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Happy New Year and Course on 11th Jan

Hi everyone,

Another year has come and gone.

From one point of view date and time is totally arbitrary and cultural. We are always in the eternal present. The past no longer exists, and the future is just imagined. Also if we were brought up in a different culture, our “year end” might be totally different.

But from another point of view, something really significant happens at midnight tonight as the old year ends, and the new one begins. The reality is every moment is actually a new beginning. But we experience this most strongly at midnight tonight.

In any case it can be a useful opportunity to just take a step back and have a look at our lives. Are we happy? Are we going in the right direction? What were the highlights of the last year – the highs and the lows? From this heightened level of awareness, we may decide to try and shift direction a bit, to jettison some bad habits, and take on new ones.

This is the momentum that drives us to take on new year’s resolutions. Unfortunately these often amount to nothing, as our heightened level of awareness dissolves, and we are very soon back in our familiar unconsious and reactive mind embracing our old bad habits.

One thing we might consider is to look around for external conditions, or people that support us in keeping this expanded consciousness. This is one of things we are trying to do at the Hertford Buddhist group. We are trying to create a supportive community of friends (aka sangha) that help us maintain this perspective. It is very hard to do this alone.

Why not join us for our 8 week course (8 Tuesday evenings) starting on 11th Jan.

The first half of each evening will be meditation with full instruction – both mindfulness of breathing and also loving kindness (metta bhavana) meditation.

The second half of each evening will be based around the amazing book “The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Course in Enlightenment” by our friend Maitreyabandhu. The “Guide” refers to the Buddha.

The blurb of the book says “How can you make the most of your life? Maitreyabandhu, a prize-winning poet who has been sharing his experience of practising Buddhism for over 20 years, sets out to answer this most basic question. With humour and profundity, mixing poetry and myth with down-to-earth instruction, he describes what it means to set out on the Buddha’s journey and how you can follow it day by day and week by week. ‘The natural mode of consciousness is to expand. In every moment we can either allow consciousness to unfold or we can make it me and mine and feel it shrink back to the level of egocentricity. It’s as if we’ve identified with a tiny ripple on the surface of the ocean. Once we let go of that identification there’s the whole ocean: centre-less, edgeless, completely free.’”

It is recommended (but not compulsory) that you buy the book, and read it while doing our course. More info is at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/8-week-meditation-course-including-journey-and-the-guide/ .

Also here is a message from several of our sangha about an event on Tuesday 4th Jan:

“We are very pleased that, thanks to Zoom, Smritratna will be joining us on Tuesday 4th.

For the last eighteen years he has lived in a forest hut near the Dhanakosa Retreat Centre in Scotland. His talk is called ‘Sangha in the World: A Vision of the Future’ and is based on a discourse in which the Buddha tells a parable to express his vision of the profound value of sangha in the world, even after years of widespread misrule’ – how apt for our times!

If you would like a preview, you can see Smritiratna talking about climate change with Analayo during the recent Triratna Earth Sangha Conference https://youtu.be/bw50O7uk46o

Recently five members of Hertford Sangha attended the launch of the Cambridge Earth Sangha which was very inspiring. A number of other friends have expressed an interest in exploring a conscious approach to climate change which may involve study, discussion, meditation, devotional rituals and activism. More information to follow soon.”

Basically, for all of the above, all you need to do is just turn up on zoom on Tuesday evenings between 7.15pm and 7.30pm for a very prompt start at 7.30. The zoom link is https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom . There is no need to book, or pay anything. Beginners are always very welcome.

04 January 2022 Smritiratna
11 January 2022 Keith Week one of course
18 January 2022 Amber Week two
25 January 2022 Paramajyoti Week three
01 February 2022 Mangala Week four

That is all for now. I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and 2022.

Best wishes

Keith

8 week meditation course including “Journey and The Guide”

You are warmly invited to come to an eight week (ie 8 Tuesday evenings) course for anyone wanting to learn how to meditate and live their lives more mindfully and positively.

All are welcome including total beginners, people who know nothing about meditation, as well as seasoned meditators.

The course is totally free. There is no charge.

The course is held on zoom. Just join us at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom

The class will start promptly at 7.30pm – so best to get there at least 5 or 10 minutes earlier Each class will finish at 9.30pm. We normally have a 5 minute break halfway through.

