The Last Days of the Buddha

Jenny Roberts writes about the story of the Buddha’s passing as told in the Maha Parinibbana Sutta of the Pali Canon. The fifteenth of February was Parinirvana Day, an important festival when Buddhists everywhere celebrate the death of the Buddha. And to mark the occasion there were special pujas all over the Triratna worldwide sangha – including at Leeds (and at Tiratanaloka where I happened to be at the time.) This isn’t, as some might assume, a time for sadness. On the contrary it is a day of great celebration, for it marks the occasion when the Buddha’s Enlightenment found its full fruition. According to Vishvapani, who wrote Gautama Buddha, Parinirvana means complete or final Enlightenment  or, perhaps better, Final Nirvana. Yet grief was present at the time, particularly among his Sangha, for whom it was the greatest experience in their history. And in some ways, to hear the story of the Buddha’s last days, is also to remember Ananda, his faithful attendant who memorised all of his teachings. The two men had shared their lives for twenty-five years and would have understood each other instinctively. And here, in this sutta, without intending it, Ananda with his constant queries, worries, and amazements, becomes a central figure beside the Buddha himself. According to the Maha Parinibbana Sutta, Sakyamuni was eighty years old when he became ill and announced that his Parinibbana would occur in just three months. It was a time of political unrest, with the very real prospect of war, when the Buddha set off on a final journey across Northern India. “Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged,... Read more

Recipe – ‘Sausage’ & Bean Shepherd’s Pie

This is my mouth-wateringly vegan variation of the good old English favourite, the shepherd’s pie. But for the protein and bulk, this version is using Linda Mac sausages, and borlotti beans – fast becoming my favourite legume. Serve with green vegetables of your choice, or else a freshly chopped green salad. INGREDIENTS 1 400g (14 oz) tin borlotti beans 3 Tbsp tomato paste 1 cup (8 oz) tomato pulp 1 onion, very finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped salt to taste ½ tsp stevia, or other sweetener of your choice a little water around 5 vegan sausages, fried or grilled, then cut into slices and set aside (I used Linda McCartney) 1 cup vegan cheese (optional) olive oil for frying Mashed potatoes,for topping (she uses instant mash!!!) METHOD Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC) Fry the onions and garlic, then add the tomato paste, and the beans, and stir. Next, add a little bit of water, the salt, tomato pulp, and your sweetener, and cook until thick, but not too thick. Place bean and tomato mix in an ovenproof dish. Add the grated ‘cheese’ on top of the bean mix, and the cooked sausages on top of this. Your final layer is your mash – so spoon it on top, and then place in pre-heated hot oven (put a spoon of marg. in the centre, it will melt and make the potatoes golden). The dish is ready when the mashed potatoes are nicely golden on top. Serve and enjoy! Read more

Recipe – Chickpea and potato curry

This is a nice, classic vegetarian curry that can be put together quickly, as long as you have the spices in stock in your kitchen cupboard. Sarah says, “I keep the red chilli whole in order to provide a mild ‘heat’. It’s easy to remove once the sauce is hot enough.” Chickpea and potato curry Ingredients 1 large onion, chopped 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed 2 heaped tablespoons of coarsely grated fresh ginger 1 baking potato, cubed Oil (olive or sunflower), about 1 or 2 tablespoons I tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 2 heaped teaspoons of ground cumin 2 heaped teaspoons of ground coriander 1 heaped teaspoon of mild curry powder 1 whole red chilli, kept whole and washed Half a veggie stock cube Ground black pepper Fresh coriander, chopped Method Sauté the onion for a few minutes in the oil, then add the garlic, ginger and potato and continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Add the spices and cook another minute or two. Add enough water to help scrape off any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan and to provide enough sauce. Add the chickpeas and gently simmer for 10 mins or so and the potato is cooked. Serve with rice. Sarah... Read more

Meeting the Buddha – Dedicated to Rosemary on her Going Forth

Samanartha writes: This article is based on a talk I gave to celebrate Rosemary’s leaving for her Ordination retreat. In it I’ve tried to evoke, if somewhat briefly, some of the myth and hence the importance of what she has embarked on.  Firstly, what do we mean by ‘the mythic’ or ‘myth’? In a Buddhist context we don’t use the term ‘myth’ in the sense of something not being true. Instead, the mythic is something like a deeply held belief, story, or organising principle that creates a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. These myths are not ones in which we are observers but are something that we participate in and actively live out. For example, I’m a great uncle and when visiting my family recently I could see that living out the myth of the family is very important to them. It carries a strong sense of purpose and even of meaning for the people involved and is something that is obviously lived out. This, of course, is fully supported by society and is a very strong myth indeed. For some people, however, to only live out these common myths – such as those of the career or the family – seems lacking and unsatisfying in some way. And this propels some people to begin a search, a quest for something else, something that may include the myths of the career and family but is ultimately a vastly bigger myth. It is this quest for greater meaning that explains why many people arrive on the shores of Leeds Buddhist Centre. “In a way the Buddhist path... Read more

An Eccentric Buddhist from the 17th Century 

Sangharakshita considered 17th century monk Ekaku Hakuin – one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism – to be one of his most important teachers. Mandy takes a closer look at this interesting, eccentric and artistic figure to see how he influences our practices today. Two main schools of Zen exist in Japan: Rinzai and Soto. The main difference between Rinzai and Soto is that Rinzai practitioners regard enlightenment as something that comes suddenly. Soto (which coined our practice of ‘just sitting’) sees enlightenment as a gradual dawning. Hakuin revived the Rinzai school, which had gradually declined since its beginnings in the 9th century. Hakuin became a Buddhist monk when he was very young. He’d attended a terrifying lecture by a Nichiren monk about the Eight Hot Hells and decided that becoming a monk was the only way to escape them. When he was nineteen, however, he read the story of a Chinese Ch’an master’s brutal murder by bandits and was very upset to realise that even a great monk couldn’t be saved from a bloody death in this life. So he gave up the monastic life. Not wanting to return home in shame, he travelled around Japan studying literature and poetry. But while studying with the poet-monk Bao, he had an experience that put him back on course. Struck by piles of books put out in the temple courtyard, books from many differing schools of Buddhism, he prayed to the gods of the Dharma to help him choose a path. Then he picked a book at random. It was a collection of Zen stories, and he dedicated himself... Read more

Eastern Philosophy & Western Art

In Phillippa Plock, Leeds Buddhist Centre has an Art History expert in its midsts! In this article she explores two books that have had a positive impact on her Dharma practice. For keen eyes that regularly scan the library shelves, you may have noticed recently the addition of two books in the art section: Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art From Monet to Today by Jacquelynn Baas and The Sight of Death by T. J. Clark. I have donated these to the Centre, and I’ve also sent copies to Adhisthana for their library, and I wanted to write a short article explaining why I decided to do this. I was prompted to donate the books after reading Sangharakshita’s books The Religion of Art and In the Realm of the Lotus. Like these books, the two books I have donated have been really inspiring for me in thinking about how to bring together my love of Western art – I have been lucky enough to study art history to PhD level and continue to work with art in my job – and my Buddhist practice, and I wanted to share them with the Leeds sangha. It was my love of western art that made me receptive to Sangharakshita’s writing about the Buddha  I’ll start by explaining why I like the book by Jacquelynn Baas, The Smile of the Buddha. I found this book a couple of years ago when I was searching for books to do with how Western thinkers who had come into contact with Buddhist ideas (like Jung) may have influenced 20th century artistic culture.... Read more