In The Cool Shade of the Tree: Planting the Seed of Joy In Your Meditation Practice

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well.

Recently I came across a talk by Dhivan on the excellent Freebuddhistaudio podcast called “In The Cool Shade of the Tree: Planting the Seed of Joy In Your Meditation Practice”. If you google “Dhivan cool shade” you will find the audio and video versions. It is a fantastic talk about a fantastic topic. Buddhism sometimes gets a bit of a bad press, but another way of looking at it is that it is opening up to deeper levels of joy.


The blurb on youtube says: “It’s said that the Buddha’s breakthrough came when he remembered a natural experience of enjoyment, which arose when he was a young boy sitting under a rose-apple tree: an experience that later became the seed of his Awakening. In this talk, Dhivan guides us through the significance of that famous image in the Buddha’s life, drawing on rich sources of inspiration including Greek philosophy and poetry, as well as core Dharma teachings such as The Middle Way and the Four Noble Truths. Dhivan then moves into a thorough exploration of joy, in both its mundane and grander manifestations. As he does so, he recalls the Buddha’s realization that joy and happiness arise when our life coalesces around our deepest values, often connected with relaxing in meditation. This is what may lead to Awakening for any and all of us… This talk was given in the Dharma Parlour tent, at Buddhafield 2022.”

Last Tuesday we explored this topic from our own experience, and found it very interesting. Many people settle for a joyless existence, and have given up the belief that deep joy is even possible for them, or are chasing after it in the wrong places. This is a great pity.

If you want to look at the nine questions we explored, you can find them inside our Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/hertfordbuddhist . Please join us there.

Anyway.

Coming up in the next four weeks we have:

05 Mar 2024 Samudraghosha
12 Mar 2024 Amber
19 Mar 2024 Keturaja
26 Mar 2024 Srigarbha

Beginners and newcomers are always very welcome

And then our next 6 week course starts after Easter on 9th April.

So will hopefully see you on some or all of these.

Have a great March!

Warm wishes

Keith

Fancy a Curry in Hertford and/or a Festival in Cambridge

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well.


1) This is a photo we took a few weeks ago after our class. Please come along and join us any Tuesday evening. You don’t have to “be a Buddhist”, or know how to meditate.

2) Also, for all you curry lovers, I wanted to mention you can join the Hertford Sangha for a home cooked Gujarati Vegetarian lunch.

Date and time 12.30 – 2.30pm 18th February at The Millbridge Rooms in Hertford.

If you want to come it is essential to book in advance – Please email Bodhivandana1@gmail.com by Tuesday 13th Feb to book one or more places.


The cost is a donation of £15 (or more if you are able) per person

All profits will be donated to the fund for Tiratnaloka Retreat Centre
Please bring your friends and family. All are welcome.

The photo is of a similar meal cooked by Bodhivandana for the London Buddhist Centre. It looks very yummy!

3) Also of note is a festival on Sunday 11th Feb at Cambridge.

Parinirvana Day marks the passing of the Buddha, following his Enlightenment and long life sharing the Dharma with his many disciples. The last few weeks of the Buddha’s life and the Parinirvana itself, offer us the Buddha’s last direct teachings. They reveal both how to live and die well – for oneself and for the benefit of others. On Parinirvana Day we will be drawing out and reflecting on these lessons and their significance for all of us.

This year we are fortunate to have author and senior Order Member Devamitra, join us to give a keynote talk. Devamitra has written a very engaging book – ‘Entertaining Cancer’ – about his experience of receiving an aggressive cancer diagnosis, going through the indignities of treatment, and facing death. In his talk, he will be calling on his personal experience of this challenging time and drawing out the significance of the Buddhas’ Parinirvana.

The Day will end with a special Parinirvana Day puja. As well as being dedicated to the Buddha, it will offer the opportunity to bring to mind Sangha members, friends and family who have died over the last few years. Please feel free to bring photographs of loved ones, which can be placed on the shrine.

Programme:
9.30 – Doors open
10am – Introduction to the day and Meditation
11am – Tea Break
11.30 – Talk by Devamitra
1pm – Lunch (please bring food to share)
2 – 3pm – Parinirvana Day Puja – with an opportunity to bring photographs of friends and relatives who have recently died

Led By: Keturaja and Amarachandra
Suitable For: RegularSangha
Location: Cambridge Buddhist Centre

More info at https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/parinirvana

Several of us will be going up from Hertford for the day, these festivals in Cambridge are always very powerful and heartwarming. Also many of us will have very fond memories of Devamitra visiting us in Hertford about a year ago to talk about the themes in his book. Good to see that he is still well enough to do a talk like this.

