http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... August 5, 2003


In This Issue:

1. Purer Instinct: Ethical Sensibility ...by Vidyadevi
2. All Embacing Urge
...by Srimati
3. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
Amida Trust
4. Book / Movie Review: Brother Sun, Sister Moon
(Movie-1973) ...The Life and Times of St. Francis of Assisi


1. Purer Instinct: Ethical Sensibility ...by Vidyadevi


Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an Instant's truce between virtue and vice. (Henry Thoreau)

For as long as I can remember I have been haunted by the terrible gap between who I would like to be and who I am. To mark the occasion when I first made a formal commitment to the Buddhist path, a friend gave me a reproduction of William Blake's painting, 'The Good And Evil Angels Battling For Possession Of A Child'. It seemed apt. I had learnt by then that the Buddhist conception of ethical life, expressed in its precepts or training principles', involved neither fear of authority nor hope of divine grace, but an awareness of personal responsibility; that 'actions have consequences' - for oneself, for others, for the world.

I had a dim perception that many of the dilemmas that troubled me had more to do with my concern to seem 'good' in the eyes of those upon whose approval my sense of self-worth depended than with any particular love of virtue or conviction that what I did mattered. Though, of course, the first glimmerings of that love, that conviction, were there.

'Not in the sky, nor in the midst of the sea nor yet in the clefts of the mountains, nowhere in the world (in fact) is there any place to be bound where, having entered, one can abide free froin (the consequences of) one's evil deeds' (Dhammapada)

The struggle to be 'good' was real, as I realised then and have realised more fully since. It is as though an ancient battle is to be fought again on the field of one's life, the archetypal struggle of light against darkness, whose secret skirmishes show themselves daily in the small choices one makes, and the things one does without ever realising that a choice has been made. Buddhism is popularly believed to offer a path of personal choice - this is what makes it so appealing - and it is true that it does. But the consequences of our choices, and the difficulty of choosing wisely, are not to be underestimated.

The Dhammapada, one of the earliest Buddhist texts, speaks the uncompromising language of good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, heaven and hell. It is made utterly clear that there are ethical lines to be drawn, that it matters very much where they are drawn, and that we ourselves must decide where to draw them.

I have wanted to shrink away from a literal understanding of the hells described - no less luridly than in the hellfire-and-brimstone sermons of my Methodist youth - in Buddhist tradition; and the thought that Buddhist hells are impermanent rather than eternal is not much comfort. I prefer a more psychological reading of the states of heaven and hell - the perception that, as the poet John Milton says,

'The mind is its own place, and of itself

Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven'.

That leaves me with the sobering truth that my mind, my heart, is 'where all the ladders start', in WB Yeats' phrase.

'It is important to be sure within oneself whether one is really leading a moral life or just respecting the prejudice of the group within which one happens to be.' (Sangharakshita)

'In order to be the person I want to be, I must strive, hourly, against the drag of the others. (Mary Oliver, 'Sand Dabs Four')

The precepts the Buddha taught fractalled even during his lifetime into hundreds of rules dealing with the minutiae of behaviour, a kind of Buddhist case law. Perhaps it is easier to live by rules than to have the responsibility of deciding for oneself the ethical status of one's actions, but the point of any guidelines or precepts is to give us a feeling for how to live a life that is inevitably unprecedented. All our lives we are preparing to deal with circumstances which have not happened and which are different - even if subtly - from anything previously experienced.

Occasionally, of course, this is true in the extreme. I sometimes wonder how I would respond if I suddenly found myself a refugee, or the target of religious persecution, or the victim or even the perpetrator of war - or in the position of giving my life to save a friend. If I think none of these is likely to happen, I then realise that probably those who find themselves in such circumstances didn't expect it either. And, of course, we are all in the position of knowing that sooner or later we will have to face the unknown, however predictable, circumstance of our own death.

