Monday, 25 October 2010

On Saturday 23rd October, the Triratna Buddhist Community in Hertford gave a public demonstration of meditation at Bircherly Green Shopping Centre from 10 to 12am. Here's Rory and friends outside Boots the Chemist. Our local group were supported by four others from the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. Passing shoppers stopped to ask about meditation and were invited to 'come and see'. We could hear children asking "What are they doing?" and some Mums replying "Sleeping!" whilst others said "Meditating". We gave out about 100 leaflets about our activities and made a new friend when a photojournalism student stopped by to take some pics and said he would definitely come at the end of term. The weather wasn't too cold but we were all glad to finish the morning with a warming coffee at Serendipity cafe.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Street meditation in Hertford

On Saturday 23rd October and again on Saturday 6th November, Buddhists in Hertford will be giving a public demonstration of meditation at Bircherly Green Shopping Centre from 10.15 to 12.15. Anyone who wants to have a go is welcome to join us. Meditation is good for calming and concentrating the mind, creating inner peace and space for personal development. Meditation in a shopping centre throws into contrast the business of our everyday lives and shows us how to restore harmony to our experience.

The Hertford Buddhist Sangha is a local group affiliated to the Triratna Buddhist Community. We meet every Tuesday evening to practice meditation at the Mill Bridge Rooms in Maidenhead Yard from 7.15 - 9.30pm. There are over 50 local Triratna Buddhist Community groups in Britain and activities in about 30 countries around the world. To find out about your local group, visit or phone 07754 - 930902 or email

Monday, 6 September 2010

Buddhafield East

Buddha-kᚣetra ( Sanskrit, Buddha-field ).
The sphere of influence and activity of a Buddha.

The last August bank holiday weekend each year plays host to this beautiful event in Suffolk which is part retreat and part festival. It has quickly become one of the highlights of my year; expansive in it's teachings and practices of Buddhism yet small enough to eat meals with everyone there, choose from one of the many fascinating workshops and also to stay warm enough round a beautiful evening fire.

My intial Buddhafield East last summer transpired to be the first time ever that I had arrived at an event not knowing anyone there, yet immediately felt completely at ease. Incredible! The team of volunteer organisers have created such a uniquely relaxed and accepting atmosphere that you can't help but feel connected to the whole event and the community of people sharing it.

A typical day in the Buddhafield may begin by waking early for a 7.30am meditation in the Rainbow Shrine tent. It is always a joy to meditate with others but there is something extra special about doing so shortly after waking from a nights sleep. Breakfast cooked by the crew would then be served and leisurely tea enjoyed around the fire before a collective meeting to establish the days events and workshops.

On retreat I always like to participate in the voluntary workgroups which involve anything you choose; from preparing food, composting, supporting the children's area or washing up. It is always so good to get to know other people through sharing a task and participating in the running of the festival creates a harmonious feel amongst the community.

This year Saddhaloka (author of 'Encounters with Enlightenment') gave captivating daily talks on aspects of the Dharma, enchantingly bringing to life stories from the Pali Canon, which was followed by small Order member led discussion groups. Both the talks and the discussion groups provide an excellent opportunity to deepen understanding and pose questions which arise.

The afternoons are resplendent with an array of workshops to select from, including energy workshops, yoga, capoeira, Non-Violent Communication, singing, drumming and there are three different healing tents from which you can experience a free shiatsu session included in the ticket price. How amazing is that! I haven't even mentioned the children's activities scheduled throughout the day but bringing children is an absolute joy with the freedom for kids to play safely and also come together to create some of the most hilarious yet simultaneously poignant drama productions on the life of the Buddha. With a four or five piece Eastern European accompaniment too!

Relaxing evenings spent in the sauna, hot tubs, singing around the fire, sharing moments and laughter really create the depth of a wider Sangha. All of it produced by the dedication of a team of volunteers so committed to co-creating the positive sphere of influence of the three jewels in which all can develop.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Meditation myths

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens. - Carl Jung.

