Friday, November 11, 2005

Dharma on the Kennet

Hi everyone,

After much patient waiting I've moved house to Kintbury in West Berks to escape the perils of the A34 and Oxford house prices. I'll be in and around Oxford periodically and still consider myself a member of the Sangha, even though some of you haven't seen me for a long time! I've already noticed an improvement in my meditation practice now that the no. 10 bus and other traffic are no longer passing by under my nose: I just get the joint twitterings of the birds and my thoughts.

Take care,


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Quote from a 'Wildmind newsletter'

"Craving is less blamable but hard to remove. Hatred is more blamable but easier to remove. Delusion is very blamable and hard to remove."The Buddha

In Buddhist teachings, craving, hatred and delusion are acknowledged as the three "root poisons" that lead to suffering in our lives. When we act based on one of these mental states, suffering inevitably follows, and it's for that reason that we're enjoined to train the mind to act increasingly on the basis of contentment, loving kindness (metta), and mindfulness. In fact it is the purification of the mind in this way that constitutes the basis of all Buddhist practice.

From a newsletter

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Buddha in Chithurst garden

Chithurst Kuti in woods, & view from

Chithurst pooh sticks & walking

Chithurst 17-09-05

Photos of Chithurst 17-09-05

Had a wonderful day today leading a walk around the forest at Chithurst. Thought you might like some of the images. Lots of Metta, from Paul.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Buddhafield rules

The Buddhafield festival 2005 was almost too enjoyable to bear. Its the place where samsara works and is therefore probably very bad for the spiritual development of all 2000 of us there - including a fair few from Oxford I recognised. A typical day of mine. Up at 6.45 - well the light was coming into my tent by then and its a good time to get to the showers. The meditation at 7.30 in the meditation dome on the hill. Sitting alongside my friends is always delightful. Then a meeting at 9 when we planned the workshops on Engaged Buddhism for the next day - starting at 10 and running through the day back to back - there were workshops on animal rights, permaculture, Tsunami relief, the G8 protests, Ambedkar and Buddhism led by some Indian Order members and much much more. When we had planned it, we would go and write our plan on little cards so that the whole festival could see what was going on. Christopher Titmuss was our star turn and packed our colourful tent.

Then time for a wonderful breakfast in the Buddhafield tent (free to us "workers" - if that is work.....) and then maybe a workshop or two, or maybe a singing workshop or tea in the chai tent with an old or maybe new friend. Then lunch (more wonders) and more workshops/tea with friends etc etc until the evening which could be puja with hundreds of people, sitting round our campfire toasting marshmallows and chatting or maybe a bit of music and dancing. Personally I enjoyed wandering round in the darkness amazing myself with the sights of fun and happiness and wondering if I really was still on this troubled earth of ours.

I simply CAN'T WAIT til next year. Sort of middle weekend of July. If you haven't been and you want bliss - GO!

Monday, July 11, 2005

sangha sunday 10th July

Eight of us gathered to enjoy probably one of the best lunches we have had (homemade everything - one hot, one cold soup etc etc)and tried the Kindly Awareness metta practice which an order member in Manchester Vidyamala has developed. After lunch we sat in the garden in the sun and discussed Thich Nhat Hahn's Tenth Mindfulness Training:

Protecting the Sangha
Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit or transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

I did a bit of a presentation on socially engaged Buddhism and the relevance of Buddhism to oppression and injustice in the world and the struggle to deal with ego and difficulties in maintaining a compassionate attitude in conflict situations. The issue of becoming over busy is also a pitfall. We discussed how to deal with anger and the ethics of wanting approval and appreciation for helping work.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Master Hakuin and the Baby

Something to ponder - sent to me by an old acquaintance in South Africa:

Master Hakuin And The Baby

There was a great Zen Master Hakuin (Japanese Buddhist monk) who lived in a small hut. He was greatly revered in the village and known as a wise and saintly man.
One day a village girl became pregnant. The father of the baby left town and she was alone and frightened. As she did not know what else to do, she told the entire village that Master Hakuin was the father.

All the townspeople shocked. They stopped bringing food and offerings. Instead of praising Haikuin now they blamed him.
"You are the worst of all beings," they said.
"Is that so?" replied Hakuin.
The baby was born the the village girl brought the child to Hakuin to be cared for.
"This baby is yours," she said.
"Is that so?" Hakuin said and took the baby gladly.
Hakuin cared for the baby lovingly for several years.
Then, one day, the father of the baby returned to the village and wanted to marry the mother and take back the baby. They told everybody the truth about what happened.

