Showing posts from 2007

March in Support of Freedom for Burma

On Thursday September 27th, around 70 people from various groups and backgrounds met at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre.

This was to show our support for the people of Burma in their peaceful protests against repressive government.

Local BBC Radio and Television were in attendance, and recorded the chanting of the traditional pali "May all Beings be Well".

Those gathered then formed a silent procession to the Cambridge Guild Hall, lead by the organiser Dharmachari Vajrapriya. We then collected signatures for a petition to be submitted to the Burmese Embassy in London. Some people then meditated on the street as a mark of solidarity with the people of Burma.

If you are interested you can sign a petition on-line and send details to your friends. The address is:-

At the time of writing, over 177,000 people have registered their protest.

Goodbye to Gampo Abbey

Hello All,

This is my last post from Gampo Abbey. It's really hard to believe that I have been living here for just under seven months. Time really does fly when your having fun and also when you have a full schedule. I feel like have had both.

I feel a strong sense of gratitude to everybody here at the Abbey for making me feel so at home. I have made many good friends here and I hope these contacts continue into the future.

My meditation instructor, Jerry has been very helpful, bringing me right up against my own "stuff", face to face, so to speak. This has felt uncompromising and very challenging at times. Just what I needed. Jerry has shown a lot of warmth and compassion. Thank you.

It's great that this place exists at all. Much of this is down to the founder (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche), Ani Pema Chodron (resident teacher, author and generous benefactor) and the other monastics here (especially, Ani Palmo, Ani Migme and Lodro Sangpo) who have devoted decades of their …

Cancer Society Sponsorship

Thanks to all of you who sponsored me for the Cancer Society walk all those months ago. The event was great fun as well as being for a very worthy cause. It's great that Gampo Abbey supports this local event each year with their enthusiastic participation.

Particular thanks to the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order in Letchworth for their kind donation of 100 GBP. The final total raised was 225 GBP ($479CAD). Thank you all for your generous support and many thanks to Jayamuni for collecting up the money on my behalf. May you all be well!

A Talk on Ethics - Part Three of Three

A talk given at Gampo Abbey in June 2007 (parts one and two posted below).

4/ Abstention from False Speech / With truthful communication I purify my speech

Speech occupies and intermediate position between mind and body. It is a subtle form of action, almost as subtle as thought itself. In a way, it is simply thought made public.

Because speech is so close in nature to thought, it is very difficult to control, our thoughts can just “slip out”. Once in the public domain our thoughts have ramifications for both ourselves and others. Once made public our thoughts cannot be retracted, no matter how much we might like them to be!

Speech is about communication. It is about the coming together of minds and hearts. Untruthful speech cannot by definition be a vehicle for communication. It does not seek to communicate but rather, seeks to frustrate or prevent real communication.

Society at large require most people to be telling the truth most of the time. Society would break down if this were not t…

Friday Afternoon Poems*

The Mudroom Mat
Grit and fluff,
Sharp and soft,
Side by side,
A confusion of opposites.
Higher union frustrated,
Vacuum comes too soon.

Mud on the road,
Mud in the sandal,
Shower tomorrow.

Sign reads: No Entry! - Retreat in Progress
Should read: Enter! - Progress in retreat

Black fly bites head,
Head swells,
Black fly laughs at fat head.

* In the UK, Friday afternoon has a bad production record. As well as being the tired bit of the working week, it has also been associated with a Friday lunchtime visit to the pub, for a beer or two. Hence, a poorly built or unreliable car may be referred to as a "Friday afternoon car".
No beer was harmed in the making of these poems.

A Talk on Ethics - Part Two

A Talk Given at Gampo Abbey in June 2007 (part one posted below)

Ethics as a Tantric Practice

We can also think about the practice of ethics as a kind of tantric practice. As I understand it, tantric practice goes beyond sutra, it goes beyond words, concepts and ideas and works directly with energy, with action. It’s not about learning, it’s about doing.

Ethics also goes beyond concepts. It’s about how we work with our energies on a day to day basis. Our wild energies! The practice of the precepts is about steering and guiding these energies in the most useful way possible.

