Tag Archives: Dhamma

Manchester Buddhist Convention 2015 – June Update

IndianBuddhismManchester Buddhist Convention 2015

 

The Manchester Buddhist Convention will take place as usual on the second Saturday of October at St. Peter’s Chaplaincy, Oxford Road, Manchester.

The theme for this years Convention is:

Buddhism in Action:
Peace in the Heart, Peace in the World.

This will be the tenth Convention held in Manchester. So we come to the end of a decade of meeting together as Buddhists from different lineages – a decade when we have gone some way in appreciating the richness of the path we share. We also hope that it has gone some way in increasing our understanding of the different paths, developing solidarity and intention to work together. This is also a decade that also seems to have been marked by an increase in tension and pain in the global context.

In response to this, some of us have been exploring ways in which we can work together to create links of service and giving to complement our inner practice. A group is coming together of explore this and I hope we will be able to present something at the convention.

Alongside this, we will of course, maintain our focus of practice and exploration of Dhamma/Dharma topics. More details of this will follow in the Update in August/September.

The PG also decided to organise smaller events between the large one in October so as not to lose the momentum of the Convention. We have run one event on ‘Mindfulness in the Secular Context’ at Triratna Buddhist Centre and one is planned for July 12th at the Dechen Centre in Chorlton. You should have received, or should be receiving, information about this very soon. These are in venues with smaller capacities, accommodating fewer people than the October Convention. Places are offered on the basis of those who apply first.

As you know the Convention is planned by a group of people on a voluntary basis. It is possible to present it as an event with no fixed charge because of the generosity of Chaplaincy. This year we have decided to offer them a nominal fee to the Chaplaincy but retain the basis of ‘Dana’ – free giving – for participants. The Convention cannot take place without this so you are asked to take this on board should you attend and give generously.

I know also that many Centres have undertaken expansion or are busy with their own lineages. I am therefore asking you to consider whether you, as individuals and as centres, wish to support the event and it’s work or whether you feel it has done it’s work and for the time being and can rest for the next few years or if there is another configuration you think would be more suitable. Do you think that an event or a process that enables us to meet together as Buddhists and Buddhism without ‘boundaries’ is a useful one for the future? If so is this a useful approach to the next few years?

For instance:

  • Should it just concentrate on smaller events?
  • Should it concentrate on bringing people together for shared practice?
  • For action?
  • For visits to different Centres?
  • Or any other types of meetings or activities?

It is likely that some of the activities outlined above will go on whether or not the Convention continues in its present for.

These are things you may have to consider at the Convention so please give it some thought. You should also give some thought to the logistics of it – ie- what can we; collectively do to make it happen?

 

One         root         Many       Branches

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Gender and Human Rights Session at Manchester Buddhist Convention 2013

By Oxana Poberejnaia,

blogger for Feminism and Religion

I am grateful to all participants of the Gender and Human Rights session at MBC 2013 for a friendly yet thoughtful discussion. We had both sexes present in the room, and all ages (from 3: thank you, Aki, for top behaviour!) and up.

I had been preparing for the session using the book

Buddhism After Patriarchy
A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism
Buddhism After Patriarchy
Click on image to enlarge

Rita M. Gross – Author

and recommended it to everyone at The Convention.

My goal was, as I laid it at the beginning of the session, to facilitate inner searching for each of us around such issues as: “Is any organised religion compatible with Feminism?” “Are we happy with the current situation in Buddhism regarding women?” “Is Buddhism part of the problem or does it offer solutions?” and “What should we do next?”

I also hoped that through conversation, new common insights would arise and solutions to common problems found. And indeed they were. For instance, I have found another person who also dislikes this common place separation into “Western” and “Eastern” ways of thinking or doing things. I also believe that we now live in a global world and deal with common problems.

Buddhism, we believe, changes every time it enters a new culture, and feminism is something that Buddhism is absorbing now, with various degrees of success, but this process is inevitable.

I also liked how we drew parallels between our Buddhist practice and practising Feminism. For instance, one is allowed mistakes on both paths. Also, just you cannot be too mindful: it is best to be mindful at all times, it is also preferable to be Feminist at all times – whatever it means for each individual. And if it means challenges every sexist joke told around you, then so be it.

We also discussed how we ourselves chose our Buddhist tradition, based on our belief about what’s right regarding gender equality, and also how we can work within our traditions for gender equality. Questions were asked if a tradition that started very much as a patriarchal one can evolve into a more equality-supporting one.

A thought was expressed that Buddhist practise transcends all mundane matters, including gender divisions. This is undoubtedly encouraging to us, particularly because we as Buddhist practitioners know from our own experience that we are not defined by any conditioned characteristic, including gender. This inner knowing helps me a lot in my Feminist activities.

 

Descriptions of sessions for MBC 2012

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first...