'I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us, and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honouring one thing, or a few things, and closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves - we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other's destiny.' (Mary Oliver, 'Winter Hours')

Any attempt to live ethically is made in the dark. Try to trace the significance of a course of action and you are lost in a cloud of ignorance almost straightaway. This is true of our choices as consumers - more and more so in the context of globalisation - and as lovers, parents, friends and workers. Every day we make thousands of decisions: what to say, what to buy, even what to wear, at whose effects we can only guess. We can think of the statement 'actions have consequences', which seems rather abstract and impersonal, in more immediate terms: 'what I do matters'. But it still doesn't always feel that way. It is even natural to believe the opposite: 'what I do doesn't matter'.

This is especially true when one tries to connect with the ethical issues affecting the global community. More than ever we need to learn how to choose wisely in every area of life: ecology, economics, technology, medicine. I was horrified to hear on the radio a scientist confidently stating that with the knowledge of technological advances would come the wisdom to know how to use them. How naive. Ethical dilemmas are becoming increasingly complex, and without clear thinking, honesty about motivations, and willingness to look beyond short-term interests, we will not survive, the earth will not survive.

Buddhism surely has a part to play in developing a sense of responsibility that has nothing to do with belief in God but everything to do with what, as human beings, we are capable of. Even the decisions of nations - perhaps more to the point, multinationals - depend on personal ethical sensibility. And our own efforts, small though they may seem, do - we have to believe - make a difference.

We know this. How can we learn to feel it? And how do we decide what to do when we feel it? One could say that the purpose of ethical precepts is to help us to cultivate this instinct for what to do, and especially to distinguish that instinct from all the other promptings that influence us consciously or unconsciously. In my personal mish-mash of longings, good intentions, rationalisations, fears, injunctions, ideas, impulses and intuitions, what can I trust to give me a true sense of direction? I want to call this feeling 'ethical sensibility'. The relevant definitions of sensibility here would be 'capacity for refined emotion', and, 'readiness to feel compassion for suffering'.

'If you do not as yet see beauty within you, do as the sculptor of the statue that is to be beautified. He cuts here, he smooths there, he makes this line lighter, that one purer, until he disengages beautiful lineaments in the marble. Cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast. Never cease working until there shines out from you the divine sheen of virtue and goodness.' (Plotinus, 'On Beauty')

An ethical sensibility includes the attributes of an increasingly refined and subtle consciousness: an aesthetic sense, awareness, scrupulousness, refinement, sensitivity, purity, clarity, grace. And conscience. The Abhidharmists (who could be described as the first Buddhist psychologists) identified a quality they called hri as a natural aspect of any wholly positive state of mind. It literally means 'to blush' and is translated as 'a sense of shame'. 'self-respect', or most simply, 'conscience'. Hri protects us from doing harm by reminding us that to act in this way would not be in accordance with our fundamental desire for happiness and our natural solidarity with other beings.

When it is transparent enough the light of wisdom may shine through this clear and refined mind - a clear conscience, one might say. Such a mind, such a heart, is developed through scrupulous attention to the ethical details of one's life, and to one's mental states, as well as through confession, spiritual friendship, the arts, devotion, study, meditation and reflection.

These are the traditional lineaments of the Buddhist life, and the qualities that are developed might be described as angelic. But a life that was very angelic might not be very human. One might end up feeling distaste for the raw, less refined character of human experience. One might become so sensitive that engagement with the world simply feels too painful and ugly. One might become so scrupulous in regard to one's own behaviour as to be unforgiving and intolerant of other people's. Or one might feel so far removed from basic human experience that one could no longer connect with it. I am remembering the angels in Wim Wenders' film 'Wings of Desire', who were sensitive to the human beings around them but unable to intervene in their world or help them in any way.

There is also the possibility of complacency. Traditional Buddhist descriptions of 'heavens' and their inhabitants, the 'shining ones' (called devas and devis) suggest that one can find oneself in a refined and blissful sphere of existence through the performance of good deeds. But one is in danger - because one's state is so blissful - of relaxing the effort to be ethical, and little by little losing that blissful experience and crashing into the hellish experience of life without it.

