Welcome to our twenty fifth online suggested practise for the week. We are now broadcasting a live teaching each Monday evening. If you would like to participate please contact us using the contact form on the homepage.

1.0)  If you feel so inclined, begin by reciting the usual prayers (please follow below links for text). Alternatively, try to think or articulate a wish for all beings to achieve liberation from suffering, etc .

Four Thoughts: contemplating each in turn – http://northantsbuddhists.com/the-four-thoughts/

Refuge Prayer: twice in Tibetan, once in English – http://northantsbuddhists.com/the-refuge-prayer/

2.0) Lojong Eight Verses of Mind Training = Presented by Geoff Warren

Awakening the Buddha within by Lama Surya Das Eight Steps to enlightenment, Tibetan Wisdom for the modern world.

Regard everything as though it is a dream
The original source text says ‘Consider how all phenonema are like dreams, and examine the nature of unborn awareness.’
Things are not what they seem to be; don’t be deceived by appearances. The alchemical secret embodied in Buddhism is that nothing is absolutely real; everything is ephemeral, ungovernable, and hollow. Everything is relative & depends upon the mind & it’s projections & interpretation. How we relate to things makes all the difference. This does not mean that everything exists solely in the mind, as some idealists would have it. It does not mean that nothing matters at all, as the nihilist suggest. Nor does it mean that all things are merely projections of mind – for one might just as well posit that the mind is a projection of all things.
What it means is that everything is impermanent, interdependent, as malleable as soft plastic. Reality is not fixed. Alter the global situation, atmosphere, or temperature, & all local events are affected. Transform any aspect or part of the universal mandala, the cosmic hologram, & all aspects are affected. Presence of mind, or innate awareness, is the pivot upon which all things turn. The genuine master of mindfulness, who stands nowhere, assumes no position or stance & fits in anywhere – he or she can move the universe. The lever of awareness is in his or her hand, & the fulcrum is nowhere else but the present moment.
Working with mind & its essential nature, rather than struggling to alter mere circumstantial conditions, reveals reality – both as it is & as it seemingly appears. Penetrating insight reveals that the responsibility for what we experience lies nowhere but within ourselves, & that the steering wheel of our own lives & evolution is in our hands.
Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to overlook this fact & continue uncontrollably thrashing around, trashing others as well as ourselves? Check & see: Are your hands on the steering wheel of your life, or are they holding the rearview mirror while you wonder why you wonder why you are careening around in such an unintended fashion?

Meditation on 8 verses of Lojong

May I always cherish all beings
With the resolve to accomplish for them
The highest good that is more precious
Than any wish-fulfilling jewel.

Whenever I am in the company of others,
May I regard myself as inferior to all
And from the depths of my heart
Cherish others as supreme.

In all my actions may I watch my mind,
And as soon as disturbing emotions arise,
May I forcefully stop them at once,
Since they will hurt both me and others.

When I see ill-natured people,
Overwhelmed by wrong deeds and pain,
May I cherish them as something rare,
As though I had found a treasure-trove.

When someone out of envy does me wrong
By insulting me and the like,
May I accept defeat
And offer the victory to them.

Even if someone whom I have helped
And in whom I have placed my hopes
Does great wrong by harming me,
May I see them as an excellent spiritual friend.

In brief, directly or indirectly,
May I give all help and joy to my mothers,
And may I take all their harm and pain Secretly upon myself.

May none of this ever be sullied
By thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.
May I see all things as illusions
And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.

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2.1) Lantern Floating – A presentation by William Duncan

Origins

Lantern floating dates back well over 1,000 years and originated in India or China, maybe both independently. Lanterns made from wood, leaves and decorated with flowers were floated on rivers and used in all sorts of events for all sorts of reasons, for example:

  • to worship the gods;

  • to celebrate a special day such as a full moon day or new year’s day;

  • or, in Thailand, “in honour of the Buddha”.

Depending on the country and culture, the lanterns symbolise different things, often used in festivals throughout south-east Asia and Japan.

Obon Festival

The Japanese, traditionally, believed that all humans came from water and, once a year, the spirits of their ancestors return to our world to visit their living relatives during the week of Obon in August. For centuries, hanging paper lanterns have been used in the OBon Festival to guide their ancestors’ spirits back home. The OBon Festival is a major event lasting three days when most Japanese travel back to their original home to be with their parents and grandparents. They visit the graves of their ancestors to honour them, express gratitude and pray for them.