The people were astonished. They all began to praise Master Hakuin and return to his hut with offerings.
"Is that so?" said Master Hakuin.
Soon after that the couple returned for the baby. "Is that so?" Master Hakuin murmured and gave them their child lovingly.
Master Hakuin did not see a problem. He accepted all that life brought him. What seems good turns bad, what seems bad turns good. It is an endless cycle.

Part of the natural human condition is to be subject to suffering, pain, loss, anxiety, sorrow as well as times of joy, fulfillment and delight. However, when happiness comes we want to hold onto it, to keep it with us forever. When painful times come we want to push them away, numb ourselves, withdraw. But as our beloved Baba reminds us, we must learn how to hold all of life in the palm of our hands.
When we judge something as bad, we cut it off and discard it, not fully learning the lesson it has for us. When we reject bitterness in life, we also grow unable to taste that which is sweet. We become one sided and block out much of what life brings.
When we call ourselves a failure, we stop ourselves from learning. We label a small part of the experience, unwilling to allow the full meaning of what has to be revealed. Not only does this bring peace of mind, but step by step we become strong enough to welcome all of life, rather than live in fear.

Don't Turn Life Into A Problem
Stop Judging Everything Good Or Bad
Release Yourself From Unnecessary Demands
Do Each Action Completely
Then Do Something Else
Watch What Goes On
Everything Changes
Take What Life Brings
Say To Yourself "Is That So?"
Rest In Uncertainty, Don't Figure It Out
Let Life Tell You What Is Needed Now

Take a problem that troubles you.
Find five things you like about having it.
Find five things it brings to your life.
Find five things it takes away.
Find five others who share this problem.
Who would you be without it? How would you occupy your day?
Find another problem you'd like to have to replace it?
What would life be without all this?
Try it and see.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I'm in!

Hi everyone,

Finally I think I've made it to the blog. I've just read a book called Kalyana, by Ajahn Sucitto. Highly recommended. I've also just finished "Ten Pillars of Buddhism" by Sangharakshita, which I've got to admit was very dry and a bit boring. I was wondering what other people think of Sangharakshita's written work? I've never really got to grips with any of it properly...

See you,


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Joanna Macy brings the house down

Joanna Macy is a leading voice in movements for peace, justice and a safe environment. Interweaving her scholarship on systems theory and Buddhism and four decades of activism, she has created a groundbreaking theoretical framework for a new approach to personal and social change and a powerful workshop methodology for its application. Joanna spoke to an audience of 300 on May 9th in Oxford and then led two days of workshops in Oxford May 10th and 11th. This is what people said about it:

"I want to add my voice to say how wonderful the 2 day workshop in Oxford was - a real 'coming back to life'; an experience I'd really recommend"

"These workshops have truly altered my perspective on so many things and made a huge impact on my life"

Click here to visit Joanna's website.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Forthcoming retreats in Oxford

Day retreats are a great way to refresh meditation practice, as well as a chance to hear some good dharma talks and spend time with others interested in the Buddhist path. There are 3 coming up in Oxford in June, as follows:

Sunday 12 June at the Oxford Buddha Vihara, 33 Cherwell Drive, off Marston Ferry Road; time 9--5. For more info,; or tel 01865 791591 (contact: Venerable K. Dhammasami)

Sunday 19 June at the Buttery, Wolfson College, Linton Road, North Oxford -- a day retreat from 9.30 to 4.30 with Ajahn Candasiri (senior nun at Amaravati Monastery). To book, send £8 (payable to Susannah Geddes) to Susannah Geddes, 9 Nourse Close, Wood Eaton, Oxford OX3 9TJ. The day will be in silence; please bring vegetarian food to share, and a meditation stool or cushions (there'll probably be chairs for those who need them). The teaching is offered on a dana basis; there will be the opportunity to make a donation during the day.
On Saturday 18 June, Ajahn Candasiri is one of 3 speakers at a day school at Rewley House on Buddhist Meditations and Practice; for info, contact the Day School Administrator, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA, tel 01865 270368.

