Buddhas in my pocket

An Australian Buddhist Pilgrimage


May 2016

In the hands of Dantacitta

Dantacitta – Melbourne Buddhist Centre

“I have had this rock for quite along time and it was given to me in America at the southern part of the Grand Canyon.  I was waiting around with about 80 other people from various tour companies for our a helicopter ride down into the Canyon.

A native American man was picking up pieces of rock off the floor.  He was just sitting there when I caught his eye and I noticed he was drawing something. He was a few metres away from me but he suddenly walked up to me and put this piece of rock in my hand. It had a picture that he had painted on it.

He said, “This is for you because you love to feel the rain on your face.”

When I looked closely at the painting at first I thought it was someone crying but then I saw that what had looked like tears actually started from the top of the head.

So in fact it was rain on the face. 

And I thought, ‘How did this complete stranger know?’

Someone that I had never spoken a word to before.  

How did he know that one of my favourite things to do is to actually stand out in the rain, and turn my face skywards, and let the rain just fall on my face.

It was a moment of knowing …that it’s possible to be so ‘seen’ by a complete stranger in a way we can’t even imagine.

Dharmically , it had a magical quality which I now see as something of the  Dhamma-niyama coming through. Someone that didn’t know me at all could connect deeply in quite a beautiful way. 

So this gift has remained in my life as an image that represents how much I would love to be able to see people that clearly at some point in my life.”IMG_6267

In the hands of Apada

Apada -Melbourne Buddhist Centre

“I received these on my Ordination retreat as did everyone who was ordained with me.

The flame is made of pine found throughout the valley in Spain in which the retreat centre stands.

The lotus represents purity and the vajra symbolises the determination needed for this spiritual journey.

The flame represents the force needed to transform Samsara into Nirvana.

All of these were made individually for every retreatant by Aryadharma, Bodhidasa and Saddhamani so they are now scattered around the world.

All three are a very important part of how I see practice.”



Avalokitesvara- Bodhisattva of Compassion

The myth of Triratna Buddhist Order is symbolised by the image of Avalokitesvara.

This Bodhisattva of compassion has one thousand arms. The Triratna Order now consists of over two thousand Order Members.

In the hands of Avalokitesvara there are items that help depict the diversity of ways we can all offer assistance to help ease suffering and connect with fellow human beings with kindness and compassion.

As I begin a series of posts called  ‘In the hands of the Order ‘ I hope the diverse, wonderful nature of members of our Order will be conveyed. They each in their own way help bring something valuable to this topsy- turvy world.

So  as my pilgrimage unfolds I will ask Order Members to the share with us something they value, something that has found its way into their own hands.




Leaving Melbourne- what I know now

Thank you Melbourne – what a wonderful, supportive Sangha.

And so the circle grows…

Dear Matripala,

You know I told you that I’ve been holding onto the little Buddha waiting for the ‘right’ recipient. As if they were such a thing. Anyone and everyone is the right recipient! Anyway I gave it to our daughter’s friend . She is a model of friendship and fussless generosity to my daughter and her family, plus very much to us.

I felt that just like the actual Buddha I was giving to her, she was connected to othe earth, well grounded, at the same time as being and upright person, very caring and ethical. She was most touched by this gift and its origins starting with you or even before that with Kalychitta who donated it and she was very much on board with the idea of Indra’s net.

So she will keep it as a blessing but knows too that she can pass it on. And so the circle grows of this random yet purposeful sangha you have initiated.





The story in hands

Faces tell us so much about someone but more and more I am also drawn to gaze at hands.

I find no matter what a face is communicating to me , hands tell me more.

In the Winter of 1997 I purchased a magazine called Dharmalife.

The cover picture captured my attention immediately. It depicted an image that has stayed fresh and close to the surface of my emotional landscape for years.

It was of a picture of Tibetan monk, Palden Gyatso’s hands pressed against his face in a poignant depiction of a human being’s response to suffering. Palden had been tortured and imprisoned by his Chinese captors for 33 years.

Something still stirs deeply in me when I look at his hands.


Another strong connection with hands happened to me about 20 years ago. I had learnt  the metta bhavana  meditation  ( loving kindness practice) and this particular incident increased my faith that the practice was working.

I was in a long supermarket checkout line late on a cold Friday night in my hometown of Emerald. The line didn’t seem to be moving and when I looked ahead I saw a very old man trying to get coins from his wallet to pay the cashier.

He fumbled  with unresponsive fingers trying to scoop up the right coins.  People in the line, hoping to get home quickly to loved ones and warmth I imagine , shifted from foot to foot with impatience.

My heart slowly unfolded as I gazed at his deeply lined hands trying to do this impossible task. I sensed that those hands, although empty,  held a full, interesting life.

I also realised in that moment I was seeing the hands of my father, my brothers, my grandsons and all beings.

Those hands could have belonged to anybody as they revealed the universal story of hopes, dreams and suffering…….. the only response to have at such a sight was kindness.

I moved past the few people ahead of me and asked him

” Here, would you like me to help?”

His eyes lit up with acceptance. I chose the correct coins for him and paid the cashier for his items. After I had paid for my shopping, he and I continued to chat and we walked from the store connected in the most simple yet profound way.

This week i will be starting series of posts called ‘In the hands of the Order.’

