For those of you who couldn't join us, I wanted to give you all a taste of our two weeks of retreat in Bessait-Le-Fromental at Dharmavidya's hermitage, Eleusis. We were an international bunch - the group was Ganendra (Spain), Modgala, Kaspa, Satya, Adam and Caroline (UK), Prajna and James (Canada), Jan (Hawaii), and Maitrisimha, Annetta, and Floor and Jnanamati (the Hague).
Our first week was a Nei Quan retreat and Dharmavidya asked us to pay attention to any thoughts and feelings which arose during practice or times writing in our journals, chasing them and examining them rather than letting them go. We gave daily 'reports' of our findings to Dharmavidya in front of the group which was helpful for individuals and stimulated thought for the rest of the group. Many of us felt great personal shifts, held by Dharmavidya, the daily practice, the group and the beautiful setting.
The second week was the Order retreat which coincided with a heatwave and so we held most of our meetings in the shade under the walnut tree rather than in the stifling attic room! We heard reports of Amida sanghas in India, Malvern, London, Canada, the Hague, Belgium and Spain. The Order retreat is also a time when those who run groups can get support from others in a similar position, and share ideas and experiences.
We were cooked delicious food by Jnanamati, Adam and Floor, and enjoyed much good conversation over the washing up table, going on walks and gathered by the wall in the evening with a cup of chicory. We also enjoyed a swim!
Maybe we'll see you next year... If you'd like to visit before then to volunteer for Dharmavidya in the house or garden, get in touch with Jnanamati for more information.
Namo Amida Bu.
Reverend Satyavani, secretary for the Order
Dates for your Diary - retreats led by Dharmavidya
There are three opportunities to attend a retreat led Dharmavidya over the coming year - do put them in your diaries.
Tues 8th - Sun 13th December 2015 - Bodhi Retreat, Malvern
(12th - all day chanting, 13th - ceremonies)
For more information, look here
Tues 31st May - Saturday 4th June 2016 - Retreat in Malvern
(you can attend part or all of the retreat)
Tues 28th June - Sat 2nd July
Mon 4th July - Fri 8th July 2016
Retreats in Dharmavidya's hermitage, France
More information to follow
Namo Amida Bu
Peace Paul (Reverend Ananda of the Amida Order) writes:
If you have an interest in Buddhism, then you have some sort of karmic connection with the Buddha. Those who do not have such a karmic connection, simply will not encounter the Buddha or the teachings of the Buddha.
Even individuals who have a strong karmic connection with the Buddha Dharma may not become practitioners. They may instead be in a situation where they are near the Dharma. They may live close to a Buddhist temple. Perhaps they have a relative or spouse who is a practitioners, or maybe they have met Buddhists teachers or read Buddhist books.
It should not need saying. After all, it's obvious. Nonetheless it does need saying. It needs saying because it has been denied by so many people including many who are eminent and even some whose own roles, behavior, and faith contradict what they are saying. It needs saying clearly, that Buddhism is a religion.
Further, this is the right time to say it. The bandwagon of secularization of Buddhism has gradually gathered momentum to the point where it now threatens the whole basis of what the Buddha bequeathed us. Buddhism is becoming popular, but it is doing so in a form that is a new creation. This new creation is not the traditional Buddhism of Asia and it is not the Buddhism of Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder, either. This new creation is an artifact of modernity and postmodernity using elements abstracted from Buddhism, tailored to gain popularity by satisfying contemporary prejudice.
Having said that, we must add that there is nothing wrong with adaptation and creativity. Many of the new manifestations and applications of ideas and methods derived from Buddhism are intrinsically valuable and can stand on their own feet. Buddhism is like a copious spring, the water from which can be gathered and poured into many different shaped containers. What is problematic, however, is that the reductionist philosophy by which such artifacts are being generated threatens to poison the spring from which the water is flowing. It is a kind of asset stripping, or, we could say, it is like taking the fruit while killing the root.
The basic reductionist principle that informs this process is itself the opposite of dharma. It is precisely the kind of blindness that dharma teaching exists to awaken us from. This is why a warning bell needs to be sounded.
