Our plans to make Bhante Bodhidhamma's birthday a joyful and meaningful celebration are coming towards fruition as the 8th of January 2017 draws nearer. It’s great that so many people have contacted us, saying that they want to be involved.
We all want to share this opportunity to show our appreciation and gratitude for the help he gives with meditation, for teaching the Dhamma in his own wonderfully unique and accessible way and for Satipanya Buddhist Retreat, a peaceful refuge where we can meditate in supportive conditions.
You can find our plans, which have been approved by the Satipanya Buddhist Trust, by clicking here.
Miki Dejima, one of Bhante’s students lives in the area of the two great temples and she will organise for Bhante and his traveling companion Carl Fooks a country or coastal walk, a trip to Eiheiji temple and a weekend retreat at Soji-ji temple where they will practice with the monks. She wrote the following:
I'm Miki. I came to Satipanya and met Bhante in 2009 for the first time. I remember, towards the end of my stay, there was a ceremony and a celebration for the Bodhisattva statue which was very heart warming. In my experience of Vipassana with Bhante, I was so amazed to find how the mind functions and operates, even though it was just a tiny glimpse. Since then, I have joined a retreat twice at Satipanya, so I'm quite new to this practice. However, each time, like many of you, I am much helped, supported and inspired (with his sense of humour as well!) So I am happy to have this opportunity to receive Bhante and Carl to Kanazawa where I live as a part of their Pilgrimage. As you know, we (Japanese) can be very crazy time at times, so I'm looking forward to seeing their reactions (if they still have such a thing!) and to hear their feedback.
Kanazawa is my home town 260km from Kyoto (490km from Tokyo). There are two main temples of the Soto Zen tradition; Eiheiji and Sojiji. Kanazawa is located in the middle of those two temples, so it is a convenient place to be included in the pilgrimage. Spring comes to this region much later than in Kyoto and Tokyo so Bhante and Carl might be welcomed by cherry blossoms when they come in mid-April.
Kanazawa is a middle sized city (460,000 people) on the central west coast of Japan, facing China and Korea. It escaped fire-bombing during WW2 so the old part of the city was preserved from the middle ages, the Samurai period. There are the remains of a castle as well which belonged to Lord Maeda of this region who was very rich, second only to Shogun for a long time. There is a famous garden belonging to this castle which is considered to be one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. This region is well known for traditional art crafts, fresh sea food, good sake (rice wine. Sorry, not for Bhante and Carl.) and hot springs. Some of you who are familiar with Japanese zen might have heard the names Daisetsu Suzuki and Kitaro Nishida, Kanazawa is also the hometown for these two.
Eihei-ji is the Soto zen temple founded by Dogen in 1244, still functioning as a monastic training center hosting 200-250 monks on its ground and famous for their strict training with hitting sticks (kyosaku!). Now many people visit this temple throughout the year, but in Dogen's time, it must have been a very quiet place for a very small number of monks practicing, far away from the hustle and bustle of the world with heavy snow in winter and surrounded by beautiful nature with mountains.
The Soto zen school has two headquarters, one is Eihei-ji and the other, Sojiji. Sojiji was founded by one of the students of Dogen in 1321. Having support from the Emperor at that time, it was one of the most important Zen temples in Japan. Sojiji moved to Tokyo in 1911, after the great fire. Since then this temple has been called Sojij-soin, which means "Grandpa Sojiji". Some buildings did survive the great fire and somehow the atmosphere was preserved from the old days. I visited this temple when very young, I still remember its quietness and serenity which was striking to my heart. Located in a beautiful remote region of the Noto Peninsula, it's a training centre and a home for about 30 monastics.
The sculptor Mr Lu, who works for the company DZ Sculpture in China, has completed the Paranibbana Buddha statue, the birthday present for Bhante to lay peacefully by the pond at Satipanya. Here it is:
First of all Mr Lu created a clay model of the statue for us to approve before he began working on the real statue (above) which he made out of granite.
We all immediately loved the face of the clay model which we feel beautifully captures that the Buddha was very much awake and peaceful as he was dying. We only asked for some minor adjustments. (The original clay model looked like it had trousers on and we asked for them to be changed to the traditional robes and we also asked for the size of the feet to be reduced as we thought they looked a bit chubby.)
