The Story of Bill Picard - Master of Zen
Interviewed by John Crook.
Text transcribed from interview tapes by Eric Johns.
Edited by the interviewer.
I first heard of Bill Picard years ago while training at Throssel Hole Priory. One or two monks had left the Priory to join him in Zen practice in Cornwall. Later on, while visiting Bo Lam monastery in Hong Kong for meditation, I met Eric Johns (Hin Lek Si) who ‘sat’ with me in the Chan Hall and who told me much more about him. Eric had trained with Bill and learnt much from him (see NCF 18:21-22. 19:6-14). I was intrigued. Some time later I visited Cornwall and took the opportunity to meet Bill and his wife Biddy. At once I recognised a very serious teacher who was not well known in his own country. Hidden away at the far end of Cornwall he was not often to be met with elsewhere and he did not travel around teaching. Yet the group he founded, which continues to this day, was clearly of the highest significance. Together with one or two other teachers in the immediate post war years he helped spread and create the foundations for the Dharma, especially Zen, in the UK. He was thus a true pioneer. We do not know much about these teachers to whom we owe so much. Always independent, Bill’s perspective remains valuable and I decided to interview him and ask him to tell us his story. It has taken a long time to get the tapes transcribed- a task nobly undertaken by Eric. Many thanks also to Bill himself for taking the time to carefully check this account. At last here it is — read, learn, mark and inwardly digest! JHC. Ed
John: Can you tell me how you first became interested in Buddhism?
Bill: In the early 30’s I was an art student. I came across a very small yellow book by Christmas Humphries on Buddhism. It was, I think, the very first one he wrote for the Buddhist Society. Somebody told me about their centre in London and with one or two others we went along there. That was my first contact with Buddhism although my mother had talked about the Buddha as part of my early schooling at home.
I went to Spain in 1937 and was appalled at the political situation and the brutality of the Civil War. It made me ask a lot of questions and I came back and looked again at Buddhism. Then came 1939 and the war. I joined up and served in France then Africa then Burma. I was invalided out with malaria, beriberi, dysentery and a whole packet of jungly things and was sent to hospital down in Calcutta. I was transferred up to Darjeeling to a military hospital in the hills for convalescence. When I was starting to get my strength back, I became aware of notices saying that there were local British people who would like to take any casualty who would like to come and stay with them. I wrote to a Mr and Mrs Burk, retired tea planters who were offering hospitality to soldiers in hospital from the Burma campaign. This grey haired husband and wife arrived in their very dilapidated old car. We immediately liked one another and I got permission to stay with them.
I think I was able to stay nearly a fortnight with them. They had retired just outside Darjeeling in a typical bungalow found among the tea-planting people in the days of the Raj. Ghoom Monastery was just down the road. There was also an Indian officer, a very nice man, staying with them, which was slightly strange to me. Among the Brits with the colonial attitude, I hadn’t seen Indians. I mean they would come and visit but not actually stay. I realised that the Burks were very positive about Indians and had Indian friends.
I was given the run of their library and I was told where all the thrillers, novels and magazines were. I went in there and I suddenly realised there were rows of books including some I had seen at the London Buddhist Society in Warwick Square. One of the books that had intrigued me when I had been at Warwick Square had been Evans- Wentz books on the Bardo Thodol. At that time, unless you were some well-known scholar, you could only read them in the centre. I had browsed through these and got very intrigued. What was my surprise when I saw these books on the shelves in Darjeeling?
My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I’d got this volume down. I was standing absolutely lost in it when suddenly a voice said over my shoulders, “Are you interested in Tibet?” There was my host. I was terribly embarrassed because he had not mentioned such books to me. He said there were one or two other books as well and we talked about Tibet. I had always had an interest in Tibet and years before I had obtained two ancient volumes on Tibet from about 1860, which I’ve still got. These were by somebody called Hack, a Frenchman I believe. I realised how inaccurate they were but it gave some account of Tibetan life long before we began to get it from more modern travellers such as Alexandra David Neil and all that lot. Anyway, my host told me I could help myself and read any of his books I wanted. This was marvellous and about two days later we were talking at table when the Indian Officer mentioned something about yoga and meditation.
Now I had heard about meditation, but there was very little done at the London Buddhist Society at that time. It was very much a place where you met other interested people, heard lectures and that sort of thing. My ideas were very vague about where actual practice came in. Mr Burk now said, “Would you like to meet a meditation guide? He is a Lama.” Now, not long before I had read Lost Horizon, and I really thought Lamas might come floating in on magic carpets and things like that. I was full of a lot of very crazy and romantic ideas. I was told this guide was actually Chinese but he was none the less a qualified Tibetan Lama. He had also trained with the venerable old Zen Master Hsu-yun in China who was then 100 or so years old. I had heard this name mentioned but it didn’t really mean a great deal to me.
Two or three days later I was taken to a small bungalow in the grounds and I realised that this Chinese Lama occupied it. He was actually in the Burks’ garden. I found out that they had known this Lama for quite a while and that they both practised meditation with him. He was their teacher, their guru. They had an arrangement whereby they always kept this room available for him. He was sometimes at Ghoom Monastery and sometimes in Sikkim where I think he was meditation teacher to the Raja of Sikkim.
The British did not directly rule Sikkim at that time. It was one of the protected Himalayan states. You used to have great difficulty to get in. I joined a party of British soldiers who had got permission to go there and we backpacked up to the frontier with Tibet. Fortunately we had a District Commissioner with us so we were allowed to step over the frontier but not to go down into actual Tibet. It was a great event. It was my first time to actually step into Tibet. I’ve done it three times since but could never get to Lhasa. The last time my wife and I crossed the friendship bridge from Kathmandu with the Chinese watching us from the other side. We had taken a taxi from Kathmandu to go up there. I talked about the army with the Ghurkha guard on the frontier. He was terrified and made us leave our cameras behind and not have anything on us when we put our feet over the line!
So I was taken to this room, went in and there was this figure sitting down at ground level. He had a flat table in front of him and some scrolls and things. He was obviously reading and studying but he looked up and beamed at me. I was very conscious of my army boots. I felt like a clodhopper coming in. Mr Burk just left me at the door, saying, and “This is the young man with whom you said you would have a talk,” and vanished. I hadn’t got the foggiest idea what to say but I was told to sit down. There was only a little old seat to sit on and I was trying to tuck my feet out of the way. His English wasn’t all that good yet I think he understood a lot more than he actually said. He had a pupil who had been at the original Samye Ling in Tibet and who became the meditation teacher of Trungpa Rimpoche and Akong Rimpoche.