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first sermon on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to his five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. Also seen behind the stupa in the left corner is the yellow-coloured spire of Digamber Jain temple, dedicated to 11th Jain Tirthankar, Shreyansanath, known to be his birth place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PROGRAMME   NOTES

Three Short inputs by:

Ven. Alan Bhuka                         Zen

Tenzin Dorjee                                    Tibetan Buddhism

Usha MaNab                                    Theravada

A short discussion will follow.  Longer discussion fora will take place in the session after tea. (14.25-15. 10)

Dharmacari Buddharkhshita:

‘Knowing Smile, Troubled World’, While we all reflect upon our life and situation and our view of what we think is reality, most reflections are questionable. We only have to look to the Buddha’s real love, to realise and understand that from birth we inherit a unique view of this world. However, the adult conditioned world constantly tries to change this to one of convenience, greed and self. We need determination to hold onto, or regain what we may lose of our understanding. Only when we completely awaken through realising a real love for all beings, do we deeply recognise the nature of true reality, as opposed to this world’s gross unreality and the suffering it causes.”

Ven Alan Bhuka (Soto Zen Dojo.)  0n Zazen and the kesa (robe) – its significance and the symbolic meaning, colour, stitches and bands all have meaning and is sewn by hand.

Buddhist Group of Kendal            (Theravada) ‘BUDDHISTS, FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE Pidiville Piyatissa (Head of Ketumati Buddhist Vihara, Oldham, and Chaplain to Manchester University); Jacquetta Gomes (Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili) (Secretary, Buddhist Group of Kendal ); Chief Constable of Cumbria Stuart Hyde QPM; and Fire Officer Daryl Oprey (CFOA lead on Equality & Diversity representing CFOA Chief Fire Officers Association AND POLICE WORKING TOGETHER IN CUMBRIA’. The session will be led by Venerable).

Kathy Castle and Chris Ward: (Rigpa)Reflections on Death and Dying

“Oh well, death happens to everybody. It’s not a big deal, it’s natural. I’ll be fine”. This is a nice theory until one is dying. (Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche; Life in Relation to Death)

What is the meaning of death and what can the contemplation of impermanence and change show us? Can it awaken a fresh view of life, and death, connecting us to the core of our spiritual path, helping us to face life and death with less fear?

Join us for this reflective workshop, based on the teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

Venerable Chueh Yun: (Fo Guang Centre) will lead a dharma session on, ‘The art of living with the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path that is the path which leads to the end of suffering’.

Dene Donalds.    (Heart of Manchester Sangha, Community of  Interbeing)

This session will include guided and silent meditation, inviting of the bell and possible mindful sharing. Relaxation and a fluid practice are hallmarks of this practice, a Zen Buddhist order founded by monk and international peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh with lay and monastic members all over the world.

Rev.A. Gordon-Finlayson: ‘What does it mean to be Buddhist in the West? ‘

Taravandana Lupson: A Seven Fold Puja dedicated to Green Tara the Bodhisattva of Compassion. This will include verses in call and response, Dharma Readings, poems and Mantra all associated with compassion and Tara.

Keith Munnings:   Kalyana Mitra – a network of Buddhists from different systems wishing to work as Buddhist Chaplains in hospitals or hospices. Keith, Head of Studies of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Support Group (Kalyana Mitra), is from the Samatha Association and has been Chairman of the Buddhist Healthcare Chaplaincy Group, an endorsing body providing support to those for chaplains working in, or wishing to work, within a variety of Public Bodies

Phra  Nicholas: (Centre) Leads a meditation on light

Venerable Pannasami:  Saraniya Dhamma Centre will lead a session on            Vipasayanna.

Ven. Piyatissa : Ketumati Dhammma  Centre will explain the meditation techniques mentioned in the `SatiPattana Sutta ` The discourse of four foundations of  Mindfullness’.

Oxana Poberejnaia: leads a session on, ‘Women and Buddhism – Bring your unique perspective as a lay man or woman, or a Venerable, to join in the discussion of whether Buddhism as practiced by us her in the UK is a path suitable for women. Does Buddhism cater for women, or is it another patriarchal structure, for which women have to become “more like men” in order to establish themselves, progress and be heard?

Valerie Roebuck: The Manchester Centre for Buddhist meditation. The Samatha Centre. ‘Buddhism in Britain Today: a View from the Samatha Movement.

John Rowan:  Kagyu Ling Centre, ‘The Power of Boddhicitta – the wish to become a Buddha for the benefit for all beings – a short explanation of the altruistic heart of the Mahayana Buddhist path. This will make reference to: aspiration (the start and continuing spark which fuels the fire of bodhicitta), application, conventional and ultimate bodhicitta.