The first half of each evening will be meditation with full instruction – both mindfulness of breathing and also loving kindness (metta bhavana) meditation.

The second half of each evening will be based around the amazing book “The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Course in Enlightenment” by our friend Maitreyabandhu. The “Guide” refers to the Buddha.

The blurb of the book says “How can you make the most of your life? Maitreyabandhu, a prize-winning poet who has been sharing his experience of practising Buddhism for over 20 years, sets out to answer this most basic question. With humour and profundity, mixing poetry and myth with down-to-earth instruction, he describes what it means to set out on the Buddha’s journey and how you can follow it day by day and week by week. ‘The natural mode of consciousness is to expand. In every moment we can either allow consciousness to unfold or we can make it me and mine and feel it shrink back to the level of egocentricity. It’s as if we’ve identified with a tiny ripple on the surface of the ocean. Once we let go of that identification there’s the whole ocean: centre-less, edgeless, completely free.'”

It is recommended (but not compulsory) that you buy the book, and read it while doing our course.

You do not have to “be a Buddhist”, or know anything about Buddhism. There is no God in Buddhism, and it is not about having to believe in anything. It is a very practical spiritual path.

Many people have found these courses extremely useful and have made massive shifts in their life from them (if they carry on practising and attending after the course).

People report these shifts especially in areas such as more happiness, less anxiety and less negative emotions. The general goal is to be more content, more mindful, have more loving kindness, joy, connection and ultimately more freedom from our reactive mind.

Repetition is important because there are different levels of depth, experience and understanding. If you have been before you will build on what you have learned and be able to go a bit deeper this time, so it is also suitable for experienced meditators.

If you want more information about the styles of meditation we teach you can go to http://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/meditation/ where there are also links to downloadable mp3s that can guide you while you meditate, as well as youtube videos etc.

It’s fine if you can’t manage to come to every week, each one can be enjoyed independently so just come along and drop into any that you can make. Although like anything, the more you put into it, and the more you attend, the more you will get out of it.

The classes will be very friendly, welcoming and a lot of fun.

There is no need to bring anything apart from an open mind and willingness to explore your experience.

If you cannot come to this course, you can also come any Tuesday throughout the year as we always warmly welcome any newcomers and beginners, and give full instruction. Every Tuesday evening is run as a drop in class.

If you have any questions, please leave a message below, or alternatively direct message me on Facebook .

Hope to see you at the course 🙂

Keith

Happy December, Sangha Soiree and a course in January

December is a really weird month, and it is almost impossible to think about it without thinking of the elephant in the room (i.e. Christmas).

Hertford Buddhist Group is going to have its own festive celebration with another Sangha Soiree zoom evening, where several of us are going to have a go at doing some kind of performance – last year we had singing, playing an instrument, reading poetry, presenting artwork, presenting a youtube video etc, and this year we might get a dance performance as well. Just a bit of fun where we can let our hair down and enjoy each other’s company.

If you want to watch it, just turn up on zoom on Tuesday 21st December at the normal class time of 7.20pm for a prompt 7.30pm start.

The other big news is that we are going to start an 8 week course based on Maitreyabandhu’s excellent book “The Journey and The Guide”. If you look on Amazon, you can find some reviews from around the world, and the following blurb from the back cover:


Building on the success of Life with Full Attention, Maitreyabandhu offers a challenging but profoundly useful work on how to practice Buddhism in everyday life.

  • Train your mind to be healthy and calm through learning from the life of the Buddha.
  • Drawing on examples from the life of the Buddha, Maitreyabandhu gives an easily understood outline of the system of spiritual life as undertaken by Buddhists in the Triratna Community.
  • Maitreyabandhu shows how the journey starts with our own mind, particularly when we begin to look into the truth of things — the truth of the old man on the escalator, the friend in hospital, the coffin we carry to the graveside.
  • What we find in our guide, the Buddha, is a man with a fit mind: a healthy, happy, non-neurotic, honest-to-goodness mind. To get fit, we need to work on becoming a happy healthy human being. We need to integrate our thinking faculty with our emotions. We need to wake up to thought and tune in to direct experience. And we need to work against the ever-rising tide of trivia, dissipation, and over-stimulation of the modern world.
  • Maitreyabandhu takes us on this journey with practical week-by-week exercises, focusing on cultivating mindful awareness, being happy, integrating and simplifying our lives, and knowing ourselves.