Saturday 25 June at the Friends Meeting House, St Giles -- a Gaia House Oxford day retreat with Stephen Batchelor. To book, send a cheque for £8 (£5 concessionary rate) payable to Oxford Meditation Retreats to Oxford Meditation Retreats, 40 Campbell Road, Oxford OX4 3PF. The day will be in silence; please bring vegetarian food to share, and a meditation stool or cushions and a rug/mat (there are chairs for those who need them). The teaching is offered on a dana basis; there will be the opportunity to make a donation during the day. For info only (not to make a booking) you can phone Ally on 01865 747912 (before 9pm).

Day retreats tend to get booked up, so don't wait until the last minute if you want to be sure of a place.


With metta

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bridgemakers - want to be part of an interfaith project?

Just got some news about a nice idea for a project starting in Oxford called Bridgemakers. The rationale is explained on the basis that “we live increasingly segregated lives. Rampant individualism, acquisitive commercialism, the politics of division and fear are having an isolating effect on us all” Eight voluntary co-ordinators each from a different faith community (in the case of Buddhists it’s Ali Stott 01865 747912) are recruiting some people from their faith community. Organisationally, the project is under the wing of the Quakers and being put forward by Richard Thompson the warden at the Oxford Quaker Meeting House.

They then commit themselves to inviting someone from another faith community to share their understanding of everyday life and overcome, in a modest way, the divisions within our society.. There will be support and guidance about how to approach the discussion from the project and the idea is to do this in couples, families or pairs of friends. The visit is then repeated the other way and then they meet two more couples/families/friends from two other faith communities. In the second year, the idea is that it will be extended to three more families from other faiths. Ultimately, the idea is to have local groups in other towns and internationally eventually. Lovely idea – anyone want to get involved? If so contact Ali on the number above or Richard Thompson on 01865 557373 or email at

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Thought I'd send you a small series of pictures from Chithurst Buddhist Monastery. First the Shrine Room - very peaceful today, though quite busy in the monastery itself when I visited this morning. The stone floor might look cold but it has underfloor heating, and the oak (from their woodland) ceiling is wonderful. A great place to meditate. Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Fancy camping in a Devon meadow, meditating and practising Qigong this summer?

I just got some publicity for the BuddhaDharmaSangha camp which is happening August 20th -27th this year. Shantiprabha and I went on this a few years ago and it was lovely. You can take kids too. Two Gaia teachers Yani Postelnik and Catherine McGee teach meditation and Brad Richecoeur is the QiGong teacher. You meditate in a yurt. It all pretty blissful. Adults go for £115 - £140 and children at £35 - £70 depending on age. Dana/donations are invited for the teachers.

The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away
We sit together the mountain and me
until only the mountain remains

Li Po 8th century Chinese poet

Buddha In My March Garden. Thought you might like this pic and it gives me a chance to practice sending pics! Posted by Hello

Friday, April 22, 2005

Women's group study the ancient nuns

Last Sunday seven members of the women's group met at Nikki's house to continue their study of the Bhikkhuni-samyutta which forms Chapter 5 of the Sagathavagga-samyutta, the Connected Discourses with Verses, Volume I of the Samyutta Nikaya.
Few seem to know about this sutta which comprises 10 mini-suttas devoted to one particular nun. Each story sets up a scenario where Mara tries to tempt the nun or un-nerve her in some way and she dispatches him in a few lines of pithy retort. Let's hear it for nun power.

The topic of the sutta we studied this week was attachment to beauty and youth and we had a great discussion on the subject - sharing lamentations about wrinkles and inspirating ideas about how to celebrate the aging process. Brigid has since found this rather aposite quote from Ajahn Chah:

"Conditions don’t belong to us. They follow their own natural course. We can’t do anything about the way the body is. We can beautify it a little, make it look attractive and clean for a while, like the young girls who paint their lips and let their nails grow long, but when old age arrives, everyone is in the same boat. That is the way the body is. We can’t make it any other way. But, what we can improve and beautify is the mind"

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Flaming double vajra from Buddhafield Posted by Hello

Bodhidhamma's Day Retreat

Bikkhu Bodhidhamma led a day retreat yesterday including meditation, dharma talks and a question and answer session. Very very good indeed and I learned more about the Mahasi method he teaches. He talks about the "obervation post" from which you can watch the arising of sensations and feelings that arise and pass away. He did a very good talk about the "theory" of meditation, its all basic Buddhism but I found it very very helpful to hear it explained in that way. He is so down to earth, humourous but in others ways such a serious and uncompromising practitioner.