The following article appeared in the Buddhist Blog and was so interesting it required passing on!

Written by Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. Author, Wise Mind, Open Mind

The majority of my clients resist mindfulness meditation at first, although the time commitment is small and the payoff is enormous. One insisted that it wasn't necessary and that she didn't have enough time in her day to devote to a regular practice. Then she went through the loss of a parent, and had such trouble coping that she couldn't even drag herself out of bed. After missing work 10 days straight, she called me for my advice. I told her to mindfully meditate while in bed. Terrified and bewildered, my client did and, in a few days, found that she could face going to work again. After that, whenever she was in an overwhelming state of grief or so distracted that she couldn't focus, she would close her door, tell her assistant to hold all her calls and do a five minute meditation. Slowly, her grief lessened.

Typically, those who resist meditation are buying in to one of the following four common myths from my book, "Wise Mind, Open Mind" that create resistance to regular mindfulness meditation practice.

Myth 1: "I'm too restless and busy to learn to be quiet and practice any form of meditation." Just 20 minutes on a meditation cushion twice each day will cause you to be more productive and less distracted, and make the most of your time during the day. When you first begin to meditate, you're likely to experience many mental distractions. Rather than judge yourself, simply observe any disruptive thoughts, feelings or sensations and set them aside. You'll never have complete freedom from distractions, but with practice, it'll be easier to quickly turn down the volume on them. As your concentration abilities increase, so will your mindstrength. Quickly, you'll discover that you can simply rest and relax into the moment, enjoying the sense of spaciousness and abundance.

Myth 2: "If I practice mindfulness, it will put out the fire of my ambition and creativity." Mindfulness practice seems to ground restless people, transforming their energy from a chaotic, even manic, discharge to a more focused and heightened exuberance that then can be channeled into productivity. If you're uncomfortable with the thought of slowing down your mental output because you think you'll lose something valuable, keep in mind that this is not the goal of mindfulness practice. Instead, this approach will allow you to access some of the vitality and passion you associate with mania.

Myth 3: "If I practice mindfulness, what I'll discover will be so upsetting that I'll become paralyzed with fear." The fear of what will arise from the subconscious isn't entirely irrational, but the chances of experiencing intense discomfort while mindfully meditating are slim. Emotions that remain buried have no chance of dissipating, and will remain as an underlying toxin that affects the functioning of the mind and body. If you've been avoiding painful feelings and thoughts for a long time, you may not be able to handle more than a five-minute-long session of mindfulness meditation initially, and you may need someone with you to support you in your process of uncovering this pain. A skilled psychologist or mindfulness meditation teacher can be enormously helpful in guiding you through these emotions and modulating their intensity.

Myth 4: "Practicing mindfulness meditation will conflict with my religious beliefs." The practice of mindfulness meditation is free of religious and spiritual dogma. In fact, if you believe in turning to God for guidance, you can use mindfulness meditation to set aside distractions and listen to the divine wisdom that can be found only when you tune out the endless chain of thoughts your own mind creates. This form of meditation turns down the volume of the chatter in your mind and allows you to tune in to deeper wisdom and insight. Mindfulness practice is a pathway to discovery that any of us can use, regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs.

By cultivating mindfulness, you allow yourself to hear even the subtlest messages from the unconscious. You can be awakened with a gentle nudge instead of a splash of icy water. Embracing your circumstances despite the pain, you can craft a fulfilling life that's infused with passion and originality, driven by a sense of purpose, and in sync with your values and priorities.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Tuesday 3rd August


This weeks meditation and discussion led by Rob was particularly special as we were visited by Padmajata who we met at Cambridge Buddhist Centre on Dharma Day. In fact Padmajata has said that she would be able to attend for the next six weeks in support of the Hertford Sangha, which is wonderful.

A mindfulness of breathing practice was followed by a continuation of the theme of the Dharma, which led to some lovely insightful discussion of some of the stories of the Dharma, we closed with a Metta Bhavana practice.