That’s all for now. I will hopefully see you at one or more of the above.

Best wishes

Keith

Happy New Year and 6 week course starting 9th January


I hope that all is well with you and that you had a lovely Christmas break. It is always a really weird time of year with very heightened emotions. For many it can be a very pleasant and joyful time to get together with loved ones. For others it can be stressful, expensive, and/or lonely, not helped by hangovers from alcohol and too much rich food.

Anyway. That is now behind us for another year, and we can start again with a shiny blank slate for 2024. The world is our oyster, and it is a great time to stand back a bit from life and just reassess things. Are we happy? Are we living the life that we want to live? Will we look back on this time in the future and think this was a joyful time full of personal growth and fulfillment? etc etc

We can do this at any time of year of course, but New Year just seems a great time to do it. I am not particularly thinking of New Year’s resolutions, as they are often a bit too ambitious.

I am just thinking of just taking a bit of time to think about what really gives us meaning, joy and fulfillment in our lives. For many of us the answer is deepening our own meditation practice, and also spending more time with others on a similar path.

Of course, we can try and meditate on our own using apps etc, but in my opinion, there is no real substitute for regularly going along in person to a meeting such as the Hertford Buddhist Group Tuesday Night Class.

Maybe you have not visited us before, or maybe you have and stopped coming for some reason. Whatever the case, why not come along for our brand new 6 week meditation and Buddhism course starting on Tuesday 9th Jan. Best to get there between 7pm and 7.15pm. You can just come to the first one if you like, and drop in or out as you choose. But why not come to all six of them. Then after that you can decide if it might be helpful to just make it part of your routine to come every week.

The first half of each class will be focused on meditation. Then after the tea break we will explore the content of the course which is titled “The Individual and the Spiritual Community”. The evening is suitable for everyone including total beginners. The idea we are exploring is that the Spiritual Community (or sangha) supports our growth as true individuals so that we can develop true freedom as opposed to just conforming, and fitting in with what “society” tells us to do.

Anyway. Just turn up on Tuesday 9th and the following 5 Tuesdays, and we can meditate and explore this topic together.

Also you are very welcome to come along tomorrow on Tuesday 2nd Jan when Padmajata will be leading the class and kicking off 2024 for us.

All the best and Happy New Year!

Keith

Sangha Soiree is back on Tuesday evening 19th December by popular demand


So if you would like to give some kind of performance or presentation, then just let Keith know at least a week beforehand (i.e. by 12th Dec or earlier). In the past we have had poetry, singing, musical performances, and also belly dancing!

If you want to present a youtube video or something on a laptop, that will also be possible. eg in the past people have presented a snippet from an opera, a John Lennon song, a Disney song, a slideshow of their photography and artistic creations and have said a few words about it beforehand.

Our tech support guy (Dave) will bring a laptop, projector, mic, amp and speaker. So we will need the file or URL at least a week beforehand.

Also if you want to bring party food, eg cakes, crisps, non alcoholic drinks etc then please feel free 🙂

This is also a great evening if you have not been for a while and just want to enjoy a pleasant social night with us. There is no need to do any performance if you don’t want to. You can just relax and enjoy 🙂

Also coming up is:

21/11 Samudraghosha
28/11 Mangala
5/12 Khemananda

There is no class for following week (26th Dec), but we will be back on 2nd Jan, and a 6 week course will be starting on 9th Jan.

2 new order members, and coming up we have Sangha Day

Hi everybody

Hopefully you are well.

We have recently acquired two brand new order members in our Hertford Sangha:

Srigarbha (ex Helen), a Sanskrit name meaning “She who is gloriously radiant from her very core”.
and Bodhivandana ( ex Mita), a Pali name meaning “She who worships Awakening”.

We had a lovely welcome back evening for them recently (after their ordination retreat).

Coming up, there is Sangha Day at Cambridge Buddhist Centre on Sunday 26th Nov 2023 – 10.00am to 5.30pm
https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/SanghaDay23

Their website says: “In the Tiratana Vandana, the Arya Sangha is described as ‘an incomparable source of goodness for the world’. This year’s festival day will be exploring and celebrating the jewel that is the Sangha or spiritual community.

Why is Sangha so valued by Buddhists throughout the world? What does it mean to come into relationship with the spiritual community? And how is this a pathway into our own liberation? In the practice of Sangha what are we trying to create together?

