over again. Being helped  to understand the nature of thoughts, the nature of the mind… the dharma has so much to offer us. Seeing what is going on and releasing from these old habits, allowing the thoughts to move freely without locking on…
It’s no quick fix…but it can be done…and it’s not a bodge job which just keeps your head above water!

Keeping some form of meditation going through all the ups and downs – not resting the oars – is great if you can. Some just drift away after a while…but some, like this dharma student, find that after each period of disconnection with practice the healthiness of the return becomes more evident. She recently told me that she had realised that it was the only thing that was really going to help her.

As the buddha said in the Kalama sutra ‘When you know for yourself, Kalamas, these qualities are skilful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them’.

Gradually you reset your own compass away from the rocky shores into the open waters…the threads that seemed to hold you, fixed in place and time dissolve…and freedom from the mind-forged lilliputian manacles is yours!

Cartoon credit

Homme-âgé – reflections 3

Evening time

meditating in the graveyard

Birds, bats, thoughts flitting

Father-in-law dying

 

shimmerings

of the infinite

 

the shift to

con-fusion with false identities

 

It’s when,

it’s when,

and only when see…

and stop the conning and the fusion

and then, and then, and only then

we feel ourselves at-oned,

at home again.

Homme-âgé – reflections 2

Evening time –

meditating in the graveyard…

birds, bats, and thoughts

flitting…

father-in-law

dying 

from old age…

this world, from lack of love

from  lack of wisdom

 

All this confusion

breeds,  hatred,  greed…

and our pollution

from tensions, torsions –

 

all distortions and contortions 

stops

 

only when

we stop the conning and the fusion

and then… and then, and only then

in truth,

released

we can begin again.

 

 

Homme-âgé – reflections 1

Once of a time he made –
sandcastles by the sea
and kites that flew…life opening…
so much that he could be

He studied hard, his knowledge grew,
at university he made
‘things’ from new materials…

…he made his girlfriend blush
married, made babies,
made the children laugh,
(did he… or did I imagine that?)

made money – house and garden…
retired, grew flowers

grew old

and now he makes, increasingly,
a nuisance of himself

– so I am told

credit for picture