Monday, June 29, 2015

Two Good Books

In the last few days I have come across two good books.

One is Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield. This is not a book to be read quickly but mused over and savoured. Hirshfield tells us that 'muse' comes from a Latin word that means 'to carry in silence', and this book also has many portals through which the reader is stopped in his or her tracks and then plunged into silence.

On a lighter note, there is Catherine Fox's Unseen Things Above, which is an affectionately satirical novel about the foibles of the inhabitants of an imaginary C of E diocese. This is the second in a series, but stands on its own. It is a twenty-first century Barchester, wildly funny. A good book for the beach.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Laudato si'—Pope Francis' Encyclical on the Environment

I have just started reading Pope Francis' new encyclical, Laudato si' which can be found at  http://www.papalencyclicals.net/.

The title reflects St Francis' Canticle to the Sun, and he is invoked as the patron of all environmental efforts. I've only read the introduction and part of the first chapter—evidently it is 200 pages in print—but this will be my sole reading for the next few days. So far it brims over with light and truth, and I highly recommend it to all my readers.

I apologise once more for the sparse number of posts in the last few months, but I have been very unwell and have had very little energy. Thankfully I'm now on the mend. Thank you for your prayers

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Thirty-seven Practices of a Bodhisattva Part Two

They themselves are also captured
in samsara’s prison.
The worldly gods—whom can they
protect?
Therefore,
when you take refuge,
those who don’t deceive,
those rare, supreme.
To take them as refuge,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

What is so difficult to bear,
the suffering  in lower realms,
that is the fruit of evil actions
as the Buddha taught.
Therefore, even at the cost of
your life, evil actions.
Never to commit such,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

When you ally with someone
and your three poisons increase,
When listening, reflecting
and meditating activities decline,
Then those who destroy
loving-kindness and compassion,
To abandon such bad friends,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

When you rely on someone
and your transgressions end,
and positive qualities increase
like the waxing moon.
Such genuine a spiritual friend—to
cherish him much dearer than
the body of your own,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

They themselves are also captured
in samsara’s prison,
The worldly gods—whom can they
protect?
Therefore,
when you take refuge
those rare, supreme,
To take them as refuge,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

What is so difficult to bear,
the suffering in lower realms,
that is the fruit of evil actions
as the Buddha taught,
Therefore, even at the cost of
your life, evil actions,
never to commit such,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

The happiness of all three worlds,
like dew on a blade of grass,
is subject to destruction
within a single instant.
The never changing
supreme state of liberation,
To strive for that,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

From beginningless time
they cherished me,
my mothers—if they suffer,
what good is my own happiness?
Therefore, in order to liberate limitless sentient beings,
To develop the enlightened attitude,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

All suffering without
exception comes
from craving my own happiness.
Perfect Buddhas are born
from the intention to benefit others.
Therefore,
truly to exchange my own happiness
for the suffering of others,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Even if someone,
driven by great desire, steals
all my wealth or incites
someone else to steal it,
Body, possessions
and all the virtue of the three times,
To dedicate those to him,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Though I myself were not
in the slightest fault,
even if someone were
to cut my head off,
still through the power of compassion,
To take on that person’s sins,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

If someone were
to publish numerous unpleasant[r]ies
about myself throughout
a billion worlds,
still with a mind full of love,
As an answer to proclaim
that persons qualities
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

If someone in the middle
of a crowd of people
were to expose my hidden
faults and slander me,
Understanding that person
as a spiritual friend and thus
to bow down respectfully,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Someone whom I cared
for as dearly as for my own child,
if this person were to view
and treat me as an enemy,
then like a mother whose child
is plagued by sickness,
To love that person even more,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Even if a person
equal or inferior to myself,
driven by great self-esteem,
takes measures to despise me,
With respect as to a lama,
To raise him up
above my crown,
that is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Though living under
poor conditions,
always despised by men,
stricken by serious diseases
and evil spirits,
still on top of that,
To take upon myself the sins
and sufferings of every being
and not to be discouraged
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Though being famous prominent,
and many people bow their heads,
Piling up as much wealth
as that of the god of riches,
To see that all worldly splendor
has no essence
and thus not to be arrogant,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

If I have not tamed the enemy
of my own anger,
attempting to tame outer enemies
will make them multiply
Therefore, with an army
of loving kindness
and compassion,
To tame my won mind,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

The pleasures of the senses
are similar to salted water.
The more you enjoy,
the more your craving will increase.
Whatever things that arise,
To given the m up immediately,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Appearances as they appear,
these are one’s own mind.
Mind’s innate nature
is primordially free of
mental fabrications.
Knowing this, in characteristics
of perceived and perceiver
Not to engage the mind,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

When you encounter objects
pleasing to your mind,
they are like rainbows
in the summer season.
Though they appear so beautiful,
To see they are not real and
to give up attachment
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

All the different sufferings
are like your child dying in a dream.
Taking delusive appearances as real.
Oh,
how exhausting!
Therefore, whenever you encounter
unpleasant circumstances,
To see them as delusion,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Those who want enlightenment
even have to give their bodies
As for the giving of external things,
this is no need to mention!
Therefore, with no hope
for reward or karmic ripening,
To give with generosity,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Without discipline you won’t
accomplish your own benefit.
Then to wish to benefit others
that’s just a joke!!
Therefore, discipline with no
longing for worldly existence,
To protect such,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

