Coming up – Sangha Day, and a course in Jan

Hi everyone,

1) I am sending out this email a few days early because I wanted to tell you about a special festival this weekend – Sangha Day on Sunday 29th Nov.

At the North London Buddhist Centre Anandavjra is becoming the mitra convenor in a ceremony from 2.45pm to 3.30pm. He is also doing a talk earlier in the day. Then immediately following at Cambridge Buddhist Centre from 3.30pm and 5pm Dave Baird and Katherine are becoming mitras.

There are also lots of other things going on throught the day at those and other centres.

Also there is a worldwide Sangha Day starting in New Zealand at 9pm Friday 27th our time travelling all over the world, and finishing in the early hours of Sunday morning (our time).

2) Our Tuesday evening zoom class (7.30pm to 9.30pm) continues as usual throughout December. We won’t take a break this year, as most people will be at home anyway, and might fancy getting together with their sangha friends for a bit. Total beginners and newcomers are always very welcome. Just turn up between 7.15 pm and 7.30pm. It is also fine if you arrive late or leave early.

1/12 Nandaketu
8/12 Karunadhara will talk about his work as a Buddhist prison chaplain. I know he works in several prisons in Kent, and he has some great stories. Plus I really think it is an amazing thing to do. I expect many people behind bars will see his chaplaincy and sangha building in there as a bit of a lifeline.
15/12 Paramjyoti is going to be leading an evening around the poem “Men and Flowers” by D. H. Lawrence.
22/12 Regulars will be performing music, songs, poetry, showing off thier artwork etc. If you want to perform ask Katherine.
29/12 Padmajata is leading the class.

Then on 5th January it is the start of a new year. New Year = New Mind! After a lot of indulgence and soul searching in the Christmas period, people often feel the need to do something positive to work on themselves to prepare for the year ahead.

And what better way to do that than to come on a meditation and Buddhism course. We will be presenting the 6 Week Radical Dharma course created by the Sheffield Buddhist Centre. No need to book. Just turn up on the 5th Jan.

3) Zoom yoga is at Tuesdays at 6.15 pm. Email Amber at for more info.

4) Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an evidence-based approach to help people deal more effectively with stress and anxiety and improve their overall well-being. The course meets for two and half hours, weekly for eight weeks. It is suitable for those who are experienced meditators or those who are new to mindfulness practices – no prior experience of mindfulness is necessary.

My good friend Helen Bond is hoping to run face to face courses on Monday afternoons and/or Monday evenings in the Hertford area from January 2021, depending on government guidelines. The course may be partly or completely on zoom if we cannot meet in person or if people indicate that zoom would be their preference. There will be an upfront charge to cover costs (room hire, handouts; amount dependent on venue and participant numbers) and then by donation. If you are interested in attending a course, or would like to know more about MBSR please contact Helen at Please indicate your preference for Monday afternoon or evening; face to face or zoom.

That’s all for now.

Have a great Sangha Day, Christmas and the rest of the year!

All the best


p.s. From Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Fourth stage of Metta Bhavana – the person we find difficult

In the fourth stage of the practice, we become aware of someone we find difficult, irritating, or antagonistic. We try to overcome any ill will and, instead, cultivate a concern for their welfare. This is very challenging indeed and we may feel a resistance even to the idea of attempting it! But, although it seems counter-intuitive, the best chance for our own happiness consists in thinking about the happiness of others.

When we are new to the practice, it might be best to start with someone we experience as just mildly awkward or irritating, rather than someone we find really difficult. Otherwise we may end our loving-kindness meditation with gritted teeth and steam coming out of our ears! With time and experience, we learn how to work in this stage of the practice and may feel robust enough to take on those whom we find more seriously difficult. I know many people who have gradually transformed deep negative feelings towards certain people, or vastly improved key relationships in their life that have been problematic.

In this stage of the practice we first simply acknowledge our feelings, owning any anger or ill will, and just trying to soften, relax, and let it go. We can reflect on how useless such feelings are. They just cause pain and disturbance in our minds and, if we act from that basis, they also cause pain for others.

When we are in a state of hatred, we don’t see the other person as they really are. We see what we dislike writ large, so that we can’t appreciate other aspects of them. In the meditation we can work against this tendency, bringing to mind their positive qualities, and reflecting that although we don’t like them, there are probably other people who dolour view of them is only part of the story.

