Buddhas in my pocket

An Australian Buddhist Pilgrimage


October 2016

Not in my name…

Some of you may remember on Sept 28th the post about the Nepalese man who, as a young man, had been held in a Chinese prison for four years for writing “Free Tibet ” on buildings in Lhasa. He told me about how, as he endured beatings, he learnt to transform anger into compassion. And now that compassion was a gift to the elderly residents suffering dementia at the aged care home where he worked in Sydney.H On the day he chose a Buddha happily and I walked away to catch a tram home.

img_4844But his story followed me home and it continues to have an effect on me to this day.

Over many months I had been increasingly disturbed by what I had been learning about the effect of detention on refugee children who had been sent to Manus island and Nauru with their families who had attempted enter Australia by boat.

I oppose our government’s policy which puts children in these conditions.

Having worked with children in my profession for 30 years I am very aware of the long term damage that is done when children do not receive the love and care they need . And its so deeply troubling when they lose all hope.

There had been a sense of inertia not knowing how best I could help this very sad situation. So I did nothing except occasionally donate to refugee aid groups and send metta.

It seemed such a solid, not negotiable government line. And I was also aware many people in Australia probably see the policy as effective in its aim to stop the boats coming.

But the families and children have been placed away from our local communities so it is easy to avoid hearing about the range of effects of this harsh policy.

So the suffering continues and I worry most about the children.

On that day sitting on the tram after meeting this man from Nepal I knew I needed to take more action. Something that had been simmering for a while bubbled up and I knew I had to take at least one step towards the problem- instead of feeling it was insurmountable.

At the very least I wanted to add my voice to the protest and say ….not in my name does this government speak or act with my agreement on this issue.

But what action to take…..with whom , where, how…..

As I gazed out of the tram window a memory came of a time a few months ago when I was walking through the city  to hand out a buddha and I saw a group of women dressed in purple standing in the city centre with signs saying Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. I noted it and felt a peak of interest but walked on by and did nothing on that particular day.

But now it was time and by that night I had joined the local group and made a commitment to attend any of their rallies when I could, write to politicians  and drop the group’s  leaflets around in public places.

There are multiple groups to join and support and many actions that could be taken.  I can study the Buddhist texts and talk endlessly about compassion but it feels empty if I can’t manage even just a small step towards trying to do something to ease others’ suffering.10441921_1675446432695890_8181396388682963104_n

There is a beautiful teaching in the Buddhist text ‘Karaniya metta’ sutta that says in part:

‘…Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:

Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will….’


I thank this man from Tibet, this half an hour chat with a stranger.  When he chose to tell me his story he inadvertently broadened my vision of what is possible, even when it seems that there are huge barriers in the way.

I am grateful to him for this particular stirring from inertia in relation to this troubling issue on my doorstep.





In the hands of the Order- Sudaya

Sudaya received this beautiful gift on the occasion of her Kalyana Mitra ceremony many years ago.

Her very good friend Vidyamala gave it to her in a shrine room at a women’s Buddhist community, Birmingham, UK.  Both Sudaya and Vidyamala had worked at different times at Taraloka, a Buddhist retreat centre.  They connected through a shared understanding and experience of the joys and challenges involved in such wholehearted Dharma work.

A KM ceremony involves a commitment made to a friend, by two spiritual mentors, to support and guide that individual through their journey of self discovery and transformation.

Sudaya immediately felt a connection to this piece of jewellery, which is from NZ, Vidyamala’s birthplace. She responded to the natural, straight, simplicity of the piece.

It was also  made of jade-a beautiful green colour, like Green Tara the Buddha of Enlightened activity.






the final 7 months- I need your help

Buddhas in my Pocket.

Have you been enjoying and appreciating this metta journey so far?

Can you help you me continue this worthwhile quest of sharing loving kindness in Australia through the Buddhist teachings ?

I deeply appreciate the support given by many of you who helped make the first 6 months possible.

But now I need to raise $8000 to cover my living and travel costs to complete the final 7 months of this Dharma teaching pilgrimage to Triratna Buddhist centres/ groups along the east coast of Australia.

I will also continue to connect with strangers and hand on over 170 Buddhas that have been donated from people all around the world.

I really need your support to able to keep sharing these stories and the Dharma – to those that come to the centres , to those I hand out Buddhas to and to over 600 people following this pilgrimage online.

Every donation helps me take extra steps on this journey.

Please click on my fundraising page to donate by Paypal.

If you prefer to donate directly to my bank account please email me for account details at


Love Maitripala


Talking park bench

During Seniors week in Melbourne recently there was an initiative ‘Talking Park Bench’ which encouraged people to sit down and talk to one another. In acknowledgement of the lost art of starting conversations with strangers three benches were identified in the city centre.  Conversation starters were chained to the bench ready for participants.

When I read about these project I thought it would be an easy place to hand out some of my little Buddhas. But every time I passed the benches no one was sitting there.

So each time I walked on to Federation Square and  found my own pathway  into conversations.