We feel that the clay model is exceptionally beautiful and although the granite one is lovely, we feel that it looks like the Buddha is asleep rather than awake and peaceful as he is dying.
We feel that one of the main things about the clay model which conveys tranquillity and awareness is the slight hint of a smile. Mr Lu already made one small adjustment to the mouth but we asked if he could change it again to create a subtle smile.
The smile adjusted
We all felt that the new smile was a definite improvement to the face but we are disappointed that it still doesn't come close to the outstanding beauty of the model. We even asked if they might be able to sell our statue on the internet and if Mr Lu would consider starting again with our statue. We said that we were prepared to wait. They replied by assuring us that Mr Lu is able to keep adjusting it until we are satisfied. We all very much hope that Mr Lu is able to adjust it so it resembles the model much more closely.
As the Paranibbana Buddha statue will not be ready in time for Bhante’s birthday on the 8th of January we are planning to give him with a very small Paranibbana Buddha, as an extra surprise.
Richard’s son Simon, who has just been traveling in Sri Lanka, posted this for us to present to Bhante as a symbol of the life sized one that we hope that he will receive by the end of January or by February. Thank you Simon, it’s really lovely!
All together we have received 128 cards! There is a wonderful assortment of expressions of heartfelt devotion, photos from Bhante’s life, poetry, humour and pictorial illustrations of Dhamma teachings. There’s some wonderfully creative people in the Satipanya Sangha!
Some of us got together recently to find the best way to put everyone’s contributions together.
We will now have 2 Birthday books, one for the cards made in portrait and the other for the cards made in landscape.
The front cover of one of the Birthday Books will display Dea’s wonderful painting of a cherry blossom that we have been using as our logo.
We don’t have an idea yet for the front cover of the other Birthday Book so if anyone has a creative idea for this or would like to do it we would be happy to hear from you.
Most of the cards will be bound into the two Birthday Books but others which don’t have the 25mm margin at the top or the side for binding will go into a wooden presentation box.
Here are two sets of cards being made by people from the Insight Meditation group in Dublin. One illustrates the Wheel of Dependent Origination (based on the life cycle of the dandelion!) and the other illustrates the Six Sense Spheres. The groups had good fun putting the cards together and enjoyed the challenge of working out how to illustrate these teachings. All in all they feel it was a very worthwhile undertaking, and hope Bhante will appreciate the result.
And the wonderfully talented Gillian from Kilkenny has created this truly beautiful piece.
We have also received some excellent humorous cards.
Emily from Manchester made this very funny card, teasing Bhante about one of the things that he dislikes the most- mole hills on the paddock!
Bob O’ Cathail has created these very funny cartoon caricature pieces on behalf of the County Kerry Group.
These are just a small sample - there are so many other lovely cards – we couldn’t show them all. But we’re planning to display them during the first hour or so of the Live Broadcast, before Bhante’s dhamma talk. So tune in then – we’ll send email to confirm the starting time.
In the West, Buddhism has a bad reputation for celebration and it’s easy to think that we should disdain worldly occasions such as birthdays. Why celebrate life, when we know it’s all going to end in decay and death?
But joy is very central to the Buddha’s teaching. It’s one of the factors of enlightenment – the joy of knowing we’re following a path to truth. Joy is also one of the four Brahma Viharas. These are the attitudes the Buddha wants us to cultivate when we relate to one another and to the world: goodwill (metta), compassion, appreciative joy (mudita) and equanimity.
Mudita arises when we are touched by the beauty of life – seeing children playing, watching a football match, or, on Jan 8th, getting together for Bhante’s 70th birthday. Wherever there is something to celebrate, mudita lets us appreciate the situation and be glad for everyone involved. It is a lovely practice – to be happy because others are happy. So we are multiplying happiness – spreading it around, infecting one another with happiness - for once we have a good virus!
But it can also be a bit confusing! We have the teaching on dukkha (suffering) which asks us to recognise that there is nothing in this world we can rely upon for true happiness. To practice mudita, we are to rejoice in our connection with this unsatisfactory world. We are to be glad for all the beauty of the world and the support it offers us, knowing these can’t last for more than a moment. It can be quite poignant. This is why mudita can be quite a challenging Brahma Vihara. It needs heroism to rejoice in what is dying away in front of our eyes.