It is worth being aware of assumptions. Someone we don’t like arrives late for a meeting and we complain to ourselves. ‘She is always late. She’s just avoiding this meeting because she knows its not going to go her way.’ Then she turns up, full of apologies, and explains that on the way to work she found a little boy who’d lost his mother, so she had to help him. We sit there feeling glad we’d not criticized her out loud! Perhaps our policy should be to give people the benefit of the doubt, trying to assume the best about them and their motives. Maybe we need to be especially careful with those we find difficult, when we can often be overly suspicious of their motives. Of course, this does not mean being naive. If we know full well they are taking us for a ride, we need to do something about it. But we should be careful that we do know for sure, rather than jumping to a conclusion.

As well as trying to loosen our narrow, subjective view of the person we find difficult, we can go even further and attempt to look at the situation from their point of view. For example, I’m irritated because someone is being a bit antagonistic towards me at work. He makes the odd sarcastic comment and seems opposed to anything I suggest. Perhaps in the meditation I can reflect on why he might be doing this. There will be a reason. He did it because, rightly or wrongly, consciously or unconsciously, he thought it would make him happy. He, like everyone else, and like me, just wants to be happy, so he acts in ways that he thinks will produce this happiness. But how was it that he thought being sarcastic could contribute to his happiness? Perhaps I was a bit short with him the previous day and, feeling hurt, he is trying to show me his determination not to be treated like that. Realizing this, I can try to take his point of view into account. I can try to speak to him more sensitively.

Or perhaps I recently got promoted to a post that he’d also applied for, and I realize he is feeling rather competitive at the moment. In this case, although his feelings are not my fault, I can still be aware of what is going on and act appropriately. Perhaps I am careful to be extra appreciative of him in the next few weeks (without making it too obvious, of course). Rather than acting on the basis of my irritation, I have looked deeply and seen the situation from the other person’s perspective. I can try to act in a way that helps him and, in fact, this will be what helps me too. I’m responding with compassion to his mistaken idea of what will make him happy. Such a compassionate response is more likely to help him towards a better idea of where happiness is to be found.

exercise – understanding the difficulties of others

Now you can try incorporating this fourth stage of the meditation into your own practice. Allow a few minutes for each stage until you arrive at the ‘difficult person’ stage.

You bring this person to mind as in the other stages, and notice and acknowledge your feelings towards them. Then choose one of the approaches explored above.

If your feelings are strong, it might be best just to work on letting go. When you notice your mind following an irritable train of thought, notice the thoughts and then let them go. When you notice anger in your heart, or a physical sense of tightness and tension, try to soften and let go. You can ask yourself if these negative feelings are worth holding on to, and who benefits from them.

Or you can spend time thinking about this person’s positive qualities that you do not usually notice or give them credit for. Or you might try to understand why it is they behave in a way you find difficult, try to see the situation from their point of view.

Again, it is good to vary the approach over time, to take notes, and notice what works for you.
Sometimes, if your feelings are strong, you cannot deal with them in one meditation. Don’t worry about this. If the negative feelings persist, leave that person for a while and come back to stage one of the practice, or just to physical relaxation of the body, or watching the breath.

This is, of course, much harder in practice than in theory. In real life, events unfold so quickly. Our feelings of hurt smart and burn, they seem instantly to transform themselves into indignation or irritation, and then we can’t seem to stop ourselves acting on them. But that is why loving-kindness is something we have to practise both within meditation and without. We gradually learn to see things from a more objective, compassionate point of view.

Another aspect of loving-kindness, and of seeing people in a more rounded, realistic way, is forgiveness. My Buddhist teacher once said, ‘I am much worse than you think I am, but also much better.’10 He was asking his followers, who perhaps had a tendency to put him on a pedestal, to try to see him more as he really was – as a person with a mix of good qualities and human weaknesses. The aphorism is true of us all. We are probably all capable of acting in far worse ways than we’d like to think, but we are also capable of much more good than we dare imagine. Human life is complex, and we can only learn as we go along, by making mistakes. When I look back on my life and see the times when I’ve caused most harm to others, it was not out of a deliberate wish to do so, but out of an insensitivity born of inexperience, or sheer naivety, or because I was blind to the needs of others because of my own desires. Because we will all make mistakes, we need to be able to forgive. We need self-forgiveness and forgiveness towards others. As William Blake said, ‘Mutual forgiveness of each vice, such are the Gates of Paradise.’