I am personally very excited about engaging with this material. If you have some free time, you might want to get hold of the book and start reading it now.

That’s all for now. Have a great December and Christmas!

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

We’ll be looking at how we can live a radical and meaningful spiritual life in the midst of the world, and how this can, in fact, be a strong and effective way of practising. But we’ll also be considering the supportive conditions we need to maintain the depth and momentum of such practice. In other words, we’ll be trying to get some sense of what a Buddhist lifestyle might look like. We’ll see that it involves learning to combine both calm and activity. We will also explore the topic of ‘right livelihood’: how to approach working life from the point of view of Buddhist ideals.

But first, we will look at some areas of conflict that can arise as we start to get more involved in the Buddhist life. Perhaps we have been attending a Buddhism class for a few months, we find we enjoy meditation, and notice we that we are starting to change. We begin to make friends at the class, and appreciate the contact with people who think and feel as we do. But we are also worried about certain questions. Isn’t it selfish to be spending so much time meditating? How can you justify all that time for yourself? What will your family think? Is this meditation business just a form of escapism? Do your friends secretly worry that you’ve gone weird and joined a cult? Do they even think that you’ll soon be clearing out the bank account and disappearing in the middle of the night to join some mystical guru with seventeen Rolls-Royces? (Maybe you recognize versions of these, or similar areas of conflict and uncertainty?)

Some people do seem to worry that meditation is a bit selfish. The fact that it involves taking time out and going into our inner world leads some people to feel guilty about meditating. But if we are doing it in order to live our lives better, in order to interact with the world with more awareness and loving-kindness, then it is far from selfish. It is an investment in ourselves now, so that we have more to give later: not necessarily more in the quantitative sense, but in enabling ourselves to do what we do with a better quality of mind. This will affect how well we are able to do it. Such an investment is wise, not selfish.

Meditation is the exact opposite of escapism. Escapism is avoiding oneself – perhaps by losing oneself in an activity that allows us to forget our lives. But when we meditate we are looking into our minds and trying to be aware and honest about what we see. We are taking responsibility for our minds in a radical and uncompromising way. Meditation is a challenge, but a worthwhile and rewarding one.

Happy November!

The cold weather is really starting to kick in, and a sense is rising of the calm before the storm (i.e. Christmas!).

Our meditation course is now complete, and we will have a bit more Buddhist content in our Tuesday night classes and another course starting early January.

No need to wait for that though, newcomers and beginners are always welcome, and will always be given full meditation instruction.

The photo above is of the Hertford Sangha at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre Sangha Day in 2019

Coming up:

09 November 2021 Mangala
16 November 2021 Amber
23 November 2021 Padmajata
30 November 2021 Paramajyoti
07 December 2021 Keith

There is no news yet about when we will start in person classes again. Just waiting to see what happens with the covid (and flu) data.

Also coming up on the afternoon of Sunday 21st November (2pm to 5.30pm) is Sangha Day at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. This just comes once a year, and is always a very heart warming event.

We have some fantastic news which is that Katey and Meridith from our Hertford Sangha are going to become mitras then, as well as at least three other people from other locations.

It is a hybrid event (in person and also zoom). You have to book if you are coming in person, and there are not many places. it is suitable for regulars and sangha members. https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/sanghaday .

That is all for now.

Warm wishes

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

5 Right livelihood:

Chopping wood, fetching water
Water to draw
brushwood to cut
greens to pick –
all in moments when
morning showers let up.

When they encounter Buddhism and meditation for the first time, some people feel it rekindles something deep within them, something that may have been lying dormant for a very long time. In the busyness of everyday affairs we can lose contact with that deeper sense of ourselves and the potential creativity of our lives. But the inner spaciousness we discover in meditation brings back the feeling of dwelling in possibility. We may feel we have rediscovered something precious that we don’t want lose sight of again.

But then we wonder whether, with our current life and responsibilities, it is possible to stay in touch with all this. Can we fully implement Buddhist ideals and really change ourselves? Can we really make significant progress in the midst of bringing up a family, or a busy job, or both? Can we do it in a world driven by consumerism, which seems intent on distracting us? Or is serious practice only for those who can gonad live in the mountains, far away from worldly concerns?

exercise – is it really possible for me?

