ONLY A FEW DAYS NOW until the start of the retreat.
The retreat begins on Tuesday. Several people hqve bought tickets in the last few days and made generous donations to the India Fund. I apologise that I have not managed to write thanking everybody individually as my computer broke down. I'm now getting accustomed to a new one. If you have not got your ticket yet, do go to
We are still adding fascinating events to the programme. There will be
- a session by the composer of a wonderful musical on the life of Siddhartha Gotama
- one on obvious and hidden aspects of the Buddhist precepts
- reflections on solitude; on translating as a practice; on peace making;
- sessions of Qi Gong; and also of Naikan;
and many others
There will plenty of chanting and services as well as ceremonies for taking refuge, taking precepts, taking the bodhisattva vow, joining Amida Shu, joining the Amida Order, ordination, and recognising a teacher.
This is the first newsletter using the Octopus distribution system, so I hope it works well for everybody.
TENDERNESS AS A BODHISATTVA QUALITY
To behold all beings with the eyes of compassion and to speak kindly to them is the meaning of tenderness. If one would understand tenderness, one must speak to others whilst thinking that one loves all living things as if they are one's own children. When we praise those who exhibit virtue and feel sorry for those who do not, our enemies become our friends and those who are our friends have their friendship strengthened. This is all through the power of tenderness. Whenever one speaks kindly to another, his face brightens and his heart is warmed; if a kind word is spoken in his absence the effect will be a deep one. Tenderness can have a revolutionary effect upon the mind of man ~ Shushogi ~ Dogen
BUDDHIST MASTER RYOKAN TAIGU
Ryōkan Taigu 良寛大愚 (1758–1831) was a Buddhist monk originally ordained in the Soto School who subsequently became a hermit. I can identify with this much. He is famous for his short poems.
Although he lived alone, he could easily be a kind of patron saint of global sangha because of his big heart. He lived a simple and frugal life in a small hut at the foot of a mountain. He often played games with the local children, as reflected in his poetry. Ryokan's love of children and animals is legendary. His reputation for gentleness was sometimes carried to comical extremes.
One evening, a thief came to his poor hut but there was nothing in it to steal. When Ryokan appeared, the thief ran away. Ryokan ran after him and said, ‘As you must have come a long way to visit me, you should not leave empty-handed. As I have nothing valuable, please accept my clothes as a gift.’ Stunned and bewildered, the thief took the clothes. Ryokan sat watching the moon, saying, ‘Poor fellow, I wish I could have given him the beautiful moon!’ This is a famous story. Ryokan wrote:“The thief left it behind, the moon, at my window.”
In Buddhism, the moon symbolises the light of the Dharma. It is often associated with Quan Shi Yin. The light is sometimes bright and full and sometimes hidden. Passing clouds represent the obscurations that occlude our view. The moon is a treasure that cannot be stolen like the virtues of generous spirit, kindness, equanimity and contentment, that are a true treasure
In another version of this story, Ryokan asked the thief to thank him before leaving. When the thief was caught in another incident, Ryokan was called to testify against him, but Ryokan answered that he had given his robe to the thief willingly and that he was even thanked for it. On hearing this, the thief broke down in tears, full of repentance
Here are some other poems by Ryokan:
“If you follow the original vows of Amida Buddha, you will no longer be lost at the crossroads.”
“If not for Amida’s inconceivable vow,
What then would remain to me,
As a keepsake of this world?”
“When I think
About the misery
Of those in this world
Oh, that my monk's robe
Were wide enough
To gather up all
The suffering people
In this floating world.
Nothing makes me
More happy than
Amida Buddha's vow
To save Everyone.“
Ryokan's last words to us were:
"If people ask about Ryokan’s death poem, tell them it was ‘Namu Amida Butsu.’"
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Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu