The Brazier family coat of arms shield has three rings argent on a red shield divided by a gold band. Above is a dove of peace. The three books represent prose, poetry and scripture and below the Greek motto says "Labours of love bring peace", the whole design is flanked by the goddesses of peace, Eirene, and love, Aphrodite, the former carrying the infant of prosperity, Ploutos. The dove links the two goddesses as the dove is the symbol of peace (Eirene) and also the bird most closely associated with Aphrodite and the cooing of lovers.

Mt Koya Japan 2012

  • DSC05441
    Pilrimage to Mt Koya, holy mountain of Shingon, the esoteric tradition of Japanese Buddhism, one of the three most holy mountains of Japan, along with Togakushi (Shinto) and Hiei (Tendai)

Bilbao by evening light

  • An evening of Zen DSC04397
    Given its industrial past, Bilbao is a strikingly handsome city. Its renaissance puts me somewhat in mind of what has become of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, another northern industrial city with new arts centred development. In fact the parallels are quite strong. The Basque people, like the Geordies, have a distinctive local culture. The weather here is constantly changing and many of these pictures were taken in low light.

Gaxtelugatxe 29th May 2012

  • Tilted rock strata give the shore distinction DSC04374
    This is a spectacular bay with a spiritual atmosphere. It has probably been a sacred spot since pre-Christian times. At the western end of the bay is a peninsula with a causeway ascent to a small church dedicated to John the Baptist. In the middle of the bay is an island. The shores are rocky pavements with strata at oblique angles. There are over 200 steps down and up. Good exercise. Good for the body and the soul.
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David Brazier

Of course, it is also interesting/ironic that there should be so much concern here about social justice ideas in a conference that is itself essentially an exercise in elitism. Not that I am always opposed to elitism - I just appreciate the irony. Rather than abolishing elites, I would prefer to see a proliferation of them until everybody can find somewhere to be special, rather than pursuing a uniformity that I would experience as drab and restrictive. It is nice to have been invited. One wonders how one was chosen. One doubts whether they (whoever they are) will take the risk of inviting one again. But, all in all, it has been fun and a great networking opportunity (for those who were invited :-) )

scott ruplin

Thanks for this great post. I cringe when I see progressive American political issues conflated with Buddhism (and I am, for the most part, progressive in my own politics, and a social worker in Oregon). Buddhists around the world believe all sorts of different things politically, and there's an inherent contradiction between trying to diversify American sanghas around ethnic and gender issues while restricting outreach to a narrower politics or ideology that will likely exclude or alienate many.

David Brazier

Thanks Scott - I think we are on the same page. :-)


Jumping in in the middle of all of this...Buddhism won't begin to have an impact on society until it moves beyond the "upper middle class parlors" that we seem to be stuck in these days. I'll add to what Scott said by pointing out that the more 'working class' oriented people tend to bring a sort of 'commom sense' attitude that I think is more conducive to thought along the lines presented in the dharma teachings. It's an unwieldy statement to make and the pitfalls of drawing lines once again becomes immediately apparent but still I think it needs to be said.

David Brazier

Thanks. Yes. I agree. Different social groups bring different perspectives. Also different individuals bring gifts and it is a shame if those of some individuals get excluded because of the groups to which they belong. At the same time, groups form around value norms and this is what gives them cohesion. To find the value norms that are "Buddhism" and not "middle class" "upper class" "working class" is a challenge. To be accepted one need "apologetics" that relate one's core values to those of the group that one wants to be accepted by; on the other hand, any apologetic exercise carries the risk that one lose the values that one was apologising (using the word in its strict techynical sense) for. Apologising in the technical sense can easily become apologising in the common sense. I agree with being socially inclusive - look at my work - but the issue is complex because a certain sort of "inclusivism" is itself merely a middle class liberal value. Ultimately one can only live and teach the Dharma with open hands to whoever comes, but we know that in society there are always gatekeepers. Thanks for posting.

Joy Leftow

It's very easy to say I will be this way and a struggle to actually behave this way on a daily basis - and to do so encourages others to behave this way too:

The Basic Buddhist stance in relation to life is gratitude leading to love, fellow feeling, sympathetic joy and equanimity; it is not demand, protest, self-affirmation, or anything to do with claiming rights. I do not say that if one is in a culture in which "rights" and "justice" are the common currency one should never employ such language; it might sometimes be upaya (skilful means) so to do, but were one to do so, if one were a Buddhist, one should have at least in oneself a recognition that skilful means is all it is and that Buddhism itself offers a more profound and more true basis that is one's real foundation.

karma happens sooner to some later to others and seems still not to affect others and according to the Buddhist stance we know that according to the laws of nature karma does affect.

Joy Leftow

Responding to above comments about finding the tenets practiced among the upper classes and parlors I have a different experience. Strangely in my neck of the woods up here in the northern tip of the Manhattan island where I live it is the middle and lower classes who seek out different schools of Buddhism and who are practicing other types of Eastern meditation practices, various types yoga etc which also incorporate a social and behavioral codes during ceremonies, prayers or other practices. It is amazing actually.

Noelle Imparato

The Buddha's teachings are one thing but lets not forget that a huge part of the traditional Buddhist literature revolves around the rules and regulations of monastery life. Early on Buddhists were mainly monks. Today as more and more Buddhists are lay people it might be expected that the discussion would revolve more and more around civil life, civil justice, etc. To be concerned by other people's life seems to me the normal outcome of a thinking that considers all lives are one, not I/ not me/ mot mine.

David Brazier

Noelle - this is a very interesting point. Why are so many people who have no intention of becoming monastics so interested in this great body of primarily renunciant literature? Actually, in passing, it cannot be true that the early Buddhists were mostly monks - they would have starved. The majority of Buddhists have always been lay. I guess, however, that they were illiterate for the most part. Nonetheless, in Asia, Buddhism has certainly been the "established religion" of numerous states, so it has not been without social effect, starting from King Ashoka, right through Kubilai Khan among others.

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