When someone has done us a serious wrong, forgiveness can be very difficult and may take a long time. However, the example of South Africa is inspiring. When apartheid came to an end, and they had their first democratic elections, there was much debate about how to bring to justice those who had committed atrocities. People eventually realized that retribution through the courts was not an option. Apart from the practical difficulties of providing evidence, there was fear that the whole process would lead to more bitterness and violence. For this reason, some people called for a general amnesty and writing off of crimes. Others argued that this would be to ignore the principle of justice. So a Truth and Reconciliation Committee was formed. Perpetrators were offered amnesty, but only if they came forward and admitted their crimes. Victims were also encouraged to tell of the terrible atrocities that had been inflicted on them or their families. The committee ensured that these stories were heard, including by those who probably committed the crimes. The victims would not have to live with those experiences for the rest of their days without their being acknowledged, or with the rest of the country in denial. And forgiveness – restorative justice rather than retributive justice – was encouraged. There are stories of remarkably courageous acts of forgiveness from many people – both black and white.

Having difficulties with people is, of course, inevitable. We are all so different, and human communication and interaction is bound to be complex and problematic at times. So perhaps it is helpful to realize that difficulties are normal; it is how we deal with them that matters. We cannot expect to get on with everybody all the time, but we can try to bring awareness, understanding, and honesty to the problems that crop up.

Coming up in Nov & new Zoom Yoga class

Hi everybody,

1) Just a quick email to let you know about what is coming up at our drop in Tuesday evening zoom group. We start promptly at 7.30pm – so get there 5 to 15 minutes before if possible. We have a short break halfway and end the evening at 9.30pm

Beginners and newcomers are very welcome. The first half is focussed on meditation, and full instruction is always given, so it is not a problem if you have never meditated before. In the second half we usually have a talk and/or discussion about some aspect of Buddhism.

03 November Paramajyoti – talking about the history of the movement, and its founder Sangharakshita
10 November Keith
17 November Amber
24 November Padmajata
01 December Nandaketu?? – not yet confirmed
08 December Karunadhara – talking about his work as a Buddhist prison chaplain. Karunadhara is a good friend of mine who lives in Dover. He got ordained about a month ago.

This link forwards to the normal zoom link . So either this link or an old one you have bookmarked should work equally well.

Hopefully will see you at one or more of these.

2) If you are on Facebook, please feel free to like our page or join our group. Just search Facebook for “Hertford Buddhist” to find us.

3) Also Amber is starting up her Sangha Yoga class again by zoom. Everybody and all levels welcome.

Starting Tuesday 3rd Nov 6.15pm to 7.15pm. Suggested donation £5 per session. For booking contact Amber at or Whatsapp 0794 261 2117

The timing is designed to fit in before our meditation/Buddhism class. There is no obligation or expectation to do both, but yoga is a wonderful thing to do before meditation.

That is all for now. I hope you have a great November despite the new lockdown.

all the best


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

Metta Bhavana (loving kindness meditation) Stage 3

a neutral person

In the third stage we think of a neutral person. Here the practice is presenting us with a particular challenge, that of overcoming indifference. We are being asked to be concerned for someone in whom we have no personal investment. In the second stage we like the person, enjoy their company, and want their friendship. In the fourth stage we are going to be thinking of a difficult person, someone whose company we would rather be without. In each case, a different ‘vested interest’ is at stake. But the neutral person is in-between. We have no particular feelings, or interests, either way.

The neutral person might be someone we see quite often, but we have no real connection with. It might be a man at work whose name we know, but who we’ve never really spoken to, or a woman who runs the local corner shop. So in this stage of the practice we are trying to develop a well-wishing towards such a person. Even though we don’t know them personally, and may never know them, we want our attitude to be one of desiring their happiness.

