Showing posts from August, 2007

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…