New Moon Update: August 2021
Today, Sunday 8th, is the New Moon day for the month of August 2021. The next Uposatha Day will be the Full Moon which falls on Monday 23rd of August.
Gradually reopening the monastery feels like the sun beginning to emerge after a long winter. It has been wonderful to once again welcome friends and supporters bringing food offerings in the morning. Also it is good to see Kusala House with more than one or two guests. We are still being very cautious and ask that anyone wanting to visit either telephone or email first to let us know so we can make preparations.
We have settled into our annual Rains Retreat with seven bhikkhus and one anagarika (see enlarged photo). Tan Samacitto from Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand arrived as planned and has safely completed his quarantine. The changeable weather hasn't stopped us from attending to various maintenance projects around the monastery. The forecast rain did mean we changed the date for the July Lake Workday. So far it seems the August Lake Workday will take place on Sunday, 29th August but, as usual, please contact us to let us know if you plan to participate. Either telephone Tan Mahesako on 07943 699 228, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a talk I gave last month called Self Caring and Self Obsessing I attempted to address the tricky topic of selfishness. It isn't only the pressures brought on by the pandemic that have caused the social upheavals that we are witnessing. Blaming the pandemic, or blaming the politicians, or blaming technology for the chaos can be tempting, but if we are honest we will admit that blaming doesn't particularly help. Identifying the causes for the chaos is obviously appropriate - it would be strange if we weren't interested in understanding why so many people are feeling anxious and suffering from a collective identity crisis.
What the Buddha recommended when we are faced with suffering, is to invest in building up our inner resources so we are not overwhelmed by outer conditions. Selfishness is not necessarily a sign that people are bad; it can be a sign they have not received the right sort of education. Education regarding management of material resources and how to improve external comfort and convenience has never been more readily available. However, education regarding the dynamics of consciousness, which has traditionally been the domain of religion, doesn't seem to receive so much attention these days. In that talk I suggested that part of the function of religion has been to help protect people from becoming self-obsessed. In the case of Buddhist teachings, the reason we are encouraged to Go For Refuge to the Buddha is so the unruly tendencies of our unawakened sense of self are contained. Going For Refuge to the Buddha is not merely aligning ourselves with a belief system; it is a whole body-mind training in integrity, mindfulness, skilful restraint and wise-reflection. This training helps us build up a reserve of inner aliveness and self-respect. From this vantage point we can ask ourselves such challenging questions as, 'what is the true cause of self-obsession?' We can investigate in our own case, where, when and how is it that we focus on our own well-being and ignore others? We can ask ourselves why we cling so tightly to our own views and opinions and are quick to reject those of others?
When we bow down to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, we are surrendering our resistance to the suffering of life and instead asking what is the lesson to be learned here? If we stub our toe it is right that we should feel pain. It means we pay attention to the wound and take care of it. Likewise, when our heart is hurting it is a message saying, 'pay attention here': learning how to stop saying it shouldn't be this way and instead offering our heart the caring attention it is calling for. Such intentional caring can help sustain us in the midst of uncertainty, at the same time it might mean we are inspired to pay kindly attention to others.
There is so much more that might be said on this subject but if I continue this newsletter could become an essay.
Luang Por Munindo