In heaven we forget hell exists and vice-versa. To live a truly human life, we need to be aware that 'joy and pain are woven fine'. Kathleen Raine, discussing William Blake's illustration of the good and evil angels, says that, 'The figures may illustrate an idea taken from Blake's admired spiritual master jakob Boehme, who describes the impassable barrier that divides the principles of Heaven and Hell as a 'blindness' which prevents the devils from seeing the things of Heaven, or the angels those of Hell. Even though their worlds should occupy the same place, they are in states of Being which cannot meet.' Surely one sees this happening on any city street - worlds co-existing but never meeting.

For one's refined sensibility to meet and deal creatively with an unrefined, raw and chaotic world - and with the unrefined aspects of one's own nature - one needs other qualities: understanding, imagination, generosity of spirit, the ability to act quickly and decisively, maturity, robustness, forbearance, a sense of being connected to others. These, too, are Buddhist virtues, though they are perhaps less stereotypical. They are expressed particularly forcefully through the images of the Tantric tradition and through some of the archetypal Bodhisattvas, such as Kshitigarbha who vowed to rescue beings from hell. All these human qualities, which are developed through communication, friendship, work, action and the everyday encounters of life, finally bear fruit as the enlightened quality of Compassion.

'Tenderness does not choose its own uses. It goes out to everything equally, circling rabbit and hawk. Look: in the iron bucket, a single nail, a single ruby - all the heavens and hells. They rattle in the heart and make one sound.' (Jane Hirshfield, 'Late Prayer')

'.... anukampa cannot be 'adopted' by a simple rational decision. It involves a gradual emotional realignment and must be cultivated slowly'. (Damien Keown, 'The Nature of Buddhist Ethics')

The word in the Pali language that is generally translated as compassion is anukampa, which is derived from a verb meaning to shake with, or to tremble with. Ethical sensibility involves such sympathy and solidarity with all those beings caught, as we ourselves are, in the predicaments of life.

The danger is that we will be overwhelmed by suffering. The quest for truth and beauty can seem pointless, even callous, in the face of the harsher facts of life. For me the word that combines the subtlety and refinement of the ethical sense with its open-hearted courage is tenderness. with the development of a tender conscience comes the sense that even the small things one does - thoughts as well as actions and words - really matter. At the same time one feels increasing tenderness towards all beings, and towards the world in which we live.

I feel tenderness in my hands as well as my heart. It is a felt experience that demands expression. It is the essence of metta, the loving-kindness that the Buddha described as being like the love a mother feels for her only child. We should not distance ourselves from this image. A gap can all too easily develop between reality and the metaphors used [to describe it. Perhaps for once we can allow ourselves to take something literally.

'Ultimately life cannot be lived by precept; but only by constant awareness in itself. (John Keats)

I have tried to give a sense of a sensibility that is somehow both angelic and human. I confess I am on the side of the angels. If I need to learn how to meet the darkness with courage and tenderness, I also need to live in the light, even in a world full of shadows. I think this is true for all of us. Preservation of life means nothing without a sense of what life is for - to transcend the darkness, or even the distinction between darkness and light.

I remember one morning in winter: beyond the lawn grey and white with frost, the dark loch - deep water, still air. So little movement anywhere, it is as though time is suspended. Then, briefly, a change. Over the water, so close to it they are reflected perfectly in that dark mirror, fly three white swans, necks stretched straight, wings rising and falling in unison.

Just as suddenly they are gone. But the image stays in my mind's eye. I'm on retreat; there is time to consider what things mean. For a long time I wonder what it is that has moved me so deeply. Something more than beauty. I am no visionary, but it is as though I have seen a vision.

Eventually an answer did present itself. The swans were, I thought, messengers, reminders of the threefold purity of body, speech and mind. Now, when I think of what it is to live an ethical life, I think not just of all the decisions I have to make today, and all the amends I have to make for what I foolishly did yesterday, and all my intentions for tomorrow, but of those swans. Pure whiteness, clear reflection, sureness of flight, freedom of movement, grace.

