Tag Archives: meditation

Challenges to Mindfulness Practice in the West: event on 11 April 2015

For some years now, the planning group of the Manchester Buddhist Convention (MBC) have felt that we should aim to do smaller events between the large Conventions in October.

 

This year we finally decided to put this into practice. The first of these was held on the above theme on April 11th 2015, at Triratna Buddhist Centre, Turner Street.

 

WomanMeditatingThere were two broad aims to the event:

  1. To explore Mindfulness practice in secular and meditative contexts.
  2. To bring different lineages together.

 

As we expected to hold the event in the smaller of the two shrine rooms we limited the numbers to 25 and decided to invite Dharma centres to nominate two people to attend.
This is a short Report on the event:

The event began with introductions, welcome, saluting the shrine and sitting practice. This was followed by two presentations, both by Buddhist practitioners one of whom offered Mindfulness training in a Buddhist context and the other who worked within the NHS.

 

Both presenters were informed by their particular practices and the contexts in which they worked. The material covered a lot of ground – from the ‘religion’ to aspects of Buddhism from different perspectives; the 8 week stress reduction course courses taught by and the different working contexts of the two speakers – ie – in a Buddhist Dharma Centre and the NHS where any mention of a spiritual framework was taboo. Results had to be ‘evidence based’ and benefits demonstrable. One of the presentations suggested that ‘Mindfulness training could be likened to Padmasambhava taming the demons when he went to Tibet (can be looked up on the net). By contrast the other described the demons that might beset a client when s/he came for treatment and showed how it might soothe a distressed person even for a short time – so two quite different presentations. This presentation suggested that a not very creative tension existed between the evidence-based demands of a clinical context and trusting our own inner experience – integral to Buddhist practice.

She described her work as ‘harmonising the mind with the body, rather than the other way round.’ ‘Making mindfulness accessible to mentally ill people.’ Helping them to ‘accept themselves’.

 

The group broke into small groups. These are some of the questions/points raised:

  • Is secular mindfulness the same as Buddhist Mindfulness practice?
  • The value of secular Buddhism is dependent on the quality of the teacher.
  • Secular mindfulness is better coming from a Buddhist teacher.
  • Buddhists are being too precious/possessive about ‘Mindfulness’.
  • The need for an ethical framework was indicated.
  • The need for transmission from a qualified teacher.
  • Were grand claims being made for limited results in the clinical context?
  • The use of Mindfulness training in other contexts was raised – in industry, schools, even within the US army. A comparison with the use of it among the Samurai was made in one group.
  • The Buddha’s teachings were not complicated but were they losing this simplicity and directness through cultural accretion?
  • ‘Challenges’ faced by Buddhism were not necessarily ‘cultural’ (Western) but the challenge of ‘modernity’ Buddhism has changed its presentation without losing its integrity over hundreds of years.
  • What might our questions be if we reversed the question to consider how Buddhism challenges our ‘modern’ cultural and given assumptions.
  • The possibility of losing lineage, transmission, diluting the Buddhadharma, eventually leading to losing it.
  • Not going far enough – ie- it will teach us how to ‘manage’ samsara but will not address how Awaken. Does this mean that we just learn how to function better in a corrupt society?
  • Can it help managers, for instance, to exploit people better? *

 

The other aim was to bring Buddhists of different lineages together? Why?

 

This was one of the main purposes of the MBC and most groups are keen. The October event is evidence that most Buddhists really do enjoy this engagement. Despite this, over the years of organising this event and speaking with different individuals it has become clear that there is a historical residue of historical suspicion. Some of this may be lineage based and some specific to Manchester. This weakens our potential and opens us to accusations of ‘sectarianism’. Facing our differences may be the one powerful thing we can do to ensure that the Buddhadhamma/dharma is made secure from ‘threats’ it may face. The Planning group has begun to reflect on this; to ‘own’ our ‘baggage’ and admit its existence. It aims to create trust in which to embed our practice and group and would like this to happen in a wider context – hence this event. This worked remarkable well. In a small group of 28 people there were at least 6 different lineages all absorbed in conversation and really engaging with each other.

 

We also wanted to explore ways in which we could work together as an inter-lineage group. Related to this are these comments from attendees:

  • The Annual Convention was exciting but it was good to be able to meet Buddhists from different lineages in a smaller, more intimate context.
  • The event was ‘therapeutic.’
  • There are not many inter-lineage networks like this one.
  • It captured the energy obvious at the Convention.

