the three jewels in the world
Suriyavamsa’s Dharma Walk: Last Day - Jungles and Herons and Tara Mantras
Suriyavamsa - newly installed President of Triratna Highlands in Scotland - has been marking the start of his time in that position by making a Dharma Walk from Inverness to Glasgow (that’s 165 miles or so!). And he’s blogged it for us from his trusty Blackberry… + follow above to get more content like this - including more from Suriyavmsa’s Dharma travels!
Jungles and Herons and Tara mantras
On Thursday night I slept in a large field on Bankell Farm with many others, which was doing brisk business with several fields filled with Commonwealth Games fans. After a few oatcakes I walked into the centre of Milngavie and had second breakfast. (Some days on this walk I’ve been Strider, yesterday I was a hobbit.)
The coffee and croissants were fine in Jessie Biscuit cafe, which was decked out in a feminine style with the addition of enthusiastic Bible quotes chalked on slates round the walls. (Eph. 3:20-21, for example, for those who are interested.)
I met Les and Ann-Marie and we headed for the Kelvin Walkway, looking for its signposts with the emblem of a grey heron. We saw four actual herons on the way and spoke of Jinavamsa and poetry.
Stretches of the path were deeply overgrown and we had to battle through nettles, thistles, briars, and beautifully flowering plants some eight feet in height, their blooms in various shades of pink resplendent above our heads. Eventually we reached the tarmacadam path winding down the Kelvin, and passed affluent and less affluent areas of Glasgow. Much of this was under the welcome cool of trees, it was the hottest day of the journey.
Angela joined us at the cafe in Kelvingrove Park and bought us cool drinks. Then at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre I finally placed the vajra on the shrine, we recited the transference of merits verses and sang some Tara mantras.
After that I attended my chapter, where we ate the vegan ice cream and raspberries provided by Silaketu. I ended the day at the opening night of Julia’s exhibition of Tarot paintings in Glasgow’s Theosophical Society.
Today I’m resting, sitting around in my Guhyaloka robes, the coolest gear I have, watching the sky build up for rain and maybe even thunder.
What am I noticing from my wee stroll? Walking over 200 miles has made me lose weight. I feel more settled and at ease than when I left. My connection with Tara has deepened - there have been subtle reflections arising that I could express in words as the mystery of what was self and what was other, what was development and what was devotion and the even deeper mystery of their resolution. I noticed these mysteries were woven into the Tara sadhana (meditation/devotion practice) with one of those ‘why didn’t I see that staring me in the face before’ moments of realisation. My mala counters are telling me I did 91,260 mantras and 845 Tara invocations. I also noticed that after spending time in hills and farmland I spoke and thought again in the Scots of my Arran childhood - a sort of ‘Ayrshire-lite’.
And I saw so much land - mountains, hills, trees, rocks, wee burns, big rivers, tiny flowers. So much more vast and precise than the blur that slips past the car window. It reminded me of Hugh McDiarmid’s poem Scotland Small. (If you’ll indulge me, here it is in its entirety.)
Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland ‘small’?
Only as a patch of hillside may be a cliche corner
To a fool who cries “Nothing but heather!”
Where in September another
Sitting there and resting and gazing around
Sees not only heather but blaeberries
With bright green leaves and leaves already turned scarlet,
Hiding ripe blue berries; and amongst the sage green leaves
Of the bog-myrtle the golden flowers of the tormentil shining;
And on the small bare places, where the little Blackface sheep
Found grazing, milkworts blue as summer skies;
And down in neglected peat-hags, not worked
In living memory, sphagnum moss in pastel shades
Of yellow, green and pink; sundew and butterwort
And nodding harebells vying in their colour
With the blue butterflies that poise themselves delicately upon them,
And stunted rowans with harsh dry leaves of glorious colour.
“Nothing but heather!”
- How marvellously descriptive! And incomplete!
This goes for every land, everywhere.
And I completed a pilgrimage - treading a path from the newest Triratna Buddhist Centre in Scotland to the oldest, taking in Dhanakosa on route. I deepened the meaning and significance of their presence in the landscape, at least in my mind and heart.
(You can find pictures of the opening of the Triratna Highlands Buddhist Centre on the website buddhistcommunityhighlands.org.uk)
Suriyavamsa’s Dharma Walk: Day Fifteen - Through the Heat, Through Strathblane and into Milngavie
Suriyavamsa - newly installed President of Triratna Highlands in Scotland - is marking the start of his time in that position by making a Dharma Walk from Inverness to Glasgow (that’s 165 miles or so!). And he’s blogging it for us from his trusty Blackberry… + follow on The Buddhist Centre Online to get updates from the road!