Meanings of the Dharma

Sangharakshita has said that there are five meanings of the term The Dharma as that there is no one English word to translate it. These are:

1. 'Things' or any phenomemon.
2. A mental object; anything that arises in the mind, one of the six senses.
3. A state or condition of existence; the Eight Worldly Winds (Lokadharmas).
4. Law, principle or truth. Dhammapada says hatred only ceases by love.
5. Doctrine or teaching. 'Dharma' (Sanskrit) or 'Dhamma' (Pali) is the teachings of the Buddha; the buddha Dharma, the Dharma Vinaya.

The Source of the Dharma

The source of the Buddha Dharma is the Buddha's enlightenment experience and the cardinal doctrine is Buddha’s teaching of Conditioned Co-production (pratitya samutpada). Common to all schools of Buddhism, it states that phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect.

From the Dharma, this teaching of Conditioned Co-production is described in the story of a young monk who when asked, as was common in those times, 'what is your Dharma and who is your teacher?' he replied:

This being, that becomes.
From the arising of this, that arises.
This not becoming, that does not become.
From the ceasing of this, that ceases.

There are two types of conditionality;
Cyclical conditionality - reacting between pairs of opposites and illustrated by the Wheel of Life.

Spiral conditionality - the path leading to Nirvana - the Four Noble truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Dharma Day 25th July

So with more grounded experience of the Dharma than before, it was the perfect opportunity to attend the Dharma Day celebrations with Rob at Cambridge Buddhist Centre. The day began with a mindfulness of the breath meditation in the shrine room, which was full beyond capacity, so much so there were people meditating in the courtyard beyond the French windows! It was a great start to the day which was followed by a wonderful talk by Saddharaja and being Dharma Day the theme was ‘the Enlightened One speaks’.

Not only a very experienced meditator and Triratna Order member; having been ordained some 20 years ago, Saddharaja was a very accomplished and humourous speaker. So it was that he brought to life the first sermon of the Buddha after his enlightenment called the Dharmachakra Sutta which means ‘the establishment of wisdom’ or ‘the wheel of truth’ which is the eight-spoke wheel symbolising the core teachings of Buddhism and the path to enlightenment.

For a factual account of this first sermon, without unfortunately the wit and personality provided by Saddharaja, copy and paste this link into your browser. Although we should bear in mind that it will not have been as easy as this bare-bones/no-messing/question-answer format belies.

The remainder of the day for us after an outstanding shared lunch was filled with very engaging and informative talks from outreach teams that go to Letchworth and Peterborough promoting the work of outreach to communities who have no near-by access to a Buddhist Centre.

This was of course a perfect introduction for Rob who then presented a wonderful insight to everyone there as to the existence and vision of the Hertford Sangha, and an appeal for help from Order members who would like to bring their skills and time to support us.

So happy days, we left Cambridge after a wonderful Dharma Day with three offers of support including the younger Sangha who organise successful street meditation in Cambridge proposing to come to us! So watch this space and Hertford town centre on a Saturday morning here we come!


I can’t remember when I first heard the word Dharma but I can remember never really understanding what it actually meant. Of course I knew that the Dharma was one of the Three Jewels along with the Buddha and the Sangha and that it had two primary meanings:
• The teachings of the Buddha which lead to enlightenment
• An ultimate and transcendent truth which is utterly beyond worldly things

Well quite truthfully, this all seemed somewhat intangible to me, almost ethereal, and my mind in trying to grasp a hold of what this meant just felt a little lost!

As a result I even went on my first week long meditation retreat with a big question mark over this Jewel. Despite many meditations and much talk on aspects of the Dharma, five days into the retreat my curiosity and confusion burned brighter than ever; I still did not know what the Dharma was. I had finally had enough and mustered up enough courage to just ask!

Of course as soon as I had decided I was ready to ask I had to do so there and then and set off through the retreat centre corridor to look for an order member. Quite by surprise no more than a few steps later the door opened into the corridor and through stepped Tarakarunya. Any other time I might have perceived that she was on her way to a meeting but not on this occasion no, so much to her astonishment as she passed me I blurted out ‘Tarakarunya, I’ve been wondering, what is the Dharma?’