As much of the focus of the day was on detachment, I asked him a question about engagement. "If someone was harming someone else and it was potentially within your power to stop them, what skills, perspectives, wisdom could you bring to the situation that would be helpful?" He answered with an explanation of the difference between force and violence which I have since found in fuller form as an article on his website. You can also find out about the Satipanya Buddhist Trust and his teaching schedule at this site.

Well done to the organising team for this day and just to let you know that there are two more in the current programme Saturday 21 May led by Martine Batchelor and Saturday 25 June led by Stephen Batchelor. Phone Stewart on 01865 747912 for further information. There are also day retreats by Gaia House teachers in London. Phone Anita Courtman on 020 8892 2324 for details. Next ones are May 22nd and June 26th.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

News from the solent or there abouts

Great to hear news from the Isis - here's my news from close to the Solent;

I've just been out in my garden today (unable to avoid the temptation of enjoying the most glorious weather this year) admiring the snakeshead fritilliries now establishing themselves in my front lawn next to the Ems - tiny river, but it still reminds me of the Isis!

I'd love to come along on the very occasional Sundays and enjoy dharma practice and seeing you all again.

I'm still well connected with FWBO Southampton who ran a very successful group retreat in Dorset last November and are planning another in May - very much along the lines of those wonderful Anybody's Barn retreats.

Am also now a Forest Committee member of the Tai Forest Buddhist Monastery at Chithurst nr. Midhurst in W Sussex - they have a wonderful woodland and lake which I am now very much involved with the management of (planning and practically, keeping their goals of peaceful contemplation (they have small huts called kutis which the monks and nuns spend weeks or months retreats in) and nature conservation; it's a great marriage of interests for me!, and for fuel - they manage to power most of the monastery's power needs from burning their own sweet chestnut wood (from their own sustainably managed coppice) in their pretty large boiler.

I've been able to devote more time to this in the last 6 months as I've given up my job whilst we look to purchase a nursing home - which amazingly I found through one of the nuns at the monastery who had a friend who was looking to sell her nusring home in Worthing (to set up an alternative therapy centre with her daughter) - we are now close to exchanging contracts!

Lou is running the London Marathon next Sunday for the second time and the children are growing up so fast; Hannah's 13 and has got to grips with life at a large secondary school and Benny is 9 and playing rugby (amongst other sports) for a local club.

See you one Sunday I hope,

Lots of Metta,


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Learning Freedom - conference on Living Buddhism

I have been asked to do a workshop at the Learning Freedom conference on my particular style of community development in Narborough Leicestershire 27 - 30th April 2006. The blurb says "encompassing all manner of liberative and transformative experience Buddhism, Education, Therapy, Community work, Aid, ARt, Organisation, Philosophy, Practice, Politics, Environment, Multi-faith, Dialogue, Leadership, Creativity, etc. A synergistic feast of hope, faith and commitment. This conference marks the 10th anniversary of the Amida Trust. During its first 10 years, the Trust has become the most active engaged Buddhist organisation in Europe. The costs are Full board Twin £185, Dorm £155, Non-res £145 Day rate £55 A blog site has been created for the conference at

Are you going to Buddhafield?

In the distant realm of the heavenly king Indra is a net, infinite in all directions, at each node a jewel, glittering like stars. We select one jewel, look closely, and discover that in its polished surface are reflected all the other jewels. Each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel also reflects all the other jewels...

Thinking of ourselves as a separate self, we chop the net or web of life into pieces. We conceal our true, boundless identity, which reflects and contains the whole. Knowing interconnectedness is home.

The Buddhafield festival's theme this year is interconnectedness and it is being held from July 13 - 17th this year in Devon. This is a festival with a difference, no alcohol, drugs or dogs (poor dogs) - lots of camping, workshops, music, mad rituals, stalls, wierd and wonderful stuff and ... well I don't know I haven't been before. But I'm going this year. The costs are Adults £60, Children 5 - 15 £10 and under 5s £5. See for more information and booking - you have to book in advance.

Favorite dharma books on meditation

These would be my favorites. Can anyone suggest others they like in the comments section?

Sharon Salzberg's Loving Kindness: the revolutionary art of happiness.

Paramananda's Change your Mind.

Larry Rosenberg's Breath by Breath.

Bodhipaksa's Wildmind.