Through the heat, through Strathblane and into Milngavie
Just reached Milngavie, an affluent commuter town to the north of Glasgow. I’m sitting in Andiamo’s Bar, the poshest place I’ve found yet - all chrome and mirror and shiny black bar and tables, cool music and above all in importance, cool air conditioning. They seem imperturbed about this sweaty, dusty traveller that has just walked in. The commonwealth triathlon is on the big flat screen TV. Are these English guys who are winning brothers, or do they just happen to have the same surname? Well done, chaps!
Today was the hottest day yet, and yet again I was glad of my Guhyaloka training in how to sweat properly! A gentle walk through the Strathblane valley that cuts through the Campsie hill range into the Clyde valley, then up and over the edge of the Kilpatrick hills where the view opened out to take in the whole great post-industrial Leviathon of the Clyde Valley - ‘A First View Of The Region To Be Converted’, as the canto title goes in The Life And Liberation of Padmasambhava. [Read the seminar on this text by Sangharakshita, ed.]. Then down again through the woods of Mugdock Park and into Milngavie, (pronounced Mulguy!)
It was a day of historical heroes - my steps measured in time as well as space. I walked through the tiny village of Gartness, where John Napier came up with his logarithms. He would wander in his nightshirt in the castle grounds lost in mathematical reverie, raising the locals’ suspicion that he was in league with the Devil. The castle has long gone, the suspicions too, but the logarithms remain. Though, I confess, I’ve never been near them since high school.
Further on was the little town of Killearn with its memorial to local boy George Buchanan; renaissance philosopher and scholar, tutor to James VI, second ever moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and ‘prince of Latin poets’ as someone once described him.
The way into Milngavie ran through Mugdock Park with its ruined castle, an old stronghold of the Grahams. I was excited to find that the 'Great Marquis' of Montrose lived here - he who signed the Covenant against King Charles yet finally stood against the Covenanters in the Civil War out of principle, and almost beat them in a number of incredible battles and manoeuvres. If you like military geniuses (and there probably won’t be many on a Western Buddhist website who do), he’s one of the best.
I’ve been settled and happy in my walking over the past few days. In this the old psyche has been following the pattern of a solitary retreat - stormy drama at the start followed by a gradual deepening into settled contentment.
Tomorrow morning I’m meeting up with a few folk from the Glasgow sangha at the Milngavie train station and we’ll walk the 12 miles down the River Kelvin to the shrine of the Glasgow Buddhist Centre and that will be it. Job done! At the same time though, ‘the pilgrimage never ends’.
Suriyavamsa’s Dharma Walk: Day Fourteen - Heid and Peens and Grun a Workin Thegither
Suriyavamsa - newly installed President of Triratna Highlands in Scotland - is marking the start of his time in that position by making a Dharma Walk from Inverness to Glasgow (that’s 165 miles or so!). And he’s blogging it for us from his trusty Blackberry… + follow to get updates from the road! If anybody would like to accompany him on the last day, he’s leaving from Milngavie train station at 11am this Friday.
Heid and Peens and Grun a Workin Thegither - (Head and Legs and Ground All Working Together.)
I’m now sitting in Drymen’s Clachan Inn, established in 1734 and claiming to be Scotland’s oldest pub. Two old sailors have started talking about the ships they served on, The Nubian, The Tiger, The Blake, and which was the best. Apparently its all to do with the commander.
These last days my walking is down to 10-12 mile stretches and I’ve noticed that I’m actually enjoying it, happily strolling along.
I kept to a B-road today in order to pay my respects to the memorial of Robert Bontine Cunningham Graham in Gartmore. Cunningham Graham was in his lifetime a local minor aristocrat, an Argentine gaucho, a prolific writer (the film The Mission is based on one of his novels), the first MP to call themselves socialist in the House of Commons and a co-founder of both the Labour Party and the SNP at different stages of his political evolution. It would seem churlish to just walk by.
Today was hot sunshine and I walked up the steepest hill I’ve seen yet. I was glad of my time spent in Guhyaloka in Spain getting used to heat.
In the hottest part of the afternoon I sat in the shade of a fir tree on a seat of heather and blaeberries and read out a Tara puja, turning the pages with blaeberry stained fingers. Off on the broad slopes of Moor Park a family of ravens performed their own puja with deep ‘kronks’ and gyrations in the sky.