Rev. Dr. Scott Sensei: Stonewater Zen Sangha of the White Plum Lineage. ‘Today lay practitioners single minded devotion to achieving the ‘Great Awakening’ has to give way to a more varied practice in which formal  Zen training and the demands and concerns of ordinary life are interwoven. Life itself then becomes a koan in which we answer the question of how to lead a life that balances our own needs with those of the people around us and the greater community.

Nichiren:            Presenter and topic to be decided

Peter Voke             (Jibal Bosal): Kwan Um School of Zen will lead a dharma talk on ‘Finding the Buddha Right in Front of You.’

 

We intend to have a space for continuous chanting if people want to do this.  At this point, the room for personal and led meditation has been subsumed by the need to find another space for presenters.

Please use the online booking form so that we can have some idea of numbers for catering purposes. Without this we cannot guarantee a substantial meal for you but will nevertheless try and see that you don’t go hungry!

It will also be useful if you give some thought to the workshops you wish to attend as spaces in different rooms vary.  We are not expecting you to inform us online but if you wish to do so then you could be guaranteed a place in that workshop.

The Programme of the day is already on the website.  The presenter notes are for you reference when having to make difficult choices!

Whatever you choose, enjoy the day and let us know how we can make it better.

In the Dharma,

 

Jaya

Manchester Buddhist Convention – the gentlest of radicals and a great social reformer by Jaya Graves

Footprint of the Buddha. 1st century, Gandhara...

Footprint of the Buddha. 1st century, Gandhara, with depictions of the triratna and the Dharmacakra. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manchester Buddhist Convention – the gentlest of radicals and a great social reformer

(Sharing some personal thoughts)

The figure that comes to most of our minds when we think of the Buddha is of a being, eyes almost shut, hands resting in meditative equipoise, or touching the earth to bear witness. Tranquil. Supreme. Beloved.
If we lose sight of the force of His life’s testimony we still return to it in our moments of stillness for the Buddha was a towering figure even when surrounded by many other deeply realised beings. (1)

That we question and reflect, as the Buddha indicated we should do, is evident in some of the themes that recur over the years – about how Buddhism engages with social issues/ what its role when faced with difficult, ethical questions (one I’ve encountered in several contexts is the matter of organ donation). Buddhism and Psychotherapy crops up every year, monastic and lay life, death and dying, ‘Buddhism in the West’ sometimes used synonymously with ‘Western Buddhism’. Some people baulk at the term ‘religion’, connecting it perhaps, with commandments, instructions and prescription. Others may be content with ‘spiritual path’ and still others will insist that it is just a philosophy which, in my mind, seems to break the heart of the Buddha’s experience, which was a spiritual awakening.

In this Convention we try to respond to some of these questions in a tangible way. Interestingly, these questions seemed to have resonated among those who offered presentations when we first sent invitations. Several new groups have also responded.

Kalyanamitra and the Buddhist Group of Kendal (BGK) are active in the social context. Kalyanamitra provides Buddhist chaplaincy to different sectors. The Buddhist Group of Kendal and the Ketumati Vihara (Oldham), are working with the Police and fire service. Rigpa are doing pioneering work on death and dying based on the work of Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the ‘Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’. Here we are responding to the Venerable Piyatissa who remarked – ‘Yes, yes we must talk about dying. It’s very popular!’

Oxana will be looking at the role of women in Buddhism. (When the Buddha was asked by Ananda if women could become awakened he replied in the affirmative. Interestingly, Martine Bachelor’s remarks in ‘The Spirit of the Buddha’ that this was in 500 BCE. But in 1000 CE, ‘…some people in Europe were still wondering whether women had souls.’)

Presenters will be looking at the interface between lay life and monastic life and what it is to be Buddhist in the West. Other will present on core Buddhist principles like compassion and Boddicitta. There will be guided meditation as well as space for continuous chanting and personal and led meditation – a rich and substantial mix

We chose the theme: ‘The Buddha in our Midst: One Root Many Branches’ to underline that though we may belong to different Buddhist systems and schools, we have a core of shared teachings and truths which are directly linked to the words, deeds and practice of the Buddha and the early sangha. It gives confidence that the teachings are still directly connected with the words of someone of such magnitude – a still living connection. (This is an overwhelming notion and gives me goose pimples when I reflect deeply on it – sorry to be so un-poetic! I also remember a friend describing a similar sensation when she first visited Bodh Gaya – ‘I might have been breathing some of the same air as the Buddha did’, she said. ) It is for this reason that ‘lineage’ is important to me. There have been cautionary voices raised, at conferences as well as at various meetings and gathering, about the danger of aligning ourselves with a particular system or school (2). Are these appropriate for the West? Will it create ‘sectarianism’?

