Welcome. This site reflects different aspects of my Buddhist life. You will find articles on meditation and Buddhism, as well as details of all my books, plus my teaching programme and various other things. Just browse the headings and see what you find….
Wherever in the world you’re from, very best wishes to you,
NEWS MAY 2013
Another very full two months since I last wrote. Over Easter I was in Germany, seeing Dagyab Rinpoche. In the mid-1980s I asked Sangharakshita for a particular meditation practice, and he passed me on to Dhardo Rinpoche, one of his teachers in India, who in turn recommended Dagyab Rinpoche. So I have now been in contact with him for 25 years. In that time his sangha has grown steadily but gradually, as Rinpoche always wanted a stable group to work with. So when I attended Rinpoche’s Easter Course, I also had the pleasure of meeting friends in his sangha who I have known for 20 years or more.
On my return from Germany, Vijayamala and I launched into leading a series of small retreats in Cambridge – three in four weeks. The first was called Emotional Intelligence in Practice, and was based on teaching we received from Lama Tilmann Lhundrup during our 3-year retreat. It involves working with the kleshas, the ‘mental afflictions’, on deeper and deeper levels. It was a very enjoyable week. In fact it’s amazing how spending a week on the mental afflictions can be both enjoyable and inspiring!
Our second small retreat was on Just Sitting, and was aimed at people who are teaching meditation. On this retreat Spring finally sprang, and we could enjoy doing meditation reviews in the large garden here, as well as going for walks through some of the college gardens, which are very beautiful. It was a particular pleasure working with people who themselves teach meditation, as there’s a sense that whatever benefits they receive from the retreat will be ‘paid forward’ to others in a very tangible way. The last retreat of this series was on ‘Spiritual Death’, which is a term Sangharakshita uses for insight practice. That week also went well, although I don’t think I would give a retreat that title again, as people tend to tense up a little in relation to talk of death, even spiritual death, when what we’re looking for is relaxation and letting go.
On these retreats there was quite a bit of discussion about the topic of insight, how we discuss it in Triratna, and particularly the issue of making public statements of attainment. As a contribution to the discussion, I wrote an article for Shabda. I have slightly edited it, and you can read it here.
This month two of my books: The Breath and The Heart are featured titles on the Windhorse Publications website. I was recently interviewed about them by Hannah Atkinson from Windhorse. I’ll post the link to the interview here once it’s available.
In the last few days I have been at Maes Gwyn, Subhuti and Srimala’s place in North Wales, discussing meditation and Dharma teaching in Triratna, with a group of nine of us. It was a useful meeting, and I’m grateful to Dhammarati for inviting me. It was especially good to spend time with Subhuti, as our paths haven’t crossed properly since 2008.
Lastly, a little bit of synchronicity, of a kind that seems to happen a lot these days. Vijayamala and I were in Cambridge, talking about the Dalai Lama. Despite my interest in Tibetan Buddhism, I’ve never seen His Holiness, who will be 78 next month. Out of curiosity, I looked up his schedule on his website. To my complete gobsmackedness, I discovered that he was going to be in Cambridge, giving a talk at Saint John’s College, in two days’ time. When we recovered from the shock, we contacted the college, only to find out that 1400 people had applied for tickets even before the talk date was officially announced. However, Vijayamala’s father is a venerable retired professor at Saint John’s… So two days later we had tickets, and were able to see His Holiness at close range, talking about Educating the Heart. Oh yes, and when we heard we had tickets, we went outside and there was a big double rainbow directly over the chapel of Saint John’s where the talk was to be given. I’m afraid I don’t believe these things are ‘just coincidence…
It’s coming towards the end of March, and since I last wrote I’ve had another 3 weeks of retreat, plus leading a course in Cambridge and a day in London – and this is the quiet time of the year!