Lama Rinchen would not answer any of my questions but he started me off on meditation, breathing techniques using the hara and how to get to the point where you cease to have any mental activity. Although it was only a very short time that I was with him he told me enough and he was able to express enough and show me enough that it made a very big impression on me.
There is another side to this story that I really don’t like to mention because it sounds a bit whimsical. Subsequently, I used to get a very strong feeling as though he was again present with me, so that questions that were in my mind suddenly got an answer. It was a very personal thing. I usually experienced it later on when practising my Zen meditation on the Cornish cliffs.
Eventually, I had to go back to the Army where, because of my language skills, I had a job in intelligence with the Kings African Rifles. Before I left I asked Lama Rinchen whether he would take me on as a chela (disciple) if I came back. The Lama laughed, patted my hand and said; “You’ll find your East in the West!” I felt brushed off and at the time was quite hurt. I had felt worthy but I hadn’t passed the test. He knew that my interest was wrapped up with a lot of juvenile romanticism and he probably thought that, if I persisted, I was going to find what I needed in the West. When I finally came back to Britain in 1946 I was demobbed but in the interim I got more and more restless internally as I was trying to find answers to all these things.
In 1933 I had got in with the Gypsies. I’d been near Dolgellau, cycling and climbing Snowdon and all the mountains, and I had had my bike stolen. While on the road I had seen a shiny bit of metal and out of curiosity I had picked it up. I had a vague idea that it might have come off an axle or something like that. For some unknown reason, instead of pitching it away, I slipped it into my pocket never thinking about it. About a mile or so further on, coming on a bend, I saw an old fashioned Gypsy caravan of the type that you saw a lot of on the road in the 30s. There was a little campfire and I could see this pregnant girl bending over and a young bloke doing something at the van. As I drew level, I realised he was struggling to push a piece of wood under it to lift one side of the van because it was on three wheels with the other wheel lying at the side. On the spur of the moment I walked across to him. I’d read quite a bit of George Burrows and I rather fancied myself as a bit of a linguist. If George Burrows could learn Romany so could I and I’d memorised a few words, which I probably mispronounced. I knew something of gypsies because the previous summer I’d gone hop picking with them down in Kent. I met a family of gypsies there, the Scamps, who were also doing the same thing. I mean I’d never looked like a gypsy. I had flaming red hair, but we had become fairly matey, and I’d learnt a bit about them so, airing my gypsy, I walked across and said, “Want a hand mush?” and the bloke looks up.
It was obvious what he wanted so I helped him. We pushed the piece of wood up, which lifted the van, and then he got the wheel up and slid it in. He said something to the girl who got up and went to the tool chest at the back of the van. I could hear her rummaging around and the only word I understood was “not here”. The rest was a jargon I didn’t understand. Looking at the situation, I suddenly thought I knew what was missing and I put my hand in my pocket and held out the object I had found on the road. “This is what you want mush” I said, and the bloke nearly fell over. The girl came up and just stared at me. ’Course he slid it in and it fitted the job perfectly. That was all right, so they both looked at each other, and he said “Would you like a cup of Chai?” And I said, “Yes I would”. So I squatted down with them.
They were terribly diffident as if I was going to bite them, and I was desperately trying to think of some Romany phrases. I knew you never ask where a Romany is going, or where you are coming from. It was not etiquette or wise in those days on the road. If you volunteered information that was fine but you didn’t otherwise so we just talked in general terms. Then I got up and I left them and a little while later they passed me and we waved.
I camped that night half way on the road up to Bala, and the following day, I was walking when suddenly there was a voice calling out from a gate I hadn’t really noticed, down on one side. There were several male figures leaning on the draw-over and a voice called out. I looked round and there was the young man I had met and at his side a venerable figure with a white moustache and two younger men. I walked across and was introduced very formally to the elderly man who held a hand out. He gave a very funny limp handshake, and thanked me for helping his son. I said I was very pleased to have done it. I don’t know what they thought.
Because I had been picking previously, I asked is there any work around here and the old man said you go up to the farm and say that Ithel says you are to join their working team. So that was fixed. I pitched my tent and kept away from them, as I didn’t want to feel I was intruding. For several days we worked like that and then we moved on. Nothing was said but the young brother of the chap I’d helped, sort of got a bit matey. He was roughly my own age, 16 or 17. We got chatty and had gone out together once or twice in the evening putting snares out for the rabbits. He came across and said “Grandfather says to join them”.
Now I used to do everything and cook my own food but we developed a sort of relationship. They would hop off and say they were going to be at such a place, and I would please myself if I did or didn’t join them. We went through Llangollen and then down into England and in the end it finally came to the point when I was invited to come and eat with them - which was really a great thing.
I realised how strict they were. They had some lovely Worcester china and stuff in the van. I always remember the old man was squatting by the fire and he put his plate down. Just at that moment the dog came up and licked the plate. The old man just picked the plate up and smashed it like that. It must never be used again, he said because it had been polluted. I learnt a lot of things of that nature and we became quite close.
Well, one night we’d been sitting around the fire and talking about the day’s events. Mainly the subject of conversation was to do with the clan or tribe, trade possibilities of business somewhere and that sort of talk, but they’d got on to talking about dukha as they call it. That’s the fortune-telling for which they have two words. Dukha is really the more common form that the women do; it is based on sociological observation. For example, you walk up to a house, eye the clothesline and work out roughly the age groups of the occupants and things like that from the clothes you see. They polish up their information by talking to the owner and the next time they come round they visit the house. They know by now that the family has got a son in jail or a son that works or a son that is in the army. Their understanding surprises people. It’s very clever how it’s done but there is nothing more than at that level.
There are however some who really have second sight. The old Dai, that was Granny, Ithel’s wife, was such a person. They were all a little afraid when she told the dukha but one night the younger women were goading her. They used to call me Billy you see. They said, “Tell the young Rai, tell Billy, the posh dukha.” The “posh dukha” meant the real thing, and I didn’t want it.
I felt uncomfortable and said, “I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know.” The old woman was sitting across the fire and I was conscious of her very black eyes staring at me. I thought she would ask for my hand, which would have been palm reading, the normal thing. But she didn’t. She just sat there. She was sort of rocking herself a little bit and began in quite a different way. She said “I see the boro pani, the great water, and it comes in.” She was imitating the movement as of an incoming tide with her hands. “There are high hills, oh no they’re not. There are high rocks and there is a head coming in through the water and a figure comes up out of the water and comes up the beach”. She stops and she looks up at me with quite a different expression and said she wouldn’t tell me any more. It left me feeling awful. One or two of the others said, “Well tell him a bit more, Dai, what happened?” She wouldn’t say another word, and she never said another word. She left a very vivid picture in my mind though.