I have played a role in the propagation and popularization of Buddhist psychology so I have a personal part in this process. As somebody who could be seen to be one of the culprits I have, perhaps, a double onus to keep the record straight. Buddhism developed a sophisticated psychological approach two thousand years before the modern world discipline of psychology was invented. Psychological investigations have gone on throughout Buddhist history and the result is a gold mine of knowledge, experience, theory, and practice from which we contemporary people can learn a great deal, but although Buddhism has given rise to this treasure, Buddhism is not fundamentally or exclusively a psychology.
:: continue reading here
David Brazier (Dharmavidya) is president of the International Zen Therapy Institute and head of the Amida Order, a Pure Land sangha. His last article for Tricycle, “The ‘Inner Logic’ of Other Power,” appeared in the Spring 2015 issue.
Adapted from Buddhism is a Religion, by David Brazier, with the permission of Woodsmoke Press.
We are all aware that the pace of life gets faster and faster. Once upon a time, if one worked in an office, producing half a dozen letters might be a day’s work. Now, by electronic mail, one might deal with fifty items in a day. Many of the things we do day to day have become more complicated. We interact with computers and with call centres and find ourselves faced with preprogrammed procedures where formerly we had a human conversation. Even when there is a human being on the other end they have to operate in a programmed way. While such procedures are rationally designed to deal efficiently with the normal cases, they are essentially blind. Life is not only becoming faster, it is becoming less personal. The avid that we have to cope with now is not just within the individual, it is in the system. To a greater and greater extent, we have to fit into the ways of machines rather than being their masters.
Buddhism should help one to live a more noble life in the real world. It is commonly presented as a path to becoming a more ideal type of person, but such radical self-transformation is rare and it is unrealistic to expect that it will become a norm. The question arises whether the wisdom and advice of Buddha still works in a world such as we live in today. When the ordinary citizen is becoming, in so many ways, a cog in a big machine, is it still possible for that person to live a wholesome, wholehearted, dignified life? Certainly many of the things that an average commuter has to put up with in the course of a normal working day do not fit the prototypical idea of dignified existence. Can inner peace survive in such a climate?
Of course, there remains the route of total renunciation. It is still just about possible to give it all up and leave the rat race, but even this is by no means a simple option. Certainly monks and nuns living in modern monastic institutions are not generally fulfilling this ideal. The institution itself has to be economically viable and generally that means that it has to be run as a business. Nor is being a hermit easy to accomplish in modern conditions.
Pureland Buddhism is generally not focussed upon the renunciant ideal in its full form. The aim, rather, is to live in simple faith in the midst of things as one finds them. The awakening envisaged in this approach has more to do with acknowledgement of one’s weaknesses and failings than the accomplishment of some kind of purity or perfection.
How then can we reflect the Buddha’s gentle smile in the modern world? There is surely still a place for kindness, humility, gentleness, generosity and gratitude. If we have faith that the Buddhas are still pouring out their blessings, like Quan Yin emptying her vase with free abandon, then we will find that there are innumerable opportunities for true humanity to blossom within the interstices of our programmed existences. Then we can continue to walk lightly upon the earth and not be squashed by the weight of petty and major obligations to which we are chained in our complex society. We can keep the larger picture somewhere in view.
If we treasure simplicity and do not unnecessarily complicate our existence, the burden will be lighter. If we treasure both friendship and solitude, we will find opportunities for spiritual refreshment. If we have faith, then we can let go of many worries and take things as they come, trusting that there are always deeper purposes at work. However complex the system within which we live our lives, there is always some space, some emptiness, pauses in which a simple prayer may return us to peace and bliss. Society may be increasingly like a driver asleep in the fast lane, but we can wake up.
The foundation of a Buddhist life is a simple devotional attitude. This has two aspects. The first is a love of and reverence for the Buddha and all that he represents. To contemplate the image and qualities of the Buddha is an act full of merit. By saying that something is full of merit we mean that it gives rise to a happy heart, a profound happiness deep within our being. The image of the Buddha touches us. The Buddha’s gentle smile receives and blesses us and in this we feel a great contentment. In this gentle smile lies an infinite depth of love, compassion, joy and peace. Further, the Buddha whose image we admire represents millions of other Buddhas scattered through time and space so that this contentment and beatitude is eternally and universally present and available, not only to ourselves, but to all sentient beings. Even the rocks, mountains, rivers and seas receive this blessing. Such is the first aspect of having a simple devotional attitude.