Sometimes we can find this stage difficult precisely because we don’t have a connection with that person. How can we think about someone if we don’t know anything about them? We can try using our imagination. Although we might not know very much about this person’s life, we can imagine what it might be like. We can do this is a way which seems realistic, a view of what life might possibly entail for them. What would it be like to work in that shop all day long? You hope she enjoys her work, and that the business is doing well. You imagine where she grew up, what her life might have been like. Though she might be neutral to us, to some other people she is far from that. Perhaps she has a family, and we can hope that they, too, are happy and well. When we are in a hurry, people like her can seem to be two-dimensional figures. They are always there behind the counter when we nip in for our pint of milk or bar of chocolate. In this stage of the practice we are trying to see them more as alive, three-dimensional, human beings. We start to see that we are connected to them more than we think. It is only because she works all those hours that we cancel in just when we want to.

exercise – putting ourselves in their shoes

If you are not already doing the full loving-kindness practice, you can now try incorporating this third stage into your meditation. Start building up the practice stage by stage. Spend a few minutes on stages one and two every day, and then move on to stage three.
You can do this by bringing to mind someone you see at work, in a shop, or on the bus. Try to imagine being in their shoes. What would it be like to live that life? Fill out as much detail as you can, but obviously there will be aspects of their life you cannot know about. At these times, you can just dwell on the ‘mystery’ of the other person.

It is good to choose one person and keep them in your practice for a week, or even longer. Then you might want to choose someone else for a while.

You can also do this reflection while you are sitting on the bus, or walking down the street, just looking about you and having a sense of curiosity and kindness towards the people you see about you.

A friend of mine once told me the following story. He used to work in a restaurant where there was a man who came in for lunch every day. He was quiet and never said very much, and the staff in the restaurant used to refer to him as Mr Customer. One day my friend started putting Mr Customer in his neutral-person stage. A few days later, when serving this man, without any particular intention, he started chatting to him. (Let us hope he didn’t call him Mr Customer to his face!) This story shows the effect the practice can have. My friend naturally and spontaneously started seeing that man differently. We encounter scores of neutral people every day, and it is worth remembering that, before we knew them, our dearest friends were, to us, just neutral people.

People sometimes make astonishing sacrifices for total strangers. There are many stories of people giving their lives trying to save others in a disaster or emergency – rushing back into a burning building, or diving into freezing cold water. They are only ‘ordinary ‘people, but such stories provide food for thought about our potential for self-transcendence and concern for others. Perhaps you could even say there is only such a thing as ‘society’ to the extent that we can identify with ‘neutral’ people. If we didn’t have any concern for neutral people, society would soon break down.

Coming up in October

Hello everyone,

I hope all is well with you.

I am just letting you know what is coming up in our weekly Tuesday zoom groups. Newcomers, regulars, non-Buddhists and Buddhists are all very welcome.

Every week we will give full instruction in the meditation, so you do not need to “know how to meditate” or anything.

I hope to see you there 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Best to arrive about 7.20pm or earlier, as we will start promptly at 7.30pm. You can always leave early if you need to.

It is the same link as always which is this one – Click here

There is no charge for these events.

The next three weeks (up to 20/10) we are focussing on meditation:

6/10 – Amber
13/10 – Padmajata
20/10 – Nandaketu
27/10 – Danapriya will talk about his new book that is being published on 2nd Oct –
3/11 – Paramajyoti
10/11 – Keith

Hopefully I will see you at some or all of these.

Also I wanted to mention that one of our friends (Helen Bond) has been trained to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses. MBSR is an evidence-based approach to help people deal more effectively with stress and anxiety and improve their overall well-being. The course meets for two and half hours, weekly for eight weeks. No prior experience of MBSR or mindfulness is necessary.

It does not include any Buddhism.

She is going to offer two 8-week courses. From mid-October to mid-December 2020. One at a venue in Cheshunt on Saturday mornings and the other at a venue near Hertford on Monday afternoons.

The cost will be about £120 for the 8 week course. If you are interested in attending either of these courses, or would like to know more about the MBSR course please contact Helen at

That is all for now. I hope you have a great October.

all the best


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

Loving Kindness Meditation

a good friend

In the second stage of the loving-kindness meditation, we bring to mind a good friend, someone towards whom it will be relatively easy for us to feel warm and appreciative. In this phase of the practice, we can work to see them more deeply, see what their qualities are – their own, unique sparkle that makes them the person they are. Maybe we can imagine this sparkle, this quality, shining in them more and more brightly. This is what we desire – for them to be at their very best and happiest.

If our friend is currently happy and healthy and life is going well for them, we bring their good fortune and good qualities to mind and try to respond with a sense of gladness and celebration. On the other hand, if we know they are experiencing difficulties and unhappiness, we can bring that to mind, be as fully aware of them and their situation as we can. We can then try to cultivate a response of empathy and well-wishing.

