Friday, April 30, 2010

Sutra Cordis

Thanks to Mariano Marcigaglia of the Buddhist Society who forwarded this majestic Latin rendering of the Heart Sutra for everyone's enjoyment......

Sutra Cordis Magnae Sapientiae Transcendentis

(Om laudetur Domina Nobilissima Sapientia Transcendens!)

Sutra Cordis Magnae Sapientiae Transcendentis
Bodhisattva Avalokita
profundam Sapientiam transcendentem excolens,
quinque complexuum vacuam naturam conspexit
et hoc modem omnes dolores superavit
Shariputra, forma dissimilis non est vacuitatis,
vacuitas dissimilis formae non est.
Forma est vacuitas, vacuitas forma est.
Idem accidit sensibus, perceptionibus, propensionibus, conscientiis.
Shariputra, omnia phaenomena natura vacua sunt:
non nata neque exstincta, non pura neque impura,
non crescentia neque descrescentia.
Ideo in vacuitate
forma, sensus, perceptio, propensio, conscientia non est;
non oculus, auris, nasus, lingua, corpus, mens;
non species, sonus, odor, sapor, contactus, notio.
Sensus videndi non est, neque alia elementa huius generis
usque ad mentis conscientiam.
Ignorantia non est, neque finis eius, aliaque huius generis
usque ad senectutem et mortem, neque finis eorem est,
Labor non est, non causa, non exitus, non via.
Scientia non est, neque adeptio.
Cum nihil adipiscendum sit
bodhisattva Sapientia transcendente nisus,
animo libero ab impedimentis vivit.
Impedimentis non obstantibus nulla timet,
falsas cogitationes relinquit et summum Niravana fit.
Cum Sapientia transcendente nitantur, omnes Buddha trium temporum
perfectam illuminationem consequentuur.
Scito igitur Sapientiam transcendentem
sublimem mantra esse, mantra magnum et fulgentem,
maximum mantra, mantra sine aequali,
quod omnes labores dissolvere potest.
Verum est, sine errore.
Proinde mantra Sapientiae transcendentis ita pronuntia:

(Ivit, ivit, transivit, totum transivit, Illuminatio tum sit!)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vapour trails in the sky

The skies are strangely unblemished by vapour trails since air-traffic has been suspended, and I am in an odd - but not disagreeable -psychological space because of this.

It's as if the unblemished sky reminds me somehow of another more innocent time, and I feel a small tug of nostalgic yearning for that time, a small hope that the sight of intercontinental jet aeroplanes high in the sky above our home in South-East England has gone forever.

I've done my share - perhaps more than my share, indeed certainly more than my share - of careless jetting around Europe in recent years. It hasn't even been entirely careless: every trip has caused me a twinge of guilt about the self-indulgence of cheap flights to European destinations, but the twinge has never been sharp enough to make me desist. It's always been possible to rationalise my discomfort: for example, as a concerned spouse meeting his wife's legitimate need to visit a daughter abroad, and - of course - his own need too. And I've also made a fair number of more expensive and tiring trips abroad by car, and on the train, to 'reduce my carbon footprint', although I have no confidence at all in this 'fig-leaf' of self-deception.

Next week my wife and I were to have travelled to Italy by air for a four-day break, two in Rome and two in Florence. This visit to Rome and Florence has long been a dream of my wife, who craves the warmth and sunshine of the countries of southern Europe as a temporary respite from her forty year exile in the nippy Northern hemisphere - her birthplace was sub-Saharan Africa.

Along with millions of others we shall need to grin and bear the disappointment, and find some consolation in the early Spring sunshine here at home. At least we shall be here to see the flowering cherry we planted in our garden ten years ago come into ravishing blossom, a heart-stopping display that quickly tarnishes and fades a day or so after its pristine first flush.

Alongside the disappointment I shall feel (more for my wife, vicariously, than for myself) there is something like satisfaction, perhaps vindication of my long held view that my life of self-indulgence is intrinsically hollow and illusory, although I have often felt locked into it by circumstances, by powerful social convention, ties of affection and family solidarity that can't be undone, not that I want to undo them.

I am only one individual in a family of (currently) five constituent members, and the other family members don't necessarily agree with my purely theoretical ideas on the merits of self-denial, and abstinence from small pleasures which they - quite validly - feel they have earned. We do have discussions about this, as I imagine most families do - I may be wrong about this, I often am on such matters. Such discussions sometimes mar the serene skies of family accord with vapour trails that disperse only slowly, and are replaced quickly by new ones when they fade.