 

Some parallel observations:

 

  • The use of the breath and of sound is, or course, ancient and pre-dates Buddhism by millennia.
  • There is a blurring of the edges of what meditation has been used for; suggestion that it is not especially linked to spiritual practice.
  • Secular ‘mindfulness’ is here to stay. What can we do to harness it for the best possible use and mitigate its misuse (which appears to be happening alongside the relief it brings to suffering).

 

Once again, interest in what Buddhists could do in relation to service emerged. There was a huge fund of experience and action based initiatives in the room. We are exploring these and will keep you informed of what is happening either via the Website or at the Convention. If you are interested in the possibilities or have ideas or are involved in such initiatives please get in touch with us via the Website of with me directly.

 

A further event is planned for July. Again numbers will be limited due to space. If you are interested please inform your Dharma Centre or contact us directly.

 

Jaya – Co-ordinator, Manchester Buddhist Convention.

 

Taking Good Care of the Present Moment: A Day of Mindfulness with Sister Jewel

Saturday 21st March 2015

From 10.30 am to 4:00 pm

At Cross Street Chapel, Manchester M2 1NL

For directions please see: www.cross-street-chapel.org.uk

We will come home to the present through the peaceful and transformative practices from the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition. We will refresh ourselves with meditation, mindful walking, mindful eating, noble silence, and tea meditation.

TakingGoodCarePhoto

The Day will be led by Dharma Teacher Sister Jewel

Sister Jewel (Chan Chau Nghiem in Vietnamese) grew up in the US and Kenya. Thich Nhat Hanh ordained her as a Buddhist nun in 1999 and a Dharma Teacher in 2007. Before ordaining, she graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology and Social Sciences. She has led retreats in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Brazil, India and Southern Africa. She is editor of Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh.

The day is open to everyone, including Buddhists of all traditions, those interested in Buddhism and mindfulness practitioners.

Please bring vegetarian or vegan food to share for lunch. This should be food that is ready to serve and does not require heating up. You may also want to bring something to drink. For the tea meditation, you are welcome to bring a poem, song, story, musical instrument, dance or some other kind of offering to share.

Donations to support the teacher, teachings and hire of the room are very welcome. For those that can afford it we would like to suggest a donation of £25.00.However please feel free to donate according to your own circumstances. The day is open to all regardless of financial circumstances.

 

For enquiries or to book a place contact: Dene, Telephone: 01253 735121

Email: dene.donalds@pathwaysassociates.co.uk

The day of mindfulness is hosted by the Heart of Manchester Sangha. Practising in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh

www.coiuk.org/sangha-pages/heart-of-manchester-sangha

 

 

Manchester Buddhist Convention 2013: comments and reflection

The Manchester Buddhist Convention took place on Sat 12th of October at St. Peter’s Chaplaincy as the year before.

As before, it was wonderful to have been able to hold it here and our thanks go to the Rev. Terry Biddington and his team. It is a great, central location, large and comfortable.

Many thanks need to be made but I want to begin with some thoughts about the Convention itself.  Some of it is from feedback. Some from conversations.

First the critique:

Two people mentioned, ‘chaotic moments’. One person said there was some of chaos but it was soon resolved – ‘… a bit like life’.

With 25+presenters and 200+ attendees in a space to which we gain full access only at 9pm the night before, will always entail some degree of ‘chaos’. I’m more interested is in how we deal with the chaos rather than the chaos itself so I hope you will accept this. Each year some things get better and other things crop up.

One person mentioned the length of inputs and how they fitted together but more felt that they were complementary and responded to the theme in a remarkable way.  Several commented on how moving they had found them.

The acoustics were a problem. I am trying to understand the reason for this as the Auditorium has an in-built microphone system. I can only suppose that it is more suited to lecturing than to discussion. Anyway we will examine this problem and will review how we use this space next year.

Feedback on the Science session was uniformly good (apart from comments about acoustics!) – well presented and engaging.  Critique came from panel members themselves some of whom felt that tighter facilitation would have encouraged discussion. We may follow up on the Science strand next year, perhaps focussing on a specific theme from this year’s session. It’s clearly of great current interest and the impact of meditation on the neural pathways is a popular area of research, while  mindfulness ‘training’ is finding it’s way into all area of work including the NHS and schools.  One question posed was whether Science represented an alternative to faith or had become or another ‘faith system’.  (The Jury’s out on that one.)

