Have a lovely August

Hi everyone,

I hope that you are enjoying the summery weather and the relaxation in the lockdown.

A few Buddhist centres including Cambridge and London are starting to reopen face to face classes again. Some festival dates at the Cambridge centre are Padmasambhava Day on Sunday 19th Sept and Sangha Day on Sunday 21st November.

For the Tuesday night class at Hertford we will keep things on zoom a bit longer for the moment. Among other reasons I want to wait until the threat of covid settles down a bit. So will probably stay on zoom till at least the end of October.

Coming up on Tuesday nights:

10 August 2021 – Amber
17 August 2021 – Padmajata
24 August 2021 – Jnanadaya
31 August 2021 – to be announced
07 September 2021 – Karunadhara
14 September 2021 – Paramajyoti
21 September 2021 – Keith launches a 6 week meditation course

More info on all the above at https://hertfordbuddhistgroup.co.uk/ .

That’s all for now. Have a great August!


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

The fourth precept: Avoiding sexual misconduct – stillness, simplicity, and contentment

Why does sex get a precept to itself? Not because there is anything inherently sinful about sex, but because there is something inherently dangerous about it. Our sex life draws out some of our strongest desires, and it is here that we are often at our most intimate, and therefore vulnerable. So the potential to do harm, or be hurt, is increased.

This precept extends the first and second precepts into the arena of sexuality. It asks that we do not hurt or exploit through sexual relationships. This covers the obvious and extreme instances, such as rape, but we can also look at more subtle levels of the precept.

Our culture seems obsessed with sex. It is used to sell everything and anything. Acres of newsprint are given to sniggering at the sex lives of the famous, while magazine articles explain how to spice up your own sex life. As a culture, we’re in reaction to an era of sexual repression; it seems we’re trying to make up for lost time. But maybe we’ve just gone from one extreme to another. The third precept asks that we free ourselves from these cultural influences: there is no need to feel guilty about sex, nor do we have to go along with the current over-obsession.

Sex is natural, human, and can be very pleasurable, but we should not over-value it. Sometimes we get out of touch with ourselves and we feel empty inside. We look for something outside us to fill that gap. Sex is one of the things we turn to. So it is not that there is anything wrong with a healthy sex life, but we do not want to rely too heavily on, or be addicted to, sex.

The positive form of this precept is to practise stillness, simplicity, and contentment. Contentment is not an emotionally dry and withered state, but one of inner richness in which one does not need to look outside oneself for emotional satisfaction. It is not a state of non-emotion. A contented person might still feel passionately about some things. They have passion, but they do not let passion have them. In some religious institutions today, you hear of people who are celibate, but clearly they are not content. They seem emotionally restricted, lonely, and unhappy.

This is not a good advertisement for the states of contentment that are possible when we are deeply in touch with our vision and sources of emotional fulfilment. In the Buddhist tradition, the word for celibacy is brahmacarya, which literally means ‘dwelling with the gods’, which gives you a sense of what is meant by true contentment. It is a state of happiness and pleasure. We develop contentment not just by giving up that which is pleasurable, but also by refining our pleasures. We look for what gives us the deepest, truest satisfaction.

We can perhaps watch ourselves. Are there situations and times in which we are particularly content, and others in which we are prone to craving and restlessness? For example, I know that if I’ve been busy for too long and have lost touch with my inner inspiration, or lost my sense of connection with others, this is when I start to feel empty inside. Then I start craving something to fill the gap, and often think about sex more than usual. On the other hand, when I’m inspired, or enjoying open communication with others, or when I’m on retreat, I think about sex much less, and I feel more deeply content. Once we become aware of these patterns in ourselves, we can try to ensure we take time to cultivate pleasure and contentment.