September Newsbyte

September NEWSBYTE 2023

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All Past Tips


For calendar and assistant opportunities, see below.

Tip o' the Day

The Danger of Nihilism


Bhante Bodhidhamma
see below

(Difficulty reading text? Press Ctrl +)

Climate and Dhamma Conversations  
See below for September Session
*******

­ Fifteenth Anniversary and Sangha Celebration
Saturday16 September
Please bring veggie food to share at  Noon Meal
Ceremony starts 13.30

Talk : Refuges and Precepts : Procession
Let us know you are coming:  [email protected]

Day Retreat
Saturday 24 September
Mark Arthur
Arrive 09.30. Finish 17.00

PLEASE NOTE
We have taken away all time restrictions for course applications.
You can apply any time, but please only do so when you are certain.

Diary

We are back to that time of year we have to cut the meadows. Happily, we have a neighbour who will take it this year and has gone to the trouble of organising the cut. It's difficult to get small fields cut these days because farm machinery is more and more geared to large fields with, of course, the consequent loss of hedgerows. 

Last year I put a lot of concrete aggregate on the top paths. It seems to have done the trick. Where once they were were quickly turned to mud in rain, the grass that has grown over them has held it firm. I mean in time to spread the aggregate all along the paths of the top meadow. This should help the water drain off. 

There seems to be far more insects this year and we had the moorhens back with three chicks. I haven't seen them for quite sometime so they may have gone on to  fresher waters.

Noirin had an unfortunate start to her month of teaching. Two came down with Covid. So it looks as thought the Covid/Flu season has started early.  Alarm or is it panic ?

I'm unable to go and teach Mudita in Sitzerland this month because I still have difficulty walking with sciatica. The benefit is that the centre will set up a Zoom and Tisara will translate for me. 

Announcements


Northwest area Satipanya Sangha: Anyone living in the northwest, particularly in Chester, Manchester, Liverpool and surrounding areas who would like to explore options for practicing together please contact Martin Ratcliffe who hopes to form a local group.

Regular Online Meetings:

Meditation Hall on Zoom:  Join us for your daily meditation - 06.00, 09.00, 14.00, 16.00 and 20.00 sits.  Info.

Satipanya Spiritual Companions:  An informal meditation group meets on a monthly basis via Zoom for a full day of meditation. Email Magda for details at  [email protected]

Zoom Study Group: 
This collaborative study group has evolved out of the fortnightly London and South East Satipanya Saṅgha which has been meeting via Zoom since the beginning of the Covid outbreak.  We are currently studying the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta , as set out by Joseph Goldstein in his 46 part discussion on the Dharma Seed site and in his book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening . We intend to continue this group on Zoom and warmly extend an invitation to any practitioner who would like to join us. Currently meeting on the second and fourth Sundays of each month at 10:30am - midday. Please contact [email protected] for further information. (By the way, please try again if you've emailed to attend and haven't received anything back, Carl has been particularly busy lately.)

Full Moon Celebrations:  Join 20.00 to 21.00 on the Sunday closest to the Full Moon. Bhante gives a short dhamma talk, followed by a 30-min sitting, refuges and precepts and we end by reading and chanting the metta sutta.  For date of next Celebration.   
 
Opening to the Impact of the Climate Emergency:   Following on from the Zoom with Gwen Sanderson and Bhante Bodhidhamma in September last year, there are two options for ongoing engagement:
  • Gwen Sanderson is facilitating monthly Climate and Dhamma Conversations which are held using Zoom . Email Gwen for further information or to register. 
  • Noirin Sheahan has set up a Satipanya Forum focussing on the Six Maxims (ethical training to prepare for the social and environmental consequences of climate change - see tip below). Contact Noirin for further info or to register.  

Karuna Book: Every morning at puja we call the names of those who are sick or dying, or are having a hard time.

Mudita Book: Every evening at puja we call the names of those who have something to rejoice.

Satipanya Courses

Coronavirus: Requirements for visiting Satipanya.

We are asking everyone to take an antigen test before setting out in their journey to Satipanya and not to come if the test is positive.

Vipassana as taught by the Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma

The Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma, one of the most influential vipassana insight meditation teachers of the last century, developed techniques to help us maintain moment to moment mindfulness from the instant we awake to the instant we fall asleep.

This leads not only to spiritual insights into our true, unborn-undying essence, but also, equally important, to the purification of the heart. So that we not only become wiser but more caring, generous, joyous and compassionate.

Applying the techniques on this retreat we follow a robust schedule, but meditators can modulate their practice to fit their level of experience, even absolute beginners. The accent is on relaxation and curiosity, rather than striving and concentration. And regular teacher contact, daily Q&A and personal interviews ensures students are supported throughout.

The retreat ends with advice on how to bring the practice into ordinary daily life to enhance our relationships and give spiritual meaning to our work and everyday tasks.

Assistants Needed

N.B. All the courses are serviced by assistants.

As assistant you have the opportunity to serve others. It can be a way of expressing gratitude for the gift of Dhamma. Although the morning is mainly taken up with breakfast preparation and cooking, the rest of day is for practice.

You can see the menus here (PDF).

As an assistant, we do not expect payment of the deposit or make a donation because you have kindly offered your time.

However, your commitment is essential, for the course would be very difficult to run without an assistant and may indeed have to be cancelled.

If you are interested, follow this link: Course Assistant

For info. about retreats and teachers see website: www.satipanya.org.uk
See drop down menus: especially About Us, Teachings and Retreats

Would you like to come and assist on a course?

See calendar on website for up-to-date assistant need.

Satipanya Calendar 2023

PLEASE NOTE
We have taken away all time restrictions on when you can apply for a course.
You can apply any time, but please only when you are certain.

