On forgetting to take refuge

“I want you to stop running from thing to thing to thing, and to sit down at the table, to offer the people you love something humble and nourishing, like soup and bread, like a story, like a hand holding another hand while you pray. We live in a world that values us for how fast we go, for how much we accomplish, for how much life we can pack into one day. But I’m coming to believe it’s in… Read more

On scuppered plans

Last night I went bowling. I only managed to knock over 35 pins with my 20 balls, but that’s another story. Today’s story is that I dithered for a long time about whether or not I would go, as tomorrow is the start of our big retreat. As a consequence I feel stretched like an overblown balloon. I have been exceedingly busy seeing all the psychotherapy clients I’d usually see later in the week, getting the temple ready for 8 extra house… Read more

Dealing with jealousy

This morning our copy of Tricycle arrived – the Buddhist equivalent of Vogue. In it are glossy photos of Buddhas and mandalas, adverts for zafus and malas, and lots and lots of names of famous Dharma teachers – doing talks, writing books, and generally being inspirational and awesome. This magazine often invites my jealousy out to play. I flip between feeling outraged that I’m not already in the magazine myself (with a regular three page feature), to feeling despair at the… Read more

The magic paperweight

I was on my way out of the shop when my eyes were snagged by something glittery. I asked my friend Caroline to wait for me, and went over to investigate. They were sparkling model jellyfish of different sizes, each suspended in glass. Each paperweight was the ergonomic shape of a cartoon rocket without the flames – they looked like they had an urge to leave the table and pulse off towards the ceiling. I placed the heft of one in my… Read more

In praise of familiarity

This morning as a part of our usual morning Buddhist service I introduced the congregation to something in our Nien Fo book which we never chant: The Heart Sutra in Sanskrit. At the start of the year I took it upon myself to record an audio version of all the liturgy and hymns in our Nien Fo book, which have been written by our teacher, Dharmavidya, and gathered together from different traditions. I didn’t know what I was letting myself… Read more

My first weekend off in four years

This morning we had our last ever Sunday nembutsu service here at the temple. From next weekend, our Sunday events are moving to Saturday and so we will have two days off in a row – Sunday and then the day we decided on as our own ‘Sabbath’, Monday. Excepting holidays, this will be the first time in four years that I’ll have two days off in a row, and I can’t wait. The idea of waking up on a… Read more

What are you selling?

Yesterday I dropped into our local independent greeting card shop, run by Sean. I hadn’t seen him for a while and we chatted about his dogs, his house on the hills and his business. As we were talking, a woman came in and asked where the cards for ‘daughters’ were. Sean said he didn’t do cards with names, and showed her what he did have. She looked and left. He commented that this was something he’d learnt since starting the business – that… Read more

Sutta Study: Astounding!

Bhikkhus, with the manifestation of a Tathagata, an Arahant, a Perfectly Enlightened One, four astounding and amazing things become manifest. What four? AN 4:128 When the Buddha appeared in the world, we are told that four astounding things happened. What were they? Before I tell you what they are, I want to pause for a moment and enjoy the language. The Pali words used here are ‘acchariyā abbhutā’, which Bhikku Bodhi translates as ‘astounding and amazing’ and others (e.g. F.L. Woodward) translate… Read more

Crack cocaine for bunnies

This is Poppet and Peter, the temple bunnies. I call them Pops and Peetle. As you may be able to tell from the photo, Peetle has cataracts and is practically blind. Pops had one of her back legs amputated last year after an accident. They don’t let this hold them back. They live outside, in a hutch inside an aviary, so they have their own front lawn. Once a day we let them out into the temple garden so they can… Read more

Sutta Study: Do you need to kill someone off?

Today we find the Buddha instructing Kesi, the horse trainer. The Buddha is very good at meeting his students where they are, and of making use of their existing wisdom. In this case he begins by asking Kesi how he trains and disciplines horses as a part of his business. Kesi replies that it depends on the horse, and to what the horse responds to best. Some horses he trains gently, some sternly, and some both gently and sternly. The… Read more

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