In this section I’m including various notes and papers about Buddhism and related ideas and practices.
I have been involved in Buddhist practice and study since about 1965. I grew up in the Charnwood Forest area of Leicestershire in a small mining and quarrying village near to the appropriately named town, Coalville. In the mid-sixties in the town library I came across a copy of a text by Dogen, a thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master. Dogen is renowned as the most eminent writer and philosopher of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism – though I had no idea of this at the time. It is a mystery to me as to how this text, the Fukan Zazengi, probably in an introductory book on Buddhism, came to be in the library and how I happened to pick it off the shelves. Luckily Dogen’s essay provides very clear instructions for zazen – sitting meditation – and I started to sit following Dogen’s directions.
The practice of sitting in the way that Dogen advocates can be seen as both a mode of sceptical enquiry and as a way of waking up to the simple yet extraordinary fact of being here. To sit in quiet and patient attention to the infinite particulars of everyday experience is not as easy as it sounds, indeed it can be extremely difficult. We have a tendency to construct endless commentaries about what is happening and what has happened within and around us, or we spend our time imagining what might happen or what we would like to happen. Either way we tend not to be present to this moment in anything other than a marginal way. It is as if our own existence, our being here, is of marginal interest, as if it is not worthy of clear unadorned observation. But for Dogen and the Buddha the key aspect of existence is to exist as fully as we can, to wake up to this life in all its breadth and depth, and to achieve some measure of peace and equanimity in the face of life’s mysteries, difficulties and joys. By clear observance and non-judgemental noticing we can come to a realisation of who we are and how marvellous it is just to be here.
Buddhism and art: modes of enquiry and awakening – an introductory talk. 2006.
Being at home in the world: Buddhism, mind & nature. 2011.
Creative awakening: Buddhism, art & everyday life. 2009.