The Gender and Buddhism session observed that Buddhism, ‘changes every time it enters a new culture, and feminism is something that Buddhism is absorbing now, with various degrees of success.’  Gender ‘politics’ has never been invisible or uncontroversial in Buddhism from the time when Mahaprajapati’ implored the Buddha to permit women into the sangha.  Women have also been teachers. A wonderful example is the hunch- backed slave Khujjuttara whose teachings are the Itivuttaka (‘This was said by the Noble One’) and is said to pre-date the Pali canon. A life well-worth examining. (It would also be useful to reflect on the difference and convergence of the two notions – gender and feminism.)

Now change and challenge is happening both East and West and have as much to do with a new millennium as a new culture. Some instances of women’s activism are – Buddhist nuns in China/Tibet (eg – Nun Ngawang Sandrol who has spent over 15 years in jail in severe conditions.)  Bhiksuni Chen Yen, founder of Tzu Chi (So it was really very good to welcome Tzu Chi back to the Convention this year. Bhiksuni Chao hwei Shih, who lobbied the Dalai Lama to recognise full ordination for women, tore up the 8 Gurudharmas, established a research institute for applied ethics, animal rights, environment and conservation in Taiwan.  Joanna Macy, long term socialist and activist, Bell Hooks activist on class, race and gender issues within Buddhism, Joan Halifax who founded Upaya and the International Women’s Partnership (established in Thailand and includes all spiritual paths not just Buddhist) to name a few. It would be interesting to explore this in some depth at a future Convention or to have it as a MBC sponsored workshop.

Here is a nice final comment  ‘…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.

Several people commented on Buddhism and social action sessions. One person observed that it challenged ‘the stereotypical image of sitting and meditating’ – a stereotype that never fails to surprise me. It flies in the face of the Buddha’s own example – a life of action and service as well as practice – having left family, wealth and home to serve a wider community that included those he had left. An example to learn from is the way he cared for a sick monk who had been abandoned by his comrades and chided them for doing so. He taught by demonstration – tending the sick; challenged the status quo in relation to both caste and gender, again by example rather than overt confrontation, though he didn’t recoil from challenge if it became necessary. Could it be that one reason why this stereotype exists is because meditation is sometimes approached as a technique without a spiritual underpinning? Something that just makes us feel better?  Buddhism (like other spiritual paths with meditative practices) becomes decontextualised, without a framework.  Nor is it embedded in the cultural fabric. Yet Buddhists are reluctant to engage with other schools which could facilitate the development of a framework, make us visible and anchor us more deeply in this society.  I think we also short-change ourselves over the amount of work Buddhist centres do.  Many (most?) are quietly active both here and overseas.  I know that Tibetan lineages (with which I am most familiar) have schools, feeding centres, hospitals, etc in Europe, Asia and Africa.  It would be interesting if someone in the different Centres did a quick survey on what their centres were involved in and we could begin to develop a compendium of practical Buddhist contributions.

Some other comments:

  • The MBC is a truly worthwhile event; it is especially commendable getting together so many people from different traditions and packing so much into a small space and short time. The plans for expanding and/or building on the success of this event will be really interesting.
  • Some themes that came up were relationships in all their forms, Everyday life dharma, textual study of scriptures, discussion around including meditation in the programme (Some people want more, some less -different strokes for different folk!) (There were 2 meditation strands in a tight programme. Textual study of the scriptures  needs to be ongoing programme. The MBC can provide a space where interest in this can be explored or advertised
  • As a field, Buddhist Chaplaincy is growing, but it will never operate on the same scale as in other World Faith communities. What it does seem to be doing is asking serious questions that have relevance to us all(We tried to get a speaker from Angulimala, the prison chaplaincy service who were very interested but over committed.)
  • General feeling that MBC got beyond individual sanghas and gave bigger picture….one lady said that’s why she kept coming to the event.
  • Some talk about Art and Buddhism. (So could be a good theme to pick up)
  • Environment and connection to Dharma.
  • In the end Buddhism transcends all divisions, including gender.

The day was underpinned by meditation, practices and specific Dharma/Dhamma topics from the different schools represented in Manchester – a range of Zen, Chan, Theravada and Tibetan practices, presented by deeply committed people helped create a vivid tapestry of a spiritual paths that has ways and means to suit the needs of most searchers and could have very simple and applicable answers to the issues that face us in the world today.  Unlike early Buddhist societies, we have access to all the different schools – some austere, some reflective, others quite wild! The MBC brings all these together.  What began as a get-together of Buddhists in Manchester is fast becoming an annual event that attracts Buddhists from a much further afield, as well as people of different faith backgrounds. This is the main strength and service it offers the Dhamma/Dharma.  Feedback indicates that this is also what people appreciate most. Would it not be wonderful if Buddhists could develop an ongoing discourse that is not just an annual event? We have a few ideas we may approach people/centres with in the future.

