Wasim and Jafrina hosted this sangha social at their house in Bracknell. A wonderful meal and good company made it an excellent way to see out the summer. These socials are an excellent way to come together as a sangha outside of the Priory. Thank you to everyone for making it a success.Off to Shasta Abbey via Portland Priory tomorrow. See you all when I get back on Oct 3rd.
The Introductory evening for November will be held on Tuesday 31st October.
From November 3rd I would like to introduce a new feature to the calender. This being afternoon group meetings on Fridays to run alongside the already existing evening meeting. I hope this will help those of you who find it difficult to attend in the evenings, especially during the dark winter months. They will run from 2pm to 4pm.
This year’s late summer sangha social will be hosted by Wasim and Jafrina at their home in Bracknell. It will be a curry lunch and all those associated with the priory are welcome to attend. It is on September 10th and will begin after the group morning session at the Priory. They would appreciate a couple of days notice of attendance. Please let Wasim know by phoning 07956138292 or emailing Wasim.firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to thank them both for this kind and generous offer. I hope you can attend. Sangha socials are a wonderful way for people to get together outside of the Priory.
This short article in Food for the Heart is about something which we all will be familiar with, the complaining mind. It affects us all at sometime or other and can be particularly insidious when we let it worm its way into our life. It’s most obvious forms can appear in ‘I don’t want’, ‘I don’t like’ and maybe ‘I object to’. If we believe that there indeed may be a better more efficient way of doing a task for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are incorrect. That isn’t the issue at hand. It is the problems that come when we approach these things from a divisive position which is fixed from the point of ‘I’ ‘and ‘me’. A position which finds it difficult to see outside of this place. It can be hard, insistant and forcing. It is good to look at what we are doing when we sense this is happening. The complaining mind often comes from such a place. Clinging to a point of view which radiates from a single point doesn’t help to release us from suffering. The suffering comes when that position is challeged and we aren’t able to be fluid and move ourselves when it is good to do so. Our attachments are challenged and we don’t like it. The mind revolts and tries to defend itself with the effect being that we try to find a safe place. Rather than take a step forward into new territory we take refuge in the known, because that is more comfortable. We only defend when there is something left to feel defensive about.
One of the Ten Great Precepts is:
Do not be proud of yourself and devalue others.
‘Every Buddha and every Ancester realises that he is the same as the limitless sky and as great as the universe: when they realise their true body, there is nothing within or without; when they realise their true body, they are nowhere upon the earth.’
When we complain we divide. Division of the indivisible is our creation. By creating division we have a separation in our minds. We step outside of meditation and add to what is naturally present. An artificial division which stops us seeing ourselves as other. Here we create a falsehood which in the end is unsustainable because it doesn’t allow us to step off the cycle of hurt.
Harmony in the sangha is vital in this. Recently at the Priory we have had to adapt some ceremonial because of the situation we found ourselves in. This isn’t a problem but what really helped to make it work was that people were able to put down their preconceptions and make it work. Something larger than our own wants and desires came to the fore and the sangha was able to co-exist in harmony. All were doing their best and working with what they have. ‘Shakyamuni’s enlightenment is the dharma of all existence’ as it says in the Precept Do only good. Not my enlightenment, not yours and not his. To face every moment afresh with as few filters as we can manage is to start to see how much we can help situations flow and adapt. By not coming from a place of complaining we allow ourselves and others to exist together in a way which ceases from doing harm and showing us all the potential which is enfolded by the Precepts. Each moment brings forth a chance to drop what it is that we are carrying around and see that our opinion is one of many and at best only a partial view.
I am looking into improving the way members of the mailing list are notified of events and uodates on the website. Rather than doubling up information in emails and on the website I hope to introduce alerts which then point you to the information on the website. This will hopefully be by way of a link. A Priory member is currently researching this for me. I have been having difficulty putting out the usual monthly calender emails so hope this improves and streamlines ways of getting you the information you are looking for. I hope to use facebook in a similar way. If you wish to use this facility the user name for facebook is Reading Prior. I will then post on there when there is something new on the website. I hope this helps us to stay in touch with each other. If you are experienced in this field I am, as ever, interested in feedback.