As well as talk by Keturaja (chair of the CBC), there will be a range of activities including the collective creation of a shared symbol of Sangha. The day will also include a special puja with Mitra Ceremonies in the afternoon to welcome a number of friends at the Centre into the Mitra Sangha. For those who are already Mitras (friends of the Triratna Order), there will also be the possibility of Mitra ‘reaffirmations’. Activities for children and their parents will be organised during the morning.”

There will be 5 new mitras, but alas no-one from Hertford this time. If you are a mitra, it is always good to take part in this annual mitra reaffirmation.

Coming up in Hertford we have:

7th Nov Bodhivandana
14th Nov Nigel
21st Nov Khemananda (to be confirmed)
28th Nov Mangala

Hope to see you at some of these – and Sangha Day of course!

All the best

Keith

6 week meditation course starting Tuesday, retreat and two ordinations

Hi everybody,

We have a 6 week course (for 6 Tuesday evenings) which is focussed purely on meditation. So it is a fantastic way to either learn how to meditate, or take your meditation practice a lot deeper, with lots of practice, talks and discussions.

Just turn up on Tuesday evening 5th Sep between 7pm and 7.15pm. No need to bring anything. There is no charge, and no commitment needed. There will be an opportunity to make a small donation if you would like to support us.

You can download a 32 page pdf connected with the course with a summary of the notes, and a small task to do every day between the classes at the top of https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/downloads/ .


05 Sep 2023 Course week 1 Keith
12 Sep 2023 Course week 2 Mita
19 Sep 2023 Course week 3 Not confirmed
26 Sep 2023 Course week 4 Not confirmed
03 Oct 2023 Course week 5 Nigel
10 Oct 2023 Course week 6 Not confirmed
17 Oct 2023 Katey
24 Oct 2023 Welcome Back! Padmajata
31 Oct 2023 Helen

Also I wanted to mention that Cambridge Buddhist Centre are holding a weekend retreat on 8th to 10th December in Suffolk. https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/Lotus

It is open to newcomers as well as regulars. It is really a fantastic way to experience deeper meditative states. They are a lot of fun as well, and a lot of time to sit around in armchairs, chatting and making new friends. It is hard to really think of a more enjoyable way to spend a weekend.

I went on the similar one last year, I have booked for this one, and I am going on two more retreats before then. If you have never been on a retreat before, you should definitely try it out, and this would be a really good one to go on as your first retreat.

But you will need to book fast, as there are only 10 places left at the moment, and these will probably get booked up in the next few days.

Also Padmajata gave me this special message to include:

The sangha are invited to two special events coming up in Hertford. On Thursday 28th September at the Millbridge rooms we will have a special evening to say goodbye to Helen and Mita, wishing them well for their two week ordination retreat starting 2nd October at Tiratanaloka women’s retreat centre in Wales. And on Tuesday 24th October the class will highlight welcoming back our two new Dharmacharinis, where we will hear from them something about their retreat and the meaning of their new names.

On both evenings there will be a short ritual and an opportunity to share cards and presents with Helen and Mita, as well as a lovely teabreak, feel free to bring extra yummy cakes!

That is all for now. Will hopefully see you soon.

Keith

Meditation Course Starting 5th September

Hi everyone,

My mother died peacefully a few weeks ago, and I have been busy sorting out the funeral and a lot of other practical things. It was a powerful blast of emotion and energy tinged with some sadness.

It was in many ways a really good way to die. She was surrounded by family, and lovingly cared for by the nurses at the hospital and then the hospice. Also it gave us a few weeks to process a lot of our emotions, let go, and express our love and gratitude to her.

It helped me reflect how fragile and temporary our lives are, and how important it is to live our lives in the deepest, most authentic way we can, and also to fully appreciate those around us. I find that meditation and the Buddhist precepts are an excellent framework to support us doing this.

Coming up at the Hertford Buddhist Group we have:

15 Aug: Keith
22 Aug: Rob
29 Aug: Samudraghosha
05 Sep: Start of a 6 week meditation course

At https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/downloads/ you can download a pdf with 32 pages of notes to go with our course, that includes a meditation diary for the entire 6 weeks.

We have done this course many times, and it can repeated over and over as we deepen our practice.

Kuladipa asked me to mention that there is an open day at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre on the 16th September. So that might be a good time to visit if you have never been there before, or if you want to bring friends and family along.

Hopefully see you soon.

warm wishes

Keith

Dharma Day and some thought provoking quotes

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well with you and those close to you.