To fortify ourselves, we remember how deeply we need the good things in life. Gratitude softens our hearts, supports our heroic attempts to rejoice in the face of death. Bhante’s birthday gives us a chance to thank him for the way he has made the dhamma come alive for us. And it gives us an opportunity to practice mudita, wishing Bhante happiness and letting ourselves be happy too – just to keep him company for the day!
Mudita is our natural, inherent ability to feel happy for another person’s good fortune and to share in their joy. Joy which is shared develops and increases! Mudita lifts our minds out of selfish preoccupations and grasping so that the spiritual qualities of joy, gratitude and generosity nourish the heart and help us to connect with one another with joy and happiness. Mudita is an antidote to all negative and constricting states of mind, especially jealousy and envy. The Dalai Lama calls the Brama Viharas our spiritual birth-right . He says ‘It is important to understand how much our own happiness is linked to that of others. There is no individual happiness totally independent on of others’
On Bhante’s Birthday 8th January 2017, Bhante will be giving a Dhamma talk which will be broadcast live from Satipanya on the internet. He will also join with as many of the various Satipanya satellite groups as possible via Skype. We want to invite everyone to meet with their main meditation group on that day, to join with us together on Skype and tune into the live broadcast.
Four of Satipanya's regional support groups have given us their Skype details and we hope Bhante will be able to connect up with them on the day. These groups are from Brighton, Dublin, Kerry and Cardiff. A few people are also hoping to get together in Manchester and we also hope to join with them on Skype. A number of individuals have also given us their Skype names and we hope Bhante will be able to contact them on Skype too. There will also be a group meditating together in Liverpool, but so far none of them feel confident about using Skype so we might not be able to say hello to them on the day but great to know they will be with us in spirit. Also if anyone feels that they would like to do a trial run with using Skype before the big day we would be happy to do this.
So far all everyone that has contacted us with their Skype names has been from the UK and Ireland and so we very much want to encourage our Dhamma friends on the continent to join us on the day as well.
If there are any groups or individuals planning to meditate on the day do please let us know and give us a Skype name if they would also like to connect with Bhante for a few minutes in the afternoon.
Cards from the Birthday Books will also be displayed on the live broadcast with a recording of Mark reading some of the poems and messages.
We're doing amazingly well with donations as so far we have reached.....
We want to thank everyone who has been so generous!
It has been estimated that the cost of Bhante’s pilgrimage to Japan will cost £1500 including the flight.
The cost of the statue is approximately £1,726, as the sculptor needed to create a model of the statue using a cheaper material before he went on to create the real thing. Shipping the statue will cost at least £500. Additional costs include the plinth which will be built to hold the statue, and finishing the sides of the plinth in the ‘dry-stone-wall’ style used in the stupa. The air time for the live broadcast on Bhante’s birthday, 8th January 2017 will cost approximately £200, but thanks to Charles and Heather Micro Video Ltd in Shrewsbury the broadcasting will be free. ..
Donations which surpass the cost of the birthday plans will go to Satipanya Buddhist Trust. Bhante will be delighted as this can all go to the cost of the new dormitory building. As you probably read in Bhante’s last 2 news Bytes, The Trust is putting out a special appeal so that 'green energy’ and glazing can be included in the project so as to avail of the Zero-VAT rating that goes with a new build. So it will be a very welcome birthday surprise when he hears that our gift to him also includes a substantial donation towards the new dormitory block.
So we would like to encourage you to join the celebration in the spirit of generosity and appreciation. Mark 8th January 2017 in your diary, get together with your local Meditation Group on that day if you can and join with us on Skype and tune into the live broadcast.
If as many of us as possible can meditate together then it will surely make Bhante’s 70th birthday a wonderfully special occasion.
Many thanks for your unique expressions of creativity and Dhamma and good wishes for Bhante’s birthday book. He will surely be delighted with it and treasure for years to come.
Thank you also for your kindly offered financial gifts towards the cost of Bhante’s pilgrimage to Japan next year, the Parinibbana Buddha statue, the costs of the celebration and a contribution towards the new dormitory building.
Please go to the website for more information and to donate and many, many thanks.
With warmest dhamma wishes to you all,
Noirin, Richard, Dea, Rob, Mark, Nick and Sarah