Saturday 24th August

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Buddhist monasteries may for the most part be refuges of stillness and solitude, but there’s one thing that even we can’t escape: roadworks.

Yes, our little lane will soon become the site of diggers, portaloos and hard-hats as the local council begin replacing the bridge between the Hermitage and Sherbourne. Work will begin in the first week of October and is estimated to take up to twelve weeks. During this time you won’t be able to access the Hermitage from the Sherbourne (Warwick) end of Fulbrook Lane and will instead need to approach us from the Hampton Lucy (Stratford) end.

Continuing with his trend of reading from the Pali Canon on Friday evenings, just the other week Luangpor narrated the Angulimala Sutta. Here we witness the Buddha’s kindness and understanding bring about a remarkable change in a serial killer going by the nickname of Angulimala (which means ‘Finger Necklace’ – we’ll spare you the gory details).

As a result of his encounter with the Buddha, not only did this formidable character renounce harming others, but he ordained as a monk and eventually attained Enlightenment. Towards the end of the sutta King Pasenadi of Kosala, who, with a troop of soldiers, had been trying to hunt down Angulimala, praises the Buddha: ‘What we failed to do with both force and weapons, you accomplished with neither force nor weapons.’

That last quote needs to be carved into the office door of every world leader.

On the subject of the Buddha’s words, although the internet is allowing more people than ever to access the Dhamma, it is also proving to be a veritable breeding ground for, among other questionable things, fake Buddha quotes. Indeed, if you do a Google image search of ‘Buddha quotes’ you’ll be hard pressed to find a single genuine quote! As a precaution, we’d suggest always using reliable sources (which rules out most dedicated quotation websites), and being skeptical of quotes that lack a sutta reference. Generally speaking, if a quote sounds like it’s been uttered by Mystic Meg, then it probably has.

On Saturday 3rd September we hosted the penultimate Angulimala workshop of the year. About 20 chaplains from various corners of the country gathered for several hours of meditation, discussions and meetings. It’s worth pointing out that Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy, is one of a kind; no other religion has a comparable organisation that supports its members as Angulimala does.

Last Sunday Luangpor led a large group of monks and Thai supporters during the annual Springhill Prison Buddha Grove Celebration. As well as the usual chanting, speeches, Thai buffet (spearheaded by the indefatigable Khun Peter) and candlelit circumambulation, we also held a short tree-planting ceremony for Lord Avebury, the late Patron of Angulimala and a veteran of this event. A gingko biloba, enshrined within a fine cast-iron tree guard and marked with a slate plaque, has taken its place in the grove. His son, the new Lord Avebury, as well as his widow, Lindsay, and daughter, Victoria, were all in attendance.

While on the subject of prisons, we’re pleased to announce that Adrian is now driving Luangpor. No sooner had we stuck up a poster in the foyer asking for help when he appeared out of the blue (fresh from China) and said he’d do it.

In a recent Monday evening Dhamma Talk Ajahn Manapo spoke about fear and how to overcome it. He suggested that instead of focusing on the object of our fear we should be mindful of the fear itself, and in particular of the various physical sensations and feelings associated with it. When we do this, he said, we will see that it is in fact our aversion to these feelings that is at the root of the problem. By investigating these sensations not only do we extricate the mind from the whirlpool of thoughts, but we begin to discover their true nature: that they are transient and without substance. Once this is seen, the aversion loses its foothold and the fear – and thus the suffering – falls away.

A week last Sunday the Hermitage witnessed another Sunday School Class. The recent summer holidays meant a few things had been forgotten and so Ajahn Manapo did a quick re-cap of some of the key episodes of the Buddha’s early life. Afterwards they had a Dhamma chat (with the odd foray into matters less-connected with Buddhism…) before practising mindfulness of breathing for a few minutes. As a little experiment, at the beginning of the session he had the children recite, in English, the five precepts. It was very successful and will now be a staple ingredient of each monthly class, the next of which is on Sunday 9th October, at 12:30 pm.

16th-18th September Weekend Retreat at Bhavana Dhamma

Last weekend Ajahn Manapo led a retreat at Bhavana Dhamma. Being that it’s the Rains Retreat he wasn’t able to leave the Hermitage before dawn and so the eleven intrepid retreatants ventured over there for the two morning sittings. The weather was fine. the food was even better (thanks to Hui Peng from Leeds), and the meditation was, hopefully, very productive for all involved. There are a few spaces left on the November and New Year retreats, so apply sooner rather than later if you’d like to attend.

It’s almost October which means that the Warwick University Buddhist Society will soon be kicking off its twice-weekly meetings. Luangpor will lead the Monday sessions and Ajahn Manapo the Thursday ones. As usual, these evenings are open to all, and so if you’re in the area feel free to drop in. Contact us for details on the time and venue.

As the end of this year’s Rains Retreat (Vassa) approaches we are looking ahead to our final major celebration of the year. Pavarana Day, which marks the last day of the Vassa, falls on Sunday 16th and so, unusually, we are able to have our public celebration on the actual day.

The word Pavarana means invitation, and it refers to the Buddha’s instruction that all monks, having completed the three month retreat period, invite their fellows in the monastic life to offer constructive criticism of their behaviour. Although we tend to recoil from criticism, the Buddha considered it an invaluable element of the spiritual life, as exemplified in this quote from the Dhammapada:

‘Should one find a man who points out faults and who reproves, let him follow such a wise and sagacious person as one would a guide to hidden treasure. It is always better, and never worse, to cultivate such an association.’  *

The actual celebration of Pavarana Day will begin at 10:30 am with the taking of the Refuges and Precepts. Immediately after will be the alms-round, followed by a vegetarian meal. Once everyone has eaten, Khun Peter will lead the robe offerings, before Luangpor and Ajahn Manapo give Dhamma Talks. It should all be over by about 1:30 pm. As we anticipate a crowd of well over 100 we have arranged for our local luxury toilet hire firm (who, we found out on Tuesday, have been giving us a substantial discount all along) to provide us with extra facilities for the day.

All are welcome, so please feel free to come along, perhaps even bringing some vegetarian food to offer and share.


* Source: Access to Insight