Now getting back to Cornwall. After I had been demobbed, I was finally able to hitch-hike away from London and arrived at Marazion. The day after, I spent quite a bit of time around Penzance harbour. I walked around Newlyn and on to Mousehole and up to the cliffs. It was getting to the end of the day by the time I got to Lamorna. There is a narrow cove there, and the rocks are up on one side. I went down into this little cove.
I was very intrigued as I had heard the name of this place, and I knew its association with artists and craft people because I’d read books by the different artists who’d worked there. It was part of my reading at art school for instance so I knew about the place and I’d seen a lot of paintings done by the Newlyn Art School.
I go down in to the cove and I’m standing there and at first there doesn’t seem to be anybody there. There is a little stone quay on one side and, as I’m looking out to sea, I see what I think is the head of a seal in the water coming in. As soon as I saw it I got that deja-vu feeling. This had happened before - and then I remembered the incident with the gypsy. I remain riveted watching this thing. It seemed to be a complete resurrection of the image that I’d felt the gypsy woman had somehow implanted in my mind. It was just as Granny Lee had pictured it. The figure comes up out with the water dripping off, then onto the sand. I’d built up all sorts of things in my mind, for example that this would be the start of a great romance.
The figure came up onto the sand and I realised that below where I was standing there was a rug spread out and there was a little child on it. I realised then that this is not going to turn out like my dream, but I was very intrigued all the same, as you can imagine.
I carried on along the cliffs for a short way. It was near the rock of Carn Barges. I realised that it was getting quite late and I could hear somebody working in a field. They were what you call “tealing”. You use a long handled shovel. A man was digging out potatoes, early potatoes because this would have been March. I asked him whether it was all right to camp and he pointed out a place among what we call quelets. These are little stone fields on a bend of a cliff and there was a nice little one about the size of this room with stone granite walls (quoits) that gave protection. I pitched my tent there and it was obviously perfectly all right. The man said leave it there, come up to the farmhouse if you want anything. He was a farmer, Bill Trevarroes who I got to know very well afterwards, and my tent was to remain there for two years!
So things seemed to fall into place, nothing more about the lady on the beach. Anyway I was full of ideas about being a monk, celibate and all that sort of thing. I was going to meditate like anything right there on the cliff top near the sea. I carried on walking the following day and did my journey to Land’s End and around the coast. Then I came back to my tent and started this little meditation regime. I was being very dutiful about what I’d been taught, but of course I did a lot of odd things. I starved myself and various things like that and got into a depressed state, not a good one to be in alone on a cliff top. I could have done with a bit of advice and correction. Several months later I was going to take my life. At one time I swam out in the water of the bay, no light, no moon. Suddenly I desperately wanted to live and of course then I was trying to see where the shore was and I couldn’t. Fortunately there was enough of a swell for a faint line of white to show on the coast so I swam back and dragged myself out.
A bit of a melodramatic thing to do wasn’t it and quite honestly idiotic, but it shows what can happen. Often I used to go on to a particular rock to meditate. It is called Carn Barges and the local people always refer to it as the Druid’s seat. It is a flat stone with a vertical back facing the sea; just like a huge chair, it was an ideal place for sitting. Yet I eventually decided not to go down there because there was a sheer drop over the edge. I felt that there was a part of me that had almost been taken over in a funny way that was dangerous. So I used to stay more in my tent.
Well - in the second year meditation had been getting better in the sense I was able to drop literally everything. As you probably know, you go through some very strange things, hallucinations, all kinds of things, but I kept going. I had been impressed by what the old lama had said about everything being a projection from my own mind. In other words it wasn’t reality that was out there, I was projecting the reality. I had to calm this down and let it drop, and of course by that time I’d read Suzuki. I’m not sure about the reading. I feel that if you can get verbal teaching at the right moment from somebody that you trust in or whom you respect, that’s better.
Out of all this came something I haven’t talked about a great deal over the years. I suppose it was the most seminal experience for me.
Along the coast there was a garden that had been built by Colonel Painter, the old Squire of Boskenna. His was one of the old families that had been there since the year dot, and in the early part of the century, he and his wife had been to Japan. She fell in love with the idea of Japanese gardens and he’d bought a lot of stone things like lanterns and so on. He built her a Japanese garden there in the cliffs, completely surrounded by a wall, which could be locked. It was not attached to the estate gardens at all but rather a separate private garden. It had a little lake and a Japanese bridge over it and a Buddha Rupa (image) that he’d put in there.
Now some people, some woodmen, had been doing some chopping, removing some dangerous trees, and they had pulled down a bit of the Cornish stonewall so they could get a vehicle in to pull out wood. It was pure coincidence that an entrance was available there. I’d never been into this garden, but I’d heard about it so I knew that there was something like that there.
Well, there was this bright moonlit night. I think it was May or June. I’d been meditating and I felt quite a strong compulsion to go walking in the moonlight on the cliff along a path I knew very well. Instead of skirting the garden I crossed a field and found there was a gap in the stone wall. On the spur of the moment, I walked down to this and entered. At once of course my surroundings were transformed. I was in a Japanese garden and part of me wasn’t quite sure whether it was a real garden or not. I had been meditating and been hyperventilating to a certain extent, hardly breathing, so I felt that I was floating, hardly conscious of feet on the ground at all. I went down there and there was this tinkling bell that I could hear, just a faint tinkle. I came around the edge and there was the bridge, and there was the Buddha Rupa. As I saw this, everything dissolved……………..
John: You found the Buddha in the garden?
Bill: Yes, Yes I found the Buddha in the garden. That was just, in a sense, it.
John: How long did that state last?
Bill: Well I passed out. It seemed it was like a flash and then it was like being drawn into the brilliance. Then I’m not conscious of anything at all except that, this is it, and this is it, just it. Everything is just one, and I think that that was my main feeling. When I came to, I’m lying on the ground by the foot of this little bridge thing with the Buddha there. I was feeling very cold and I’m looking up. I realise that there is a golden light on the bamboo that was growing at the side. To my surprise of course it is dawn. So I must have been lying there for about three hours or so because it was the very first light of dawn shining on this golden figure. I had had a sort of amnesia. At first, I didn’t know who I was or what I was or anything. Yet I was more conscious than I can remember - the feel - even now - of my fingers moving - and I put them on the rock with the Buddha Rupa above it. I could feel this sensation and then I got up feeling very stiff, and my idea was to get away somehow.