Bhante's Away Calendar

The Danger of Nihilism

Bhante Bodhidhamma

We are now well into post-truth where it seems there are always ‘alternative facts’. We simply don’t know who are the interested parties giving out the news, or we do know but we don’t know which one to believe. Even when we do know which one we believe, we know there is bias. So, we can never be certain we have enough true information to make an informed decision. This has now become virtually impossible with Generative AI, such as ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer), able to produce an endless stream of concocted images, videos, script and conversation, mimicking human intelligence, yet without an iota of sentiment or wisdom. This can lead to a blind acceptance of anything which fits into our own bias or a healthy scepticism. [i]
 
Another reaction would be to say, ‘I can’t verify anything so I’ll believe in nothing.’ This takes us towards Nihilism - A theory promoting the state of believing in nothing, or of having no allegiances and no purposes.  OED. In other words, this lack of assurance can produce in us a lack of self-confidence and stultifies us into doing nothing. When a person finds themselves in this position it can be very disorienting. The ground upon which the understanding of life, morality, politics and social relationships simply disappears.
 
When I left Roman Catholicism, I entered into a phase of this sort of nihilism. Everything I had been taught about God and religion, the purpose of life, seemed so much fantasy. I felt lost and yet coming to terms with a loss of spiritual certainty was strangely reassuring. (I was young, 21!) It made me come face to face with death which makes the whole of life seem a joke. I found a home in Existentialism and especially the work of Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus) who said life had no ultimate purpose and was basically meaningless, yet we should try to make the best of it.
 
This would have been described by the philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, as an ‘active nihilism’ where we do away with what we do not believe in, but then seek a solution. Morally we decide for ourselves what is virtue and what is vice. Politically, we decide what is needed. As active nihilists, we will be driven to change all institutions, media outlets, political and social structures that we no longer see as fit for purpose. It gets very close to Anarchism which wants to replace any formal and hierarchical structures, with individual actions and voluntary associations. These days such a political, social and economic theory is best represented by Libertarianism [ii] . The danger, of course, is that we are presuming that our own wisdom is more insightful than any other. Just because a group of us agrees does not make it necessarily right. I/we are right, so everyone else must be wrong!
 
It is easier to put aside one’s disbelief and just run with the crowd. Or not care and become apathetic about the way things are. We might find ourselves taking such positions when it comes to the connection between Neoliberalism and Climate Crisis. Neoliberalism based on the attitudes of greed and competition, is the driving force behind the industries and investment that support climate crisis. No viable alternative seems to be in the offing. Not believing there is a solution we lose hope and do nothing. This is what Nietzsche termed ‘passive nihilism’. We would then be living our lives in bad faith [iii] , betraying our ability to act according to our conscience, no matter how small the act. We may find ourselves in a similar situation in the polycrisis that threatens us.
 
One of the qualities of the Dhamma that attracts people is that the teaching is put to us as something to investigate to find out if it is true for ourselves. There is no compulsion to believe. In fact, to believe would undermine the desire to investigate and so render impossible the liberation that comes from realising the truth for ourselves. We are responsible for our own awakening. In this way the Buddhadhamma, since we are embedded in society, becomes an expression of an ethic of personal responsibility which reaches out to others.
 
This naturally leads to engagement in society in whatever way we can at all levels – social, economic and political.  The Buddha had much to say about establishing an equitable society. He talked about the qualities of kingship and false assertions supporting the caste system. The Buddha, as our exemplar, had to deal with many political situations. He was no stranger to kings and their machinations. By his subtle advice, for instance, he prevented the new King Ajatasattu of Magadha from invading the democratic Vajji Confederacy.
 
Such a perspective demands freedom of expression and the right to make one’s views known and have some weight by voting. But equally important is the right to truthful corporations, truthful reporting, truthful politicians. Otherwise, it is not possible for a democracy to function and the way is open to demagogues with easy answers.
 
If we find we may have fallen into error of Nihilism and want to re-engage, for that is what the Dhamma asks of us, we can stimulate a more positive mind-set by developing compassion. This is similar to the practice of Mettā, using a few phrases and offering them to ourselves and to all the categories until we offer our compassion to all beings in all directions. For example:
 
First some phrase to captivate the state we are in:

The world is in a dangerous place.
The misery from many causes is mounting.
May I develop the forgiving, patient and caring attitude to engage
and do what I can for the benefit of others.
(It doesn’t have to be so long-winded!)

 
If this is all we can do, it is enough. Our mindset will affect the way we meet with others.

This TEDx presentation by Nolen Gertz, a philosopher who has written widely on Nihilism [iv] , points to the subtle ways this nihilistic attitude expresses itself.

Just came across this article by Naomi Klein 

 
[ii] Libertarianism believes  that people  should be free  to think  and behave  as they want  and should not have limits  put on them by  g overnments .
[iii] In the philosophy of existentialism,  bad faith  ( mauvaise foi ) is the psychological phenomenon whereby individuals act inauthentically, by yielding to the external pressures of society to adopt false values and disown their innate freedom as sentient human beings. [1] The same can be said when we opt out of engaging in society. (My comment.)
[iv] For further introduction, see Nolen Gertz essay Nihilism . He has also a written book with the same title.

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Many thanks.

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Metta
Onward
Bodhidhamma

SATIPANYA  BUDDHIST TRUST
www.satipanya.org.uk
Directors  Jim Tibby  Richard Benjamin  Noirin Sheahan  Mike Regan  Gwen Sanderson
Limited Company Number  05924965  Registered Charity Number  1116668
Satipanya Buddhist Trust Satipanya White Gritt, Minsterley Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY5 0JN United Kingdom
T:  +44 (0)1588 650752
info:  [email protected]

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