I will be asking Order members involved the places i am visiting, to hold an item that is meaningful to them and tell me about it. These stories I will share with you.



Looking back to the start….. March 17th 2016

Next week I will give a talk about what I have have learned as my time at the first resting place on the Buddhas in my Pocket Pilgrimage (Melbourne Buddhist Centre ) comes to an end.

It was interesting for me to listen to the talk I gave on the launch day  and see what predictions I made as I was about to begin the journey.

Four shiny faces

Four shiny faces suddenly formed a curtain of youth in front me. In a semi circle these high school students momentarily closed off my view of Fed Square and its inhabitants.

After alighting from the tram I had been sitting in the weak autumn sun for only 10 minutes when they approached.

I was doing the third stage of our loving kindness practice and had connected with a sense ease and patience.  I was quite happy to sit and wait.  I knew something would happen, something would become obvious and in the magical way that now almost seems normal on these pilgrimage walks,  some buddhas in my pocket would  find a new home.

Its funny because usually I  am the one usually sensing into who who is a likely candidate to give a buddha to but now turning the tables they had identified me as a likely suspect …..and with confidence in numbers they delivered their request.

Very politely these four high school students asked if I would mind completing a survey. Their teacher had given them an hour to roam the square asking people questions about the city’s homeless community. They were from a school not far from where I used to teach.

As they asked their questions I really had to reflect and try and clearly explain my answers. Their answer categories would not budge to accommodate my insistence that these situations were usually more complex than agree, strongly agree, disagree, strongly disagree. Complex situations required complex answers sometimes.

First question…..Do people sometimes choose homelessness?

I introduced myself more fully ( pulling out my kesa from under my jumper) and told them what I had discovered talking to people I met on my pilgrimage who were homeless. Some of these people had told me they had chosen to be on the streets rather than the shelters provided, others couldn’t wait to get into a shelter and still others, in the grip of addiction, did not feel they had a choice about anything in life anymore.   Previous and current conditions having an effect. Complex.

Which box to tick?

I talked about how I had noticed my response to the complexity of a human beings’ conditions was to try to be aware, present and kind. And of course where possible try to support strategies that could provide as many safe choices as possible for people  to move towards their potential.

After finishing the survey,  unfortunately there was no time to talk more about what opinions and views these young adults were already forming about the homeless situation.

I enjoy connecting with the earnest ideals of youth. Often refreshing, passionate and sometimes very uncompromising . I would have enjoyed listening.

However, before they left I rolled out my bag of ten buddhas and and asked if they would like one. Again, as I witness time and time again, they instantly knew which Buddha was intended for them.

One of them picked up White Tara and guessed correctly that it might be ‘healing.’

Two chose earth touching Buddhas with the lovely quality of grounded confidence.

And finally an Avalokitesvara ( goddess of compassion) necklace went with the last student.

We talked for a while about these Buddhas’ qualities. These young women seemed interested and genuinely pleased to be the next caretakers of figures representing these beautiful qualities.


Buddhas provided by Padmasiddhi, Pam, Vimuttinandi, Chris

…..all from Melbourne





A sweet view of the past

Instead of heading to the city this week to hand out a Buddha, I found myself in my father’s room at his care home offering him yet another Amogasiddhi, the Buddha of fearlessness.

He had recently given the first one away to a carer at the home. She had shown an interest in it and revealed she was a Buddhist. With his natural generous spirit he convinced her he really wanted her to have it. I love this quality in my Dad. He is so happy giving to others no matter what his circumstances.

Due to someone else’s generosity I have a number of these particular Buddhas so I asked him if he would like another one on his bedside table. He was very happy to accept a new one. I made sure he knew that it was fine to follow his intuition if he found someone needing it more than himself. I wonder how long this one will last in his room ;- )

We spoke a little bit about fearlessness and I asked him what thought he needed that quality for in his life at the moment. For him his upcoming cataract operation immediately came to mind. He will have it without general anaesthetic to minimise the risk given the current state of his health. We are hoping for the retrieval of a little of his sight, maybe even enough to be able to read again.

Sight or no sight, Dad’s favourite activity is spending time with my Mum. It’s been very difficult for them to be living apart to provide the support needed in relation to their health issues.

He asked me to arrange a visit last week, on their 62 nd wedding anniversary, back to Emerald Lake where they spent their honeymoon as 20 year olds. I went along for the trip as carer, daughter, friend.

62 years ago they carried their cases over a mile from the bus stop to the cottage and sat holding hands by the lake just as they did last weekend.

They would go on to have five children, one of whom would live in Emerald for 30 years and help run a Buddhist Centre within walking distance from the lake.

As we arrived on a misty hills day at the beautiful Bed and Breakfast, I was greeted by the owner, a Minister of a local church.  His curiousity about my kesa initiated a friendly connection.

We were very well looked after during our visit and as we left, the minister’s wife began to chat about mindfulness as she was doing uni studies that included mindfulness as support for her counselling qualifications.

She commented that I was very ‘shiny ‘ which I will take as a compliment to my mindfulness/metta practice.

Anyway this ‘shiny’ person arrived back home quite exhausted. Looking after my dear elderly parents reminded me of the energy levels needed when I had three young children… it’s lifting a walker into the car boot instead of a pram…….using  a body that’s  30 years older !

Buddha supplied by Verity UK



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