I knew that I had some way to go, so I slowly retraced my steps and gradually, of course I came to know I am me but with this great sense of lightness and weight and everything gone, no problems absolutely, all very vividly there. That was It. Everything was as though I was seeing it for the first time. I think that is the best I can say. There were absolutely no questions, no inner debate, and no doubt. I was empty so there was a sense of just lightly moving over the ground of this incredible creation as though it had just happened that instant.
Well - I knew enough to know the way out. I retraced my steps, got out of the garden, and, as the state faded, I had a sense that I am ‘Me’ now and I’ll get back to my camp. That was fine and for the rest of the way, about 2 miles along the cliff, I thought I’d just enjoy this brilliant morning as though I’d never seen a morning like it before.
I got back to my camp. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I didn’t want human contact but at the same time, if it happened it happened and that was it. Gradually I just got back to my self of who and what I was. I found that a lot of questions and problems suddenly seemed so obviously answered. Everything literally is one and there is no separation.
I think that subsequently I’ve looked at it as if from the point of view of physics. In an atomic sense, you know, we are all just whirling particles. That seems to be the answer. The thing that gives us all our troubles and problems is what our brain does. We split everything up and tie them into little packets. So meditation now became something that I did just any time. It was no longer the formal business of sitting as if to get somewhere. That was necessary at times because as the pressures increase, you know, one gets overwhelmed with things and you need the sitting meditation. But if you can carry that “state” knowingly within you then that is IT. What you have to do, and the problems that come up, you just deal with in the here and now.
The need to remain in segregation all alone on my little plot became less. I had already begun to do some work, I used to go up and teal potatoes and do things for the farmer every so often. In return I was not only allowed to keep my tent there but I could help myself to vegetables.
About the second year in Cornwall, my mother had moved down to Penzance with my widowed sister. They wanted help with the house they had bought. As a matter of fact I had bought the house. I put my gratuity into it to give them a base and also I could have the attic if I wanted it.
I had got to know Biddy, my future wife, and her first husband. I had already known the group of people with whom she worked. They were known as the ‘Woodchoppers’ and if you had ever read books by Ithel Colquhoun (Living Stones) or Denys Val Baker (Seas in the Kitchen) you may know their story.
‘Woodcutters’ or ‘Woodchoppers’ was the name given by locals to a group of young ex-pacifists who were sent to work on the land during the war. This was now a group of young, student-artist painters. Biddy was teaching painting at Badminton, long before there were hippies, and she’d met one of these woodchoppers there and came down to Cornwall to find him. She had been in Wales with another woodchopper friend and they hitched a lift on a Breton crabber from Haverford West round into Newlyn. For a long time the locals were convinced that she was a Breton. She landed here to contact this woodchopper, a big blond bloke with a long beard and all that sort of thing, so that’s how that happened.
Actually I had known the Woodchoppers earlier. Up in Wales on one of my climbing trips after the war, I had a friend whose parents had a cottage on the Gower. I had stayed with him and we had gone climbing and I got to meet these woodchoppers then. I didn’t know that in the interim they had all moved down to Cornwall and made their base at Lamorna.
I had cycled over to St Ives to see the famous potter Bernard Leach and we had hit it off. He became like a pater familias to me. We had a common interest in the east and Buddhism. He had started a pottery there in the twenties and was very influential in the pottery world. My mother got to know him also and I think she told him that he had better talk some sense into this son of hers living a sort of life that was not done in those days. You couldn’t just opt out and live in a tent and just feed yourself, you know.
John: It must have been very cold on the cliffs in winter
Bill: Well - not as bad as subsequently. That first winter, the 1947 winter, was the first time that they had had any ice in Cornwall as long as they could remember. It had been a long spell of dry, good sort of weather and subsequently it began to get cold. But don’t forget I’d been living in tents or living out in the open for nearly 10 years in the Army. I was in East Africa first and then, when we were in Burma, we were in monsoon rain all the time.
Weeks went by when our clothes used to rot on our webbing and get covered in mildew and you were never dry. Feet used to go white and pappy because they were always damp, wet soaked in mud, so in a way one was very tough. Even so at the same time I was getting periodical attacks of malarial relapsing fevers and I was still getting over dysentery and beriberi as well. I’d had to get medication. When I’d left the army I’d had a dossier thing that I’d take to the doctor and I’d have to have pills to cope with the malarial relapses.
Indeed, there was a lot of pressure on me not to be living that sort of life because I was supposed to be trying to get my health back and all that sort of thing. As it turned out it really was the best thing! When I got to know Bernard he had just started a pottery department in Penzance Art School the year before. He said, “Look you can apply, you’ve been in the army. They will help to fund you to come to the classes.” Well I could do enough casual work to be able to attend 3 classes at the art school. I was rather a hit and miss sort of pupil. I used to come in some days and not others; they were very tolerant with me. But I enjoyed it. I liked the pottery and soon met the local artists and craft-workers.
I had trained originally to be a painter in London in the 30s but it was going to be years before I could make any money. I mean the first picture I ever sold was for £5. My son sold his first picture for something like £80! I would never have a sale for god knows how long and then I’d spend the £5 on treating my fellow students, my pals anyway, in some pub in the Kings Road! So it did not do me a great deal of any long term good! But it was perfectly true that with this background I could get a job with the potters. I refreshed my pottery with Bernard Leach and, when I’d finished the course, I got a job with what is known as the Lamorna pottery.
Chris Ludlow who had demobbed from the RAF a few years before had started it up. He is dead now. He’d manage to set himself up in pottery and employed local student artists. We weren’t paid very much by modern standards, I think I got about £5 a week, but basically you could live on that.
My ambition was to get started up with a pottery as well but romance interfered with that. Biddy had split up. I had a number of lady friends at the time but the first time Bid and I met it was as though we had always known each other. We could talk. I mean she was still married to Ray then but whenever we met we could just talk quite naturally. It went on like that for a number of years. She had a marriage breakdown and another relationship with somebody and so on -- but eventually we came together and decided we’d set up a pottery down in Mousehole. You must know that it turned out that she was indeed the lady who had come up the beach at Lamorna! Strange!
