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Scotland

Wednesday, 29 August 2012
The Victory Stupa

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I wrote a few words about this building the other day, here. According to the Samye Ling website, this stupa

has a unique feature.  Its little shrine is dedicated to honouring people who have died and preserving their ashes. When people die, their coffin is placed inside the shrine with their head resting just above the mandala of the five elements.  On the ceiling over the coffin is the purification mandala of Dorje Sempa. Monks, nuns and lay practitioners say prayers continuously for three days and nights, invoking the blessing of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and entrusting the mind of the deceased person to Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light, praying that their mind takes birth in Dewachen, Amitabha’s Pure Land of Great Bliss.  After the period of three days is up, the deceased person’s body is cremated and their ashes are placed inside the cupboards that surround the shrine.  Then once a year there is a special ceremony conducted by a high lama in which the ashes are blessed and prayers are said for all those who have died.

During our tour inside the stupa the guide gave us lots of additional interesting information about the stupa, its construction, materials and purpose which I don’t feel I can do justice to here.

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The stained glass windows of the stupa are imprinted with the Kalachakra mandala, the function of which is to restore balance and harmony.
For more information on Stupas visit the stupa website.

Posted by bigblue on 29/08/2012 at 08:03 AM
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Tuesday, 28 August 2012
The peace garden at Samye Ling

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In the background of this photo is The Victory Stupa:

A Stupa is a symbol of the enlightened mind of the Buddha and its function is to restore, balance and transform negative energies to heal both our planet and ourselves. The form and contents of the Stupa express the balance and purification of earth, water, fire, air and space. They also express the wisdom and compassion of Buddha nature, the true nature of all living beings. Our Victory Stupa was consecrated in 2000 and is the first of its kind in Scotland.

In the foreground is a statue of Nagarjuna in a pond:

The statue in the lake with a snake rising above it is Nagarjuna, the forefather of the Madyamika school of philosophy, which forms the basis of the Karma Kagyu view of emptiness. According to Buddhist legend, Nagarjuna discovered the Prajnaparamita teachings that had been entrusted to the nagas for safekeeping.

See also: description of Samye Ling Peace Garden at REEP.

Posted by bigblue on 28/08/2012 at 08:57 AM
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Friday, 20 August 2010
Owl roadkill

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One owl looks pretty much like another to me, but this could be a Little Owl as pictured in this interesting article. Treehugger wrote an article recently on how humans are part of the roadkill chain:

You see, what brings animals to the roadside in the first place? Litter. Have you ever tossed an apple core, banana peel, or other food item out of your car, figuring it’s biodegradable and might provide some much-needed food for a hungry animal? If you haven’t, the chances are you know someone who has. And then there are those who don’t give a hoot if it’s biodegradable, chucking out half-eaten Happy Meals and anything else that might otherwise stink up the car (as Bonnie reported earlier today, fast food packaging is by far the most prevalent form of litter). Well, guess what? Animals like food, and they’ll often go to where they can find it easiest. So is it any wonder that when our roadsides look like the finest All You Can Eat Buffet that Bambi has ever seen, we end up with increased roadkill, which further perpetuates this sorry cycle.

This is an interesting observation, but one can’t help wonder whether there are also too many cars buzzing around the country today?  Consider the novelty of the first car fatality in the UK which occurred 114 and 3 days ago.  At the time it was so rare for someone to be killed by a car they assumed it wouldn’t be likely to happen again. Over half a million people have been killed on the UK roads since then. Bikereader wrote in 2003 that:

Between 2000 and 2001, the British Mammal Society collaborated with the Hawk and Owl Trust to compile a national survey of road deaths. Hedgehogs, badgers and foxes made up the bulk of mammal deaths, while tawny owls, kestrels and barn owls made up most of the dead birds of prey.

From the survey, they estimate that cars kill the following animals each year in Britain: 100,000 foxes, 100,000 hedgehogs, 50,000 badgers and 30,000-50,000 deer. As a proportion of their pre-breeding populations, badgers, foxes and barn owls are being culled the worst. (By way of comparison, hunting kills about 10,000 foxes each year, which is something for the hunt sabs to think about if the minibus bumps over Renard on the way home…)

By any standards, that’s a lot of roadkill. As a laissez-faire vegetarian in a nation of omnivores, roadkill doesn’t upset me any worse than McDonald’s. Maybe there’s even a moral argument for scraping it up and eating it, since it only died by accident and not design. Is there good eating on old Brock? I don’t know, and to be honest wouldn’t care to try it. Even if it were stamped out into energy bars, I know I couldn’t take a bite without the Charlton Heston in me screaming ‘Soylent Green is badgers!’

And maybe the accidental death tag is rather too easy to hang on roadkill. While the standard line in driving advice is ‘don’t swerve to miss a small animal, because you might hit an oncoming car or crash; just run over it’, there can’t be many drivers who turn the ignition with carnage on their minds. Yet there are echoes here of all those other accidental deaths - of people. Traffic accident, hit by a car, tragic, like an act of God. The word accident tumbles out so easily. Sometimes there are accidents; generally it’s somebody’s fault.

