Latest news

Hello everyone. I have been giving out information etc. about my response to Covid-19 in the newsletter so the website has been a bit quiet of late.

There are a couple things I would like to let you know of on tyhough. Firstly I am not receiving emails through info@readingbuddhistpriory at the moment due to unknown technical reasons. I am trying to get it sorted. So if you have been trying to reach me in the last week I apologise but please email me on rpriory@yahoo.co.uk

I am looking into running Introductory sessions via Zoom and how best to do that. I will try to get this up and running soon. There are areas which maybe problematical but I will see what I can do. At least I can get you started even if it is not quite what I would do in person. In the meantime I would recommend going onto the Throssel Buddhist Abbey website and watcching their DVD download on meditation and how to utilise it in your life called ‘Zen Meditation’ and also the book ‘Sitting Buddha’ which is an excellent primer on the practise of Soto Zen.

The use of Zoom I feel has been a great success in helping people feel connected and for me to carry on teaching and providing the usual meditation and services. If you would like to join in and are already used to the practice please contact me and I will give you the neccessary paswords and ID.

 

A Talk by Rev. Seck Kim Seng

I read this out to the last Sunday Group before closing. I have carried a photocopy of this with me for many years and thought this was a good time to revisit it. Thank you to the OBC Journal for allowing me to share. I will just publish it complete.

During Rev. Seck Kim Seng’s visit to Shasta Abbey in 1974, he presented Rev. Roshi Jiyu – Kennett and the community with a beautiful Chinese calligraphy which he had lettered especially for us. What follows here is a slightly edited version of his explanation, originally appearing in the Journal of November 1974. – ed.

I would like to tell you directly and personally what I have written. These first four characters are your name, Zen Mission Society (the former name of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives). When Hui – Neng wanted to speak, he said to all the people, “You are very learned men.” Next I have written that I am going back to Malaysia and am leaving this as a reminder of my visit. The following column is a sentence from the smaller Sukhavati – Vyuha. Anyone who comes to the Pure Land is a very holy man. I came to see you because I wanted to know if you were holy men as in the Pure Land.

The next two columns are from the Hui – Neng Sutra. Before he gave the speech, Hui – Neng said, “Everyone has the Buddha Nature. This Buddha Nature is the seed of enlightenment and is naturally pure. If you make good use of the Buddha Nature, you can reach Buddhahood directly.” This means that we can all, everyone, become Buddha. The idea that all men have the Buddha Nature like Buddha is very important. Our Buddha Nature is pure; when we simply make good use of our Buddha Nature, then we can reach Buddhahood very easily.

The next two columns are from the Pari Nirvana Sutra. Shakyamuni was asked by a disciple, “While you are alive, you are our teacher, but when you enter Nirvana, who will teach us?” Shakyamuni answered, “When I enter into Nirvana, the Precepts are your teacher.” The Precepts are like a rule fixed by Shayamuni. They allow us to do or not to do, and are our guide in learning mindfulness. Everyone must follow the Precepts as their teacher, everyone must study the Sutras. The disciple asked again, “Shakyamuni, when you are alive, we follow you; if you go there, we go with you; if you stay here, we stay with you. But after you enter Nirvana, where are we to stay?” Shakyamuni said, “Remember the Four Plain Beads (also called the Four Views), that is, 1) the body is impure (i.e. has no substance, its Real Substance being the Buddha Nature which appears in all things); 2) sensation results in suffering; 3) mind is impermanent; and 4) things have no nature of their own.” The first means, do not dwell on your body; stay in mindfulness. Those who think I love my body” assume that they own their body. Then everything they do is infected with greed and hate. If you understand that the body is impure, then there is nothing for you to love.

The second is that sensation is the cause of suffering. That is why, in the Hui-Neng Sutra, Hui-Neng says that two is not the Buddha’s teaching. The teaching of the Buddha is only one. You only receive sensation when you are attached to the body. This body is made up of six organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch, perceptions), and six senses (consciousness of each sense). For instance, the quality of the ear is sound: the ear is the organ; the sense is you hearing or taking notice. Suppose the sound is there and my ear is here. If I do not pay attention, perhaps taking great interest in you, then although the sound comes to my ear, I do not hear – because the consciousness is not directed to the sound.

These six organs, six qualities, six senses make up eighteen realms. From the time you get up in the morning to when you go to bed, at any moment, you cannot do anything without these eighteen realms. Ordinary people make two judgements: good and bad. Suppose I overhear you speaking well of me; then I am happy. If you speak badly of me, I get angry. If I visit you and you welcome me, then I feel very good; but if I go to your house and you are rude to me, I do not feel liked. If you are kind to me, then in the future I will welcome you to my house. If you are rude to me, then I may be rude to you and will not welcome you. Thus these two things, good and bad, dominate ordinary people.

But the Buddha is like a mirror. Whether something is good or bad, all is one. If you are good, I know you are good, but I do not feel happy; if you are bad, I know you are bad, but I do not feel angry. That means that the Buddha is very pure in mind. The Buddha is free of these two reactions because to Him it is all the same. That is why in Buddhism you do not think in nterms of what you will receive. Instead, be like a mirror. Shakyamuni Buddha is our model of a pure mind. The Budda’s action is based on knowing the good and the bad without reacting blindly. Remember that after Shakyamuni Buddha enters Nirvana, the teaching is everywhere you are, and you will be happy.