She painted but also has a natural ability in pottery. These sculpts are hers, figures and things like that tree of life and all those sorts of things. So we set up the pottery down in Mousehole, in the fish cellar behind our cottage there. Hand to mouth it really was, hand to mouth. I mean if we could just scrape together roughly £150 at the end of the year, it could see us through to when next year’s visitors were coming and we could start selling pots again
We had a number of friends who were in a similar position trying to sell stuff so we had a system of sale or return at our place. We also started off a number of young people who wanted to do work like this. One of them, Red Simpson, became quite a successful silversmith afterwards. He was a schoolteacher at the time and he played around with copper. He made some little copper dishes which we felt very sure we couldn’t sell but he had a lot of cut off bits and Biddy suggested he made some earrings out of them. This he did, and they went like hot cakes. That started him off literally and he gave up teaching and moved on from copper into semi precious metal. He set himself up in St Ives and it became his life’s work in the end. He became quite well known, and brought up his family on it.
We started up a shop as well as the pottery. This was down in Mousehole in the front of our house in our living room, which had stable doors. At the time, in those years after the war, everything was very drab. It was the same with our garb. We made sandals. We could buy leather so we made things like that. As soon as I’d left the army I’d started growing my hair long and if we could get a colourful shirt I’d wear a colourful shirt. Since everybody else was in suits with waistcoats and things like that, we looked quite esoteric long before it became fashionable.
I must tell you how the shop came about. We were sitting in our front room one day before we had started the shop and suddenly a gentleman walked in the door and passed us, peering about. We looked at each other: ”D'ye know who this is?” After looking around he said “Excuse me, have you seen my wife?” “No, no, what’s your wife like?” And each of us thought that the other one knew it must be someone that they knew. Then he went out and we suddenly burst out laughing. He must have thought we were a shop. The place was so brightly painted and all that and we had pots and things in the window. And we suddenly said “Well that’s it! Let’s start selling ourselves.” We built the shelves and I painted a sign that Biddy hated because it was very shi-shi. But that led to an interesting result. The sign was a pot with a mouse looking out of the top of it and we called it “The Mouse Hole” at first. Then somebody said, look you have got to call it the Mousehole Pottery. So Bid got her own way and my mouse and pot was thrown out.
The locals always made a distinction between them and us. I have a Cornish connection but they are very clannish like the Welsh. You either have to be one of them, or you’re always going to be the foreigner. Now the artists were a sort of borderline case. I can remember one old Cornishman saying, “There is us-un, you bloody artists, and all the bloody foreigners up there”. Now the foreigners were everybody that came in, whether English or not, but the bloody artists were part of the locals. We had not got much money so we lived much the same way as they did.
We often used women as models. Clothed models, mind, you did not get a naked model. This had happened for many years. All the well-known painters in the old school painted local people. When we used to hold exhibitions in the gallery in Penzance or Newlyn, a lot of locals came because they had relations that were models. They were delighted to bring them in and say “Oh, that is so and so!” Nowadays the 3rd & 4th generation still go there when they know one of the old pictures from about 1900 is there and they can see an ancestor. They take their friends. The local community always felt quite involved with the artists because of this.
Anything that people like us did was acceptable. Bid went into a shop one day and one of the ladies turned round and said, “Is it true me-dear that you live up in the trees?” And Bid said, “Oh yes of course”. The rumour went around that when it was necessary we lived up in the trees. These legends remain.
John: How did the Zen business catch up with you?
Bill: Well, I just used to do my meditation. There were one or two people here that had been out East. Have you ever heard of Elephant Bill? Well he lived at Lamorna up the top there. When these people heard I was doing meditation, I was asked could they join? Would I tell them what I did? So that is really how it happened. They then decided they should have a society. The Tibet Society and the Buddhist Society in London knew some of us so we were often asked to host visiting Tibetan monks or Buddhists from India, Ceylon or Burma. Chogyam Trungpa as a young monk was one of them. The actual teaching grew from my personal practice. Over the years our numbers varied – from around ten to thirty. People came and went. In fifty years there were many changes.
We’d be a Buddhist society and we wrote to Toby Humphreys in London. He got quite interested because at that time I think there was only one society outside London, in Liverpool. Really people only wanted to come and discuss. It was a bit of a talking shop, and, quite honestly, I used to get a little bit bored. One or two of them used to air their bits of oriental language and one thing and another and I didn’t feel I needed that sort of thing. I didn’t feel I needed to go on with speculation any longer. I was quite content doing my thing, but there were odd ones in the group who felt they wanted to go further than talking. They felt there was something further to be explored, but for a long time I was very diffident about saying anything. I wouldn’t talk about the garden business because I was afraid that I might be laughed at, or I would be told it was all a lot of hallucination or something like that. In my own way I was quite content with my “State”.
As I have said, I had to get on with quite a number of things in order to make money so I used to work for potters. Then my mother wanted her house doing up so I went and worked on that but finally things began to coalesce. Obviously I wasn’t going to be a monk and I had a number of girlfriends.
Eventually, as I have told you, Bid and I came closer in a funny sort of way. She had three children. It didn’t make any difference. I’d seen them grow up. I was fond of them and they were fond of me. I’ve been very lucky; we’ve never had any clashes. Peter was working here and we’re very fond of each other, and it’s been a good father- son relationship. From that point of view I’m incredibly lucky.
Some years later a Japanese man came out of the blue; my mother-in-law was looking after the shop at the time. He was a lay monk attached to Shojiji Temple in Japan. Have you ever heard of Habbo Sensei? In Japan, he had had a recurring dream. It told him he had to go to the far west, “west” was the important thing about it. He had to take a copy of the Heart Sutra with him and he had to give it to somebody. After he had this dream several times he spoke to his Roshi. Anyway, he eventually got some business connection that financed the trip and he had come across to England by Trans Siberian Railway travelling westward. He’d gone to the Japanese Legation in London and they got a map and said, “You have got a choice, the most western point of England is Land’s End.” Now there was also a Spanish one or a French land’s end also, but he said “I’ll start with the nearest.” Then they told him that near the English Land’s End there was a place called Mousehole. He was convinced that this must be right for him because in his dream he had seen our sign. It was actually no longer our sign but it was the sign that we had had, the mouse that figured in the pot!
Sometimes it seems almost incredible how things tie in like this. Anyway, my mother- in-law couldn’t make head or tail about what Mr Habbo was talking about. So she said “I think it’s my son in law you want to talk to.” I was told there was this Japanese gentleman who was going to come back later. When he did his drawing to show me his idea of the mouse and pot it was absolutely spot on. It was the old sign, which we no longer had because Biddy had thrown it out. I mean it was several years later you see. He had a phrase he kept saying “So happy! So happy!” and he kept putting his hands together and doing little bows to me. It meant a great deal to him.