'Of course! the path to heaven doesn't lie down in flat miles. It's in the imagination with which you perceive this world, and the gestures with which you honour it. Oh. what will I do, what will I say, when those white wings touch the shore?' (Mary Oliver, 'The Swan')

2. All Embacing Urge
...by Srimati


Motherhood has opened up a new emotional realm for Srimati. But how to love wholeheartedly and continually let go is the ground of her daily practice

Against the odds and ahead of hard evidence, I instinctively knew that I was pregnant. As I lay in the bath there was something magical in the air. I found myself, hand on belly, making a heartfelt pledge in a tender whisper : "If you're there, you're welcome and I'll do my best for you." This was the beginning of the greatest love of my life. One week into my relationship with this unknown, unexpected being I was howling with an ancient grief as I bled, and feared it was over. The pain of that love had also made itself felt.

But all was well, and that feeling of love and pain gathered substance during the months of pregnancy My body surrendered more and more to its task, and love for my unborn became increasingly tangible with the growth of the life in my belly. So did the fears. Dreams of the coming birth were mostly beautiful, but my heart was full of the fragility of human life. I felt I would do anything to protect this life inside me, and yet there was so little I could do to ensure its wellbeing. That was ultimately out of my hands. Even before my child was born I was learning that maternal love means letting go.

I spent an unforgettable night bringing my son into the world. In the calm and comfortable aftermath of that struggle, I lay, stung awake by wonder, gazing at him. The blacks of his eyes shone in the dark, peacefully apprehending his new world as he lay between us, his parents, the very flesh that had created him. A few days earlier I'd dreamt I was begging a Nazi soldier not to shoot me, to give me one more week so I could see the face of my unborn child. Becoming a mother has shown me that the death of a child is the cruellest loss imaginable.

As a practising Buddhist, such strong feelings have raised many questions for me. What gives rise to such powerful and self-sacrificing maternal love? To what extent does this love help or hinder us in living a spiritual life?

Some Buddhists claim parenthood is unhelpful from a spiritual point of view, partly because it opens you up to such incredible attachment. It is generally true that the more emotionally involved you are with someone, the more you are liable to be caught in attachment. At worst this can mean limiting, insecure ways of relating, and unhealthy dependence. Attachment is difficult to recognise and can be easily rationalised as something less selfish. For a Buddhist, however, identifying and uprooting this clinging is the very heart of practice and for a Buddhist parent it is no different.

Nevertheless certain Buddhist traditions take the image of maternal love as a metaphor to describe metta, universal loving-kindness:

As a mother watches o'er her child,
Her only child, so long as she doth breathe,
So let one practise unto all that live
An all-embracing mind.

(The Metta Sutta, trans. Sangharakshita)

Parenting, especially early parenting, can seem incomparably unselfish - but is it really? What enables such incredible resources to be unstintingly roused in the service of another human being? Perhaps it is because there is cellular identity with the child, especially in the mother's case: "My child is me". There is quite a leap between this and the empathetic identification of a Bodhisattva, the embodiment of compassion, with all living beings; but it is a powerful analogy.

I have come to value the power and vitality of maternal love and motherhood has given me a depth of experience that enriches my spiritual life. I have contacted a huge reservoir of passionate love for my son such as I have never experienced before. Most parents speak of this kind of love for their children. I prefer to see parental love as a spiritual opportunity. The answer is not to back away from the strength of that love, but to dwell deeply in it; to penetrate its nature and the nature of that which you love.

As a parent you have almost no choice but to love your child passionately, and this demands that you find the same intensity of wisdom. The more your heart is open, the more you can allow any wise reflections to touch you and let them transform you.

The story of Kisa Gotami is probably my favourite from the Buddha's life. Kisa Gotami comes to the Buddha cradling her dead child. She is a little crazed, and cannot accept that her child is dead. She has heard the Buddha is a great man, a great healer, and begs him to provide medicine for her 'sick' child. The Buddha replies that he will help her. She must find a mustard seed as medicine, but there is one condition: it must come from a household that has not known death.