In October the Introductory evening will be on the 10th and not the first Tuesday. This is due to the Prior arriving back from Shasta Abbey on the 3rd.
Here is a picture of the new Heavenly Canopy which was installed this week. It lies flat against the ceiling due to space issues. Being much taller than previous Priors I need a tad more space. I am looking to reduce the length of the flex of the lamp or maybe change the lightshade and hang jewels from the canopy. The next job is to complete the frieze above the altar.
Great Master Keizan who along with Great Master Dogen is one of the two main Founders of Soto Zen Buddhism, is probably best noted for two things. The first being that he is responsible for the ritualisation and passing down of most of the ceremonial practised in Soto Zen temples to this day and secondly he wrote and compiled the Denkoroku. This set of writings known also as the ‘Transmission of the Light’ are spiritual biographies of the Ancestors in our lineage from Shayamuni Buddha to Dogen’s disciple Koun Ejo. It is from Chapter 22 of this book that I would like to concentrate on here.
Chapter 22 is about Bashubanzu the 21st Ancestor. I quote from the start of the chapter.
‘One day Shyata said to Bashunbanzu, “Even though I may not seek after enlightenment, I do not act contrary to it; even though I may not be doing prostrations before the Buddha, I am not spiritually negligent; even though I may not eat just one meal a day, I am not gluttonous; even though I may not know what is enough, I am not covetous. In my heart there is nothing that I seek; I call this the Way.” When Bashunbanzu heard this, he realized the WISDOM that is free from all defilements and desires.’
So what is striving in practice? This is what I would like to explore with you here. When we first arouse the mind to practice we tend to come from the point of ‘I’. This is natural enough, it is where we are and enables us to see that there is something to look for which we currently can’t see but sense.To see that there is a problematical ‘me’ is the beginning of letting go. Yet to push towards an end product or try and conceive what it might look like is to leave the middle and reside in one of the extremes. To not see that there is work to do is similar. Here Dogens injunction to ‘think of neither good nor evil’ or ‘consider neither right nor wrong‘ is to not strive in any direction. At this stage it is worth pointing out that using the will to control our speech, thoughts and actions is not the same as striving. Don’t just let it all go without reference to the Precepts and what our innards are prompting us toward. In the chapter Keizan writes that to strive is ‘raining down flowers in a flowerless sky‘ and ‘even if contentment is what you desire, this still amounts to greed’. He also writes that being ‘habitually partial to long sits, this is being attached to the body’. So here we have the delusion of creating and adding to what is already there naturally.
So this chapter is asking us to entrust to our own ‘ORIGINAL NATURE‘ To not recognise the true original nature is to go looking without realising we are holding it in our hand. Imagine for a moment that you are clutching something precious in your hand and spend all day looking for it. Turning the house upside down, ringing your friends to see if they have it, retracing your steps over the last while and in the meantime getting tired and frustrated with the search. We then recognise we are getting no closer and in a moment of relaxed introspection intuitively open our palm and there it is looking straight back at us.
Many of our questions about practice can be like this. The habit forming mind goes scurrying around looking in all the same places, looking and seeking rather than relaxing into the true silence and letting the true nature show itself to us. When we are quiet it has a chance of making itself heard. Zazen is in accord with the true nature. To inhabit this place is to see that there is no path and no awakening that we tread or can attain, it just appears. It is not about getting everything because it is everything. In the Denkoroku Keizan ends each chapter with a short poem.
‘The wind blows across the vast sky,
making clouds expose the mountain peak;
Worldly affairs and yearnings for enlightenment
are both of no concern’.
The above quotes in italics are from translations which are copyright Shasta Abbey Press.