My family is facing a challenge at the moment, as my 99 year old mother seems to be facing the end of her life. She is in hospital with her family by her side on a rota system. She does have some episodes of confusion and panic, but is very reassured by our presence. She is also cracking lots of jokes and telling us all how lovely and perfect we are. In turn, we try and surround her with love. I tried telling her all the things she has done for me over the years – but there were just too many. She tried then to list the things I had done for her.

I am working with two sayings at the moment “Grief is unexpressed love” and “Today is a good day to die as everything in my life is complete” which I found in the excellent book “Who Dies” by Steven Levine. The latter is from the Native American tradition. I am changing the latter to “Today is a good day for my mother to die as everything in her life is complete”.

From a Buddhist point of view being around death and dying can remind us of the pain and suffering caused by attachment, and also the reality of impermanence. It is all to easy to stick our heads in the sand in our private deluded fantasy world.

Here are some other interesting quotes that I found:

“You only lose what you cling to.” – Buddha

“The root of suffering is attachment.” – Buddha

“Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again.” – Buddha

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” – Buddha

Milarepa: “All worldly pursuits have but one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow; acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings in destruction; meetings in separation; births in death.”

Milarepa: “When you are strong and healthy, you never think of sickness coming, but it descends with sudden force like a stroke of lightning. When involved in worldly things, you never think of death’s approach; quick it comes like thunder crashing round your head.”

Milarepa: “The affairs of the world will go on forever. Do not delay the practice of meditation.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: “Do not encumber your mind with useless thoughts. What good is it to brood over the past and fret about the future? Dwell in the simplicity of the present moment.”

Anyway why not come and join us at the Hertford Buddhist Group one Tuesday evening.

Coming up we have:

11 Jul 2023 Keith
18 Jul 2023 Samudraghosha
25 Jul 2023 Padmajata
01 Aug 2023 Mangala
08 Aug 2023 Katey

Also coming up on Sunday 9th July in Cambridge is Dharma Day. This is one of the three main Buddhist festivals of the year ( https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/DharmaDay2023 ). Several of us are going up from Hertford. These festivals are always a great day out, and an opportunity to see old friends, and meet new ones 🙂

Warm wishes

Keith

Retreat and Dharma Day coming up

Hi everyone,

I hope that all is well with you.


Our “Not About Being Good” Course has just finished. It was well attended, and it was really interesting to grapple with questions about what sort of life it is best to live. Is it really true that if we act kindly, we tend to experience more joy than if we indulge in mean, bitter mental states? Our brief introspective experiment in week one indicated that this was indeed the case. So the other weeks just took a deeper dive into our daily lives from a variety of different angles corresponding to the five precepts or “five doorways to joy” as I have heard them described.

So for the next few months we will have an assortment of topics, and pretty much every class will continue to be devoted to meditation for the first half of the evening.

Coming up we have:

06 Jun 2023 Amber and team: Buddhist Action Month
13 Jun 2023 Keith
20 Jun 2023 Kuladipa
27 Jun 2023 Padmajata
04 Jul 2023 Helen

Also I wanted to mention that the manager of the North London Centre has sent me an email inviting anyone connected with the Hertford Sangha to join them on retreat at Vajrasana on 9th to 11th June https://www.northlondonbuddhistcentre.com/upcoming-retreats/weekendretreatjune . The cost is £200 (or £160 concessionary rate). Vajradaka and other teachers from their Tuesday night class will be leading it.

Also Dharma Day is coming up at Cambridge on 9th July https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/DharmaDay2023 . I am hoping to be there, and usually quite a few people from Hertford go up for these festivals.

Warm wishes

Keith

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

exercise – my work as right livelihood?
You might like to go back over the elements of right livelihood we have discussed,

  1. Supporting ourselves financially
  2. Benefitting others
  3. Supporting our meditation and spiritual practice
  4. Simplicity and consider the strengths and weaknesses of your work or life-activity under each of the four headings.

Allow your observations and thoughts to emerge gradually. It is also good to make a few notes as you go.
Are there areas of your work you are especially happy with? Are there areas you would like to develop? What resources would you need, or what changes would you need to make, in order to do this?