The perceptible pause was enough to make me follow up my unsophisticated blurt with yet more blurt ‘Oh it’s not something that can be answered quickly is it?’

Fortunately Tarakarunya was very kind and advised me that Sangharakshita had even written a book called ‘What is the Dharma’ so no it wasn’t something that could be defined so succinctly there and then. This it seemed was indeed exactly what I needed to hear and I immediately let go of trying so hard. All this time I had been trying to understand conceptually something that was beyond concepts; my mind could not see what it did not understand. So, from that moment on I began to see that I didn’t have to try so hard to understand the Dharma I had to experience the Dharma.

From the Potthapada Sutta…

‘He preaches the Dhamma which is lovely in it’s beginning, lovely in it’s middle, lovely in it’s ending, in the spirit and in the letter…’

This is interpreted by Ayya Khema in ‘Who Is My Self’ as thus:

“A very important aspect of the Buddha’s teaching is his emphasis on meaning as well as words. It is relatively easy to know the texts; all we need to do is read a book and try to remember as much of it as we can….The spirit of the message…can only enter our hearts when we practice. Then we come to know exactly what the Buddha meant, and his guidelines become an integral part of our thoughts, speech and action. Until then, all we have are words and intellectual understanding.”

New blogger

Out of a wish to help and a deep respect for all the time, effort and expertise that Rob invests in the Hertford Sangha, when he asked me on a car journey to take over the blog I didn’t hesitate to say yes! As I was in fact driving at the time, what I had agreed to filtered slowly through my ‘helping perception filter’ (which had heard lots of ‘it’d be really useful/save so much time’ etc) and I realised what exactly was involved in ‘taking over the blog’.

So here I am connecting you all to the Hertford Sangha and meditation evenings. If you have ideas you’d like to share then please do, this can be as open a forum for discussion as you wish.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Our First Birthday!

Oh Happy Day! We celebrated our first birthday as a Hertford town centre meditation group last Tuesday 25th May. Although it's not strictly the first birthday of the group, it's enough past the exact date to confidently say 'Cheers'.

Friends of the FWBO and the Order of Interbeing were meeting irregularly in front rooms in Hertford for at least two years before the groups activities moved in April 2009 to the United Reform Church hall in Ware. A month later we moved to The Vaults in Hertford and then, in January 2010 to our present home, the Millbridge Room in Maidenhead Yard, Hertford. The date of the first recorded meeting in Hertford town centre was 12th May 2009. Since April 2009 then, Hertford Buddhist Sangha has met a total of 51 times in the town centre and seen altogether about 41 people through its doors. Initially our objective was to meet every week so that newcomers could rely on a regular meeting time and place. This has been achieved and to do this, we have together given about £700 to pay for room rental and other costs.

We have now taken a step forward as our confidence grows. Five people have made the committment to undertake the Triratna Buddhist Community Dharma training course, which involves not just home study and meditation but a monthly visit to Cambridge to meet with our teacher, Suvarnagarbha. We are being contacted regularly by people interested in trying meditation with us and we have good reason to hope that our Sangha will grow even more in 2010.

If you are interested in coming to meditation in Hertford, please
phone Rob on 07754-930902

Sunday, 11 April 2010

FWBO becomes Triratna Buddhist Community

An item from FWBO News 11th April
"In January FWBO News carried a story announcing that Sangharakshita had suggested a change of name to the Order and Movement, and that he had asked the Order and Movement to adopt the new names of the Triratna Buddhist Order and the Triratna Buddhist Community respectively.

Parami and Mahamati, the two International Order Convenors, have now written with confirmation that the Order has adopted Sangharakshita’s suggestion, and officially became the Triratna Buddhist Order on April 7th, the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the Order. They say “This means that we can celebrate the founding of the Western Buddhist Order and the renaming to the Triratna Buddhist Order on the same day now and in the future”.