When this practice is taught to people for the first time, it is often recommended that we do not put someone to whom we are sexually attracted in this stage of the practice. It is also recommended not to include someone who has died, or who is a lot older or younger than us. This is so that our feelings of loving-kindness can be developed without confusion with feelings of a sexual or romantic attraction, grief or remorse, or parental or filial feelings. It is not that there is anything wrong with such feelings, but that we are trying to cultivate loving-kindness to someone with whom our relationship is relatively straightforward, so that we can get a clear idea of what the practice entails.

However, it is also important to emphasize that this is only the case when you are new to the practice. Once you have got an idea of how it works, it is good to include all sorts of people. Indeed, we want to be able to respond with loving-kindness to everyone and anyone, including those we are close to and with whom we are enjoying an intimate relationship. People can sometimes get into the habit of not including certain people, and go on not including them when it would be very appropriate to do so.

exercise – celebrating friends

You could start off this phase of the practice with an emphasis on celebrating and appreciating your friend’s good qualities. It might seem obvious what their strengths are, and what you value about them, so that thinking about it doesn’t seem necessary. However, if you allow time for reflection, a deeper appreciation can emerge. You can start to discern what combination of qualities it is that is uniquely theirs. In other words, they become more special, more loved for who they really are.

You can do this by bearing a friend in mind, or seeing them in your mind’s eye. Think of them at different times and in different situations, and with different people. What are they really like?

Do they have distinctive qualities you’ve not fully noticed before? Are there aspects of them, or memories of times spent with them, that you have not thought about for a long time? We can bring all this to mind and allow appreciation to emerge.

Learn meditation for free in our 6 week course starting Tuesday

Hi everyone.

Learn meditation for free in our 6 week course starting Tuesday

On Tuesday we start a free six week zoom meditation course that is suitable for complete beginners as well as old hands.

We took a vote in our Facebook group and there was a clear majority for Tuesday over Monday (for whatever reason), so we went with that.

Hope to see you there 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Best to arrive about 7.20pm or earlier, as we will start promptly at 7.30pm.

It is the same link as always which is:

You can also download a meditation workbook pdf with 32 pages that accompanies the course.

It includes a meditation diary, so you can have a different question to explore every day during your meditation for 6 days each week (Wednesday to Monday) for 6 weeks (36 questions). Plus there are some very deep and useful teachings on our two meditation practices that are contained in the notes.

If you use them as guidance before and after you meditate, they will help you go deeper into the practices.

Hope to see you at the course!

all the best


p.s. from one of my favourite books:

Metta Bhavana (loving kindness meditation) Stage 1:ourselves

I’ve recently taught the metta bhavana to groups of carers – people who are caring long-term for a severely ill or disabled family member. They are ordinary people from whom so much energy and self-sacrifice is required on an ongoing basis. They relate very easily to this need for self-empathy, for the time to look at their own emotional resources, in order to be able to go on coping with the daily demands of caring. Sometimes they have to deal with feelings of guilt. If the pressures on them are great, they can understandably start to feel anger towards the person for whom they are caring. On top of this, they feel guilty about feeling anger. Self-empathy can help bring to this a kindness and understanding of one’s humanity and limitations. At other times they can feel equally uneasy about feeling good – why should they feel happy when their near and dear one is in pain? Self-empathy can help them realize that they are human beings that deserve happiness too. Also, if they are able to feel more emotionally buoyant and resilient, this is not selfish because it means they will have the emotional resources carry on helping others.

As well as working with negative feelings towards ourselves, we can also remind ourselves of our positive qualities. We can look at our lives and see that we do act with loving-kindness much of the time, even if it is sometimes mixed with other motives, or even if we don’t always feel hugely positive. But we can give ourselves credit for what is positive.

Extending on from this, we can also use this stage of the practice to strengthen positive qualities, or to develop new ones. I often work by imagining qualities that I would like to develop. I try to envisage what it would be like to have those qualities. For example, if I’ve noticed myself getting irritated in meetings at work, I imagine how it might be possible to make my points in the meeting without the irritation, and with more kindness to others. I sit trying to be open to the possibility. Sometimes this imaginative approach helps me see my potential more clearly. I can sense quite tangibly how I could be different. Then I actually start to feel different.