Kisa Gotami sets out on her quest, knocking at doors. Those who greet her are happy to give her a mustard seed, but shake their heads when they hear of the condition. "The living are few, but the dead are many" kisa Gotami cannot find a house in which no one has died, and gradually a new perspective dawns. She sees the universality of death and this allows her to acknowledge what has happened. She buries her child, returns to the Buddha, and commits herself to the spiritual life.

Kisa Gotami 'wakes up' during her quest. She sees that death and loss are universal, so she can finally grieve and let go of her child. This is a deeper engagement with life and death that sees it in a spiritual perspective. In accepting the death of her child, Kisa Gotami gains insight into the nature of human life. Obviously this is challenging ground. Kisa Gotami had the Buddha's help. But it is not that she stopped loving, just that her love was placed in a much vaster context.

"The prospect of loving every being like one's only child is awesome."

Tibetan Buddhist texts dwell on the mother-child relationship in many ways to evoke the intensity of love that human beings are capable of. The difficulty lies in transforming exclusive love into one that includes all beings. The prospect of loving every being like one's only child is awesome, but life offers glimpses of such an experience. For example when one grieves the death of a loved one, the combination of feelings arising from a personal loss, with an acknowledgement of the universality of death, can open up an intense love for all humanity.

Compassion comes with realising that all beings will one day share this moment in their own way. Similarly, dying people sometimes reach a serenity where they accept impending death and are imbued with a sublime love for their family and for life itself - as if only this fullness of love is more important and powerful than death itself.

Over the years I have thought a great deal about the nature of human love, ordinary human affection and intimacy with all its imperfections. It is this middle ground between the lofty climes of metta and the grip of unconscious attachment that I am interested in - that is where many of us stand for much of our lives.

When I first became involved in Buddhism I latched on to the notion of non-attachment because I was hurt by loss and death. I was 19 and didn't know myself well. Although fairly bright and positive on the surface, I was unconsciously on the run from painful experiences. My adolescence had ended abruptly with my father's illness and death and I had witnessed the agony my mother suffered in losing him. I felt mature beyond my years, and the world of teenage rebellion became meaningless.

So too, did my relationship with my first love, who had recently held such passion and promise for me. I had thought he was my soul-mate, the man I'd spend my life with. But my need for him melted away and I felt strangely alone. Suddenly, I found myself telling him it was over and telling my mother that I was leaving home.

Within a few months, my inner searching brought me to Glasgow Buddhist Centre, and I instantly recognised I had found the means to understand life and death that had been invisibly beckoning ever since I can remember. Although my response to the Dharma was largely sincere, I misconstrued some of what I learnt. While I rejoiced in my fortune at having come across the Buddhist path so young and unencumbered, I did not realised how much emotional backlog I had to deal with. It was during this initial phase that I developed a sort of defended pseudo-independence and fooled myself that I was free of attachments.

Fortunately meditation and spiritual friendship sorted me out. I threw myself into the spiritual life, and moved to the London Buddhist Centre where I could participate in more intensive situations for practice, and be around more experienced Buddhists. Meditating every day, living in community with other Buddhists and working in a Buddhist Right Livelihood business was like being in a hall of mirrors. Everywhere I looked, my being was reflected back. There was no escape. So the pain of what I had been running from caught up with me. It was a journey into the underworld and I came more deeply into relationship with the love and pain that had been stirred by these losses.

"Ironically, I've found that non-attachment is about loving deeply."

By fully grieving, in opening up my heart to what had happened, the psuedo-independence crumbled. I was heartbroken, and from that broken heart a bigger heart was released. I began to see that non-attachment was not about holding back, being self-contained and trying to limit the inevitable emotional damage that comes through being in relationship with people. Ironically, I've found that non-attachment is about loving deeply, letting my love flow, admitting how much friends, family and partner matter. It involves being willing to love them, give myself to them, even though we will one day be parted. There's nothing we can do to stop death, to end separation. Non-attachment means being prepared to take the pain of losing loved ones because the sheer experience of love is worth it.

