Saturday, January 21, 2006

Moving day

Here is a picture of my new home:

Madhyamaka centre

This is a picture I took last week, the first time I saw the place. (Note the flawless blue sky, most unusual for Yorkshire.) My room is hidden by the trees on the left. It's in one of the old stables, overlooking a cobblestone courtyard.
I'm still settling in. I've met most of my flatmates. They're from all over, and among them is a Chinese monk. How cool is that?
This is a very different Buddhist tradition than I'm used to, and I feel rather like a Lutheran in a Russian Orthodox church. The chanting sessions in particular will take me a while to get used to. Nevertheless, whee! This is exactly where I want to be.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Story time

There was a great story (apparently true) told at my retreat, about a Zen teacher from China who moved to Tennessee. He bought a little old house with a big old oak tree on the front lawn. His neighbours told him, "That tree's gonna blow down. You gotta chop it down."

He nodded, in his inscrutable Chinese way, and said, "Good. I chop."

The next morning he went to the local hardware store and bought a hatchet. One of his neighbours came by and saw him chopping away at the biiiiig tree with the little weeny hatchet, and said, "Don't do it that way. It'll take ages. I'll go get my chainsaw and have the tree down in half an hour."

But the old man shook his head and said, "I chop."

His neighbour rolled his eyes, but left him alone, figuring that after a few hours of this futile chopping, the old man would have had enough and would come asking to borrow his chainsaw.

Instead, every morning at 9 am, for exactly an hour, the whole neighbourhood would hear a steady chop chop chop from the old man's front yard. It got so that if he missed a morning they'd come over to see if he was okay. He went from being "that crazy Chinaman" to being part of the community.

Eventually he explained to some of his new friends that this is how he taught meditation: every day you chop away just a little more, and sooner or later a great tree falls.

Well, after months of this it became clear that the great tree was due to fall. On the last morning the neighbours all gathered around to witness the last few hatchet chops. (I visualize a neighbourhood jamboree, with the womenfolk bringing sandwiches and jello molds, and the menfolk leaning on the fences and offering advice, but that's pure invention.) At last, with a mighty creak and splintering noise, the tree crashed to the ground.

After the cheering died down, someone asked the teacher what he would do now.

"Make firewood" was his reply.

Monday, January 16, 2006


(a collection of quotations illustrating the traditional list of the Pāramis, assembled by Steve Armstrong and other teachers)

Dāna (Generosity)

If beings knew, as I know, the benefit of generosity, they would not let an opportunity go by without sharing.



Virtue has non-remorse as its benefit and reward.
Non-remorse has gladness as its benefit and reward.
Gladness has joy as its benefit and reward.
Joy has serenity as its benefit and reward.
Serenity has happiness as its benefit and reward.
Happiness has concentration as its benefit and reward.
Concentration has insightful understanding as its benefit and reward.
Insightful understanding has non-attachment as its benefit and reward.
Non-attachment has liberation as its benefit and reward.
In this way, virtue leads step by step to the highest.



True renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but in knowing they go away.

-Suzuki Roshi

Paňňā (Wisdom)

All conditioned things arise and pass away. Understanding this deeply brings the greatest happiness, which is peace.


Viriya (Energy)

No-one succeeds without effort. Mind at peace is not your birthright. Those who succeed owe their liberation to perseverance.

-Ramana Maharshi.


Patience is the supreme virtue.



Better than a thousand useless words is one simple word that brings peace.


Aditthāna (Resolution)

Let only my skin, sinews, and bones remain and let the flesh and blood in my body dry up; but not until I attain Supreme Enlightenment will I give up this meditation seat.”


Metta (Lovingkindness)

Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone. This is the eternal law.


Upekkhā (Equanimity)

The mind is like space. There is room in it for everything or nothing. We always have a perspective once we know that space of the mind, its emptiness. Armies can come into the mind and leave, butterflies, rain-clouds—or nothing. All things can come and go through without us being caught in reaction or resistance.

-Ajahn Sumedho

Monday, January 02, 2006

Can't talk. Crocheting.

I'd love to give all y'all an update on the past 3-plus months. Unfortunately, I can't seem to put down the crochet hook for more than five minutes at a time. (I'm making a baby blanket for a new young friend who is due to enter the world in a few weeks, and I'm discovering that crocheting is more addictive even than Sudoku.) You can get the broad outline from my Flickr page, which is linked in the sidebar. I'm too lazy to link to it again.

Making progress
Originally uploaded by MomLes.