Monday, February 27, 2006

The Future of Writing

Went to De Montford University workshop
The death of the book has been falsely foretold many times; in this age of proliferating media it is clear that the book will not disappear but will have to fight for its place. What are the challenges for writers today? What does the new media have to offer writers? And, vitally, what does the new media have to offer readers? Seminar featuring Kate Pullinger , Sue Thomas (Professor of New Media at De Montfort University), Christina Patterson (Deputy Literary Editor of The Independent) and Michael Powell, (Course Leader for Game Art, De Montfort University). Chaired by Professor Andy Hugill, (De Montfort University, Music Technology).

Kate Pullinger was talking about her on line story Inanimate Alice, which is well worth looking at

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006


 Snow this morning; my view always changing Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Chimps Use Tool Kit

"Remarkable video clips of wild chimpanzees using 'tool kits' to dig out termites from an underground nest have been recorded by scientists, who believe it is the most sophisticated culture yet observed in great apes.

Although chimps are known to use long twigs as simple tools to fish for termites - a nutritious delicacy - it is the first time that a far more complex behaviour involving two different kinds of tools has been observed in the wild.

They filmed the chimps, who were using a thick stick which they had prepared by stripping its leaves, to push a tunnel a foot deep in to the heart of the nest. Once they had removed the stick, they pushed a far more delicate twig that had been deliberately frayed at one end down the tunnel and into the heart of the nest, said Professor Andrew Whiten, of Edinburgh University."

Read more in: Independent Online Edition :

Delhi life

"Genuine advice from the DOs and DONTs section of the Guide to the Delhi Metro (bear in mind about 60% of it is underground):
DON'T Ride on the roof.

Genuine announcement on the Delhi Metro (in near-perfect-English female voice):
'Please do not leave your luggage unattended at any time. Someone may put a bomb in it.'"

Choice quotes from Andy's blog. Andy is volunteering in Delhi with Amida volunteers

Dharmavidya Web: Covrovian Chronicles

Not quite science fiction....
Covro 12 lies on the margin of a notorious black hole known as the Sou Cavity. Most mortals find it a kind of Shangri La in which they cannot remain for very long - 'A delightful mad house' one expert commented, during a routine inspection visit - since to survive there one needs an immunity to gravity. Some, indeed do go there with a view to learning the lightening way that confers this immunity, but three out of four find the process of shedding karmic mass too much of a challenge
. read more:

Monday, February 20, 2006

Teaching in Tamil Nadu

Modgala sent pictures of the volunteers teaching in Tamil Nadu. This is Alison with her class. Posted by Picasa

Walk by the river Soar

A day out. After the course block David and I enjoyed a walk by the river Soar at Mount Sorrel.
There are lovely walks on both sides of the river and a nice tea shop in the village. David met some ponies and tried to photograph a rather assertive swan

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Student centred education


Found this cartoon on an old note pad Posted by Picasa

Morning in Narborough

A bright frosty morning, with a slight haze. View from my window.

Zen, the cat, enjoys the garden in the morning.


Spent the evening making new shoulder bags.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Larger Pureland Sutra

Thus the Tathagata takes pity on the threefold world with a great inexhaustible compassion. The Tathagata appears in the world in order to reveal the teaching of the Way everywhere, so that the multitude of living beings all reap the benefit of the true Dharma. Even in a myriad kalpas it is difficult to encounter and see the Tathagata. It is like the udumbara tree that blooms only after a long interval of time. But now that you have asked this question, numerous blessings will be bestowed on all living beings celestial and human. They will be guided and transformed.

From the Larger Pureland Sutra

Somalis die of thirst in drought

Many more children will die without help, says Oxfam. People in southern Somalia are starting to die from thirst in the worst drought in over 40 years in some parts of the country, says aid agency Oxfam. Oxfam says assessment teams found seven people who died of dehydration, and that tens of thousands are now at risk. People are surviving on the equivalent of three glasses of water a day, in temperatures of over 40C (100F). Oxfam reports an almost unprecedented situation, where people beg for water along the sides of the road. All surface water has gone, boreholes are running dry, and people are walking up to 70km (45 miles) in search of water. The 830 ml available per person per day has to be used for drinking, cooking and washing.
BBC news