In His lifetime, the Buddha is said to have given 84,000 dharmas or teachings. Some of these may not have been more than a few sentences. Others may have been deep teachings requested and given at different times for people of different temperaments, inclinations, understanding and employment. This was the detail of his concern – not just for one, a few but for the many, given with the same loving attention and detail for all who may have come by him. He presented us with enough material to suit the needs of most people but urged us to use our own judgement and experience, – ‘Do not believe…’ So Buddhism has thrived on dialectical debate through thousands of years. The dharma adopted and adapted to the cultural milieu in which it found itself so Tibetan Buddhism may seemingly be very different from Zen or Chan and these from Theravada. Through all this the core teachings have remained secure because they are, according to the Buddha himself the ‘ancient path’ – the truth that is. Over time it can become submerged at which point it has to be rediscovered and ‘re-presented’ by new spiritual teachers. But, thus far, Buddhists of all systems have been meticulous about keeping faith with the original teachings that Buddha Shakyamuni transmitted.

If we find ourselves in danger of losing this message of perfect inclusiveness in the fear of ‘traditions’, systems, ‘authenticity’, independence (or not), it is as well to examine what could be causing that. If it is an individualistic approach to the Buddhadharma the problem is within us. Imagining that the problem is different systems of Buddhist thought rather than our own divisiveness, misplaces the problem and will ensure that we never find a solution to the problem, which is our own egotism, sectarianism and fear. If it is not, we are free to rid ourselves of the raft that has carried us – as the Buddha himself advised. (Unless we suspect there may be rapids ahead!)

It may also be useful to recollect that in the early Buddhist Universities in India, like Nalanda and Vikramashila the different systems studied and practiced together. In Tibet, different lineages had specific monasteries but they shared teachings and methods and lamas took transmission from teachers of different lineages and still do.

There are rituals and formalities associated with different Buddhist systems but this is not the ‘heartwood’ of Buddhism. These are contained in the teachings given by the Buddha and are the basic core that we share. It is embedded in the message compassion, not just for those we know or even for humans but for all beings. This is the central message of Buddhism – we need to allow our compassion to expand and include all sentient beings and to hold it there until suffering ceases…

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is how our chosen spiritual intention integrates with and infuses our day-to-day activities, our relationships and the smallest interactions we have, how we wake up to the day… Ideally, it is the starting point and reference for how we live and the choices we make, in the knowledge that we fall short as often as we manage to live to this aspiration in the course of a single day.

The Buddha practiced this. Every action, intervention and teaching is imbued with this message – his intervention between wrangles in the early sangha, between individuals, between tribal warlords and kings. In the early sangha there was space for murderers, for low-caste sweepers, for women, (3) for the sons of kings and priests. He didn’t set out to offend but sometimes offence was taken. He deliberately chose to teach in Prakriti and Pali – the languages of ordinary people. It was only later that the teachings were transcribed into Sanskrit, the language of the priesthood.

The Buddha lived most of his life in cities – where else? His concern and teachings were for beings. This image of sublime serenity to which we turn our minds when we think of the Buddha, one hand touching the earth the other held in meditative equipoise may be our need and is at it should be. All his actions and activity are embedded in deep-rooted humanity; in a love for all beings. It is this that makes him the gentlest of radicals and a great social reformer.

1) The Buddha is said to have taken birth in India for 5 specific reasons. One of these is that disciples from his past lives were gathering in India. The others were that there were suitable parents, a suitable situation (he was born into the warrior caste), a climate of questioning, discussion and debate and a decent lifespan.

( 2) I have chosen to dispense with the word ‘tradition’. This English word is misleading. A term we use in Sanskrit and Tibetan word is ‘yana’ or vehicle which conveys the notion of different approaches suited to different temperaments. Within the ‘yanas’ themselves, there are many different paths. There are many words like this and I think it would be a good use of our time and energy to examine these in great detail and create terminology to reflect them – terms like ‘void’, ‘emptiness’ (which are not at all to do with nothingness.) Or even ‘dukkha’, ( for which Martine Batchelor suggests ‘stress’. Dukkha is still ordinary usage in India and does not indicate soul-destroying ‘suffering’). Another one that leads into a morass of misunderstanding is ‘non-attachment’.

( 3) It has been suggested that his initial refusal was due to concern for their safety in taking the ‘homeless’ way. It is also the reason why many women who did join the Sangha were expected to stay close by where the monks lived.

Jaya Graves

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Dhammaloka: Humorous and insightful podcasts

I enjoy listening to the podcasts by Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre (operated by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia). The podcasts are available for free from their website and on i-tunes. There are two sets: Dhamma talks and Sutta talks.

I really like the style of their teaching Venerable, Ajahn Brahm. He is humorous and although he himself is a Theravadin monk he is very much non-sectarian and often talks how he enjoys being in the company of practitioners from different traditions.

Apart from being quite often funny, the Venerable’s talks are also full of practical down to earth advice and beautiful insights into Buddha‘s Dhamma.

Oxana.

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