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Finally Feeling A Bit More Clear Headed

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Its been a few days since that last post I wrote about my reservations about this place…

The last few days I just tried to relax, as hardly anyone is here and I can take a few days off.

I realized the day I wrote that last post how exhausted I was-both physically and mentally.

When I first came here, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the place-as I think I have mentioned, its an English garden fantasy, complete with enormous old mansion, countless garden sheds, meandering paths, and overgrown orchards.

Once here for awhile though, I quickly got into the work groove, which is very scheduled and they seem to have extremely high expectations. Everyone seems kind of stressed out at all they have to do, and even if they don’t express this feeling directly, it of course gets expressed indirectly. Even the day we were supposed to go to the Festival, I had a list of to dos from two people I had to do, and then they told us that we would be working until the last minute as well, housekeeping. The word “no” doesn’t seem to be used alot around here.

I realize now that I arrived at the Festival in somewhat tired and downtrodden state of mind and not with alot of physical energy. Once there, it was one thing after another-meditations, explanations, preparations, volunteering at this or that…there really wasn’t time for much thinking or resting. Perhaps that is how it is designed to be, as if one is exhausted, there’s not alot of time for reflection. You sort of go on automatic.

Coming back here was a relief, and I expected it to be restful. However, many of the residents hadn’t done their chores before leaving and the bathrooms and trash and kitchens had to be done.

Yesterday, I was so tired in the morning when I awoke that I thought I hadn’t sleep at all. I ended up taking the day off and slept thru the entire day and night, with a few tea breaks thrown in.

I awoke feeling better, but decided to take today off as well and start working in the garden again tomarrow. I’ve just been puttering about, doing my laundry and taking care of myself. A little self care goes a long way when you are traveling!

My thoughts on this place remain the same-although I can see clearly that there are some very nice and kind well-meaning people involved here, they perhaps do not have good understanding of the Buddhist way of being in the world. They do not seem to understand what they are agreeing to, and often people just repeat the same little phrases or stories to me.

The general atmosphere of some stress , poor social skills, and isolation seems to have many root causes within the framework of belief here. People seem to use the framework of the Gurus teachings to make excuses for behavior that is not positive.

There are however, some very sweet, genuine people who seem to be trying hard to be good people and practice compassion and ethical behavior.

I have been reading the Gurus main text, and although things are explained quite succinctly, I don’t see an awful lot of examples of people on the way to enlightenment as he explains it. Some people have alot of baggage and seem to be trying to work stuff out. I suppose we are all doing this, no matter what we believe, but a little patience and consideration goes a long way.

I am trying to practice compassion, as I define it, by doing works of mercy here. there are several very lonely people here, and just listening to them and eating a meal with them goes a long way to help them not feel so alone.

One thing that I am thinking about is what has happened to western culture, that people are so lost, so overwhelmed by all that is expected of them..that they literally don’t know where to turn. People are exhausted from trying to just stay employed and have their families, keep a roof over their head and food on the table. So many people seem to be just maintaining, just surviving-not thriving.

People in Wsetern cultures need as much help, as much compassion and acts of service as people from poor countries-yet, it’s so much harder to give it to 1st world folks. Why is this?

I have applied to the Catholic worker House in London, a radical catholic-teaching based group who has a shelter and soup kitchen in the city. (Radical in the sense that it is really committed to peace and justice issues and helping the poor and disadvantaged in the fringes of society)Hopefully I will be accepted to go there for a week.

If I get accepted to help out, this would greatly improve my outlook on England, which at the moment is rainy, dreary, and strange.

I’ll keep you all posted…


Is It A Cult? That’s the Question..

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I sit here late at night on the computer in one of the kitchens, trying to sort my thoughts and doing a very poor job of it.

I returned from the festival just a few days ago, saw the Guru, heard what he had to say..and managed to return here in one piece. The¬† experience of going to the event, surrounded by thousands of people whjo only talked about pretty much the Guru, his teachings, and so on was extraordinary. I’ve never been to anything like that in my life.

In spite of the fact that the people in attendence were of every kind and every age, color, and background, they all seemed to have something in common.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, except to say it has left me with a distinctly uncomfortable impression.

There is something a little bit Stepford Wives about it all , and this in spite of the fact that I met some very nice people.

But I suppose Stepford wives would be very nice, wouldn’t they?

This caused me to come home and do some research on exactly where I am and who I am actually learning Buddhism from. What I discovered has not calmed me-in fact, it has me extremely aware that I am in a place that is not exactly what it seems.

Here is what I discovered(well, actually, this is just a taste of it!):

There are 3 large ” New Religious Movements” in Britain at the moment, and all three of them are claiming to be Buddhist. Each of three groups is quite large, with many folowers, owning large amounts of property and recruiting new members. Each group has a charismatic leader who is the authority and only their texts can be read. These groups run from casual to cult like. The leaders of the groups are Westerners, with a Asian Frontman(or frontwoman).

All 3 of the groups are not included on any official Buddhist roster-in fact, all three groups are causing many problems for Buddhists in the world. They each have their own specific brand of Buddhism, and they don’t allow for disagreement. I may be getting some good basic teachings about Buddhism, but after that, it all gets a bit screwed up.

You can look up the types of groups I am talking about by doing a little research on your own, on new Buddhist groups or new religious movements in Britain and Western countries. I would prefer not to mention their name here as I have come to understand they have links to such things and then would discover what I am writing.

The place I am would definitely not like it if they thought I was writing about them-especially anything negative. They have been known to cause a great deal of problems for people who do so.

I am some what ill at ease after talking to some people on line to with who left the particular group of ” Buddhists” I am currently living with. Based on my conversations with them, I have decided to not write the blog.

I will go back to writing the blog after leaving this place-which may be soon, or maybe not.

I will write my journal entries out and post them on the blog when I leave here.

In the meantime, I will make my own observations, and decide myself whether or not I think it is a cult, or whether its just a bunch of idealistic people with a few nuts thrown in.

It is somewhat interesting, to look at a group and need to decide is it a cult? Or is it not a cult? Such things are sometimes based on arbitrary things, sometimes not.

At the moment, I believe that it is. It requires its members to do many things which would lead me to believe that it is a cult, in spite of being made up of perfectly nice people.

I have met many people that I have liked here and I do not want to harm them with my words-I am accutely concious of this responsibility at this time. That is why it is important to think this over carefully and responsibly.

I do not feel as thought I am in any danger or anything like that-mentally there has been some strain, but I have found my own faith to be especially profound here, and of great comfort. I am also somewhat relieved that the Buddhism here is not neccessarily the Buddhism teaching I will find elsewhere, and look forward to learning more about it somewhere else along the trip.

There is much work to be done here, and I am busy from morning to night, and enjoying this aspect of things very much. The work is very rewarding, and I love what I am doing. For example, I did housekeeping for the last two days, and its such a vast place, I got quite  workout!

I have also had the opportunity to befriend several people here, who are not part of the group, but just visiting like me..and I have found that I can practice being of service to them by being a true friend, which has been a real unexpected pleasure.

So in the meantime, perhaps I will just be thinking why does this appeal so much to us Westerners, this organized type of group? What is it about our culture that gets us all wrapped up in Gurus and so on?

I wil be checking in from time to time, at least once weekly, so no worries, I will keep you all posted.

(I am sorry about the blog, though, as I’ve been missing it alot-I just can’t see writing entries about what I ate for dinner or funny little stories when I’ve got this larger story looming in the background. it just wouldn’t be right or make much sense.)

Until then, take care, as I will be thinking of you all.



Writing You From Nowhere In Particular

Thursday, July 24th, 2008
So I've been here for two weeks and as yet, been unable to write a single entry about this place or this experience. Why? Well, quite frankly, some of it has not been particularly enjoyable. I am at a loss as ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Blog Is Back!

Friday, July 18th, 2008
Dear readers, I am sorry to say that I have neglected this blog for a bit too long. Part of this was due to just needing a break (having become a bit of a blog slave!), and part of this was ... [Continue reading this entry]