My attitude to love began to change as I acknowledged the truth of impermanence, and the inevitability of the suffering implicit in loving. From feeling I made myself vulnerable by loving, I began to experience a greater robustness in my love. What did I really have to lose? I started to see love as giving rather than losing myself. Really to love I must be prepared to give everything and let go of everything. I must learn to release my love, love for its own sake, with no desire for a secure pay-off.

More than a decade later, with a partner and a four-year-old son, those ponderings have a new arena. The issues of attachment are different. I cannot choose whether or not to love my son, whether it is safe to invest emotional energy in him. It is absolutely what I must and will do. I am only beginning the journey of loving as a mother, and every time I think I have understood what is involved, it changes.

And yet I sense that the lessons of this decade are the same. Only insight into to my son's true nature, indeed into human nature in general, can free me from attachment. Every so often a tragic news story rips through the day-to-day illusion that this love is forever, never to be disturbed by accident, illness, separation. I do not want to have to face what Kisa Gotami experienced in order to wake up to the human situation, but I do want to wake up. I want to feel unbounded love that is passionate, full and wise.

Living with the tension of loving fully and letting go is not easy. It involves simultaneously holding two apparent opposites. But hopefully the tension will allow a larger perspective to emerge. In the meantime I feel it is the only option. Love is not about binding another or oneself to a status quo because of insecurity. That is essentially an impossible task: things change, like it or not. It means stand on a deeper, spiritual knowledge. To love fully is to open oneself to the truth of the human condition.

3. AmidaTrust.com


Amida Trust ...Order of Amida Buddha
The Buddhist House
12 Coventry Road
Narborough LE19 2BR
Leicestershire U.K.
Tel: 0116.286.7476


Our mission is to create a network of teams of people, caring for one another and working together to create the Buddha Land here in this world. Such people need both faith and training. Faith sustains us and clarifies our purpose. Training equips us to work without ego-centric considerations getting in the way too much. This is our response to the Buddha's call to serve all sentient beings.

In a world where faith is often scoffed at, we are people of faith. In a world where individuals are frequently powerless, we rely upon the collective power of following the spirit of the Buddha's vows together. In a world where all are exhorted to consumerism, we are cultivating a simpler life dedicated to serving others. In accordance with the fundamental teachings of Pure Land Buddhism, we have chosen the foolish way.

To be fully expressed, Buddhism requires poetry. The highest art is the art of living. In Sukhavati we will say beautiful words and hear beautiful sounds. One cannot make it one's mission to generate poetry, but perhaps no mission is fully human without it.

Not waiting for life
Seeing it slip slip away
Waiting for Godot
Waiting for whoso we may
The only time is today.
They rise and they fall
Unheeding that sweet faint call
But just as it is
Just exactly as you are
Amida's gate welcomes all

The Order of Amida Buddha is a new foundation within the Pure Land tradition. Buddha gave up his palace and dedicated himself to the good of the people. He called others to help him in this great work. Buddha's teachings of ethics and compassion have wide social as well as personal implications. The Buddhist life implies concern for the wellbeing of all sentient beings in practical as well as spiritual ways. This means concern for society and for the environment. To sustain a life of service, however, is an act of faith. To do so without the danger of burnout requires humility about oneself and the capacity to work together with others - to be part of a sangha dedicated to a similar vision. Faith and engagement inform one another and deepen our lives.

We have established a training community in the centre of England and a retreat house in the centre of France. These are the base camps where people can receive their training, find and deepen their faith, and learn to work as a team. They are also the places we come back to after going forth into the world. This is similar to how the Buddha's disciples operated 2500 years ago.

We also have members in many localities who are activists offering ministry, co-ordinating activities, and becoming cells for the Dharma revolution across the land. Local members and groups can not only support the work of the Order, but can be the coalface workers, developing new initiatives and co-ordinating engaged Buddhist activity in their area. We strive to achieve good working relationship with other Buddhist groups, other faith communities and other groups working for similar social purposes. The vision of a better world is not exclusive.

