Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gregg's "Prequinox" address, March 2008


Greetings friends to the 7th such occasion when in spirited unity and diversity we have gathered here at Nobbys to together celebrate the dawning of an autumnal equinox.

In the traditions of Japanese Buddhism the equinox festival is known as Higan, the festival of the “other shore”, the festival that brings to mind enlightenment shining in the seasons and forms of our turning world and welcoming all equally within its warmth.

However it is a rather different “global warming” that is the chosen theme for our gathering here today. As we should by now all be painfully aware, human-induced climate change is underway and carries with it a fearsome potential to devastate this beautifully balanced and wholly inter-connected world we share.

Countless equinoxes have passed with human beings living their lives beside this great river. For the 150 years that the lighthouse has been here at the river’s mouth the coal industry has been the livelihood of so many local folk. Now this has become one of the most significant channels of inflammatory carbon on Earth. Yes, in terms of the veritable fever that is global warming this is now a river of both fire and water.

To state the obvious, to turn things around things will have to change. A huge coal-carrying vessel like the Pasha Bulker being recently stranded not far from here should serve as an appropriately portentous warning. With dangerous weather approaching, ships use echo-location to seek the safety of depth, and metaphorically it is imperative for all of us to do likewise.

Climate change is not a crisis of “environmental management” ultimately soluble by the mere extension of human control over the world around us. In its genuine sense this is an ecological crisis. The word “ecology” derives from the Greek “oikos”, meaning “household” and “home”, and “logos”, meaning “word” and “understanding”. The word-combination opens a homecoming of understanding, a deepening standing in the togetherness that in reality enables and finds all life at home, humanity included.

In mutual depth of meaning ecology naturally echoes the Buddhist term “eko”. Eko literally denotes “changing direction” or “turning toward another”. It signifies openness attentive and conducive to the calling of compassion. The enlightenment celebrated at Higan is none other than this resounding eko of compassion open and altogether. Apart from such compassion there is no genuine understanding, only a homelessness within.

Hence my metaphorical recommendation of echo-location for us all, since eko roundly echoes ecology and both are critically helpful to orient ourselves meeting the challenges ahead. In being deeply at home, richly related to each other and to the wholeness of living Earth, is an endowment of wisdom and resourcefulness appreciative of the true value of belonging. Then let us become who we are and let us realize a future for life in all its wonderfully diverse fullness. Namo Amida Butsu.

Shaku Jo’on Gregg Heathcote
(NB Shaku means “Follower of the Sakyamuni Buddha”. Jo’on means “Pure Music”, describing the way the eko of enlightened mind plays out in our hearing)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Newcastle supports the Aboriginal People

Newcastle City Council congratulates the Australian Government on the eve of its historic apology to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gregg's Equinox address, March 2006


Greetings friends and welcome to our customary multifaith gathering in celebration of the autumnal equinox, the fifth such dawn gathering here at Nobbys where and when sun, river and ocean meet upon the seasons’ especial point of balance.

At equinox day and night are evenly balanced and all in this world of ours are then literally equal under the sun. Each time we gather here I point out the relevant meaning of the Japanese Buddhist festival of the equinox, known as Higan. The word ‘Higan’ translates as the ‘other shore’ and at Higan the grounding world of enlightened truth and beauty draws the turbulent shallows of our everyday world near, helping plumb the great peace and equilibrium in which all naturally have equal share.

Namo Amida Butsu. May the sharp point of this natural balance deeply and delightfully impress all our lives. Namo Amida Butsu. May the rising sun on a day of equinox be a vision to light all our ways, every single day. Namo Amida Butsu.

Shaku Jo’on Gregg Heathcote

Gregg's Equinox address, March 2005


Greetings friends and neighbours of, and in, variously good faiths gathered here once again to together celebrate this special time at this special place. Now four of our dawn gatherings have here seen in equinoxes and allowed us to reflect upon the spirited splendour of meaning that such auspicious natural events may entail.

Twice during its annual orbit the tilted Earth’s axis squarely faces the Sun’s light, and day and night are then evenly balanced all over the world. These equinoxes are thus times of a true equality under the Sun. They are also the impressing points of balance to which the turning seasons of life on Earth continually refer and inevitably return.