Anyway we were obviously going to do a little ceremony and we sat on the floor and had tea. He bought out the scroll that he’d done and it was the Heart Sutra. Now he obviously felt I’d got to read this to him. He said do you speak Japanese? I remembered a few phrases from the war years, but I had quite a personal struggle with this. I’d got to hate the Japanese because in Burma we’d come across the most appalling things they’d done - like using the prisoners for bayonet practice and things like that. I just said Hrydrya Sutra and he looked at me and beamed. So I went and got the Edward Conze version so I could read the thing in English. He presented me with the scroll. I’ve still got it.
We started a correspondence; a very odd correspondence too. One day I got a letter in good English. It turned out to be from Jiyu Kennet. Apparently Habbo had told her how he’d been over here. She was sounding me out, to find out who I was, what was the set up here and was there a possibility of her being invited to come over and so on. This went on for several years, and at first I had thought it was an erudite Japanese writing to me. She asked questions; we talked about techniques and so on.
What I subsequently heard, although I didn’t learn it from her, was that some Japanese were getting embarrassed with her and various young Americans who were upsetting traditional things and going there with their own ideas. They were not going to fit in and some of the Americans really behaved appallingly. I don’t like saying this of Jiyu Kennet but she had a streak that she was going to be somebody of importance. This was what drove her in a way. I can’t say it interfered with what she was teaching. That was good, but she very quickly broke off her links with anyone who was going to be an authority over her. She wasn’t prepared to have a Dharma brother keep an eye on her at all. I got involved with groups raising money; we brought her over and we held the first retreat in Somerset in the 60s. I was always on the periphery of all this.
Another thing, a friend of mine who was stationed in Hong Kong in the army had met Lu Kuan Yu (Charles Luk) who wanted somebody to read some typescripts he had prepared. I think my friend gave him a wrong impression of my importance and so I got a letter from him. Would I contact a publisher? So I did what I could and gradually Charles Luk’s books came out. That is really why he dedicated one of his books to me. All this revealed for me the Chinese aspect in contrast to Japanese Zen with its somewhat military approach. The Chinese go very much on the ceremonial side, the aspect that Eric Johns likes so much. Personally, while I think this is sometimes helpful, we always kept it to the simplest when I was involved in teaching Zazen, We always had a Rupa and lit incense to show when a meditation period had started and ended. We also had question and answers.
I was given permission to teach originally through Jiyu Kennet at Sojiji before they broke with her. They later renewed permission directly for me to teach independently and I kept up contact with them after that for a while. As time went on our group met regularly for meditation in a sail loft and in our houses. That was how the Mousehole meditation group was started. It began functioning around 1949. I think it was the London Buddhist Society that called us “The Mousehole Buddhist Group” and so it became known.
Most members lived at home as they came from Cornwall. Some still worked while others were retired. The older members made up the regular core of the group. Younger people only started joining in the 60’s when Zen became popular and a few of these started living as monks or nuns. It was this that started us building our first Zendo - meditation hall.
Over the years our schedule of practice changed. Many original members died or gave up attending weekly meetings yet still attended our retreats. Once the Zendo was built there were weekly meetings. Over the years we used a range of texts, the writing of Daisetz Suzuki, Christmas Humphreys, and Charles Luk were the first. Luk’s translations were most useful. Chogyam Trungpa was valuable in his first days in England. Over the years we invited various teachers. In meditation we used shikantaza and koans at different times depending on the teacher and who was present. Our methods were never hard but adapted to our ages.
The group has never closed down. Until I moved from Penaluna, I still sat with them but I am cut off now as my transport is by bus or by getting an old member to collect me. There are still weekly sittings but no one gives teachings any more. Indeed the present members who do sit can hardly represent the group as it originally was. Actually, I now know little of what they do as my age (92) prevents it. What started for me in 1948 has ended.
A talk given during retreat at the Maenllwyd. Oct 22nd - 26th 1998 transcribed from the original tape by Rob Alexander. Edited and abbreviated by the author.
It's probably true to say that the root of our troubles is the manner in which we think of ourselves.
After all, if it is true that we spend ninety percent of our thinking time wondering about ourselves, it's not really surprising we create a problem for ourselves. It follows that it's not at all surprising to find that the first major theme to which a Buddhist must address herself is the problem -Who am I? What am I? Where am I?
In the usual way of things we make an assumption. Because we have names Tom, Dick, and Harry, Betty, Esmeralda, Jane, we believe that a name refers to something, to a thing, an object; a self. We spend our time living as people who possess a self; who have a self. This is so very clear in ordinary language; I talk about "myself". I ask you "How do you feel", "Who do you think she is?" Or, even better, "Who does she think she is?" Possibly sometimes “Who do I think I am?”
There’s a very good reason for this. It's what you might call 'common sense'. The only problem is that common sense is not always quite reliable. It is common sense to look around the room and see ourselves sitting here, Fiona, Simon, Hilary, Malcolm. We're all here are we not? Aren't we? But are we?
Well, of course, yes we are, yes. But what is it that is here?
I think I'm here, and I think you're here. At least, I hope you are, otherwise there wouldn't be much point in my talking to you, would there?
So, here we are. And yet, because we also know that we come into the world, and die, we only have a very short time, seventy years or so, to be here. Three score years and ten? Almost nothing on a cosmic or planetary scale. There was life on earth long before we ever came here. Think of the dinosaurs galumphing around, snorting and bellowing - but not doing much thinking, I suspect. Our extraordinary intelligence and language allows us to worry. "What are we here for?" "What ARE we here for?" "Did somebody put us here?"
Who was that?
These are not new questions. The Buddha addressed himself to them long ago, but they keep on turning up. There is something quite natural, indeed inevitable, about these questions. They have a long history. We cannot suppose a bit of study of Buddhist philosophy is going to solve these questions quickly.
It’s natural to us to think that "John is here". How could I communicate with you if I didn't think I was here? There's a profound paradox in all this. Common-sensically, when John goes and buys an egg in the shop, it would be ridiculous if John didn't know he was John. Who would then be asking for the eggs?