Afterwards I composed this -
Each mantra is a boat
big enough to carry
Om tare tuttare ture svaha.
A poor copy of the likes of Ryokan and Issa of course. Here’s Issa for real -
From today on
To see is to pray…
Dewdrops in the grass.
Suriyavamsa’s Dharma Walk: Day Thirteen - Chocolate Ice Cream And Gravestones
Suriyavamsa - newly installed President of Triratna Highlands in Scotland - is marking the start of his time in that position by making a Dharma Walk from Inverness to Glasgow (that’s 165 miles or so!). And he’s blogging it for us from his trusty Blackberry… + follow here to get updates from the road!
Chocolate ice cream and gravestones
After yesterday’s reprieve from leg-pain, I’ve decided to take on the remaining stroll in four 10-12 mile bites. I’ve now arrived in Aberfoyle, yet another 19th century tourist town.
The walk was over a hill, hot in the summer sun with deep commercial forest and a stretch of older sheep pasture, where I lay myself down to rest by a wee burbling burn. I noticed the milk eyes were freshly sheared.
I passed an ice cream shop on my way through Callander and bought a medium sized chocolate one, despite the horror of the cow advert outside designed to turn us all vegan.
Further on the road out of Callander I finally made it into the old graveyard by the river I have sped past for years and wanted to explore. I’m fond of 16th +17th century skull and angel gravestones, but here the soft stone had worn away the oldest, and, still eating ice cream, I could only find this host of startled cherubim - not quite ready themselves for judgement day.
If anybody would like to accompany me on the last day, we’re kicking off from Milngavie train station at 11am this Friday. See you there.
Suriyavamsa’s Dharma Walk: Days Eleven and Twelve - Back On the Road
Suriyavamsa - newly installed President of Triratna Highlands in Scotland - is marking the start of his time in that position by making a Dharma Walk from Inverness to Glasgow (that’s 165 miles or so!). And he’s blogging it for us from his trusty Blackberry… + follow here for more pictures and to get updates from the road!
Back On The Road
This morning Danabhadri gave Jinavamsa and I a lift to Killin. After paying St. Fillin and his wolf our respects we set off through easy forest track and old railway lines down Glen Ogle and on to Kingshouse, where we are currently munching on chips.
We have four more milestones to Dhanakosa. My leg is playing up a little, but plenty of rests and spells doing my twirly exercise keeps it going. Its pleasant walking with Jinavamsa, strolling along and talking about most things under the sun, but he’ll be heading back to Glasgow tomorrow.
While resting this afternoon we encountered ‘Bike for Peace’, three burly middle aged Norwegians on a bicycle and a tandem, who loved that we were Buddhists and that I was a member of Scottish CND. The more talkative one knew Aung San Suu Kyi personally. Another had a cycling top with ‘Mayors for Peace’ emblazoned proudly and indeed was the mayor of a ‘pleasant Norwegian town’. Surprises never cease.
On soon to Dhanakosa retreat centre for the night, via Rob Roy’s grave. Tomorrow, Callander and more surprises.
Just reached Callander, where I am sitting in the Riverside Inn bending time and space. Outside is the road I’ve travelled dozens of times to Dhanakosa Retreat Centre. From here it is half an hour’s drive, yet today it took me six hours to walk from there, taking in the landscape so much more. Dhanakosa and Callander sit apart on different scales which we set by our experience of the journey.
This was the genesis of this walk - looking out of the car window on those journeys wondering where these paths I could see on the other side of the field went, what it would be like to walk on them.
This morning Jinavamsa and I sat with the retreat centre’s support community, joining in with the Tiratanavandana in one of the best shrine rooms in the Triratna community - a wooden one-roomed building made by Douglas Hastings from a tree that fell just yards from where the shrine room now stands. (See photo.) I had placed the vajra I’m carrying from Inverness to Glasgow on the shrine to link this place in with the rest of the walk. If the walk itself is a vajra Dhanakosa community shrine room is the bulbous part at the centre - the bija, ‘seed’. Many thanks to the Dhanakosans for welcoming us and feeding us so well.
Jinavamsa left me at Strathyre to get back to Glasgow and I strolled on down Loch Lubnaig and along a winding path through the beauty of an oak and moss forest by the Falls of Leny’s deep dark swirling waters.
Off soon to find the campsite at the other end of Callander, but not until I’ve sampled the baked macaroni cheese of this inn I’m currently ensconced in.