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April 5th, 2009


bell ringing!

Posted on 2009.04.05 at 18:51
Current Location: norfolk
Current Mood: crazycrazy
Current Music: songs of praise
Tags: ,
After Amsterdam I headed to Southampton to stay with Kim and to visit the Sangha there. I found out that Southampton Sangha consists of a small but very committed bunch of people, very few of whom live in Southampton! In fact I spent most of my time in Winchester, which is about 10 miles away and some of the Sangha regularly have a 40 or 50 minute drive to get them to the centre. The first evening I met with the women and we had a very animated an wide-ranging discussion. Some of them had not seen a Dharmacharini before so my main function was to just to prove the existence of women in the order! On the second night most of the Sangha packed themselves into the shrineroom to explore the practice of reflection and idea of allowing the dharma to shine a light on our whole lives and experience. They are a great Sangha and are very welcoming and pleased to have visitors if you are ever heading that way.

The two things that stay in my mind are both to do with Winchester Cathedral, I was staying just a few minutes walk from there. One was that I got to go bell ringing, I wasn’t actually allowed to ring a bell as that is a serious business, but I was invited into the secret and fascinating world of bell ringers, a world I didn’t know existed. The experience started with climbing the tower, but to get to the tower travelled the length of the cathedral, but high up on a little path along the wall, my slight fear of heights was added to by it being dark and being organ practice time. Someone was playing the organ like they were possessed, and I loved it, it was the perfect setting for a horror movie. Then up into the bell ringer’s world. Winchester has lots of bells, maybe 15, so people come from all over to ring and tonight they were doing a 12 bell, which is very complicated. Think complex mathematics meets computer programming and you get nearer to the ‘art’ of bell ringing than if you think about it in terms of music. Anyway I can’t go into all the details here, but if you know a ringer (and I’m sure some do it in secret) do see if you can get an invite.

The other thing that has stayed in my mind is the windows of Winchester cathedral. During the civil war the cathedral was attacked, a lot of the statues were ruined and the stained glass windows were smashed. The people of Winchester so loved their cathedral that after these attacks they went and collected up all the broken glass from the windows and took it home with them for safe keeping. Years later they wanted to replace the windows so every one bought the bags and boxes of broken glass back to the cathedral. Obviously there was no way of redoing the jigsaw of glass to recreate the pictures that were part of the original design, instead all the glass was put back in a random fashion. The result is an amazing massive abstract stained glass window. I found this strangely moving, though beautiful in itself the real beauty now lay in knowing that all these pieces of glass had been careful wrapped and stored under people’s beds and in their cupboards all those years ago.

Next stop Bristol for a weekend on the Yogacara.

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