The trouble with me, as always, is that I'm not as ready to give up my own pleasures as I am to point out to my loved ones the value - to them - of giving up theirs.

Perhaps there's hope for me yet in terms of personal turn-around, although I think there may not be a lot of time.....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Essence of Care.....

I can't resist commenting on the Lift Game installed in North Wing of St Thomas's Hospital, a scene from which is captured in the picture opposite. Devised and crafted by Tim Hunkin, the game bears some resemblance to an end-of-the-pier amusement game, you put a coin in the slot, choose from one of three flashing buttons, and your reward (if you punched the right button) is a tableau from hospital life (see picture), enacted as one of three lift-doors opens randomly to reveal a member of staff, delivering a service to an old dear on a trolley.

The old dear (I'm conscious as I write of the possible political incorrectness of such a term) sits up on the trolley when the designated service arrives, gazes at it or submits to it reflectively, nods his or her head in solemn approbation, then sinks back on to his/her trolley, ready to be wheeled passively by the solemn porter to the next assignment. It's mesmerising......and great fun.

When we aspiring chaplains go to St Tommy's for our course, we've started to tarry by the Lift Game and use our loose change to gamble on seeing who pops out of the lift to attend to the old dear. Of course if you push the wrong button, and the old dear has been manoevred to the 'wrong' (non-opening) lift door by the long-suffering porter, the 'wrong' door opens to display something less dynamic. a thin old thing standing erect but forlorn and unattended, wearing a nightshirt, attached to an intravenous drip on a stand, and quivering like a recently struck tuning fork. Disconcertingly pathetic. I don't know whether the top-to-toe vibration was contrived, or whether it was just an unintended mechanical effect. But it unsettled even me, inured as I am by years of nursing to the suffering of others (I jest).

The lift game, despite its power to disconcert, is great fun, and we spent a happy ten minutes feeding it coins, and laughing like kids at the fun of being wrong-footed by the machine, and whoping with pleasure when we banged the right button and got a prize. This is heralded by a cheerfully raucous pealing of the lift bell as the lift 'arrives', the doors open, and the tableau is set in motion.

I "Googled" the Lift Game and got Tim's email address to send him a word of appreciation: it's worth reading his account of how the Lift Game came to be; how much effort he put into getting it right; what obstacles he had to overcome; and how much it still demands from him by way of attention. If you go by the game yourself, think of Tim - he's a craftsman, and something of a genius; maybe something of a bodhisattva too.

The little figures Tim has crafted, although apparantly simple and stylised, seem to me to carry some extraordinary quality of sensibility, of responsiveness, and of care. I think it is this essence of care that Tim has captured (through his observation of people at work) that calls forth my own emotional response - of concern, but also of joy - and, I would surmise, a variety of emotional responses in others. I think this work deserves wider recognition, and there might well be more of it.

**** **** **** **** **** ****

The course itself is going well, and I'm enjoying it. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into planning it so that the content is balanced, and so that - all things considered - the participants have an opportunity to meet the objectives, which are by no means modest. One of the sessions at our last meeting invited us to work in small groups to develop our thinking about what setting up a chaplaincy service might involve. To invest this task with a bit of dynamism, we were asked to think about how our new chaplaincy service might respond to an early challenge.

Wwe were three, and we conjectured that we were setting up a chaplaincy service to the UK Space Agency, whose mission was to put on astronaut on Mars. The agency employed at least 1,600 people, one of whom was the astronaut. The urgency that confronted us was a sudden and inexplicable spike in sick-absence amongst the staff. Where did we fit in? What might we contribute to the agency? And how would that work out in practice?

This was great fun, but it did challenge us in many ways, and at many levels, including the level of dharma-practice. I got a lot out of it, and so - I think - did my collaborators. After a while the several small groups (all of which had their own different scenarios) met to compare notes and share experience with each other and with Keith Munnings and Chris Blomeley, the facilitators.
It's a moot point whether we succeeded in bringing an effective spiritual or pastoral ministry to our 'organisations', but I for one will feel better equipped in future to join others in doing so.

**** **** **** **** **** ****

I've been pressing on with the new zhen zuang energy-work, and I'm now in my third month of daily practice, with encouraging results. I feel more integrated, look and feel better, and look forward to the practice happily each day. More details can be found at George Draffan's website, well worth a visit I reckon.