Less than three weeks to the Bodhi Retreat
Presenters, please send descriptions of your event to include in the programme to
In the retreat there will be teachers and presenters from
Spain, France, Belgium, UK, Germany, Italy, India, Australia, Tasmania, Israel, Canada, USA, and Hawaii
There are now 64 tickets issued and £1675 raised for the India Project.
Honen Shonin has been one of the ancestral teachers most important to me. I love his humanity. He talks about how he learnt Buddhism and learnt that pure contempation depended upon pure moral conduct and that wisdom depended on pure contemplation. he reflected on his own life and saw that even though he had had a first class monastic education in the best dharma centre in his country, had had ample time and space to practice and access to excellent facilities, there was not a single precept that he had managed to keep consistently, not a single contemplative exercise that he had mastered in the way described in the texts. furthermore, he asked himself, if that was true of himself, how could it be for ordinary people who had not had the advantages that he had had? what hope was there for the fisherman, the shop-keeper, the farmer or the soldier?
In despair over this all important question, Honen discovered the work of Shan Tao, a Chinese master from several centuries earlier. Shan Tao offered a solution which was to call upon the Buddhas, especially Amitabha Buddha, for help. Admitting that we need help is enormously freeing. Recognising that the Buddhas are wiser than we are cuts through our dilemma. This is a practice for ignorant beings - one does not need to know the ontological status of Amitabha or the precise mechanism by which spiritual help comes to us. Virtually all cultures throughout history have had some such notion dressed up in different clothing. When we call out and express the deep longing in the human heart, we place ourselves in concert with great sages and humble practitioners of innumerable different creeds throughout history. We also affirm the special qualities that the Buddhas bring into this world - peace, harmony, patience, reconciliation and grace.
Honen then spent the rest of his life reaching out to people and sharing with them the inspiration that he had received. He became a great propagator of the Dharma in japan, just as Shan Tao had been in China. He was able to be so primarily, i imagine, because he had accepted his own human nature and so was able to accept that of others.
CREATING AN ALTAR
There is a podcast from August attached.
For some of the events in the retreat it will be valuable to have a home altar. If we were holding the retreat in a temple, there would be an altar to relate to so that the images of Buddha and Dharma would always be with us. As we are doing this on-line this time you might want to construct an altar in your own home. This is, of course, entirely optional, unless you are one of those who are taking or reaffirming refuge or engaging in admission or advancement ceremonies or ordinations when an altar is part of the ceremony.
Such ceremonies are between you and the Buddha. The celebrant is there to guide and assist. Therefore, for such ceremonies you will need to set up a shrine or altar. The altar represents the presence of the Buddha. The central figure should be a statue or picture or scroll representing Buddha, preferably Amida Buddha. It could be a statue or picture or it could be a scroll with the Nembutsu or a representation of one of the great spiritual ancestors, Shan Dao or Honen, say.
Also on the altar can be offerings. Suitable offerings include, but are not limited to, flowers, a food item (usually fruit), light (usually a candle), incense, at least two bowls of water, something to represent music. The symbolism here is that the Buddha is a special guest and when a special guest comes one offers water to drink and to wash, food, flowers, perfume, music and so on. Also, the altar represents the Pure Land, so Buddha is in the middle of his land, so there can be things of beauty there, representing the jewelled splendour of Sukhavati. In addition you can add anything personal that you wish to offer. The altar can be elaborate or simple. Use your imagination and be creative.
The altar should be so placed that you can face it during the ceremony. This means thinking about where the computer is going to go relative to your position kneeling facing the altar. On the one hand, we need to be able to see you. At the same time, you need to be facing the Buddha. This may mean that on the zoom screen you are going to appear in side view during the central part of the ceremony.
14.00 Rome : Amida Shu Refuge Group
Codes separately notified.
11.00 Rome : Amida Shu Interest Group
20.00 Rome : Amida Shu Friendship Group
Namo Amida Bu
Link to the transcription of podcast #72 (A Buddhist Altar):