Take a few moments to sit quietly and consider the above questions, and unravel your feelings and beliefs as to whether the path of self-transformation is possible for you. Try to be just as honest in acknowledging your underlying attitudes, regardless of whether they express doubt or confidence. You might find they are a mixture of the two.

Another question that might help you to think about this is, ‘What prevents me from practising more fully? What holds me back from making more progress in meditation, ethics, and the process of self-transformation?’

Make notes about your responses to these questions.

It is important to know because, if we are subconsciously telling ourselves it is not possible, this will obviously influence the effectiveness of our practice!

Meditation course continues in October

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well with you!

Why not drop in to one of our Tuesday evening meditation evenings on zoom? For the next 4 Tuesdays we are doing a meditation course, and then after that (from November onwards) the evenings are first half mediation, and second half Buddhism.

Each evening is self contained, so it does not matter if you just drop in for one of them. Newcomers are always welcome. All classes are free of charge. Go to the home page for more info and the link.

Meditation is really a fantastic thing to add into our daily schedule. I know many of you use headspace and other apps, but I have found it is much more powerful when we get in the habit of meditating in silence on our own, without an app.

This makes it a lot easier to access these states at any point during the day, even for just a few seconds. And the more times we do this during the day it just shifts our awareness and positivity, and colours the rest of our experience (in a good way) during the other parts of our day.

I know this requires a bit of effort and discipline, and coming to a meditation class and meditating with others is a great way of supporting ourselves with this.

Another purpose of our evenings is just to build community, and connect with like minded people trying to grow spiritually. We usually have breakout groups so we can get to know each other a bit.

So this is what is coming up:

05/10 – meditation course by Keith
12/10 – meditation course by Padmajata
19/10 – meditation course by Paramajyoti
26/10 – meditation course by Keith
02/11 – meditation and Buddhism by Jnanadaya
09/11 – meditation and Buddhism by Mangala
etc

That’s all for now. Have a great October!

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

avoiding intoxicants, acting with mindfulness

This final precept is about taking mindfulness into everyday life. It suggests we avoid anything that intoxicates, or detracts from, our mindfulness. We have to decide for ourselves what these things are, and where we want to draw the line. We might find that we can have the odd drink without affecting our awareness too much, or we might decide that even one glass of wine mars our clarity. Our experience might be that there are other things that detract from our mindfulness.

For example, we find that spending too long in front of the computer spaces us out. Again, there are no hard and fast rules, but a principle that we have to apply in the world.

However, one could argue that a strong characteristic of our culture is our over-reliance of drink and drugs. Karen Armstrong, a writer on comparative religion, has recently suggested that many are seeking ecstasy through drink, drugs, sport, sex, dancing and clubbing, art, and even shopping.

We are looking for an experience that takes us out of ourselves. This is natural, and what humans have always sought. In the past, many did this through religious experience, but these traditions have today lost their vitality. Much contemporary religion has lost touch with its mystical roots, and may even be suspicious of them. So today we use different means. The problem is that this is often not grounded in ethics. This can lead some people to dependence on, or addiction to, drugs, or to the violence one sometimes sees on the football terraces. Also, the satisfaction it can give us just doesn’t go very deep, nor does it last very long.

This is because true ecstasy is a product of a way of being, not something we consume. So we either have ethics that is wary of ecstasy (much contemporary religion), or ecstasy not grounded in ethics (much of modern culture). Karen Armstrong suggests that the current western interest in Buddhism is connected to this search for an ecstasy that is firmly grounded in ethics. With this precept, we are also exploring the whole area of mindfulness in everyday life as discussed earlier in Chapter 2.

If we are not mindful, we cannot be aware of our actions, words, and underlying motives. In other words, mindfulness is the necessary condition for practising the other precepts, for dwelling more fully in the possibilities of our lives, for bringing more loving-kindness into the world.

6 Week Zoom Meditation Course Starting 21st Sep

Hi everyone,

We are keeping things on zoom at the moment while we are seeing what the next wave of covid is going to look like.


