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!
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.