We might also spend time reflecting on all that is good in our lives, cultivating a sense of gratitude and appreciation (a bit like the reminder of the preciousness of life in Chapter 1). By doing this, we can gain a different perspective on the things we tend to moan about – we realize that they are not that bad. We can feel richer, more expansive, and warmed up – ready for the subsequent stages of the practice.

exercise – imagining new possibilities

You can try the various ideas and approaches suggested above in your meditation practice. It would probably be best to spread them out over a few weeks, rather than trying them all at once. You could take notes as you go, and see if there are some you find more helpful than others.

If you already do the loving-kindness practice, you can incorporate them into that. If not, you could start by spending five minutes on one of the approaches suggested above. For example, after relaxing the body and watching the breath for a while, you could try imagining new possibilities. Bring to mind particular, specific situations in which you have a desire to be different, and recall what you are like in them, how you actually feel in your heart, mind, and body. Allow a sense of how you could be different to emerge, of how you could approach those situations in a new way.

Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Coming up in August

Hi there,

I hope that you are enjoying the warm weather. It is lovely to get a bit of sunshine as well as a relaxation of the lockdown.

Regarding physically meeting as a group together things are still very much in limbo. Nothing is planned at the moment.
So let’s make the most of zoom for now.

Join us on Monday evenings 7.30 to 9.30

The link is the same as always which is:–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA

I am looking forward to seeing you at some of these. Beginners are very welcome.

Coming up:-
03 August 2020 Keith (with special segment dedicated to the arts)

10 August 2020 Padmajata

17 August 2020 Amber

24 August 2020 Paramajyoti

31 August 2020 Svadhi??

Also if you can make it, the LBC are doing a lot of live classes. .

I have been doing the 8am morning meditations. It is a really lovely way to start the day.

They also have a retreat starting tomorrow:

It is free and beginners are welcome. You can just drop into the sessions that you want to, you don’t have to do the whole thing.

If you sign up for the retreat you will be asked what your local centre is. Many of us from Hertford are ticking the Cambridge box for this, and it means we are more likely to see each other in the breakout groups. I hope that you have a lovely August.

Best wishes Keith
First stage of metta bhavana
People are sometimes surprised that a meditation in which we are learning to love should start with ourselves. But the practice is just acknowledging the psychological truth that we cannot go out to others in an emotionally positive way unless we have positive emotion for ourselves. We first need a sense of our own self-worth and an appreciation of life and its potential. In our culture this seems difficult for some people. An unforgiving self-criticism, or subtle, underlying sense of worthlessness, is surprisingly common.

Most of us talk to ourselves; there is an internal voice providing us with a running commentary on our day. What is the emotional tone of this voice? Are we talking to ourselves in a way in which we wouldn’t dare talk to others? Is the voice harsh, moaning, or over-critical? If so, can we soften the voice, and let it be kinder and more forgiving?

Or is it a voice of self-pity, feeling let down by other people and blaming the world for our misery? Such self-pity is corrosive. Even if we have been let down by others, it is no use wallowing in these feelings. Eventually we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and start again. In order to be able to do this, we need to acknowledge our pain, admit to ourselves that we were hurt, and bring to this hurt sense of kindness.

Perhaps our inner voice isn’t usually so negative, but we notice that it can become so in certain situations. When things don’t go our way, this might trigger a particular way in which we speak to ourselves. It might be worth exploring all this in meditation and in daily life.

This first stage of the meditation may also help us find the emotional resources to deal with stress and difficulty in our lives. If life is currently hard or painful, we can practise ‘self-empathy’. We take the time to listen to ourselves, to hear about what is difficult, with kindness and understanding. We do the same with ourselves as we would with a friend who was suffering – we try just to listen with empathy.

Buddhism: Tools for Living Your Life by Vajragupta © Windhorse Publications

Coming up in July

Hi there,

I hope all is well with you.

I think some of us are getting a bit fed up with the lockdown, but can’t really go back to normal just yet, so are in a bit of a limbo.

Why not come and join us in our zoom meetings on Monday evenings:

6/7 Keith
13/7 Amber
20/7 Paramajyoti
27/7 Padmajata
3/8 Danapriya (with the launch of his new book)

I am looking forward to seeing you at some of these.

The link is the same as always which is:–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA

Also if you can make it, the LBC are doing a lot of live classes. .

I have been doing the 8am morning meditations. It is a really lovely way to start the day.

All the very best


p.s. The photo is a blast from Nandavajra’s visit in 2016

p.p.s. Here is an excerpt from Vajragupta’s book “Buddhism: Tools for living your life”, which we recommend to people new to Buddhism (as well as more experienced people)

3 Loving-kindness:

learning to love

In the previous chapter we explored how the cultivation of mindfulness leads to greater self-awareness. In this chapter we will be looking at how to become more aware of others.