This is what is coming up in September and beyond:

07 September – Rob leading a class on karma and the positive precepts
14 September – Paramajyoti
21 September – 6 week meditation course starts lead by Keith
28 September – Week 2 of the meditation course by Mangala
05 October – Week 3 of the meditation course by Amber
12 October – Week 4 of the meditation course by Padmajata

The link to the Tuesday zoom class is always the same, https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/zoom . Newcomers and beginners are always welcome.

On our download page https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/downloads/ where you can download a few things including a 32 page pdf of notes and a meditation diary that the upcoming course is based around.

That’s all for now. Have a great September!

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Avoid false speech, communicate truthfully

The fourth precept asks us to communicate truthfully. Before we can speak the truth to others, we need to be in contact with the truth ourselves. Truthfulness is an inner attitude, as well as an outer quality. As we go about our lives, we tell ourselves a story, we interpret and process our experience internally. We need to do this. We need to construct for ourselves a healthy sense of who we are in relation to the world. But sometimes, if we look closely – and this may even shock us – we find we are telling ourselves a lie. We subtly tell ourselves a version of reality that shows us in a good light. We don’t want to admit, even to ourselves, that we act unkindly, that we have ungenerous thoughts, or that other people sometimes get the better of us.

One of the great qualities connected with truthfulness is authenticity – being seen as we truly are. To be authentic is no small achievement – it takes a great deal of courage and confidence and may take sometime to develop. The first stage in being authentic is to be so with oneself. Only then can we be authentic with others. The more we have this quality, the freer we are. When we are not afraid to be seen as we are, others cannot manipulate us.

When we don’t speak the truth, it is often because we want to be seen in a good light. We don’t exactly blame our colleagues for the mistake we make, but we omit to put our boss right when they assume it was someone else that was in the wrong. Or we exaggerate the details of a story we are telling because we want to impress. Sometimes, when you overhear a conversation between friends, it sounds more like a competition in which each is trying to trump the other with a better story, or a funnier joke. There is very little real communication. You might say that a little bit of exaggeration isn’t that serious. From one point of view it isn’t, but, on the other hand, it is a missed opportunity to be more truly ourselves, rather than merely keep up the pretence.

Ethically skilful communication involves more than just factual truth. To quote William Blake, ‘A truth that’s told with bad intent, beats all the lies you can invent.’ We are trying to communicate not just truthfully, but also with loving-kindness. We try to avoid harsh, unkind comments. I once heard about a woman who worked in an office where there was a lot of gossip behind someone’s back. She was eventually asked what she thought of that person. She replied that she knew she had plenty of faults herself, so she tried not to dwell on the faults of others. The gossip stopped.

When you are with someone who habitually speaks kindly and appreciatively of others it is very uplifting. I have a friend with whom I spend time every few weeks. When I was first getting to know him, I noticed that each time I returned home I would almost feel inspired, and I’d wonder why. We’d only chatted about ordinary things. I realized it was because he always spoke in a positive and appreciative manner. Negative words poison the atmosphere, but positive words are just as potent in having the opposite effect.

Have a lovely August

Hi everyone,

I hope that you are enjoying the summery weather and the relaxation in the lockdown.


A few Buddhist centres including Cambridge and London are starting to reopen face to face classes again. Some festival dates at the Cambridge centre are Padmasambhava Day on Sunday 19th Sept and Sangha Day on Sunday 21st November.

For the Tuesday night class at Hertford we will keep things on zoom a bit longer for the moment. Among other reasons I want to wait until the threat of covid settles down a bit. So will probably stay on zoom till at least the end of October.

Coming up on Tuesday nights:

10 August 2021 – Amber
17 August 2021 – Padmajata
24 August 2021 – Jnanadaya
31 August 2021 – to be announced
07 September 2021 – Karunadhara
14 September 2021 – Paramajyoti
21 September 2021 – Keith launches a 6 week meditation course

More info on all the above at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/ .

That’s all for now. Have a great August!

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

The fourth precept: Avoiding sexual misconduct – stillness, simplicity, and contentment

Why does sex get a precept to itself? Not because there is anything inherently sinful about sex, but because there is something inherently dangerous about it. Our sex life draws out some of our strongest desires, and it is here that we are often at our most intimate, and therefore vulnerable. So the potential to do harm, or be hurt, is increased.