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Today we are in the middle of a group:
In A Midsummer Nights Dream, Shakespeare explores a number of themes dear to Buddhist psychology: the inter-relation between perception and passion, the magical quality of irrational desire, the search for meaning through attachment to suitable and unsuitable relationships that then govern our lives, and the uncertainty of the boundaries between dream, drama and reality. The phenomenon of infatuation involves an experience of being under the spell of a mesmerising object. This is an apt description of the conditioning factor that Buddha called avidya to which he attributed "the arising of all this mass of woe". The resulting complexities turn life into theatre within theatre – a favourite Shakespearian motif. It is not difficult to equate the mischief played by the play's fairies with the dynamic blind passion exposed by Buddhist psychology, nor equate the night in the woods passed by Shakespeare's characters with the samsara of Buddhist theory, at the end of which one wonders whether or not it was all a dream. On this workshop we will, with the aid of psychodrama, improvisation and expressive therapy methods, employ the bard's plots and devices to bring these fundamental themes to life and explore some of our own labyrinths of perception, folly and awakening. This workshop is the latest in our on-going series of "myth workshops" in which we have used a theme from legend to enhance personal growth, explore psychological principles, and further therapeutic skills. It will be useful, though not essential, for participants to familiarise themselves with the play in advance of the course.

This four day group is wonderful training on so many dimensions. The interplay of personal reactions, group processes and dynamics and the subject matter... Even our dreams seem to reflect the themes of the drama. We are all mirrors for one another, yet each locked in our individual world of perceptions. Feelings flow, are amplified, get expressed or not. For the trainee therapist the process hones the ability to flow with and yet be separate the other, to observe the subtle nuances of reactivity and to join in the dance, observing the fields of persnalprocess, other process, group process, visual, verbal and action based. It is a growing into awareness, not a cognitive learning process. Indeed, the complexity of the group confounds the individual learning outcome and confuses the over grasping mind into submission and wonderment.

Monday, February 13, 2006

New York hit by heaviest snowfall on record

New York New York has recorded its heaviest snowfall since records began, as storms hit the north-eastern United States. Thousands of Americans have been left without power, while 26.9in (68.3cm) of snow had falled in Central Park by last night. The previous record was 26.4in, which fell in December 1947.
Yet another sign of climate change? Read more in article by Andrew Buncombe in todays'Independent on line

World as Other

Last night's service, I was giving the talk, so took as my theme the environmental catastrophe which hangs over us. Reading from Joanna Macy's book "World as Lover, World as Self", I looked at the four images which she identifies as characteristic of human views of the world. These images are: World as battlefield, World as trap, World as lover, World as self.

Against this, we can look at James Lovelock's image: World as Gaia, which, I think, offer more to the Pureland way of understanding the earth. Macy's "world as Self" is presented in the context of the inter-being paradigm, but in Pureland, it is our respect for the separate nature of Amida, and indeed of other beings, that creates the focus of religious exprience. The image of Gaia is presented as an organism, a subject of wonder, full of complexity, and the epitomy of otherness. Gaia does not need us, but we need Gaia.

This image is concurrent with the Pureland idea of our own smallness (and foolishness) and of Amida’s greatness. We could indeed talk of the world as Amida. Yet Gaia may not survive out foolish behaviour and may not continue to offer the ever present love. Our sense of Amida must be different.

So our experience of Amida must be bigger. Facing an uncertain future, we can ask ourselvs, where is our faith? Is it big enough to go beyond the limited perspectives of this life and embrace a universe and universes that do not include our present world?

And what is our role, what our mission? How do we pass on the message in the dark times to come? THis is our task. If humans hang on by any means, the future will be bleak - maybe new dark ages, maybe an end of any semblence of civilisation. Just as dark age monastries carried the religion of their day, so too, those of us who practice the faith now need to prepare to carry our message on to future generations through our life of practice. Namo Amida Bu.