The sense of this deeply impressive natural balance is the beauteous sense behind the Japanese Buddhist festival of the equinox known as Higan. As I have shared with you before, ‘Higan’ means the ‘other shore’ and as such is a synonym for the world of enlightenment, a world in the depths of experience so palpably proximate to our own. Just as the Earth is at equinox, at Higan the moment is ripe for us to squarely face the real light of all our lives, however it might individually be seen ; to embrace the equality of all warmed within its brilliance ; and to feel the impress of the eternal in the pointed ephemera of experience. Higan’s inviting vision in this case is one of that ‘other shore’ of enlightenment illuminating and coming home to our own wide world, as is, right now.

When first we gathered for the equinox here in March 2003 the inception of the Iraq War was imminent, lending still greater significance to our proceedings. Peace in its broadest sense is yet a great work-in-progress which our gathering here, and tomorrow’s Palm Sunday congregations, and Monday’s Harmony Day events cannot but assist. May it ever in good spirits and in good faiths be so. Namo Amida Butsu.

Shaku Jo’on Gregg Heathcote

(NB Shaku means “Follower of the Sakyamuni Buddha”. Jo’on means “Pure Music”, describing the deep way enlightenment in beauty fluently speaks to us all)

Gregg's second Equinox address, March 2004, as Newcastle prepares to celebrate its bicentenary


Salutations friends, fellow citizens of this fair city and good neighbours of various faiths.

This is the 2nd time we have gathered in this beautiful and significant place to celebrate the dawning of an equinox, in keeping with which we this time round also commemorate the facts that Harmony Day is very aptly celebrated tomorrow and the bicentenary of the founding of our city falls in just 10 days time.

Everyone on this planet of ours shares 2 annual equinoxes. These are special days when the hours of daylight and darkness are equally balanced all over the world, showing all to be truly equal under the sun. About these especially equitable days the cycles of Earth’s seasons turn and turn again, offering us cusps of special, spiritual opportunity.

We are together witnessing the dawn arising from the Pacific Ocean, literally ‘the Ocean of Peace’. On this day of equinox the sun rises due east and will in twelve hours time set due west. This most direct arc of the sun’s transit can be seen as an elegantly arching, beautifully balanced bridge of light between east and west. In the Japanese Buddhist tradition, of which I am a part, the east traditionally symbolizes the arising of the mundane world’s confusions whereas the west symbolizes conclusive resolution of such confusions upon enlightenment’s eternal moment. The Buddhist festival of the equinox is thus known as ‘Higan’, meaning the ‘other shore’, the shore which once bridged brings to completion life’s great symmetry. Higan highlights how close, at this naturally holy time, the moment of such truth may be. With the equinox peace now both beckons and lights the way.

Very nearly 200 years ago, and very near this spot, the European, colonial settlement of Newcastle was first permanently established. At the outset it was an awful place of secondary punishment. Under the most primitive conditions convicts were forced to hew coal from shafts just over there, beneath what was then known as Beacon Hill, now Fort Scratchley, in order to fuel a navigation beacon atop the hill. This early coal-fired beacon signalled not only the seaward opening of the new riverside settlement but also marked the brutal beginning of coal mining in Australia.

Quite fittingly the locations of the long-lost original mine shafts are now once again coming to light and their archeological investigation may prove most instructive regarding this city’s far-from-peaceful early days. However on the eve of March 30, the actual 200th anniversary of the city’s settlement, plans are afoot to once again light a coal-fired beacon on Beacon Hill, signalling the progressive lighting of other beacons on ridge-lines all the way inland to Mt. Sugarloaf, the highest point in the Newcastle region and a place of great spiritual significance to its Aboriginal inhabitants. Such an event could kindle symbolism quite in keeping with that of the equinox. It could invite reflection on where, as a community, we have come from and where at this significant juncture we may now choose to go. The way together is open.