This precept extends the first and second precepts into the arena of sexuality. It asks that we do not hurt or exploit through sexual relationships. This covers the obvious and extreme instances, such as rape, but we can also look at more subtle levels of the precept.

Our culture seems obsessed with sex. It is used to sell everything and anything. Acres of newsprint are given to sniggering at the sex lives of the famous, while magazine articles explain how to spice up your own sex life. As a culture, we’re in reaction to an era of sexual repression; it seems we’re trying to make up for lost time. But maybe we’ve just gone from one extreme to another. The third precept asks that we free ourselves from these cultural influences: there is no need to feel guilty about sex, nor do we have to go along with the current over-obsession.

Sex is natural, human, and can be very pleasurable, but we should not over-value it. Sometimes we get out of touch with ourselves and we feel empty inside. We look for something outside us to fill that gap. Sex is one of the things we turn to. So it is not that there is anything wrong with a healthy sex life, but we do not want to rely too heavily on, or be addicted to, sex.

The positive form of this precept is to practise stillness, simplicity, and contentment. Contentment is not an emotionally dry and withered state, but one of inner richness in which one does not need to look outside oneself for emotional satisfaction. It is not a state of non-emotion. A contented person might still feel passionately about some things. They have passion, but they do not let passion have them. In some religious institutions today, you hear of people who are celibate, but clearly they are not content. They seem emotionally restricted, lonely, and unhappy.

This is not a good advertisement for the states of contentment that are possible when we are deeply in touch with our vision and sources of emotional fulfilment. In the Buddhist tradition, the word for celibacy is brahmacarya, which literally means ‘dwelling with the gods’, which gives you a sense of what is meant by true contentment. It is a state of happiness and pleasure. We develop contentment not just by giving up that which is pleasurable, but also by refining our pleasures. We look for what gives us the deepest, truest satisfaction.

We can perhaps watch ourselves. Are there situations and times in which we are particularly content, and others in which we are prone to craving and restlessness? For example, I know that if I’ve been busy for too long and have lost touch with my inner inspiration, or lost my sense of connection with others, this is when I start to feel empty inside. Then I start craving something to fill the gap, and often think about sex more than usual. On the other hand, when I’m inspired, or enjoying open communication with others, or when I’m on retreat, I think about sex much less, and I feel more deeply content. Once we become aware of these patterns in ourselves, we can try to ensure we take time to cultivate pleasure and contentment.

Exciting news

Hi everybody,

Exciting news – we have our first home grown order member in Hertford.

Kiranadhi (formerly known as Leah) had her public ordination on June 29th. Kiranadhi means “She whose Wisdom shines like a Moonbeam”, which suits her perfectly. We are looking forward to welcoming her back to Hertford when her ordination retreat finishes.

In other news many Buddhist centres are starting to re-open their doors and have face to face classes and retreats. Nigel and Maisie from Hertford are becoming mitras in a few weeks on Dharma Day in Cambridge. This festival will be amazing blast of positive energy and is open to anyone who attends our classes regularly.

Being a mitra means that they want to follow the Buddhist path at a deeper level and become more connected with our spiritual community. If you want to know more, there is a pdf available on the downloads page of our website ( https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/downloads/ ).

(thanks to Bev for putting this montage together 4 years ago).

I am not sure when Hertford will start face to face classes again. I am thinking probably at the beginning of September, and we will have a 6 week meditation course starting around then as well. I will give you an update at the beginning of August.

But don’t wait till then. Please join us on zoom any Tuesday evening. More details are at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/ .

Coming up:

06 July 2021 – Padmajata
13 July 2021 – Jnanadaya
20 July 2021 – Keith
27 July 2021 – Karunadhara
03 August 2021 – Paramajyoti

I hope to see you at some of these.

Have a great July!

Warm wishes

Keith

Coming up in June

Hi Everyone,

Have you joined our Facebook Group yet? I have just updated the web address from a meaningless string of numbers to https://www.facebook.com/groups/hertfordbuddhist/ . It already has 188 members, and is a great way to keep in touch with people, comment, like posts, ask questions, and build our community.

Did you know about the Mid Essex Buddhist Centre? You can find them on Google. It is about an hour’s drive East of Hertford, and halfway between Southend and Chelmsford. They have a lot of great stuff online including a skills auction to raise funds for their new Centre. We are blessed to be approximately in the middle between 4 centres, and the others are The LBC (London Buddhist Centre), The North London Centre and The Cambridge Centre.