In due course I will tidy this talk nto an article that will appear in Running Tide. You can also get CDs of Amida Dharma Talks from Sujatin

Volunteers in Delhi

Another photo from Jenny - Sarah and Sonna with a group of people - I think one of the street classes, but will have to check this out. details of volunteering are on the Amida web site Posted by Picasa

Jenny & Sonna in India

Jenny, my daughter sent some photos this morning. Love this one of her with boyfriend, Sonna. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 10, 2006

Off Duty

Sometimes its nice to relax. Susthama, Lisa and Zen join me in my room after a hard day

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Walk to Cosby

A walk to Cosby with Leo. Today was brilliantly sunny, so we enjoyed the half hour walk across fields to one of our favourite tea shops. The picture above should the view back towards Narborough. (The Buddhist House is visible slightly to left of centre if you enlarge the image). Spent a good time chatting with Lynette, the owner, about the Moody Blues, with who she has a mysterious close connection.

Life at The Buddhist House

A week back, and life is gradually settling back into its uncertain roller coaster here at The Buddhist House. The early part of the week was taken up with sewing - an invitation to dine with the Lord Mayor of London on Tuesday evening, along with all the Bishops and Archbishops crystalised the already pressing need for new "uniforms" - our mid range garments (the old ones being somewhat battered from a year of travelling and speaking engagements). I was very glad to have spent the three days at the sewing machine when we arrived, as the event was a very fine occasion. We had good conversation with a number of people - mostly Aldermen of the City but some with Bishops and their wives too, of whom there were a great many. We were delighted to met the Bishop of Leicester , Tim Stevens, and his wife, who are good friends, as we were going in. The Mansion House where the dinner was held is a very fine 17th Century building - I particularly enjoyed the (older) Dutch masters on the stairs. We dined in the grand Egyptian Room which, as the site describes, is not at all Egyptian in style. To my fascination, you can read the Lord Mayor's speech on the web.

Yesterday, having slept in to recover from our drive back (arrived in at 2.00am!) we had a day of seminars in The Buddhist House. In the morning I presented a seminar on "Creating a Group" in the pastoral care series. In the Afternoon, Dharmavidya presented a seminar continuing his teachings on the precepts. In between, we had a house gathering. Today Dharmavidya and Susthama have gone to Oxford to meet with the police and plan a protest against the animal laboritories planned by the university.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Eshinni's Letters

Tonights service, Dharmavidya talked about a reading from Eshinni's letters. Eshinni was wife of Shinran, founder of Jodoshinshu tradition. In particular tonight we heard her letter to her daughter after Shinran's death. Eshinnii reassures her daughter that Shinran will indeed be reborn in the Pureland. She also shares her dream in which Shinran appeared as the bodhisattva Kannon. Services at The Buddhist House every Sunday at 5.00pm

Friday, February 03, 2006

On The Road

Just back from a whistle stop drive round Northern England (well southern Northern England)Last night, Manchester University Buddhist Group. Today Leeds Metropolitan for a meeting with Prof Simon Robinson. Back via Sheffield where we caught up with news with Sundari and Bhaktika. It really is quite an amazing life! The Amida Order is just so active at present - hearing everyone's news.

Tam sent another chatty newsletterfrom India, with her photos of Delhi. The photo above shows all the crew there.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Return to UK

Arrived at Gatwick this morning at 7.00 am. An uneventful flight. Caught the bus up to Leicester. Good to be back at The Buddhist House Now for some much needed sleep!

Namo Quan Shi Yin

Had a delightful last evening in Tallahassee visiting Paul's friend Michael, who has a very impressive collection of Quan Yin statues. With current events, Quan Yin has a great deal of work on bringing love and kindness into the world Posted by Picasa

Death Penalty last minute hold again in Florida

Having just returned from Florida, we heard in an email from Paul saying that Mr. A.D. Rutherford got a last minute “stay of execution” from the US Supreme Court. His execution was scheduled for 6 pm. They received a call at 6:15 notifying them of the stay. Having seen two cases, this seems to be a pattern - they seem to wait till the last minute - with the guy last week they had him strapped down and the lines inserted in their arm before the stay came through - it sounds as if this one was the same. Of course this is not clemency or a reprieve, so they are still on death row, so this will happen again probably. If this isn't torture.... Many people give up in the end and become "volunteers" to get it over with, choosing execution rather than pursuing the endless legal process (picture from press conference last week)
to read more on this issue see Dharmavidya's comments