Rev. Gregg Heathcote
(Shaku Jo’on – Follower of the Sakyamuni Buddha, Pure Music)

Gregg's address at our first Equinox service, March 2003, on the momentous brink of war in Iraq


Greetings friends of various faiths in good faith gathered here to offer common prayers for peace at this significant time and place.

Let us together celebrate, for we meet in a location touched by great natural beauty, before a landmark which is a distinctive and meaningful emblem of our home city. Let us see and share in the light of Nobby's here, once a steep offshore island, but now a long-standing causeway crowned by a lighthouse guiding and guarding vessels arriving in our harbour city from all over the world. Into the peace of such a port may the many vessels of our faiths likewise safely sail.

Nobby's shelters the river's mouth. May we listen deeply and gratefully to what the ancient river has to say. The body of water known firstly to the local Aboriginal people as the Coquun, and then as the Hunter, has flowed through and sustained countless generations living in its great valley, of whom we are but the latest. After its long overland journey the river water here merges with the incomprehensibly vast waters of the Pacific Ocean, an immense expanse whose name literally means the 'Ocean of Peace'. There is a wonderful, tangible sense that this is indeed a place where our everyday world and a wider world intimately meet.

We meet under a lighthouse at a time when so much of our world seems to be foundering in shadows. We are all currently embroiled in one of those recurrent periods of major crisis in international affairs, with all the anxieties, animosities and bitter suffering that that entails. In the midst of such a monumental battle for heart and minds it is wise to remember that this is also a profound turning point in the natural world, and a powerful time of spiritual opportunity, for now dawns a day of equinox.

There are two annual equinoxes when the orbitting earth's axis of rotation forms a right angle to the sun's rays. Sunlight then evenly illuminates the planet's surface and all over the world day and night are of equal length. In spiritual terms you might say that at these special times all beings are quite manifestly equal under the sun. The equinoxes everywhere denote comfortably temperate conditions, natural beauty and balance in the trusty turning of the seasons. As such they are celebrated in many traditions. In the Japanese Buddhist tradition, the source of my own faith, the significance of the equinoxes goes deeper still.

The Japanese Buddhist festival of the equinox is known as Higan, a name meaning the "other shore". Higan is thus a synonym for nirvana and for the Amida Buddha's Pure Land of infinitely enlightening compassion. Our world of ignorance and suffering is shigan, conversely meaning "this shore". Symbolically the "other shore" is located to the west while "this shore" lies in the east. On a day of equinox like today the sun rises exactly at the eastern point of the horizon and sets due west. The arc of the sun's transit therefore forms a bridge of light between the 'shores' of east and west, directly spanning the sky and the earth beneath. The opportunity is there then for people to reflect upon where they stand on that bridge of light, to rediscover the plain continuity of the ostensibly two worlds, and to refresh wholesome relationships that help all on their way across.

The attentive observance of Higan is above all the soaring sense of a time when evenly irradiant light presents itself most vividly in our world and when real peace is consequently most possible.

It is this sense that I pray now will lend wings to all our faithful prayers for peace, returning to roost everywhere on this auspicious day of equinox.

Namo Amida Butsu

Gregg Heathcote, Jodo Shin Buddhist

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hello from Tom Jones

Hi this is my first blog so be gentle with me.

Please read our first Multifaith Newsletter for the year.

Tom Jones

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Next Meeting - Monday 29th January 2008

Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday 28 January 2008
Location: Sharon Davson Studio, 40 Marton Street Shortland
Time: 6.30pm
Ph. 49656600

1. Nobbys Equinox 2008 - Dawn Prayers
2. Harmony Day 2008
3. Harmony Visit to Various Communities
4. Other Activities
5. Staffing for UN Orientation Week Table
6. Multifaith blog
7. Other business

Yours faithfully,

Tom Jones,
Administrative Secretary

Welcome to the Multifaith Blog

Our aim is to promote peace and prosperity through an increased awareness of the various religions, faiths and philosophies in the Community.

Our purpose is to assist academic, religious, secular leaders, and other interested persons and organisations to explore multifaith origins,issues and directions in the community through concerts, dialogues, displays, lectures, projects, prayer services and seminars at the University of Newcastle and other venues.