Animals, of course, aren’t responsible for their actions. People are. Blaming an animal for ‘just sitting there’, or ‘dashing out kamikaze-style’ is just anthropomorphising it to make you feel better. It’s a deer, for ****’s sake, what did you expect? The Mammal Society’s National Survey of Road Deaths concluded that: ‘High traffic speed increased the likelihood of many mammal species, including fox, badger and roe deer, and also the tawny owl, falling victim to vehicles as it reduces the time available for drivers and animals to react to danger.’

Well, well, here we are again: speed kills. Perhaps if we reduced the speed limit on unmarked country lanes to 30mph, there’d be less British wildlife smeared across our roads.

So there is another link between animals and humans and the carnage on our roads: speed. This is a topical subject because our new ConDem government has decided to switch off speed cameras (by axing central government funding for them).  This has been criticised in many quarters for the risks it will pose to humans. See here and here for example. I wonder what effect it will have on the wildlife? 

The Daily Wail and others have pointed out that there are some studies that show no increase in accidents when cameras are abolished. The recent Private Eye however considers the bigger picture:

What Labour and Tory ministers have never understood is that speeding traffic is a problem because of intimidation, not just the occurrence of accidents. Over the past 40 years, children’s independence of movement has reduced dramatically, with worrying health consequences thanks largely to parental fear of traffic.

Elderly people can be cut off from neighbours and services if they’re terrified of passing vehicles. The absence of recent accidents where traffic routinely exceeds the speed limit could be an indicator not of safety but of locals being too scared to cycle or walk on the road, as they’re entitled to.

(‘Hedghog’, Private Eye 1268, p7)

PS I found the roadkill pictured above outside Forres, Morayshire recently.

Posted by bigblue on 20/08/2010 at 08:48 AM
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Thursday, 19 August 2010
Raindrops on beach stones

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These are a few of my favourite things ... as seen on Roseisle Beach, on the Moray Firth.

Posted by bigblue on 19/08/2010 at 08:19 AM
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Wednesday, 18 August 2010
The Findhorn River

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The photograph above and the photograph below are of the same stretch of the Findhorn River about 3 miles before it flows into Findhorn Bay (a tidal lagoon on the Moray Firth - see map).

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What struck me about the scene is how calmer the river appears in the bottom photograph, taken closer to the lagoon.

The Gaelic name for the river is Uisge Eireann. One of the local taxi drivers informed me that most of the English names in the area were corruptions of Gaelic names, and I was keen to find out what the word Findhorn meant.  According to Wikipedia:

Although surely Gaelic in origin the derivation of the word “Findhorn” is not absolutely clear. It may be a corruption of Invererne and mean ‘at the mouth of the river Erne’ or Fionn-Dearn, “the white river Dearn”, or perhaps Fionn simply referred to the white sands and breaking waves which dominate the shores.

The Wiki entry on the River itself tells us that the River Findhorn is one of Scotland’s classic white water kayaking rivers (varying from grade 2 to 4) and draws canoeists from across the country.

Posted by bigblue on 18/08/2010 at 08:38 AM
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Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Moray Firth

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This is the Burghead Bay, at the Findhorn end, looking out on the firth, which is a designated special area of conservation. It is also home to pods of dolphins who are threatened by European war-games.

The concrete blocks emerging from the out-going tide are military defences.  There are several thousand of these structures along the beach, and these feature at the Derelict Places website:

Roseisle Beach stretches 6 miles along the Moray firth coast from Findhorn to Burghead,

In the 1940s the beach was used by the American and Canadian Military to train for the D-Day landings of WW2,

There are around 15 pillboxes of various design Positioned evenly along the beach, at a guess several thousand anti tank blocks (far to many to count anyway!), wooden anti landing devices and various other concrete prefab structures.

There are also 8 amphibious Valentine tanks, sunk off the coastline during this training in Burghead bay and Findhorn Bay, These have never been retrieved, some have been photographed by diving enthusiasts and can be viewed elsewhere on the web.

The shoreline at Roseisle suffers from constant errosion and this is causing the structures to subside and sink into the sand.

The Normandy Landings were

the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, also known as Operation Overlord and Operation Neptune, during World War II. The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6:30 AM British Double Summer Time (GMT+2). In planning, D-Day was the term used for the day of actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.

I wonder about this claim that there was “British Double Summer Time” during the Second World War.  I suppose it helps when one is fighting a war in the same time-zone as one’s enemies.

Posted by bigblue on 17/08/2010 at 08:05 AM
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Friday, 30 July 2010
In the yurt

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Making stick bread, and singing songs.

Posted by bigblue on 30/07/2010 at 09:30 PM
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Twenty

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On the way back from the pub.

Posted by bigblue on 30/07/2010 at 12:39 AM
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