In other news the Vision and Transformation course is now complete. Over the summer we will just have a series of one off classes.

Some Buddhist centres are opening up with in person classes. I am not sure yet about Hertford, but it will depend on what the Government says in the coming weeks. So for the moment, and at least for June, everything will still be on Zoom.

More information about our classes is at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk

Coming up:

1st June (tonight) Jnanadaya
8th June Amber launches Buddhist Action Month with Earth Care
15th June Karunadhara – Why I am a Buddhist
22nd June Paramajyoti – Dedication Ceremony
29th June Keith
6th July Padmajata

See you soon hopefully

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

There is a set of guidelines in the Buddhist tradition known as the five precepts. The rest of this chapter will be a brief exploration of these. You’ll see that each has a negative form – what it is we are trying to avoid – and a positive form: how we are trying to act. Because the discussion will be brief, we won’t be looking at some of the more complex dilemmas facing the world, such as ecological questions, or the desirability of genetic engineering. Many of these issues do require exploration from an ethical point of view but, for now, we are trying to capture the spirit of each precept and how it might manifest in ordinary life.

As we’ve already seen, these precepts are not rules, but principles we are trying to bring into effect. It is not the letter that is important, but the spirit and intention behind them. They are about developing skilfulness in our interactions with the world. Developing a skill takes practice. Like meditation, the ethical precepts are a practice. ‘Precept’ in this context means ‘training principle’. We gradually learn through experience and practice how to embody more awareness and love in the world.

First Precept: Not taking life, not harming, and acting with loving-kindness

The negative form of this first precept is not to take life or cause harm; the positive form is to act with loving-kindness. This precept emphasizes the need to try to be aware of others’ needs. It is concerned with putting the loving-kindness meditation into action in everyday life. Our intentions of kindness and well-wishing need to be acted on and made real – otherwise it can just become somewhat sentimental or abstract.

When we manage to respond to people’s needs, they usually notice and appreciate it. There was once a lady who came to our Buddhist centre who was in rather an unhappy state. She would talk at you incessantly about nothing in particular. Eventually she got it into her head that we Buddhists should open a vegetarian restaurant. She would phone up and, if we weren’t there, leave messages with soup recipes on our answering machine. Sometimes the messages would last for half an hour and use up all the tape.

One day she caught me on the phone and started to launch into another recipe. I felt myself tensing up with irritation. Just at that moment, I managed to understand what it was she really wanted. ‘But Ruth,’ I said, cutting across her, ‘How are you?’

There was a long silence. Then a sad and sorry voice started to tell me about her difficulties, her sick mother, and her own history of mental illness. Just for a few moments I’d been able to relate to her need to talk to someone. I’d got underneath the hopelessly mistaken strategy of non-stop talking she’d devised for trying to meet her need to communicate. Probably it was only rarely that someone asked her how she was. We’d broken through into real human communication.

How can we live our lives so that we help others to be enriched, expanded, and to be more human, rather than to be lessened or taken for granted? Can we think of appropriate practical activities? They might be large or small, but that doesn’t matter. This is the challenge of the first precept. This precept is the most important, in the sense that it contains the principle of non-harm and loving-kindness that underlies all the other precepts. The remaining four precepts can be seen as consequences of the first, almost as applications of this precept to other areas of life.

Buddha Day is coming up soon

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well with you and you are enjoying the first signs of Spring.

Buddha Day is coming up soon. This is the biggest festival day in the Buddhist calendar and commemorates the moment of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Traditionally it is celebrated on the full moon day in April or May (May 26th), but different Buddhist centres choose a different day to celebrate it on. In Triratna we normally celebrate all festivals on a Sunday so that more people can attend.

Above photo is from Deb’s mitra ceremony in Cambridge in 2017


The London Buddhist Centre are celebrating it a bit early on Sunday 9th May (I am not sure why). They have a full day zoom event at https://londonbuddhistcentre.com/buddha-day-festival-week/

Everything takes place on the same Zoom link, so you can drop in to some parts or treat the day as a retreat for a more intensive day of practice on the most significant festival in the Buddhist calendar.

