A weekend at Ratagan

At the end of March we held our annual Sangha retreat at Ratagan Youth Hostel. Led by Suriyavamsa, we explored the mandala of the Five Buddhas.

Order/Mitra Day

Order Members and Mitras enjoyed a day of practice this Sunday (February 9th) led by Mitras in Sridakini’s study group. The focus was on the dakinis of the cremation ground. We listened to talks from Sangharakshita, and then the personal experiences of Suzie and Rowan. It was a day of intensifying practice, of realising that if we want the help of the dakinis, then we have indeed to be willing to place ourselves in the cremation ground, and then transformation of consciousness is possible!

Parinirvana Day

We will be marking Parinirvana Day with a day of practice consisting of meditation, reflection and ritual on the theme of impermanence and death: the Buddha’s, our own and the implications for our practice. If you would like to, please bring photographs of people you know that have died in the last year (or at any other time) that you would like to bring to mind during the day.

We’ll end the day with a Full Moon Puja.

For further details see here.

Parinirvana Buddha, detail from 6th Century architrave, Sarnath, Indian Museum, Kolkata

Parinirvana Buddha, detail from 6th Century architrave, Sarnath, Indian Museum, Kolkata

 

Sangha Retreat Weekend

Our 2014 Sangha retreat is taking place this year at Ratagan Youth Hostel, which has a beautiful lochside location with garden and stony beach directly outside, and fabulous views of the Five Sisters of Kintail. Not of course that these are the only reasons for joining us, but there is no doubt that our inner beings our nurtured by the beauty and stillness of such a location.

The retreat (28 to 30 March) is being led by Suriyavamsa, a senior Order Member from Glasgow who is our President.

March may seem a while off but it will soon be here, and places are limited, so book now online!!

Our shrine in Gairloch Youth Hostel

Our shrine in Gairloch Youth Hostel

Us & Them: People & Animals

Today I stumbled across this video about Isa Leshko’s long-term project photographing elderly animals. It sort of extends how I’ve been thinking about meditation and the way it is slowly helping me uncover a more unified reality around me.

In the last post the astronaut, Chris Hadfield, talks about how seeing Earth from space helped him see himself as a member of one big group – “us” – instead of in more fragmented “us and them” terms. Isa Leshko’s project takes this a step further, eroding the differences between “us people” and “them animals”, and showing that we share and endure very similar experiences.

One of the meditation practices we do – the Metta Bhavana – helps us make a habit out of seeing more of ourselves in other beings, and more of them in us. We’ll be teaching the Metta Bhavana in the meditation courses starting this week.

Astronauts & Meditation

Last night I was watching Stargazing Live on tv. At one point Brian Cox and Dara O Briain were interviewing the Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield – the one who did this fantastic cover version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity while in orbit on the International Space Station:

One question they asked was “How does being in space change you?” His answer was quite startling:

What I would view growing up as “us” and “them”, when you go around the world thousands of times that line where “them” begins recedes further and further away, until eventually the whole thing just becomes us.

Sadly, most of us will never see what Chris Hadfield has seen… Actually, some of you may not feel that sad about not being fired into orbit! But you know what I mean – risks aside, to see the world as a whole, to see the pale blue dot that Carl Sagan talked about, that would probably change you forever.

The thing is, you don’t need to be shot into space to experience that kind of change! Meditation will eventually get you to the same kind of understanding. Because it provides some “distance” between you and the world whirling by, meditation helps you see the bigger picture and uncover a more honest perspective. As a result the artificial distinctions, like “them” and “us”, begin slowly to melt away.

We’re running two introductory courses in meditation in a Buddhist context that start in the next two weeks:

If you’d like to give meditation a try, or deepen a practice you’ve already started, we welcome you.

Winter Solstice Practice Day

Last Saturday – the day of the solstice – a few of us gathered at the Centre in Inverness for a day of meditation, reflection and togetherness. Led by Satyapada, and embraced by the mandala of the five archetypal buddhas, we thought  deeply about the year that has passed and the year to come. A peaceful, hopeful day!

One of the activities was to think about something positive about ourselves, something we perhaps started during 2013 and intend to continue in 2014. This we wrote in gold and silver pens on fragments of slate, which we then put in a little boat Satyapada made for the occasion. Then we carried our boat with its ballast of hope down to the River Ness and launched it into the fast flowing water and the future!