The next column says that in Buddhism there are two types of trainees: Arhat and Bodhisattva. The Arhat studies the Four Noble Truths: suffering, its cause, the end, and the way of suffering. The cause of suffering is in the past; our present suffering is the result of the past. We know the suffering. We have suffering because we have a body, because we have come to be reborn. And why are we reborn? Because of our past actions. But if we know the cause, we can stop the result. That is why knowing the cause leads to no rebirth, or Arhat Nirvana. The Four Noble Truths teach you to be released from rebirth via the Eightfold Path: correct understanding, correct thought, correct speech, correct action, correct livelihood, correct effort, correct mindfulness and correct concentration. If you follow this path, you will stop rebirth and enter Arhat Nirvana, but not Boidhisattva Nirvana.

Nirvana is of three kinds: 1) Arhat, 2) Bodhisattva, 3) Buddha (complete). Now the Arhat meditates, taking care of his various duties, doing no evil to others. But he does not do good; simply not doing evil is not the same as doing good. If a thief no longer steals, you cannot say he is a good man, just that he is not a bad man. To be a good man, then you must have charity and generosity. An Arhat is neither good nor bad. If you want to know Buddha, you must do good, you must be charitable.

In order to do good, the Bodhisattva will follow the Six Paramitas: charity, love, morality, energy, meditation, wisdom. That means you go among people who are ill with the six kinds of sickness. You are like a doctor using the Six Paramitas to cure their illness:

Greed – charity (generosity)

Hatred – love

Desires (lying, stealing, etc.) – morality

Laziness – energy

Confusion – meditation

Ignorance – wisdom

Like a doctor, you benefit others and progress up the ten stages of a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva progresses in his training as a doctor does until he graduates. Arhatship is like grade school from which one progreesses to university (Bodhisattva) until one becomes Buddha.

The next column means I want all of you to become Bodhisattvas. For a Bodhisattva, the most important Paramita is generosity. There are three kinds of gifts: 1) money, 2) life, 3) teaching. Money is not so meritorious; life is more so; teaching is the greatest. You must give teaching to others by spreading the teaching of the Buddha every day. The Six Paramitas are our occupation and duty. To teach, to cook and wash are our daily tasks.

I speak in broken English but I want you to understand that it is from heart to heart. Tomorrow I go back to Malaysia. love you all and hope you will become Buddha.

Rev. Master Jiyu being ordained by Rev. Seck Kim Seng

 

Sitting together with Priory closed

With the Priory closed thoughts have gone toward how we can sit together. Below is a list of times when I will be sitting and you can, if you wish, join me. I hope this is of help.

6.30am – 7.00am Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri

7.30pm – 8.00pm Tues, Thurs, Saturday

Wednesday evening 7.30pm – 8.00pm / 10 mins walking / 8.10pm – 8.40pm

Friday afternoon 2.00pm – 2.30pm / 10 mins walk / 2.40pm – 3.10pm

 

Priory closed

As of Monday eveningĀ  the 16th the Priory is closed.This is due to the Governments latest advice and direction. Although this move has become necessary it is still with regret that I have had to make it. I will endeavour to replace the usual sessions and events with some sort of remote contact. This could include zoom or skype meetings or set meditation periods which we can all join in with. I will keep you updated.

Cancellation update

I am sorry to say that I have had to cancel my visits to both Kings Langley and Milton Keynes this weekend due to the current coronavirus outbreak. Deep apologies for any inconvenience. I hope to support these two groups by doing Skype talks etc if possible.

Stroud Retreat update

As it stands Brownshill Monastery is open and therefore the retreat is going ahead. According to the Sisters the situation may alter if Government advice changes. If you are due to come but have changed your mind please let me or Alison know because very low numbers may affect our decision.

 

Coronovirus: message from the Prior.

I would just like to say a few words about the current situation and how it relates to the Priory’s activities. Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey has recently closed for a couple of months so that they can help in the lessening of the virus spreading. A small temple like this one with mainly a local congrgation is in a slightly different position. Firstly the numbers attending aren’t as high and from all over the country and Europe. The virus also has a chance of not spreading so much because there are gaps between activities, i.e. a couple of days where the virus can die off, as long as I am careful myself not to spread it. I will be travelling across the South of England this weekend by train and the current Government advice is still not so strigent as to not allow this. At a recent trustees meeting this week we decided that it was good and proper to follow Goverment advice but also act independently if it was felt good to do. If you would like to attend the Priory over this period of heightened health awareness then please do so but I ask you to think twice before doing. I will close the Priory if I have to self isolate but I am thinking, as others are, as to how to carry on in some way. This may be Skype sitting, or giving a talk via Skype etc. I may close for Introductories and do them this way. Maybe we can sit together at the same time just by knowing when that might be.

The spring retreat at Brownshill monastery is still going ahead as I type, but I will be in contact with them to see where they stand on it. The decision may be taken out of our hands.

I hope you are all keeping safe at this time and I look forward, as ever, to your presence here at the the Priory if it is good to do so.

Study group update

The new study group will be reading and discussing the Platform Sutra by Hui-neng with the Diamond Sutra as complimentary reading. I will be using the Price/Wong translation. Other translations would probably be ok if that is what you have but usually better if we are using the same text.

I am looking into ways for those who live further afield and won’t be able to attend but would like to take to take part. This could be by emailing in discussion points or Skype maybe. I think that of all the things we do here this would be the most appropriate use of distance participation.

There are some online sites where you can download commentaries and the scripture itself. One is

http://all-med.net/pdf/the-platform-sutra

This is the robe and bowl sculpture, which sits in the courtyard at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, and represents the part of Hui-neng’s story when somebody tried to steal them by lifting from a rock but was unsuccessful as they wouldn’t budge. He then proclaimed that he had come for the dharma not for the robe.