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
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
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.