The second aspect is a modesty about ourselves. This is simply an honest realism. We are only fallible, mortal beings. We are vulnerable in many ways. We have our limits and our karma. We live within conditions. We have rash impulses. We forget things. We do not always achieve our projects. We are not always hale or healthy. The gentle smile of Buddha is precisely for beings such as ourselves. It is this that enables us to live our truly singular lives. Each of us is unique and has his or her own path. This is not a matter of pretentious individualism, but rather of simple faith. When we are trying to shine in our own light, we set ourselves up for a fall and perpetually find disappointment in life, but when we make the Dharma our light then we have the courage to live because we know that whatever our standing in relation to impermanent things, we are touched by that supreme blessing that never fails. A simple devotional attitude gives confidence in the deeper meaning of life and lightens our step so that things that might otherwise seem burdensome become ever-changingly the scenery of this remarkable pageant that is our passage here, become, even, blessings and richnesses. In this way we enter upon the path.
Namo Amida Bu.
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Friends of the Amida Order
Buddhism is a religion. It has beliefs, rituals, altars, offerings, bells, candles, metaphysics, clergy, devotees, prayers, meditation, visions, visitations, celestial beings, other worlds, other lives, moral law, and salvation. All these are found in Zen Buddhism, in Theravada Buddhism, in Tibetan Buddhism, in Pureland Buddhism, in the other schools of Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhism, in fact, in all of Buddhism all over Asia. Buddhists probably burn more candles and incense than the Catholic Church. These are not degeneration or cultural accretions. The founder himself gave us robes, taught ritual and contrition, revealed other lives and worlds, and spoke with the gods. Secularised and rationalised variants of Buddhism exist, but it is these that are partial forms and cultural products of later derivation.
Sometimes it is said that Buddhism is scientific. This assertion would put Buddhism somehow within the frame of science, but Buddhism has much that would not fit into that frame. However, although we cannot really say that Buddhism is scientific, science is Buddhistic. Science is Buddhistic in that science is a way of knowing some things. Buddhism can accommodate everything that science perceives, but science can only perceive a fraction of what Buddhism encompasses, the fraction that appears within the frame that the restrictive rules of science impose. Distinct from science itself, there is also scientism, which is a modern philosophy. Scientism is not Buddhistic because it is the attempt to make the restrictive rules of science into the dogmas by which the whole of life should be governed. Scientism is a different religion and a rather narrow one and it would be a tragedy if Buddhism in the West were reduced to it.
Posted on Thursday, 29 January 2015 at 06:50 PM in Amida, Amida Academy, Amida around the world, Amida Courses, Amida France, Amida Hawai'i, Amida India, Amida London, Amida Malvern, Amida Newcastle, Amida Pureland Retreat, Amida Sangha, Amida Scotland, Dharmavidya, Friends of Amida, Jnanamati, Kaspalita, News, Pureland Buddhism, Retreats, Satyavani, Susthama, Whispers from the Bamboo Grove | Permalink | Comments (0)
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In Pureland tradition there is an emphasis on receiving. We receive the grace of Amida. We do not have to do anything in order to receive this other than mentally turn toward the Buddha, which means to take refuge. Although this may be done by a verbal utterance which we call nembutsu, nembutsu can also be silent. Times of silence and solitude can be a wonderful blessing. They can be times when the spiritual forces in one's life rebalance themselves.
There is also an implicit emphasis in PL on the functioning of the unconscious. While much popular spirituality emphasises conscious and deliberate awareness and attention, the Buddhist sense of the mind is really much wider and deeper than this. In fact, any conscious act of the will or consciousness has to involve the ego and so casts a shadow. It must set up an equal and opposite reaction somewhere in the heart-mind. Healthy balance, therefore, requires times when these unconscious compensations can readjust.
In silence we arrive at a receptive place. We cannot control Amida or make the Buddhas bestow their merit but they are always happily doing so anyway. When we become quiet, "With our house all stilled" as John of the Cross says, then we become like a still pool in which the light of the moon can be fully reflected. There is no hamlet in the land into which such light does not shine, but much of the time we are so busy and disturbed that upon the surface of our life the reflection is all broken up. Silence enables us to appreciate the full beauty.
To modify Keats slightly, spiritual truth is beauty and spiritual beauty is truth - that is all you know on earth and all you need to know. The beauty that shines upon us is glorious and satisfying and even the tiniest pool can be a perfect mirror thereof.