Thursday January 3rd, 2013. Posted by Alex W:
In this misty morning
Under the Bodhi tree
We all sit close together
And pray for universal well-being.
My mind goes to my loved ones
Who have passed away.
I never cease to miss them.
May they find their way to peace.
My mind also goes to those Tibetans
Who have burnt themselves alive
Without hatred and violence
Calling for justice in Tibet.
I do not know if it helps Tibet
But I need to support them
As I am still a human being
And they have so much trust in humanity.
I pray that there will be kindness
In each and every heart
And we are all able to express that
Without fear of any kind.
May the Year of 2013
Be a year of new beginnings.
May we act with wisdom
And may we think with compassion.
Saturday December 1st, 2012. Posted by Alex W:
I had heard that Sherab Palden Beru, the enormously important and influential traditional painter living at Samye Ling was unwell. Some give his age as 101, although Wikipedia says he was born in 1915.
I met him just once in relatively early days in Birmingham – that would have been mid-seventies – but I could not say that I knew him, just that I knew of him and of the tremendous respect in which he was held, both as a painter and as a person.
(Picture taken from Samye Ling – I hope that’s OK?)
The news has now broken that he has passed on. He had done such valuable work. May his path take him straight to meet Guru Rinpoche and the other teachers whose images he tended.
Thursday November 8th, 2012. Posted by Alex W:
I was doing my regular practice this morning, for which I use a moderately extensive text that was translated by a group of Trungpa’s students, and with his close guidance. No doubt, given time and greater knowledge, tiny faults could be found in it, but it has been wonderfully well done. The work that Trungpa and his students put into it has been extraordinarily helpful to me, and I am grateful for it.
I felt like writing about this because I have from time to time received flak for failing to be convinced or impressed by a lot of Trungpa’s behaviour. Never having met him, I’m not sure why that should be a problem, as I never had a personal relationship with him. But that does not stop me from being grateful to him for some of the work that he did.
Devotion to the lama – “seeing the lama as Buddha” – is an important aspect of Vajrayana Buddhist practice. There are some people who seem to understand this to mean that we have to invest our lama with something like papal infallibility in all matters. This is sometimes taken to the extent that whenever the lama says or does something that, by all normal standards, is entirely wrong, an effort is made to somehow see this as a “skilful means”, a “test”, or as something that will, in some mysterious way that is understood only by the omniscient lama, work out for the best.
In these times, as we increasingly become aware of all kinds of abuse perpetrated by all kinds of authority figures, the dangers of this simple interpretation must be very obvious. It’s also, I think, completely unnecessary.
One can have devotion to one’s lama, see him (or indeed her) as an embodiment of the Buddha, and still recognise that he or she is capable of simple mistakes, of misunderstandings, and may even have moral failings. I don’t mean to suggest that someone who is muddled, stupid and wicked makes a good lama. Nevertheless, to demand that the lama be perfect in every word and deed, or that the student perverts their own intelligence to pretend that the lama is perfect in every single word and deed, is a recipe for, at best, a completely fake relationship.
Friday November 2nd, 2012. Posted by Alex W:
Living in a rural area of a strongly Roman Catholic country, I’ve just been strongly reminded of the traditions of this time of year. Halloween is not celebrated very much here, but All Saints Day, November 1, is taken as a holiday. Even more to the point, today, November 2, is All Souls Day.
I don’t think there is any particularly useful way of aligning the Christian belief relating to saints, souls and purgatory to Buddhist belief, but making prayers for the rebirth of those departed, particularly for rebirth in Amitabha’s pure land, is of course a regular Buddhist practice.
On my morning walk with the dogs I passed the village cemetery, which is receiving a high number of visits and being decked out with plenty of flowers today. It struck me as a nice idea to “resonate” with those wishes by reciting the prayer for rebirth in Dewachen (Sukhavati) many times today. Perhaps it could become a Western Buddhist tradition – what do you think?
(You can right-click to download this image if you don’t already have this text.)
Friday July 6th, 2012. Posted by Alex W:
Happy Birthday to HH Dalai Lama. Nip over to the official website for a look.
I heard this:
“July 6th Tibetan communities around the world, and their sympathizers, celebrate the 77th (or 78th since the Tibetans count the time in the womb) birthday of HH the Dalai Lama. For he’s a jolly good fellow. That nobody can deny! Happy birthday, Your Holiness! Many happy rebirths of the day…
In Kathmandu, the Dalai Lama’s birthday is celebrated joyously within the large Tibetan community here. After all these years, it’s hard to believe that the Chinese are repressing the poor Tibetan people even more and more, but this is the case. In Kathmandu, because of pressure from the Chinese, public displays in honor of the Dalai Lama have been suppressed. But there are pujas for His Holiness in many of the monasteries. In Boddhnath, when possible, a procession takes place with a large photo of the Dalai Lama. The participants exuberantly throw tsampa (barley flour) wishing His Holiness a long life.
We also join in wishing His Holiness a happy birthday. May he long grace our lives.”
Thursday June 7th, 2012. Posted by Alex W:
A couple of weeks ago in http://chagchen.org/2012/05/22/should-names-be-named/ I mentioned the “sorry story of the death in a cave in the Arizona desert at the Diamond Mountain centre”, but saw no point in commenting directly, although the thoughts about untrustworthy “gurus” were prompted by those events.
If anyone was interested but didn’t choose to follow it up, the story has got to the front page of the Independent today: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-death-of-yoga-student-ian-thorson—and-the-wall-of-meditative-silence-that-met-police-7821159.html
PS Most of the dirt is also on the NYT at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/mysterious-yoga-retreat-ends-in-a-grisly-death.html?pagewanted=all
Wednesday May 23rd, 2012. Posted by Alex W:
Sad news. Two weeks ago the best bookshop in the world (OK, I’m biased), Snow Lion Publications, was taken over by Shambhala.
They say that much of the spirit of Snow Lion, and much of its range of books, will be continued. I hope so. At the first glance, things don’t look good. Go to Shambhala, and under “Books” you will see a section on “Buddhism” divided into seven subsections, including one on Chogyam Trungpa, one on his leading apologist, Pema Chodron, and one on Tibetan / Vajrayana Buddhism.
Under the last, search, for instance for Mahamudra and you are shown 29 items, of which 5 are from Chogyam Trungpa, including various versions and extracts of his collected works.
Well good grief! I know the man has his enthusiasts even now, and as I frequently stress I am grateful myself for the content of one or two of his earlier books and for a couple of wonderful translations that he oversaw. But as we all know he set an extremely bad example, and I’m afraid that “Do as I say, not do as I do” just doesn’t cut it. There is much more material of a much more interesting nature available nowadays. Chogyam Trungpa is, quite simply, not very important anymore.
But it’s early days. Perhaps it is too soon to judge. I shall be watching with great interest and wishing them all the best in this new direction.