Monastic Gathering at
Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey
As many of you know, Turning Wheel Buddhist Temple is part of a larger organisation, the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (OBC), which is an umbrella organisation for monks and temples in the lineage of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett. The order has temples in the US, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as here in the UK. With such a wide geographic spread it is important that we meet together regularly, and we currently have monastic gatherings every other year, with the venue alternating between the UK and the US.
The gathering this year was at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland, and I travelled up there in mid-September for a couple of weeks. The previous gathering was held at Shasta Abbey in California in September 2017, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make that one, as we were in the middle of trying to find a property to purchase for the temple.
It was very nice to have some warm and sunny weather for the first week of the gathering, and the grounds at Throssel were looking very green and lush, with some of the trees just starting to change colour as autumn approached.
There were about 54 monks there altogether, and most mornings we had group discussions in the library. We discussed a number of different practical issues to do with the order and how things are going, and it was a great opportunity to hear from different monks throughout the order.
The sessions were led by Rev. Master Haryo, the head of the order, who is pictured on the left-hand side in the photograph below. He was assisted by a facilitator and a time-keeper, to help the discussion flow easily and to allow anyone to make a contribution who wanted to.
Rev. Master Haryo had circulated a list of discussion topics several weeks before the gathering, and we gradually worked through these over the ten days or so of discussions.
Each morning we stopped for a tea break part way through, and these were a good opportunity to catch up with other monks. It was particularly nice to be able to stand out in the sun outside the Throssel main buildings during the first week of the gathering.
The afternoons were left open, which allowed monks time to catch up with those from other temples, and other countries, who they may not have seen for several years, and to have a cup of tea together, or go for a walk around the grounds or along the road. Although having a cup of tea together may not seem that important, connections like this really help to maintain the cohesiveness of an order that is spread over several countries on two continents.
There were also some small group discussion in the afternoon, including one for those monks who live in small temples rather than in one of the two larger training monasteries. Other meetings included discussion of some aspects of our ceremonial, and the photo below is of monks meeting to discuss what sort of monastic clothing seemed appropriate to wear in a city environment, particularly in countries where Buddhism is relatively unknown.
During the gathering we also had a couple of days off from discussions, and many of the visiting monks had a chance to see some local places of interest, including Hexham Abbey, the Lake District, and the Roman site at Vindolanda, near to Hadrian’s Wall.
As part of the gathering we also held a festival memorial for the founder of our order, Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett. This was an opportunity to offer our gratitude to Rev. Master Jiyu for her life of practice and training, and for all that she did to establish the order and to help Buddhism flourish in the west. The picture below shows monks in the Ceremony Hall as we recited scriptures and cicumambulated during the ceremony. A photograph of Rev. Master Jiyu had been placed on the main altar, and each monk offered incense as they came to the altar during the procession.
We were all very grateful to the community of Throssel Hole for proving accommodation and meals for so many visitors, and to Rev. Master Haryo and all those who helped to organise the event. Thanks also to Rev. Lambert, who took the four photos above.
The next gathering will probably be in two years time at Shasta Abbey in California.
with best wishes
Festival of Vimalakirti Bodhisattva
On Saturday the 19th of October we will be celebrating the Festival of Vimalakirti Bodhisattva. Vimalakirti, whose name means “spotless reputation”, is the main figure of the Vimalakirti Sutra. He is portrayed as the ideal Buddhist lay practitioner, and is said to have lived at the time of the Buddha. In the scripture he has encounters with each of the Buddha’s most senior disciples, and debates with Manjusri Bodhisattva, all of which demonstrate his great wisdom.
The festival and the Dharma talk will focus on the teaching of Vimalakirti, and in particular chapters eight and nine of the Vimalakirti Sutra.
The day will start at 10am with a meditation period, followed by the ceremony. After the ceremony there will be a Dharma talk, and at about 1pm there will be a bring-and-share vegetarian lunch. In the afternoon there will be two periods of meditation from 2pm, followed by a Dharma discussion and tea. You are welcome to come for any part of the day.
For other events in October, please see the events calendar.
Alms Bowl Requests
Thank you to all those who have donated items to the temple. We are very grateful for donations of any household or other items that the temple might be able to use. Please contact Rev. Aiden if you have an item to offer but are not sure whether it would be useful.
Donations of Food
Offering food is a traditional way to support a monk, and all donations of vegetarian food are most welcome. In particular:
- porridge oats
- peanut butter
- peanuts or other nuts
- fresh fruit and vegetables (except garlic or peppers)
- dried herbs
- yoghurt and eggs
- brown rice and pasta
Any other suitable items would also be appreciated.
The temple is dependent on donations for its continued existence, and any financial support you are able to offer is greatly appreciated. Details of how to offer support can be found on the Donations page of the website.
All donations are received with gratitude