The Letter and the Spirit

In the laws of our countries we often talk about the letter and the spirit. This is a helpful way for us to think about the precepts - in the letter and in the spirit. Most of the time we need to be aware of both aspects.

The letter is the literal expression. It provides us with clarity, a benchmark we can compare our actions against. So, for example we have the precept: “I abstain from taking t…


My old friend and companion - Failure,
Never far away,
A reminder that I am not as Perfect as I would like to think.

Embracing my shortcomings and my inner critic alike with tenderness
and gentle humour,
I remember that I am often a better man than I would like to think.

What did I say?

Top Tip:- Never, under any circumstances, tease a nun about her haircut.

A Talk on Ethics - Part One of Three

Ethics - A Talk Given at Gampo Abbey June 2007

There is a Zen Koan “Why has Bodhidharma left for the East?” I don’t know the answer to this. But I do know what happened when he got there. When Bodhidharma took the Dharma from India to China he introduced the Dharma into an already highly developed culture. Buddhism has often had a refining effect on the arts, philosophy and culture of societies that it has encountered. In China it met an ancient culture rich with poetry and painting, rich with the philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism.

Much of what I have to say in this talk is collected from the writings and talks of my teacher Sangharakshita, the founder of the Western Buddhist Order. I thoroughly recommend his small book “The Ten Pillars of Buddhism” of which there are two copies available in the Abbey library.

I also borrow here from Dharmachari Abhaya and his excellent little booklet on the 5 precepts.


You might think that the subject of ethics is not a very glamorous o…

Tibetan Prayer Wheel 2007

Dorje Pawo, the IT Manager (er..well, IT department really) recently found this in one of the Abbey computers. This is a Hi-Tech Avalokiteshvara mantra prayer wheel. This is not the traditional way of doing things, but given the increasing rate of appearance of sentient beings on the planet, I guess it's good to try different ways to keep ahead of the game.

I don't know how many mantras it does per minute, but I think it's quite a lot. I don't recommend trying to keep up with this by chanting, it could result in very numb lips and extensive damage to your mala and/or fingers.

Groundhog Day - Again

I have lost count of the amount of times I have seen this movie over the years. I hadn’t seen it for quite some time and only vaguely remembered that it had a strong Dharmic theme.
When it came up as one of the choices for the Abbey’s Friday night movie I groaned inwardly. I was craving some real entertainment, something shiny and new and clever. But they say that you get what you deserve and it seems I deserved Groundhog Day (again). I could hardly complain, as I was one of the three people who voted for it.I was pleasantly surprised at how well it had aged. This is still a very funny movie, quite slapstick in some places and Bill Murry’s cynical weatherman character is fantastic, if a little too close to home for comfort.

The Dharmic quality of the movie unfolded gradually as our hero has to re-live the same day again and again. It becomes clear that yesterday is now irrelevant to his situation and tomorrow never happens. He is stuck, stuck in the present. It’s like he suddenly become…

Ode to My Croc's

Soft and yielding,
Black and sexy,
How I love my Croc's

It's true,
My feet do sweat less,
When I wear some socks

Gampo Abbey Update July 31, 2007

Hello me Dears and me Ducks,

I hope you are all well and happy. I'm sorry to hear about the dreadful summer you've been having in Blighty. I hope it stops raining soon!

I have had a fairly busy time of it since my last email.

We had our Canada day celebrations in Pleasant Bay. These went very well, including a BBQ and ice cream then a free trip to the Whale interpretive centre. We lost the softball game 24 to 14 to the fire-crew. I got one run - one more than generally expected.

The lobster release was a success and we had a film crew on hand (and on board) making a documentary/arthouse type flick - the life cycle of the lobster as an alagory for the wheel of life. I'm sure you get the picture. They did too. Apparently, Lena, the director was a rather attractive young woman and some of the younger monks and laymen fell deeply under her spell, can't say I noticed myself.

We had a visit from Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a young and charismatic Tibetan lama. An interesting young g…

A Meal Ritual

When I approached Max Bals (a GFR Mitra and ex-resident at Gampo Abbey) about coming to Gampo Abbey he said: "there's not much to do there for distraction, but there is a toaster". I knew what he meant, the attraction of comfort through food is common for many of us I think, particularly when our other favourite false refuges have been pulled out from under us.