Thanks must go to the presenters – the ideas you brought, time put in, comments, discussions and promises of future help; to those who stepped in at the last moment. Thanks to Tzu Chi who made a very generous donation to the MBC- all the funds they raised from the sale of books on the day! All this is an example of Buddhism in action and all for the joy of sheer giving!  Final and great thanks must go to the wonderful steering group.  (Jeeta raho as they say in India – continue to live!)

This report comes out just as we re-group to organise the 2014 event when we can follow up on some of the ideas. MBC 2014 will take place, as usual on the second Saturday of October 11th at St. Peter’s Chaplaincy.  Details will follow but please put that date in you diaries.

Metta and maître to all.

Jaya.

 

Manchester Buddhist Convention 2013 would like to say a huge thank you to all involved in making this year’s event so successful and enjoyable – that includes the University Chaplaincy for providing the space, visiting Venerables , monastics and speakers from many traditions, the Steering Group, including the cooks and kitchen helpers, and all groups and individuals who attended.

It was lovely to see you all there – thank you for coming and we look forward to seeing you next year.Theravada Buddhist Monks from Ketumati Buddhist Vihara Oldham (Sri Lankan Monastery), Saraniya Centre Salford (Burmese Monastery) and Wat Sriratanaram Baguley Manchester (Thai Monstery)  at Manchester Buddhist Conference 2013

Photo : Thai, Burmese and Sri Lankan Theravadan monastics , from three different monasteries in Greater Manchester, in the opening session at the MBC 2013.

What is Manchester Buddhist Convention?

An emerging ‘interBuddhist’ tradition , unique to Manchester and reaching out to the whole North West, and aiming to:

bring together the Buddhist community in the North West and foster dialogue and understanding between followers of different Buddhist traditions.
Preparing the venue and running the day is a joint endeavour – please let us know if you would like to be involved.

The 2013 Convention was on  Saturday 12th October

Venue: St. Peter’s Chaplaincy, Oxford Road. 

Time: 9 am – 5 pm

Update:

This may be the last update we send unless there are urgent things to communicate, therefore please make a note of the following:

  • This year we don’t plan to print timetables or presenter notes this year. Please download and print for your own use. These will be posted on the website by the 6th October at the latest, so do keep checking. If you are a Dharma Centre or have access to printing equipment, could you consider printing off a few for your own attendees and for use by others on the 12th and bring them with you? This will be much appreciated.
  • Programmes of the day will, hopefully, be pasted on the every floor and definitely on the middle floor.
  • Coffee, tea and lunch will be served only within the designated times – ie –

coffee – 9am- 9.45

lunch – 11.30-12.40

tea – 15.10 – 15.30

If you require refreshments between these times please bring your own. There are also cafés around St. Peter’s.

  • There is a multi-storey car park behind St.Peter’s and some ‘off road’ parking metres but no free parking. No parking is available in St. Peter’s Chaplaincy itself.
  • There will be paper for your comments and feedback. If you wish to reflect first, don’t hesitate to contact us later on facebook, the website or to me at:  jayagraves@yahoo.co.uk
  • Next year’s Convention will depend on how many people are willing to become actively involved in organising it and how the work is shared so if you value this event, please consider joining the Steering Group. There will be a briefing and discussion early next year where we will decide how to go forward. To join the to join the steering group; contact us at the same addresses.
  • Any ideas for future Conventions will be welcome most welcome. It is the ideas that are generated by you that create the Convention.
  • This is a free Convention run by volunteers and presenters who give their time freely and bear their own expenses. However, there are major costs involved – food, venue, publicity, petrol etc.  The core group will carries some of this. However, if you are able, can you remember to make a donation so that we are able to continue to run a free Convention to which all Buddhists and non- Buddhists invited. There will be donation boxes dotted around the Venue.

Looking forward to seeing you again,

With Dhamma/Dharma greetings,

Jaya

Strands/topics for the day in 2013 will be:MBCphoto1

  • Science and Buddhism
  • Buddhism in the World
  • Human Rights and Gender
  • Dharma Topics
  • Meditation

Stick with one strand, or cherrypick.  We will also have keynotes, a discussion session and a space to just be. As always, the success of the day will depend on how you participate in it!