The Movement is expected to follow suit, and indeed a ceremony to mark the adoption of the name “Triratna Buddhist Community” is being planned for the International Retreat at the end of May. Triratna means "Three Jewels", specifically the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, which are the central foci of a Buddhist's life and practice. They've long been represented in our logo and on the kesas worn by Order Members, so we're delighted that our name will now reflect them as well."

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is the last of the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha. It offers us the way out of conditioned existence (samsara) and opens the way to Nirvana. Over the next 8 weeks we will be learning about the Noble Eightfold Path and you are welcome to join us any where along the way. No experience necessary!

The Noble Eightfold Path is often thought of as a path of 8 consecutive steps, but look at the meaning of the Sanskrit (Sk. Arya = noble, holy; asta = 8; anga = limb, member, shoot; marga = way, path). So it’s not a series of 8 stages but a method of spiritual development having 8 parts. You can start anywhere and work on more than one stage at once, but it’s better to start from a personal vision of spiritual reality.

Vision and Transformation
According to tradition the Eightfold Path divides into two successive stages; again we need to look at the original languages, Sanskrit and Pali to learn the ‘gist’ of each part.

Firstly, the path of Vision, Sk. darsana-marga (part 1, Right Understanding). Darsana is a sight, view or vision. This can arise for many people in different ways; a mystical experience, contact with nature, through meditation or devotional practice or through caring for others. Perfect Vision is an initial spiritual insight that grabs our emotions and sets us on the path to truth.

Secondly, the path of Transformation Sk. bhavana-marga (parts 2 – 8). Bhavana is development, change or transformation. This consists of the 2nd through to the 8th part of the Noble Eightfold Path. According to Sangharakshita in "Vision and Transformation" it “represents the transformation of one’s whole accordance with that initial spiritual insight."

Vision and Transformation’ by Sangharakshita, online at
Talk; “The Nature of Existence” from

Monday, 22 February 2010

Unpacking the Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths
The central teaching of the Buddha is like a present with many layers of wrapping. To realise its fundamental significance we have to investigate a number of topics.

The First Noble Truth
Whilst we all long for happiness, unsatisfactoriness and suffering (Dukkha) exist and are universally experienced. This needs to be understood.
Suffering (dukkha)
The three marks (laksanas) of conditioned existence; annica, dukkha, anata. Dependant origination; the five aggregates.

The Second Noble Truth
The three mental poisons (kilesas) , greed, hatred and delusion are the causes of dukkha.
Causes of suffering
Karma and rebirth. Samsara and the wheel of life

The Third Noble Truth
There is an end to unsatisfactoriness and suffering. The causes of suffering have to be abandoned if we want true lasting happiness.
Cessation of suffering
Enlightenment and Nirvana

The Fourth Noble Truth
The end can be attained by following the Noble Eightfold Path. This needs to be practiced if you wish to bring about an end to dukkha in your life and eventually gain Enlightenment and Nirvana.
The path to the cessation of suffering - The Noble Eightfold Path: Traditionally stated as Right View, Intention, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, Concentration. We will also be comparing this with Sangharakshita's presentation of the Noble Eightfold Path.

We will be learning about and discussing these topics in our second session 8.30 - 9.30pm from 23rd February to May 2010. See you at the Millbridge Room, Hertford for meditation and dharma talks.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Floods at The Vaults

Groundwater has entered the basement rooms at The Vaults and they out of action until the weather dries and repairs are completed. We are now meeting at the Millbridge Room, which is between the Chicken Express takeaway and Martins newsagents, on Tuesday evenings. There are two sessions of meditation; for the first, come at 7.15pm for a 7.30 start and for the second, come at 8.15pm for an 8.30 start. Every Tuesday evening we will practice the Mindfulness of Breathing and the Development of Loving Kindness, and have time for talk and discussion around a topic from Buddhism.

Come to one session or to all, we will be glad to see you. There's no charge but we have to ask for donations to cover the cost of the room. See you there!