10am-1pm – Going for Refuge to the Buddha – meditation, reflection and mantra
2.15-3.15pm – Who is the Buddha? – a collective storytelling event
4-5.30pm – The Buddha’s Social Revolution – a keynote talk from Subhuti
7-9pm – Festival Day Puja with Mitra ceremonies

This post has lots of links to their many different classes https://mailchi.mp/7769ddafed81/next-week-and-an-intensive-yoga-course-1708518?e=6cfc9d496e . As you can see they have a lot of stuff going on.

To get you in the mood, you might also be interested in this collection of videos from last year’s international Buddha Day https://thebuddhistcentre.com/stories/toolkit/buddha-day/ . Hopefully they are doing another one this year but I am not sure of the date yet.) It was a real blast mixing up activities from all over the world and multiple time zones.

Closer to home, we are continuning our Vision and Transformation course at Hertford. It does not matter if you have missed previous weeks. Beginners and newcomers are always very welcome.

Go to https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk for the zoom link and more info.

Leading the class we currently have:-

4th May Jnanadaya
11th May Padmajata
18th May Keith
25th May Paramajyoti

Hope to see you at one or more of these.

I hope that you have a lovely May 🙂

All the best

Keith

p.s. Excerpt from one of our favourite books: “Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life” by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Ethics is the day-to-day implementation of this creative and responsive attitude to the world. We are attempting to be able to introduce awareness and clarity where there is confusion, understanding and sympathy where there is irritation, generosity where there is the pushing and shoving of too busy a world.

As we develop an ethical sensibility, we see more and more how we always dwell in possibility, how each moment contains choices and opportunities for such creativity. It is interesting to note that the traditional Buddhist Pali words that denote whether an act is ethical or unethical (kusala and akusala) mean ‘skilful’ and ‘unskilful’. So ethical practice involves developing a skill. For example, if someone has to give criticism that they know the recipient will find difficult, it requires an intention of loving-kindness, but also skilled communication and qualities of tact and sensitivity. Thus it is something that we can learn and improve upon.

The tendency to see ethics in terms of rules has, unfortunately, gained a real hold in our culture. Sometimes when you talk to people about non-violence, they immediately want to know what you’d do if an evil dictator was about to press the button to start nuclear war and you just happen to be in the same room as them with a gun in your hand. They’re really hoping they can catch you out by having to admit there might be circumstances in which you would need to use violence. They’re interpreting, and they think you are interpreting, ethics in terms of black-and-white regulations, absolute rules. But ethics are principles to be applied in a complex world alongside other important principles and considerations.

Deciding between the death of a megalomaniac or nuclear holocaust is thankfully not a choice I’m confronted with on a daily basis. There are, however, dozens of occasions each day when I could choose to act with more awareness, or greater kindness. It is here that ethics comes into play. Discussions of ethics are often couched in terms of ‘What would you do if X happened?’ But perhaps a better question would be ‘What kind of person do I want to become?’ It is more important to develop the good qualities with which to make ethical decisions, than to know all the rights and wrongs of specific situations.

If we notice ourselves relating to ethics in terms of fixed rules, we may need to free ourselves of this mindset. On the other hand, it can be helpful to have ethical guidelines. They help us to be conscious of our ethical values, to remember those values and bear them in mind from day to day. These guidelines become benchmarks that we use to train ourselves, to develop more skill in the ethical sphere. They become apart of our way of life.

exercise – living on a desert island

This is an exercise I’ve sometimes done in groups, but you can try it as a reflection to do on your own.
Imagine you are stranded on a desert island with several other people, and you are together devising guidelines on how you should behave towards each other. What five guidelines would you suggest to your fellow islanders? Formulate them and write them down. Try to come up with your personal response, what you believe is most important, rather than repeat ethical guidelines you have come across elsewhere (including Buddhist ones). Do you find it easy or difficult to come up with ideas? Later, you can compare your list with the traditional Buddhist guidelines, such as the five precepts discussed below. Are there overlaps and similarities? Are there notable differences?

No matter how many times I’ve seen this exercise repeated in different groups of people, there is a noticeable overlap in the guidelines among the different groups. This suggests that, even if we are not fully conscious of them, we do have ethical values that inform our lives. We have a strong intuitive sense of ethics.