We are opposed to war, cruelty, torture and oppression and to all use of religion to justify conflict, violence or social stigma. We oppose the manufacture, holding and use of lethal weapons. We work for peace and we will support those of any faith who work for peace. We believe in the complete separation of religion and state and we believe in freedom of religion.

Our community at Narborough is a residential training centre for people who wish to enter sincerely into the Buddhist path in the style of our practice. We follow the interpretation of Pure Land teachings advanced by Buddhist Teacher Dharmavidya David Brazier, and we also value debate, critique, study and creative thought. Following a teacher is an inspiration not a straight jacket.

We follow a Buddhist practice the central element of which is to keep the Buddha in mind at all times. It is the Buddha's vision that guides us and we are working to deepen our appreciation of his work in the world, his presence in our lives, and his wide-ranging compassion. We are working together to contribute to the realisation of his vision.

Amida Trust

The Order is spponsored by the Amida Trust, a charitable (i.e. non-profit) body registered in England to advance the contemporary relevance of Buddhism.

Who is it for?

Amida Trust is - a haven, meeting point and spring-board for writers, thinkers, artists, activists, psychologists, therapists, students and other similarly concerned people who see Buddhism's potential as an influence for peace, culture, and community, for social and personal enlightenment:

- a Buddhist practice centre offering opportunities for Dharma training, study and retreats

- a college for attendance and distance learning courses in Buddhist psychology and contemporarily relevant Buddhist studies

- a ginger group within the wider Buddhist community generating new thinking and challenging out-dated notions and mal-practice

- a place to study and debate the meaning of Buddhist texts, practices and principles and to apply them in practice

- a community engaged in Buddhism "on the streets" applying the principles of universal compassion in practical day to day ways

- a religious order for those with a serious long term commitment to the Dharma to train and live together working for the good of all sentient beings.

Where is it?

Amida is based at The Buddhist House at Narborough in Leicestershire. We also have a house in London and a retreat centre in France. We support linked projects in Zambia and in India. Many European countries have Amida members and we are in touch with many individuals around the world.

If you are concerned about the world, something of a free thinker, but, nonetheless, serious in your commitment to the Buddha's vision of enlightened compassion then Amida may well be the place for you.

4. Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Movie-1973) ...The Life and Times of St. Francis of Assisi


Amazon.com- Reviewer: from Boulder, Colorado USA... This is a wonderful movie!! Graham Faulkner was PERFECT in the part of St. Francis and truly expressed both the joy and singlemindedness of purpose that Francis experienced. I love when he climbed on the rooftop to hold a bird!!He gave so much insight into the spiritual revelations of St. Francis! And Judy Bowker did a wonderful job of expressing both the piety and innocence of Clare! The songs by Donovan give a depth and fullness to the movie-don't miss this one!!

Amazon.com- Reviewer: from Seattle, Washington, USA... I watch this video at least twice a year. Once in October near the feast of St. Francis. The film does a very good job of presenting the early years of the Fraciscan orders. It even makes reference to the begining of the Third Order (Secular Franciscans). The scenery and the gentle love between Francis and Clare in the film are attempts at showing Francis's passion for creation. The hard realities are also presented, that is the institutional church finding visionaries such as Francis a challenge. The presentation of Francis in his father's factory puts the focus on the social justice Francis stood for (Francis beyond the bird bath).

There are many good biographies on Francis. This film is great for introducing those who do not know of Francis (and Clare) some of what he stood for and the gifts he left us with.

Amazon.con- Reviewer: from Boxford, MA United States... If you haven't seen this movie, I'll bet you have seen Zefferelli's, Romeo and Juliet. This film is made with the same eye to beauty and presentation of character, but captures the tale of St. Francis of Assisi. There may be some overdramatization to make a point here or there, but then I don't mind that sort of thing - it's artistic freedom. One of my favorite scenes, is when the group of Franciscan brothers finally gets to have an audience with the Pope - and the Pope acknowledges "Christ in the distressing disguise" of Francis and his group of brothers, it speaks volumes. See this movie if you have respect for the message.


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