There is no set charge but Dana will be welcome and needed to cover the basic cost of venue, food and other expenses. Register for mbc 2013

On the day, programmes will be posted on walls on the Chaplaincy.

 

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

Buddhism in the World by Jaya Graves

Buddhism in the World

English: The worlds largest tibetan stupa

Image via Wikipedia

Forty years ago, you could arguably, fit the number of Buddhists teachers, if not on the tip of a needle, then on the square platform of a Saxon church.  All this has changed as the number of Buddhist centres grow exponentially. Two major causes are cited for this. One is the post-war occupation of Japan which brought Zen to the West.  The other is the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Alongside the carnage, this created a huge exodus of Tibetan lamas to India from where they and the teachings spread across the world. 

Buddhism is often defined as a religion. Books on the subject are tumbled into “religious” sections of libraries and bookshops.  Occasionally, they appear on philosophy shelves. But how does it define itself?   Buddhists refer to the “dharma” – the way. Buddhism is not a theistic “religion”. There is no creator god issuing commandments, judging or punishing. Nor is there anyone who promises salvation. Salvation is possible, even inevitable, but we will reach it through our own efforts.  Neither is Buddhism a philosophy. It aims to go beyond concepts, the domain of Western philosophy. To do this it uses a thorough and rigorous investigation of inner and outer phenomena that include ideas, emotions, actions and interactions.  Phenomena are unstable and impermanent – a dance of particles – an instability we are unable to control. We cannot create permanence.

Imagining we can control phenomena creates many of our current delusions and anxiety. And from this stems our conflicts with ourselves, with each other, between neighbourhoods and nations. Since the data of our human situation is subject to continual change it follows that our investigation must also be continuous and our conclusions must be adjusted. This personal investigation is central to Buddhist practice.  There are no laboratories.  No contrived replication. For this reason the process is sometimes dismissed as “subjective” and unscientific. It is not “evidence-based”. I am arguing that it is tested.  It is evidence based but not necessarily within the Western framework of investigation. It is personalbut it is not subjective. We have the support of teachings and commentaries. Investigative practices have been explored and established. Skilled and wise researchers have “peer reviewed” these over millennia and continue to do so. But in the end it is our own inner tenacity, our passionate intention through which we must judge our path and progress.

This core practice is undertaken not only to create a degree of ease in ourselves but through a commitment to everything that lives. The development of compassion for all things is part of being human and cannot be conditional. It must include those with whom we agree, whose belief systems are congruent to our own as well as those we may traditionally see as “enemies” or who harm us, or whose belief systems challenge our own or whose interpretation of life is alien to ours. We need to be judicious but we cannot judge the person only the action.  On this Buddhism takes no hostages. Our concern must include all living things (not only human).

Buddhism is moving from the fringes to centre stage. It offers strategies to deal with fraught lives.  Meditative practices can be oases of calm at home or in centres. It is not a continuous assault to make choices, make judgements, accumulate information, juggle loyalties. It turns the attention inward.

The binary frameworks generally used to explain or explore our experience are flawed.  By this I mean that there is an ideological split between spirit and matter; theism and atheism. (Buddhism is non theistic not atheistic.) The dichotomies of either/or, good/evil, black/white, lies/truth, for us or against us, need not coalesce into destructive factions within us and between us in which there is no accommodation and between which we must choose, sometimes on pain of death.  Contradiction is is the stuff of our human condition. We are not asked to repress and destroy these. Instead it is suggested that they obscure our true nature. We are urged to investigate these obscurations and are offered methods to transform them. So anger can become energy. Afflictive desire can become compassion for all beings. (Not only for humans.)  Pain can teach us sympathy and concern for all.

Buddhism recognises that suffering is our inheritance and will be our legacy. It makes demands in how we locate ourselves in the world. For me, in this context, it raises questions about the infliction of a model of infinite growth on a finite system; of our assumptions of entitlement to resources; our profligate use and treatment of land and water. It challenges the notion that our main concern is “the family”.  It isn’t.  There is a family beyond the family, beyond the neighbourhood, beyond the state, the country.  Nuclear families are only a microcosm of this.  Our care has to be embedded in the wider context.  It is not a competition. It is reconfiguration.

Tried and tested methods of making an inner journey are offered. These enable us to change our own responses to a world in flux. It can harmonise relationships and enable us to maintain a degree of equanimity in personal adversity as well as in our engagement with the world. This exploration merges seamlessly into the metaphysical.  Beyond worldly flux with which we must engage there is a timeless truth.