So there's this common-sensical awareness of being John, Malcolm, Hugh. Such common-sensical awareness cannot be thrown away, clever-dick wise, by a bit of philosophy. We live inside this common sense most of the time. Yet, when we begin to look into this, and say "Well, it really troubles me: you know, seventy years isn't much, the quality of my life isn't all that good" we come up against the assumption we are making, - assuming a mind, assuming a self. Have I got it right? Is it as simple as it seems? Now - that's where the Buddha started from.
I want to remind you this morning that one of the very first ideas of the Buddha was the Anatta doctrine. Anatta is a Pali word meaning "no self", and the simple way of putting it is to argue "We got it wrong. We do not have selves".
Superficial understanding of anatta generates all sorts of mistakes, particularly amongst those who say "Ah, Buddhism is therefore Nihilism, it's all about nothing, there's nothing there, it's Nihilism." Actually although the Buddha said "No self", he didn't say there's nothing there. It becomes very interesting to investigate exactly what is there. What did the Buddha mean by "There is no self?" How did he discover it anyway, when it's common-sense to think that there is one? After all, --here's John, -- there's Hilary.
We know rather well what the Buddha did. The Buddha was on a quest, like the rest of us. This young man had had a somewhat problematical childhood. His Mum died when he was very young. His Dad wanted him to become a king but he did not want to be a king. All very painful. Not very nice to be destined to be a king, which after all is rather a posh position, and actually not want to be one at all. Young Siddhartha became very concerned with suffering, his own and that of others. He fixed his mind on the question, Why suffering? He was completely focussed on finding out how to solve that problem.
As we know, he went off on a quest. He frequented all the teachers of his time, wandered about, teacher after teacher after teacher. And some of the main teachers of his time were the Brahmin forest wanderers who talked about Brahman.
What was Brahman? Brahman is similar to the idea of God. It is God and it's everywhere, the entire universe. Everything was Brahman; Brahman produced everything, everything returned to Brahman. So, they said, if you meditate well, if you do great Yoga, you'll find that your self, your ‘Atman’, this breathing being, will disappear into Brahman. And that is bliss.
Siddhartha said "Oh that's great, let's try it out". So he sat and he contemplated and he sat and he contemplated and he did his yoga and he was doubtless a very great Yogi indeed. We know he nearly killed himself doing his ascetic practices. Yet, after a while, he said to himself "Well, I seem to have done everything, but no Brahman, no bliss. Or rather, this doesn't seem to lead to anything transcendent or permanent. So maybe I'd better look more closely into what I'm doing with my mind. When I sit down in meditation, what is going on?"
So instead of going into a deep trance he began to sit easy and just watch what was going on in the mind. Every time he had gone into the deep trance states he had seen that "Pop!" he came out again. So where was Brahman, where was the permanent bliss? He watched what his mind was doing very, very closely, and he saw that one thing led to another. If you do a certain kind of yoga, it produces a feeling of blissful wellness. Then if you wait a bit, it fades, you're back to where you started from. If you do another kind of yoga, it produces silence. If you do another kind of activity, it produces joy. If you think too much about yourself, you get miserable. In this way he mapped his whole world of experiences.
"When I look at my mind," said the Buddha, "what I find is an endless pattern of change. Some of it is blissful, some of it is miserable. Continuous, changing patterns, flowing and flowing and flowing."
He also noted that nearly all of this flowing movement took the form of thought. Thought and feeling. The mind he was looking at was a thinking, feeling, concept- making, experiencing mind; the normal mind which we have, but now being closely examined within meditation.
He realised that instead of there being a something, a thing, a self, what was actually there was a stream of consciousness, a continuous flow. Furthermore, when he began to think about himself, it was as if that flowing stream in all its freedom suddenly congealed into a lump called Siddhartha. Identifying himself as a thing-like self he became a kind of lump on his cushion, he had lost the free movement. There he was, worrying about being Siddhartha.
This endless flow of experiencing began to intrigue him, and he made it the chief focus of his meditation. This was a new method of meditation, Vipassana. It is a method of inspecting the movement of the mind, so that you really recognise what's happening there. And when you do that you do not find a ‘thing’ called Tom, Dick, Harry, John, Malcolm, whoever, Theo, Jenny - you don't find it. All those words are just names.
What you actually find is this flowing continuity of experiencing which has many, many implications. It suggests that when you grab hold of experience and give it a name and make it solid, then all the problems begin to appear. Yet, when you get down to it in direct awareness this ‘thing’ dissolves into a continuous flow, just like a river. The name is just a concept, a mental construction, a sort of short hand way of speaking of a process of great depth and mystery. Thinking it to be a simple entity, me, is clearly a great mistake.
This principle is known in Sanskrit as the principle of interdependent origination or co–dependent arising, the process of continuous mental flux. These are big words, but the idea is quite simple. I first learnt about this experientially while walking in the mountains in India with a very fine thinker, Shri Tashi Rabgyas from Ladakh. As a boy, Tashi had walked from Ladakh to Lhasa to hear the teachings of the Dalai Lama. This would have been about 1950, and it took him three months to get there.
We talked a lot about Krishnamurti’s idea of ‘bare awareness’. Tashi said “You know this bare awareness, it's just the same as co–dependent arising”. I said, “What, Tashi? What do you mean?” So he said, “Well, when you are just aware, bare aware, without bothering about your name or who you are or what you want, just being present, and allowing things to come through, that is observing the flowing presence of your existence.”
And so we practiced this, just walking in the mountains. It was quite wonderful, to be walking in the hills without bothering about being me, just one foot after the other, one cloud after another, one stream after another, one camping place after another, flowing along.
When one thinks about life, that is actually how it is. One day follows another, an hour follows another, breakfast comes before lunch, dinner comes in the evening, we come on retreats, we leave retreats. It's a continuous flow of happenings and events. When you look more microscopically at what the mind is doing, it's similarly flowing from thought to thought and worry to worry; an endless, continuous flowing-ness.
What the Buddha had realised was that when you obstruct that flow by making yourself into a concrete thing, all suffering will appear. If, by contrast, you let go of yourself, if you let go of attachment to these thoughts and feelings, and just fall into the flow, then you find joy and peace. You have to fall out of yourself to find freedom from yourself.
Buddha said "Don't believe me, in fact you may disbelieve me, but I put it to you, this is what I've found. If you try and find it out for yourself, you can see whether I'm right or not.”
The Buddha was not a dogmatist, he made suggestions based on his own experience.
When we think about ourselves, what do we think about? Well, it seems to me that there are two main things. First of all, we think about our bodies. We get terribly disturbed if we run a splinter into a finger. It's very painful, for one thing, maybe it's going to go septic and if it goes septic maybe I'm going to be ill and it's even possible I might die from it.
