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.
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
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.