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.