Last month I spent a week in Norfolk at Padmaloka on a retreat for private preceptors in Triratna. I really enjoyed it, there were 28 of us altogether, including some good friends. I was asked to give a couple of presentations: one on the lessons that I’d learned from my 3-year retreat, and one on how I introduce a sadhana to a new Order member. There was also a very interesting evening in which Kamalashila introduced discussion on the topic of insight and the Triratna Order. It was fascinating to watch the (friendly) differences of opinion emerge around questions like ‘Is it helpful to acknowledge publicly that you feel you’re on the transcendental path?’ and ‘What ethical standards can you expect of a stream-entrant?’ I have a lot of thoughts in these areas, and hope to be able to turn them into an article before too long.
Back in Cambridge, I led a short course on Wednesday evenings on Just Sitting. This was a follow-up to a course I did in the autumn. Again, a large number of people braved the elements to come and spend three evenings doing nothing… This time we explored the openness, clarity and sensitivity aspects of the practice. I’ve enjoyed doing these two courses very much, and feel sad that my programme for this year is so full that it’s very hard to find enough time when I’m available in Cambridge to do more of them.
I also recently led a day for Order members at the London Buddhist Centre on sadhana and insight. It was part of the excellent series of events put together by Kamalashila. Order members in London are very fortunate that he has managed to persuade several excellent teachers to visit and contribute. I hadn’t been to the LBC for several years, and was pleased to see the work that has been done, both on the reception area and the new downstairs shrine.
Lastly, I’ve just got back from a 2-week stay in Spain. I went out to spend time with the five men who are doing a one-year retreat at Uttaraloka – the new piece of land bought by Guhyaloka, which is our men’s ordination centre in the mountains near Alicante. I felt extremely happy at Uttaraloka. It’s a beautiful place, with stunning views of Campana, the local mountain which is about 4,600 feet (over 1400 metres) high. You can also see the mountain valley of Guhyaloka as well as looking down the coast to Alicante and the sea. The 5 guys are now almost a quarter of the way through their retreat, and getting on well with both their practice and each other. We studied and discussed a number of topics while I was there, including insight, sadhana practice and Chod. I look forward very much to visiting them again in October to see how they’re getting on.
I shall be in Germany over Easter, and then Vijayamala and I start a new series of small retrerats here in Cambridge.
Wishing you all well,
I had a very full time over the last few weeks. Over Xmas/New Year, I led a 2-week retreat for men at Padmaloka retreat centre in Norfolk, on the theme of the Mandala of the Five Buddhas. That went very well. It was very good to lead a retreat at Padmaloka again, where I lived for six years in the 1980s, when I was secretary to Sangharakshita. The Padmaloka team create a very good atmosphere, and the shrine room with its large image of Shakyamuni is a great space for practice. I had Ratnaprabha and Jinapalita supporting me. Ratnaprabha and I gave 11 talks altogether, which will appear in due course on FreeBuddhistAudio. On New Year’s Eve, as part of our ritual Jinapalita unleashed the pyromaniac within, and we had the most fantastic bonfire. There were a great bunch of people on the retreat, including a lot of Order members.
After that I went to Taraloka Retreat Centre in Wales to attend the Triratna European Chairs’ Assembly meeting. I don’t have that kind of organisational responsibility these days, but I’d been invited to do a day on insight practice and to lead their shrineroom activities. I enjoyed the chance to explore Taraloka, the canal walks and the haunting area of bog nearby; and the Chairs made me very welcome. On the way back from that event, I crossed paths in Birmingham with Vijayamala, and we led a day at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre on prapancha - mental proliferation – which is a major issue in meditation, particularly for newer people. When you look deeply into what causes it, you come right to the roots of self-clinging, which is what makes our lives a misery.
Now I’m home in Cambridge for a little while, in semi-retreat: spending more time meditating, but also gradually munching my way through the backlog of work and correspondence that has built up while I’ve been away.
Wishing you all a very healthy, creative and fulfilling year of Dharma practice!
[For earlier news, see the News Archive.]
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