On the third day, floating lanterns with the names of their departed loved ones are floated on a river that runs into the sea, symbolically to send their ancestors’ spirits back to the ocean, or to the shore on the other side – the Pure Land.

Lantern floating in Milton Keynes

Lantern floating has become a significant part of many Buddhist services, for example, the Buddhist event to remember and pray for the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (6th and 8th August 1945) and to pray for future peace and harmony. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, this service was brought to the UK and held annually in August at the Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda and Japanese Buddhist Temple at Willen Park and lakes, Milton Keynes. It was an inter-faith service and hundreds of lanterns were floated in the evening. See accompanying pictures.

Shinnyoen

Another Buddhist sect, Shinnyoen, has played a prominent part in taking Lantern Floating to other countries outside Japan. Shinnyoen was founded in Tachigawa near Tokyo in the 1930s by Kyoshu Shinjo Ito, from humble beginnings. He and his wife (the Shinnyo Parents) floated one lantern representing the spirit of their young son who had sadly passed away, and spirits of other deceased, on a small stream in Tachikawa in 1936. In subsequent years the Shinnyo Parents held the annual lantern floating ritual on lakes, including Lake Kawaguchi near Mount Fuji, each year attracting more participants.

Lantern floating in Hawaii

In 1999, the Shinnyo Parents visited the USA, returning home via Hawaii. In Hawaii they hired a small boat to take them, with a few followers, offshore to float lanterns on the water. The lanterns bore the names of deceased loved ones, and spiritual consolation rites were conducted.

Hawaii is the site of Pearl Harbour where the US naval base was subjected to a devastating surprise attack by the Japanese in December 1941, triggering the Pacific War between the USA and Japan. The Shinnyoen Lantern Floating in Hawaii has been repeated every year since 1999 on US Memorial Day, and attendance has grown to over 50,000 people a year. Memorial Day in the USA is held on the last Monday of May to remember and honour those who died while serving in the US armed forces. The Shinnyo Lantern Floating in Hawaii has become the largest US Memorial Day event attracting participants who fly in from all over America and Japan. The event is more than just remembering those who died in the US military. The Shinnyo event is for remembrance and consolation for all who were killed or suffered in the second world war, and other wars; it is for reconciliation and to pray for peace and harmony for our future. The event includes Buddhist teachings and is watched on television by, probably, millions.

This wonderful story demonstrates how it is possible for just one person or, in this case one couple, through initiative and perseverance, can make a real difference to our world. Shinnyoen’s annual Lantern Floating in Hawaii is an inter-faith event, bringing people together to also express gratitude, love and hope. See accompanying two pictures.

Lantern floating in September 2020

Shinnyoen also started annual lantern floating festivals in Taiwan, New York and, in recent years, in the Shinnyoen Temple in Surrey. See accompanying pictures.

This year, because of Covid-19, instead of large numbers attending the weekend festival in the grounds of the Temple, there will be a limited number of visitors allowed in but viewing and participation will be available online.

How you can participate this month

The Shinnyoen UK Lantern Floating Festival 2020, always an inter-faith event, is open to anyone, online, every evening 7:00 to 8:00pm, Saturday 19th to Saturday 26th September. Simply go to the Shinnyoen Website: www.shinyoenuk.org/participating-online click on “Lantern Floating Festival” and then choose “Livestream” or “Participating Online”. You don’t need any registration or password.

This is an opportunity to share in something positive and uplifting during our time of corona virus crisis. Each evening, you can listen to a teaching and chanting, see interviews and views of the lanterns being floated on the lake. We can pray, at home together online, for peace and harmony. You can also download a template for making a miniature paper lantern and send in a message to be written, on your behalf, onto a lantern to be floated on the lake on Saturday 26th when the start time will be earlier – 6:30pm.

Also, on the Shinnyoen website, you can click onto the 3rd icon after “follow us” (bottom right) to take you to a Youtube video of the Festival 5 years ago (3 minutes 51 seconds). I recommend this video to you as it is very informative, colourful and joyful.

More pictures of the Lantern Festival can be found in the Gallery section, on our homepage.

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