Try the Inner Bookshop in Magdalen Road or their website on or Windhorse publications

Recommended retreat centres of various traditions

Here are a few retreat centres that we have heard positive things about. There is Samyeling in the Scottish borders which teaches Buddhism from the Kagyu Tibetan tradition whose website can be found on Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland teaches from the Soto Zen tradition and Thich Nhat Hanh's group The Community of Interbeing also coming from the Zen tradition. The web sites are and Or you could try the Western Ch'an Fellowship who have a retreat centre called Maenllwyd in mid Wales (no electricity!) at We can also recommend Amaravati in Hertfordshire which is based in the Theravadin tradition and their web site is Lastly there is Gaia House in Devon where several of our Oxford regulars enjoy going, see their website on

Monday, April 11, 2005

Day retreats in Birmingham

Just to let you know that there is a series of day retreats in Birmingham Buddhist Centre this year running until the title of Exploring the Dharma, Seeking the Heart. They are on Saturdays running 10 - 4.30 on May 21, June 18, July 16 and September 17. Please see
for more information about the centre and what is going on. Its an 80 minute drive from Oxford.

Ajahn Chah wisdom

Brigid sent through a quote from Ajahn Chah today on practice taken from The Key to Liberation and the Path to Peace (pp 40─41)

You must keep putting effort into the practice. In the beginning the important thing is to be doing it. Whether the mind is actually peaceful or not, it doesn’t matter ─ you just have to accept it the way it is. You are concerned with creating wholesome causes. If you are diligent in the practice, you don’t need to worry about what the results will be like. You shouldn’t be afraid that you won’t gain any results from your practice. Worrying like that just prevents the mind from becoming peaceful. Persevere with it. Of course, if you don’t do the practice then who will gain anything? Who will realise the Dhamma? Only the one who seeks will realise the Dhamma. It is the one who eats who satisfies his hunger, not the one who reads the menu. Each and every mood is lying to you; if you are aware of it happening just ten times, that’s better than nothing. The same old person keeps lying about the same old things. If you are simply aware of what goes on that’s already good, because it takes so long before you even become aware of the truth. The defilements are trying to delude you all the time.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

More Sunday sangha brunches planned

Today we had our first get together of the Oxford sangha - loosely associated with the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order! We have decided to make the second Sunday of the month a regular time to meet up, for meditation, reporting - in, discussion on a topic brought by one of the members of the group and eating of course. So the next few times will be: 8th May, 12th June and 10th July at 18 Bhandari Close, Oxford. If you want to come, you MUST tell us by the 1st of the month in each case cos we only have room for 10. Post comments to this blog to book or email Maitrisara direct. The format will be 11.30 start, then reporting in and meditation. Lunch at 1, then 2 - 3 on a topic for discussion (on May 8th Brigid will be offering some texts on meditation) and then rounding off before 3.30 to set up the next get together and find out how the blogging is going.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Beginners meditation classes restart

Having received some enquiries about meditation and Buddhism, we decided to run some introductory classes at our home in Bhandari Close East Oxford. Teaching the Mindfulness of Breathing in the usual way but experimenting with a new way of approaching the metta practice using a the breathworks approach. For more about that, click the FWBO link and look for Breathworks in the contacts section.

Sunday brunch on April 10th

I am looking forward to the brunch we are having at our house at 11.30. Organic soup particularly enticing.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Healing Self Healing World Retreat

I would be very tempted to go to the retreat at Dhanakosa retreat centre in Scotland called Healing Self Healing World. A very experienced woman order member of 25 years, Parami has studied recently with Joanna Macy and is going to explore the theme of social action. The dates are November 18 - 25 and Dhanakosa's website is

Supporting the Bereaved at Amida Trust

I have been a member of the Amida Trust for a number of years but this is the first time I have been to their main retreat house near Narborough, Leicestershire to attend a course. We have spent the day discussing the bereavement process - from the point of view of Western and Buddhist models. Drawing on people's experience of being therapists, their own bereavement experience, readings from the Udana and working with discussion, picture creation, small group work and reporting in styles, we have been trying to explore what our perspective is as Buddhists on the subject of bereavement. Stage models it seems, need to be treated with a little bit of caution. As Prasada, one of the course tutors said "its something to do with the anxiety around the process of death, that sends people towards wanting nice neat models" See the Amida News link in the side bar for more about them.