Everyone will have a different way of combining these four elements of right livelihood. These are not hard and fast rules; what is best for one person isn’t necessarily best for another. One person may decline promotion because they know it will entail staying late to deal with the increased responsibilities, and they want that time to meditate; another will seek promotion because they feel they need the challenge and the chance to make a bigger contribution in their organization. One person might be able to live very simply on little money; another might want to earn more because they’ve been used to a higher standard of living all their life. One person might work as little as possible because they are pursuing other interests: a book they are writing, voluntary work, or a study group. Another might be working long hours, but be totally and healthily engaged in their work: it is their medium for developing themselves and making a contribution to the world.

It is our choice. We have to make our own path, and find a way that works for us. We can, however, get the help, advice, or inspiration from others on the path. At the Buddhist centre where I work, there have been, at various times, groups of people who’ve met up to talk about their way of practising. There has been a parents group, and a group for social workers, for example. Having people practising in different ways is healthy. Everyone has their own contribution to make. Overall, it creates a rich mix and allows us to see spiritual ideals expressed in a variety of ways. This can help prevent us confusing the expression of an ideal with the ideal itself.

One friend of mine, after he had been meditating for a few years, trained to become a teacher. He has been a happy and successful primary school teacher for some years now, and you can see the positive effect it has had on him. He also says that his work has changed him as much as meditation, but that he couldn’t have made the change to his work without meditation. His is an example of a life of activity and a life of calm working together.

Happy May Day :-)

Hi everyone,

Happy May Day 🙂

I hope you are enjoying Springtime with the beautiful cherry blossom and growing anticipation of Summery days to come.

We started our course recently. I counted 43 people last Tuesday, which is the highest in person attendance since the start of the pandemic. It is good to see that our community is growing in size at the same time as our friendships are deepening.

Here is a photo that we took a couple of weeks ago.


The course is designed so that you can join at any time, so it does not matter if you have missed previous weeks, or if you have never been before. We always teach meditation from first principles. If you want to buy the book that goes along with the course, it is called “Not about being good” by Subhadramati. It is recommended, but it is not essential.

Have you ever been on retreat? Whether or not you have, I can definitely recommend the Cambridge Buddhist Centre Summer retreat https://www.cambridgebuddhistcentre.com/SummerRetreat from Sunday 11/6 to Friday 16/6.

Some of Cambridge’s retreats are just for people attending the Cambridge Buddhist Centre, but they have just decided to open this up to people attending the Hertford group (as well as other groups).

All you need to be ready for this retreat is interested in meditation, curious about myth and ritual and open to Buddhist teachings – you don’t have to be a fully signed-up Buddhist. It would be a perfect retreat if you have never been on one before.

And please do drop into our Tuesday Night Class

This is what is coming up:

02 May 2023 Course week 3 – Rob and Helen
09 May 2023 Course week 4 – Keith and Amber
16 May 2023 Course week 5 – Amber and Nigel
23 May 2023 Course week 6 – Nigel and Simon
30 May 2023 Kuladipa
06 Jun 2023 Samudraghosha
13 Jun 2023 Keith
20 Jun 2023 BAM – Buddhist Action Month and the Hertford Earth Sangha
27 Jun 2023 Padmajata
04 Jul 2023 Helen

I will hopefully see you at some of these.

All the best

Keith

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

simplicity

So we do not have to ignore or avoid the complex and sophisticated society in which we live. We can benefit from the possibilities it allows. But we make use of those possibilities, rather than letting them use us. I run a lot of weekend retreats as part of my work at the Buddhist centre. I’ve noticed something about them over the last few years. In the old days, people would arrive on Friday night, stay for the weekend, and return home on Sunday. These days, people arrive, phone home on their mobile to say they’ve arrived, check their phone for messages half an hour later, phone the next day to see if the cat has had its dinner, check for messages, and phone again on Sunday to tell their family they are coming home soon. The mobile phone revolution has made possible much that is useful: phoning ahead if you’re going to be late for a meeting, or texting a relative the other side of the world. But it also gives rise to all sorts of calls and worries that wouldn’t have even occurred to us before.

Sometimes, rather than using technology, technology starts to use us. Or rather, the technology becomes a way in which we distract ourselves from experiencing our own hearts and minds.

So perhaps simplicity involves asking ourselves what is really necessary for pursuing our true purpose, and for that dwelling in possibility. We ask ourselves what activities or possessions help us to do this, and which detract from it. We ask the same question at work. Perhaps, as we pursue spiritual practice, our work becomes, in certain ways, less central in our lives. Our sense of worth, or self-image, becomes less dependent on our job and status. Perhaps we do not see promotion, high earnings, and career success as all-important as it once might have been. We know there are other aspects to our lives that are we value more highly, and deeper and more vital currents that run through us.