For a Bodhisattva who wants the
wealth of virtue everything
that harms is like a precious treasure.
Therefore, patience that bears
no anger against anything,
To cultivate such,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Even Shravakas
and Pratyekabuddhas
who only practice
for their own benefit
show such effort as if wanting
to extinguish a fire
burning their heads.
Joyous effort,
source of positive qualities
benefitting all beings,
to strive with such
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Vipashyana which
is fully unified with Shamatha
completely conquers
all afflictions.
Knowing this, stable meditation truly
beyond the four formless states,
To meditate such,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Without superior knowledge,
only with the five paramitas,
it is not possible to attain perfect
enlightenment.
Therefore knowledge bearing
means and not conceptualizing
three-fold action,
To cultivate such
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

If I have not analyzed
my own delusion by myself
with the façade of dharma
I may act in non-dharmic ways.
Therefore, to analyze continuously my own delusion
and then to drop it,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

By the power of afflictions,
if I speak of the faults
of other Bodhisattvas,
I myself will be degenerated [sic].
Therefore, of an individual
who has entered the great vehicle,
Never to speak of their faults,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Influenced by wealth and hgonour,
I will end up arguing,
and listening, reflecting and
meditating activities will decline.
Towards the households of friends,
relatives and sponsors,
To give up attachment,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Speaking harshly will disturb
the minds of others,
and the conduct of the Bodhisattva will regress.
Therefore, harsh words
that do not please others.
To relinquish these,
that is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Afflictions when accustomed
to are hard to fight with antidotes.
A person fully aware
and conscious holds the
arms of remedies.
To stamp out afflictions
like attachment and so on
as soon as they arise,
is the practice of the Bodhisattva.

In brief, wherever you are,
whatever you do,
in all the ways of conduct,
you have to look for
what is your real state of mind.
Being fully aware and conscious
continuously,
To accomplish benefit for others,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

The merits accomplished
through such efforts as these,
in order to clear away
the suffering of endless beings,
With completely pure
knowledge of the
three-fold action
To dedicate these towards
enlightenment,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

What was taught in sutras,
tantras and treatises,
following the teachings
of the holy ones,
I composed into
thirty-seven practices for
Bodhisattvas.
To benefit those who wish
to study the Bodhisattva’s path.

Because my intelligence
is small and my studies little,
I cannot compose poetry
to please the scholars.
Since it they based on sustras
and the holy teachings,
I think these
“Practices of a Bodhisattva”
are not mistaken.

Still since the extensive conduct of a Bodhisattva
is difficult to fathom
for one with small
intelligence like me,
All mistakes of contradiction,
incoherence and so on,
I pray to the holy ones
to consider them with patience.

Through the merit of composing
this may all beings,
by means of supreme absolute and
relative enlightened attitude,
May they become equal
to Chenrezig, the protector,
who dwells neither
in the extreme of existence nor
in that of peace.

For the benefit
of himself and others,
Venerable Thogmne,
a scholar of scriptures and logic,
composed this
at the Jewel Cave of Silver Water.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Maggie Ross at Hay Festival 31 May 2015

I will be dialoguing with Rachael Kerr on Sunday, 31 May, 2015 at the Hay Festival in Hay-on Wye at 9 AM. The venue (appropriately, I hope!) is the Good Energy Stage. Tickets are £5.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Thirty-seven Practices of a Bhodisattva Part One,

You see all phenomena
to have no coming and going,
still you strive solely for
the benefit of beings
Supreme Guru and protector,
Chenrezig, to you
I continually bow in respect
with body, speech and mind.

The source of benefit and happiness,
the perfected Buddhas,
they came about because
they accomplished
the Genuine Dharma.
To do so, again depends
on knowing their actual practice.
Therefore, the practices
of a Bodhisattva shall be explained.


Now that I have obtained
what is so difficult to find
the precious human body,
the great boat,
I shall ferry myself and others
over the ocean of Samsara.
Therefore, throughout day
and night without laziness
To listen, reflect and meditate.
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Passion towards friends
moves like water.
Hatred towards enemies
burns like fire.
The darkness of ignorance
makes one forget what to adopt,
what to reject.
To abandon the homeland of such,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Leaving adverse places,
afflictions will gradually diminish.
Not being distracted,
virtuous activity will
naturally increase.
Through clear awareness trust
in the Dharma will be born.
To stay in solitude,
is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Longtime acquainted with friends
and relatives will separate.
Possessions gained with exertion
will be left behind.
Consciousness,
the guest, will leave the
guest-house of the body.
To discard this life in mind,

is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wise Words

Martha Graham was born on this day in 1894. Her advice to fellow dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille:

The greatest thing she ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have a peculiar and unusual gift, and you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”

“No artist is pleased.”

“But then there is no satisfaction?”

“No satisfaction whatever at any time, she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

Quoted from: Letters of Note