Forewarned is forearmed and I guess I'd already started to think about how I wanted to relate to food before I got to the Abbey. Mmmm,as I write this, that shiny toaster and all that jam and peanut butter does look good, but I digress.

On my ordination retreat Manjuvajra advised us to think about our eating, for instance dealing with one mouthful of food before shovelling in another one and watching our existential angst driven desire for late night post puja snacks.

On a visit to Throssel Hole Abbey in Northumberland some years ago I was impressed by their mindful approach to eating and pre-food ritual, warning …

Gampo Abbey Update June 25, 2007

Hello All,

I hope you are all well and that England is providing you with a warm and sunny summer!

My time here is flying by and I am now well over halfway through my visit. The pattern here seems to be a period of intense activity followed by a short period of change and transition into another period of intense activity. I've heard that Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called this sort of thing the great Zen monastic joke, lots of formalism and ritual combined with constant activity as a method to stun the ego into a state of numb surrender! Fortunately, we do get one free day per week.

Recent highlights have included a sponsored overnight walk for Cancer Canada. This was my first exploration into the local town of Cheticamp and proved to be good fun despite getting a soaking. They had a Scottish marching band, folk music and country and western (all night - urghhh!). We camped overnight and I got a good drenching during my period of the walk (the only rain all night). Thanks for all of yo…

Update from the Abbey May 5, 2007

Just a few lines to let you know how things are going.

Life here continues to feel more and more normal as the weeks go by. I know eveyones name now (even the Tibetan ones) and I'm getting the hang of the Abbey rituals and chants, I'm even enjoying the ritual Oryoki Zen style meals.

A mitra from Leeds (Ian Barker) joined us recently. It's nice to have another Englishman to talk to, and a fellow FWBO'er.

I've now been trained to be the shrine room Gatekeeper (calling people to mediation with a wooden clacker, and taking the attendance register) and meditation Umdze (ringing a large metal bowl at the appropriate moments). I have also been opening and closing the Vajrayan shrineroom (preparing offering teas, fruit, rice etc. and cleaning the shrines).

Tomorrow I train on the flag team. At 6.10am I'll brace myself for the wintry weather and march down to the flagpoles to raise the Abbey flags while singing the Abbey anthem. Should be fun!

The weather here showed signs o…

Report from Gampo Abbey March 11, 2007

A brief reporting in from this land of snow and ice. We will shortly be going into a ten day silent retreat (so no email) and I wanted to get something in before the deadline.

I have been in Canada for 6 days and at Gampo Abbey for three of them. It's cold. About minus eight centigrade today and snowing quite heavily (by English standards). The Abbey looks out over the bay of St.Lawrence (wider than the eye can see), more like an inland sea. The bay is completely frozen and covered in snow, it looks like the arctic circle - amazing!

This country is huge and wild and covered in trees, breathtaking and a bit humbling. Yesterday we were feeding the fox family that begs outside the refrectory of an evening, a wonderful sight.

There are currently 21 residents in the main Abbey at the moment, with others off in retreat cabins and partaking in a three year retreat. So many new faces and new names to learn, it reminds me of being back in a beginners class - strange new name overload. Learnin…

Arrival at Gampo Abbey - from February 20, 2007

Dear All,

Just a quick note to let you know I've arrived safely at Gampo Abbey.

I had three days in Halifax to recover from the jet lag and start adjusting to Canadian culture before heading up to Cape Breton.

Canada is like England but different. Same wheelie bins - different plugs!

The weather was kind to me - only -3c on arrival. It waited a day to drop to -10c. This is cold - but not as bad as you might think. A shop keeper warned me that Halifax is like the tropics compared to Cape Breton - a bit of an exaggeration, but it is colder up here.

The drive in was beautiful, very white (they really know what snow is) and lots of trees (this country is huge). The bay of St. Lawrence is frozen big style - it looks like the Arctic! I saw a guy on the way in who was riding on it on a quad bike!

The Abbey has a 3 day open period following the rains retreat which has just finished. This means I have 3 unstructured days to "arrive" before the program proper gets under way. We have a 1…