Bowing to the Buddha

Bowing to the Buddha

The Revd. Nagahama (first right) bows to the Buddha at a Peace Pagoda ceremony in Milton Keynes. He came from Japan for the ceremony.

The Monday Photo

Ten years ago I was proud to be the official photographer for the 30th Peace Pagoda ceremony in Milton Keynes. Monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order came from all over the world, to this most important event at their temple by Willen lake.

They are the ones in white and saffron yellow. Monks or nuns from other Buddhist orders wear different colours.

It was a great day but a long one. Photographing an event like this meant I was on duty nearly all day long, then in the days following were hours of editing and processing.

I think I took about 700 photos that day, but in the end I gave the temple 366 photos, all on CDs and ready to print.

A few weeks later, one of the nuns went up to Boots the chemist in Central Milton Keynes with the CDs and had hundreds of prints made, to send out to anybody the temple knew that had been there on the day. In those quantities the prints cost pennies each.

I believe the Revd. Nagahama received a full set, as the Milton Keynes temple and Pagoda were under his control back then; they still are.

Everyone else would be sent any photos they appeared in, plus maybe a few general shots. I took the photos for over forty temple events and enjoyed it, though in the end I felt it was time I had a break.

Why did I choose this photo for today? Because the long awaited 40th Pagoda Ceremony should have been yesterday.

Oh well. Maybe next year I can take the ceremony photos again; it’s bound to be a great event.

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Platform Done

New platform at the Peace PagodaThe newly finished platform, at the Peace Pagoda.

It’s done! The weather beaten platform in front of the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes has been replaced by a brand new one, ready for next year’s 40th Peace Pagoda Ceremony.

I went to Willen to see it on Monday. It was raining. The new platform was built using a warm coloured stone. The path around it and up to the pagoda have also been replaced, in the same material. The new stone goes well with the yellow bricks on the pagoda. It looked great, despite the weather.

New pagoda platform and Willen LakeWillen Lake and the new platform, from the Peace Pagoda.

In January I told you about the project to replace the cracked and sagging original platform, expected to be completed by October this year. It was finished on time.

The 40th year is an important milestone and it means a lot to have a platform to be proud of at the pagoda ceremony, which will be in June.

Next at the pagoda will be the Sunrise Welcoming Ceremony, at 8am on New Year’s Day. But  there will be New Year’s Eve chanting the night before at the temple from 11 pm.

Nun at Peace Pagoda  Milton KeynesThe old cracked platform, in January

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 I Has Beans

Shoes off pleaseShiny black boots, suede lace ups, sparkly ‘Frozen’ princess shoes; all have to be left in the entrance; this is a Japanese temple.

A few weeks ago I visited the Buddhist temple at Willen, to take the photo at the top of this post: When the nun Marta Anjusan found out that I’ve just turned sixty, she asked me if I was going to be there for the Bean Throwing Ceremony.

I was, because I knew that at last it was my chance to throw the beans.

Anyone whose age is divisible by twelve (born in the year of the pig) is given a bowl full of beans and sweets. When the lights are turned out and everyone starts chanting “good spirits in, bad spirits out”, we piggies throw the beans and sweets up in the air.

The children, who all have little demon masks and are holding paper sweetie bags, dart around on the floor gathering as many sweets and beans as they can.

I aimed the beans at different parts of the shrine room, so they all got a fair chance to gather their swag. A few years ago somebody I know was the right age to be a bean thrower, and he wasn’t throwing them all underhand like he was supposed to.

Instead he was whizzing them at certain targets, and he got me in the ear. I’ve been waiting all these years to get my revenge, but strangely he stayed well out of the way, in the corner behind me. Rats!

This wasn’t the only reason I wanted to throw the beans, of course. The last time it was the year of the pig I wasn’t a temple person; I'd missed my chance.

Buddhist nun with demon maskA nun with... er… a demon mask. I was roped into taking this photo.

At another of these ceremonies, I managed to get a clout round the ear from the wife of the Lord High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. Bad timing on my part, I was taking photos and stood up just as she launched another handful into the eager crowd.

This ceremony is also called Setsubun, which means seasonal division in Japan, where this order of Buddhism is from. Sunday was the 3rd of February, and according to Japan’s old lunar calendar, it was the last day of winter.

The year of the pig is part of the Chinese zodiak, but it’s been happily embraced by Japanese culture. I’m told that us piggies are very stubborn and determined to go only in the direction we think is right.

Sums me up... Oink! Oink!

Setsubun group photoI was roped into taking this group photo too. I didn't think I was going to take any photos, but brought a camera anyway; you never know!

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