Jaya Graves: I was born in India and work with Southern Voices, a small educational organisation concerned with issues to do with the South or “developing world”. I am involved in activities involved with refugees and the movement of people and have been active in anti-racist activities, the womens’ movement and the peace movement.

Do Buddhists need more unity?

Beyond all coming and going of phenomena: the ...

Image via Wikipedia

by Oxana Poberejnaia

Manchester Buddhist Convention will be running for the 7th time next 2012 year. And every time, at every closing session of questions and answers, one kind of question was bound to come up: Do we Buddhist need to be more united? Shall we hold some sort of event together? Should we be able to give common response to various social, political and spiritual problems that our society faces?

Good examples were given: for instance, somewhere in the world, Buddhist of various schools get together once a year for a public event, something like “Relaxation Day”, or “Awareness Day”. They hold stalls and put up te

nts where members of public can experience various types of meditation and chanting for their health and spiritual benefit.

Manchester Buddhist Convention was created with a view of bringing Buddhists and people interested in Buddhism together. And it does just that – for one day per year.

Do we want, do we need, a higher level of unity, and what are we prepared do to for it?

Voices have been raised saying that each Buddhist centre is concerned with its own affairs, maintenance and survival. This is fair enough.

Another reservation that I can see is that people might feel that pushing ourselves forward too much is not very Buddhist, and smells of ego somewhat. In addition, people might say that we as Buddhists do no have a common opinion on political and social matters, as we are too different.

I can answer to the latter argument by saying that it is not our drawback, it is our strength. By standing together in diversity we first demonstrate to society that various views can co-exist peacefully without the need for conflict, and, second, we can offer our co-citizens a wealth of various solutions.

As for the former argument, it is of course more serious. Strengthening our ego is the last thing we want to do. In fact, we spend a lot of energy on doing just the opposite. We don’t want any additional identity as “Buddhist” to the ones we already have.

However – what if we look at standing united not as an ego boost, but as service?  We all practice Dhamma (Dharma) – and that means that we find it worthwhile. Are we not supposed to share what is good about Buddha‘s Dhamma with other sentient beings?

What are the benefits of the practice? Obviously, they are manifold. Some of them, like health benefits of meditation, are scientifically proven by now. there are numerous articles on this that everyone can access – so why are we still shying away from saying: “Want to get more peace and lower blood pressure? Ask me how!”

Other positive sides of Buddhism, in my view, are:

  • Practicality
  • Non-dogmatism
  • Adaptability to times and cultures
  • Wide range of choices to suit any personality type
  • And, excuse me, but no concept of God (no offense to our theist brothers and sisters)

The Seventh Manchester Buddhist Convention promises to be the largest ever. We also aim to become a hub for North-Western Buddhist organisations and beyond, as well as a mould based on which other regions and countries can establish their own Conventions – for the benefit of all sentient beings. This year, the organising committee is thinking of attracting more attendees who are only interested and perhaps have not even started on their Dhamma path.

We could also think about what we can do together, as “Manchester Buddhists” – a clean-up event? A public meditation in Peace Gardens. (There is a successful London-based meditation flash mob going).

We don’t have to re-invent the bicycle, either  – we can just find something that other Buddhist do and learn from them. Or we can even get together and help one of our centres that needs help and struggles to muster work force with their own practitioners only. Cleaning, gardening – you name it.

I publish this post here  strictly as my humble opinion and as a prompt for discussion, that I hope, this, seventh time, will take us somewhere.

Welcome to Manchester Buddhist Convention online home

This is online home for Manchester Buddhist Convention.

The Manchester Buddhist Convention has been running since 2006.  (We just changed names!  Until 2010 it was known as the Manchester Buddhist Conference.)  Its objective is to bring together all the different Buddhist groups from North West England and anybody interested in Buddhism and meditation.  It is attended by monks and nuns from the various traditions, lay Buddhist practitioners and meditators and Budd-curious people from around the region.  There are a number of different talks, presentations, workshops and demonstrations from different groups and traditions.

We aim to become a hub for building Buddhist community in the North West, the UK and beyond. We do not introduce any borders. The Convention is dedicated to bringing people together, regardless of their Buddhist tradition, creed, race, gender, or geographical location.

On this website, you will find information about the Manchester Buddhist Convention, previous programmes and photos, plans for the next Convention, and pages dedicated to various interests Buddhists and non-Buddhists may pursue, such as spiritual events (retreats and festivals), creativity, engaged Buddhism (environment, charity etc), family and Buddhism, and others.

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