Although we may aspire to being more kind, or patient, or calm, the heart doesn’t always respond the way our head thinks it should. We need other ways of connecting to a heart that is more open and at ease, more able to love.

Loving-kindness can be defined as a warm, concerned, awareness of ourselves and other people. When we love, we want others to be happy and to have what they need to be truly happy. This sounds very nice in theory, but a difficulty arises when another person’s needs or wants do not coincide with our own. It is in these situations that our relationships with people are really tested. Loving does not entail ignoring our own needs, but neither does it mean always putting our needs above those of everyone else.

Sometimes you meet people who behave in one or other of these extreme ways. The martyr constantly sacrifices himself or herself, but deep down is full of resentment, while the immaturely selfish person goes about life completely oblivious of other people. The art of loving lies in nurturing awareness of both our own and others’ needs, negotiating between them appropriately and with kindness and generosity of spirit.

There is a meditation practice designed to help develop this loving heart, known traditionally as the metta bhavana. These are two Pali words, the first of which is usually translated ‘loving-kindness’, the second as ‘cultivation’ or ‘development’. So in this chapter we are going to be exploring the cultivation of loving-kindness. We will consider how we can develop love and positive emotion by looking at how this particular meditation practice works.

The meditation is performed in five stages. While sitting quietly, you cultivate this well-wishing attitude first towards yourself, then towards a good friend, then a ‘neutral’ person (someone you don’t know well, or don’t strongly like or dislike), then towards someone you find difficult, and then to as many living beings as possible – gradually expanding out and including more and more. So we can see that the loving-kindness meditation is structured in a way that reflects the need to be aware of self as well as of others.

When we first take up this practice, we might do it very simply. For example, as you choose a person to bring to mind in each of the five stages, you just quietly say certain words or phrases to yourself, such as ‘May I/they be well,’ ‘may I/they be happy,’ ‘may I/they be free from suffering,’ ‘may I/they fulfil my/their highest potential.’ Just dropping these phrases into your heart can be like dropping pebbles into a deep pool – a ripple expands outwards. It may be surprising that something so simple can work, but currents of more positive emotion can indeed be coaxed into being, or positive emotion that is already present cane given more momentum and strength.

However, as we saw in the previous chapter when we explored the mindfulness of breathing, meditation involves more than mechanically counting breaths or reciting phrases. As we gain experience in the practice, we learn to take a broader, more varied approach. It is good to experiment and use our imagination – any method that helps us be more emotionally aware and develop loving-kindness is valid. So we will now look at the meditation stage by stage and examine some possible techniques.
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Coming up in June

Hi everyone,

Another month has come and gone. I hope you and your circle of friends and family have been keeping well. Many people are facing very difficult times at the moment.

I personally find that what helps me a lot is to stay connected with my spiritual friends and spiritual vision by attending as many sangha zoom groups as I can.

We continue to meet every Monday night from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Get there a bit early if you can. The link is the same as always which is:–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA

Coming up we have:

8/6 – Padmajata
15/6 – Paramajyoti
22/6 – Mangala

then we will continue to meet every single Monday at the same time until further notice.

I look forward to seeing you at some (or all) of these.

I can also recommend which has a very full programme of morning, lunchtime and evening classes. I personally have been joining in the 8am meditation for regulars, as I find it very connecting to meditate with 150+ other people.

All the very best


p.s. Here is an excerpt from Vajragupta’s book “Buddhism: Tools for living your life”, which we recommend to people new to Buddhism (as well as more experienced people)

Bare awareness and continuity of purpose (contiuned)

Here is an example of this continuity of purpose in action. Let’s say that at your workplace you are responsible for the maintenance of the buildings. You’ve recently noticed in your meditation a growing anxiety centred on your job. Your purpose is to become less anxious, so you remember this in your meditation over the next few days. You keep coming back to that anxiety and, using the breath, try to work with it appropriately. Not only that, you retain this sense of purpose at work. You start examining when and why you get anxious. Perhaps you notice that the anxiety arises when you leave things to the last moment, so you try to become more organized. And then you extend your continuity of purpose even further. Over the next few weeks you reflect more deeply on the anxious patterns, and perhaps discover an underlying view that is unhelpful and contributing to the anxiety.