Three men and a buddha

Today I handed out a Buddha to a lovely man who had come to Australia from his home country, Fiji, over twenty years ago. He came to make money to send back to support his extended family and all these years later he is still honouring that commitment .  I offered him a Buddha and he chose a Vairocana with hands joined in the middle of the chest in the teaching mudra.
He said it reminded of him of the importance of prayer and faith.
This conversation was mainly held together by companionable silence.
He was a man with a big smile but few words. He had a gentle, still energy.
When he spoke about missing the fish and oceans surrounding Fiji his eyes gazed into the distance and I knew it was not the city skyline that he was seeing.
Have you ever experienced people as being like elements of nature?
With one person it might be like dwelling amongst the clouds and with another it feels volcanic.
Just sitting quietly with this gentle man put me in touch with a sense of the ocean floor –   a hint of unseen vastness and depth.
I decided not to ask any more questions and just sit next to him – his gift was his energy.
This trip to Federation Square was unusual for me, as both on the tram trip to and from the city, two men on separate occasions had initiated conversations with me rather than the other way round. This is is definitely not the norm when you reach the ’60 year invisible’ age bracket and are surrounded with people safe in their technology assisted bubbles, earplugs firmly jammed in.
The first guy on my tram trip into the city apologised as he sat down next to me as if it was his fault that the small seat forced our arms to nearly touch. I sensed he was a man not used to being taken seriously so I smiled and made him feel welcome.  The result was that he chatted away happily for the rest of the journey. It was a packed city tram and as I rose to get off I felt numerous eyes staring at me. A number of women in particular met my gaze as I looked around the tram. They looked curious and I was puzzled at first.
Then it dawned on me that everyone else had been silent for the journey so they may have heard our entire conversation alerting them to the fact that this man and I had started off as strangers.
I guess having an open conversation with a stranger in these settings is unusual enough these days. Or it could have been my kesa attracting attention …I guess I will never really know.
Then as I waited at the tram stop to go home after handing on a Buddha, a tall guy bounced up to me and asked about destinations of that particular tram route.
After giving hîm information he too chatted on. Since doing the Buddhas in my Pocket pilgrimage I notice a tendency is there now to not cut off from people so quickly, even if they are asking a simple question. I know I stay present longer and am surprised by what I find in that space.

This man was excited to be in Melbourne having come down from Queensland to visit his 15 year old daughter who he obviously rarely got to spend time with.
In fact he was bubbling with excitement and his happiness was infectious.
I sensed the commuters surrounding us seemed to be somehow gathered up into this bubble of friendliness even as they stood silently waiting at the tram stop.
Buddha donated by Padmabodhini ,Wales

In the hands of the Order- Satyagandhi

Satyaghandi explains……

“When I first walked into the Sydney Buddhist Centre back in 1984 I was particularly drawn towards Vajrasuri. I really responded to her and that’s what made me decide to come back.

My early life as a Buddhist was particularly informed by how Vajrasuri taught the Dharma.

Being an artist and an art therapist she taught it by doing very imaginative and guided imagery work.  Which I loved!

Eventually I became a mitra and asked to train for Ordination.

I had heard about the idea of Kalyana mitras- people making commitments in their friendships  with a focus on supporting each other on their spiritual journey. 

Vajrasuri and I  had a great friendship with each other . We used to hang out and go to the movies and go away together. We enjoyed each other’s company.

I have always felt so grateful to her, as I believe if I had not met her that day that the Centre, I probably wouldn’t have gone back. 

As I did not have a second person to ask we couldn’t yet have an official KM ceremony.

So we decided to conduct our own friendship commitment ceremony in front of Vajrasuri’s shrine.

During that ritual we exchanged gifts. And this is what Vajrasuri gave me- a beautiful crystal.


Thirteen years later I actually did get to have the formal KM ceremony with Vajrasuri and Megha.”

Out of her comfort zone

She was enjoying the unseasonal warm weather on the steps of Federation Square.

I offered her a buddha and she chose a small gold earth touching one.

We talked about the meaning of the earth touching hand gesture of this particular Buddha.   The weight of one’s potential for wisdom and compassion can be a grounding and stable condition that we can rely on in times of turmoil and shakiness.

This young woman from Germany was working as an au pair and about to continue her travels around Australia. We talked a little about travel and feeling homesick.

She said when she arrived in Canberra at a youth hostel she did feel homesick.

But she made the effort to get out and about and connect with people and felt much better.

She was actually meeting up on the weekend with a person she had made friends with in Canberra.

She was 19 years old -a common age for having the courage to be be brave and stretch the boundaries and go out of your comfort zone. She was experiencing different cultures and having to connect with strangers to find her way in the world.

Often in our middle years we don’t seem to as easily create the conditions to live a little on the edge….the edge of what is known, comfortable and safe.

I am enjoying stretching the boundaries a little at 60 years of age with the Buddhas in my pocket pilgrimage.

There is much that is unknown for me about the outcome of this particular journey.

I appreciate the opportunity to create the conditions to meet new people and test my courage every now and then.

I highly recommend it as a way of staying very alive to life. 🙂

Buddha donated by Bernie in Wales



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Buddhas in my pocket

An Australian Buddhist Pilgrimage