I'm reaching an age now when quite a lot of my friends now have gone and died, finished, caput. Once every few months, I read about some old friend who's dropped dead from cancer, or whatever it might be. "What about me, am I next?" Well, maybe I am next. But then I count up my ancient relatives, all of them were over eighty and some of them were over ninety by the time they died, "Oh, good, I've got a long time yet!" Forgetting, of course, the bus with my name on it, which is going to run me over tomorrow. Shaky business, life, very uncertain.
We, who live in peacetime, don't often have to think about immediate mortality. But I'm old enough to remember the war as a child. So I can remember things like the bombing and so on, but for a child that was a bit of fun.
A good friend of mine, Robert Hinde, the recent Master of St John’s College, Cambridge, is a little older than me and served in the war. He navigated Sunderland flying boats flying out from Oban, in Scotland, looking for submarines. In those days, radio contact was extremely poor, no useful radar. They just took off and flew out a few hundred feet above the sea over the Atlantic. Coming home they had to stay below cloud cover otherwise they would have no idea where they were. Very dangerous. Of course there were many deaths.
These lumbering flying boats would come back after a six hundred mile tour out into the Atlantic trying to stop U-boats surrounding convoys. When the cloud was down you fly round and round, use up all your fuel, then you try to land. And commonly hit a mountain. That's the end. To such servicemen, mortality was an immediate possibility every time they went on a mission. They simply had to put that thought aside. We have it easy today - most of the time.
Yet mortality is right there in front of us all the time. The real worry arises from the attachment to being this person who wants to survive. The Buddha was interested in what happens if you drop that attachment.
The Buddha says, “Okay, see if you can drop the attachment to the body, the attachment to being a certain sort of person with particular kind of name and a reputation”. What happens? Just try it. What happens if you drop it, just let it fall out of your mind? Where do you find yourself? That turns out to be the key question. If you do the experiment, and just let go of all that stuff, where are you?
This is something that can be found out only individually, personally. We can call it "the flow of experience", we can give it a big Sanskrit name; all right, that's fine, that's all literary stuff. But in actual experience, where do you find yourself, if you drop preoccupation with the things to do with the body and identity? Where are you then?
Look at it this way ……
What happens when the breathing goes out and you look into the space into which the breathing has gone? You find a sort of silence. It's not a big silence, it’s just a sort of clarity with no concepts in it.
You breathe in again... and maybe after a few minutes you start thinking again, -- because, as we said, thinking is natural. Even so you've learned something. Until that moment you never thought that such a thing as real silence existed
Just take a deep breath and then.... watching it go... what happens? It's like diving off a high board. Where’s the water? If you have come to an end with the ending of breath where have you gone?
Look and see.
The great Master Xu Yun used to talk a lot about questions such as "Who Am I?" He would say, one way of working with this is to repeat the question; "Who am I? Who am I?"
‘Who’ is just a sound, if I look at it without identifying with it, the 'who' is just a sound coming up, but where has that 'who' come from? Well it must have come from me, where else? Okay, that’s common sense. But look again, where, actually, in experience, does the 'who' come from? Try and see. You have to repeat the 'who' every little while, so "Who Am I?" "Who?" If the ‘who’ comes from ‘me’ what is that ‘me’?
You know that in a couple of minutes you're going to say 'who' again. Where the hell does it come from? So - look into what's there just before it comes up. "Who am I?"
"Who". It's coming, it's not here yet, it's coming though, but where's it coming from? "Who". It came from somewhere, and where's it gone? Where is the mind when it’s looking at the space out of which a word comes?
Before it comes, where is it coming from? And when it's gone, where has it gone to? "What is the experience before the 'who' arises?" If you can see it, note the implication.
If you can see the space out of which this simple word 'who' has come, you've also put your finger on the space that is always lying behind language. Here is that aspect of the self, the no-mind, out of which mind comes.
The Buddha recommends we find that space. It's not the whole story, but it is the beginning of the realization that mind is, as it were, floating in a silence. This silence is not the silence of the grave but the bare awareness of the continuous flowing of yourself and necessarily of the universe.
Is that Brahman? The Buddha would not assert such a thing because that would create an entity, an object of thought, a solidity and a source of attachment where there is no object of thought.
All he would say is "There is the unborn." Yes, indeed, there is the unborn. A beautiful word for that which is later born; the mind is born from the unborn. The unborn is the basis, and a familiarity with the unborn is a doorway to what's called enlightenment.
Proposal for Discussion:
On further reflection concerning the possible futures of the WCF (See NCF 31) I have recently come up with the following ideas.
1. The WCF does very well in promoting the Dharma through the medium of intensive retreats. Many retreatants come again and again to one or other of our events. This is all to the good. However many retreats simply serve a remedial function for those stressed by the contemporary conditions of life, personal problems, or a feeling that previous events have been beneficial. There is no harm in this; indeed it is good news that our work is of value to many. However relatively few retreatants have adequate knowledge of even the basic Buddha dharma and most are confused regarding the finer points of Buddhist thought or its potential contribution to modern times beyond that of a personally therapeutic role.
2. In the last two years I have been reading intensively for a book on “World Crisis and Buddhist Humanism” which may be published by Motilal Banarsidass on completion. I have realised that Buddhism, far from being a religion in anything like the usual sense, is in fact very close to Western Humanism but with a unique spiritual component.
I feel that the next WCF project needs to develop a distinctive educational focus developing such insights through the presentations of relevant teachers. The general direction of such teaching would be towards a Buddhist Humanism. In suggesting this term to some five potentially interested parties including Peter Reason, James Low and Jake Lynne, I found the idea appealed strongly to them.
3. In what would such a project comprise? Basically weekend workshops for about twelve persons focussed on the relationship between Buddhism and relevant modern ideas in philosophy, science and economics including the environment – that is to say the themes emerging in Western humanism from the 18th century European ‘Enlightenment’. I would be happy to teach the line of thought presented in my forth coming book while teachers such as Peter Reason, James Low, Stephen Batchelor, Ken Jones and perhaps David Loy could be invited to supply comparable courses of whatever length. There is also the potential for a more careful consideration of our role in interfaith work – particularly Christianity, based on a more defined viewpoint.
The workshops would include meditation periods and socialisation. Longer courses could also be envisaged.
I would like to hear views on such a proposal, which may be formulated gradually as a WCF Teachers policy should there seem to be adequate support. John Crook.
Chuan-deng Jing-di. Teacher to WCF