This semi-conscious belief is that you should be able to get things done and finished. You realize you are always racing to bring things to a complete and perfect state by the end of the week, but you now see that, in reality, there is no such thing as finished. With the maintenance of a large old building there will always be another job to do. So you take this little insight back into your meditation and try to loosen up, and relax unhelpful attitudes and expectations. Then you try to apply this quality of looseness back at work, and see if there are further changes to be made to the way you function. In this way, you are all the time retaining your sense of purpose, exploring your life more and more deeply, bringing it back to meditation and bringing meditation into your life.

This quality of mindfulness isn’t about being delicate. Builders can be just as mindful as ballet dancers. In fact, mindfulness makes us more robust and steady. In the traditional stories about the Buddha, he is often described as being like an elephant. At that time, elephants would have been associated with royalty, but we can see that comparing the Buddha to an elephant might also have been a way of describing his mindfulness. Elephants are big, but they are not clumsy. In fact, they move in a very solid, definite, and also graceful kind of way. Apparently, elephants also look at things with a very steady gaze, and when they turn to look, they turn their whole bodies. I imagine that if an elephant was looking at us, we would feel we were receiving very full attention.

Mindfulness does also have a simple beauty to it. When I was a teenager, my family went on holiday to Guernsey, where we stayed with an old friend of my mother. Boop, as she was known, was not a Buddhist, but she had practised meditation and yoga for many years. I can remember thinking there was something different about her, but I didn’t know what it was. I would now say that she had a depth of mindfulness such as I’d not encountered before: her brown eyes were clear and sparkling, her face was open and expressive, and she moved with elegance and poise. Above all, she seemed self-aware and understanding of others. This impressed me deeply and, probably without her ever knowing it, she was a significant influence on my life.

Coming up in May

Hi there,

The people that I know all have their own unique experience in this time.

Some of my friends are quite enjoying a stepping back from the business of their previous lives, while others are suffering in many different ways that include grief over the loss of a loved one, illness, loneliness, boredom, worrying about money etc.

Whatever your experience and situation I believe it is important to stay connected with our friends. One way of doing this is to join us on our weekly zoom calls on Monday night at 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

If you have not registered for it then just go to–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA . The system will then email you a link for the actual zoom meeting. You just need to click the words “Click here to join” in that email before 7.30 tonight. If you have registered for the last one, that will count for all future sessions (well at least for the next few months), and you do not need to register again. You just click the same “Click here to join” link. But if you have lost that email, just register again at the link above.

Mangala is leading the class on 4th May, and Danapriya is leading it on 11th May.

There are a lot of other Triratna zoom classes also available. Just check and for example.

In particular London Buddhist Centre is very active and they are doing an online course from 4th May to 10th May

Also Buddha Day is the biggest festival day in the Buddhist world, and there is a worldwide Buddha Day zoom celebration on Saturday 9th May and Sunday 10th May . This is a joint celebration with hosted by people from New Zealand, Australia, India, UK, Mainland Europe, Mexico and USA . It should be a fantastic day, and hopefully see you at some of these sessions.

Keep safe, well and happy.


Coming up – Amber and Vajragupta

Our Zoom class has moved to Tuesday nights – 7.30pm

Amber is leading it 31st March

and Vajragupta has very kindly agreed to lead our zoom class on 7th April.

Everyone welcome including beginners. You do not have to “be a Buddhist” or to know anything about meditation.

An evening of meditation, talk and discussion.

He has written many books, and his visited our Hertford group twice (in real life!)

We actually studied his book “Buddhism: Tools for Living your Life” together for about a year. Like all his books it has a lot of depth and is very easy to read for a beginner. It is highly recommended if you would like to find out more about Buddhism.

His warmth and open heartedness shine through his words. It feels like reading a letter from a close friend.

He has recently become the chair of Croydon Buddhist Centre and you can see some of his recent Facebook lives at .

Register for this meeting by clicking:–pqjIpPaCyNk0DFt7eq5fZh94cHA

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. It has a link in it near the bottom saying “Click here to join”. You need to click that link at the start time.

I think if you already registered in previous weeks you will not need to do so again as you will already be registered and you can use the same link. But if you have lost your link or email, just register again (as many times as you like!) with the same email address and you will go to a page with the join link.

It is actually a lot simpler that it sounds!

See you on zoom!