Monday, March 29, 2010

Berlin Half Marathon Results in Brief

I was very pleased with my performance yesterday, especially given that I have some kind of a cold, although the event was marred by the death of one runner who collapsed shortly before the end. Here are my statistics:

net time: 1:46:35
10 km time: 50:12
overall position: 4408
position (age group) 442
5:03 per km
average speed: 11.88 km/h

So I achieved my goal of 1:47. A bit of stiffness this morning, but nothing too dramatic. More results here.

and here is the medal!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two Days to go

Plants waiting to be watered
A room waiting to be tidied

Today is a rest day. I have deliberately kept the day free of appointments and am trying to avoid getting stuck into the work that has been piling up over the last few weeks. Instead I will simply water the plants in the community, which is part of my Friday morning routine, and tidy a few things away. I'll listen to some Shostakovich and read a little before meeting Claudia at 4 o'clock for a walk in Treptower Park.

Tomorrow I'll collect my number (18222) from the Trade Fair in the former Tempelhof airport, and run a gentle 4 km, my last training before the half marathon on Sunday. The training plan I've been following has been aimed at a time of 1:47. I hope I come somewhere close to it. The weather today is expected to reach 20°C but from tomorrow it will be colder again with showers, somewhere between 6 and 12° on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Only 6 Days before the Half Marathon

The results of last week's 10 km race have been published. I finished 109th in a time of 49:32, and 8th in the men's over 50s class, which I think is o.k. I have now started counting off the days to the half marathon on Sunday. Since the 10 km the training plan has been fairly gentle and continues to be so until Sunday. Last week I ran nothing more than 8 km and in the coming week I have nothing over 5 km planned, although there is an emphasis on interval training to help improve my speed. I was pleased to see this morning that I seem to have reduced my weight by two kilograms since the start of the year. According to my marathon book, each kilo of fat increases the marathon time by two minutes!

Today I led the lunchtime meditation in the Buddhist centre. In addition to the usual handful of meditators, I was joined by 22 Danish students and their teachers, who are on a week's trip to Berlin, and who stayed for an hour afterwards to learn something about the Buddha and his teaching. As well as being impressed by the students' brightness, politeness and by them being so well-behaved, I also had the unusual pleasure, as well as the challenge, of teaching in English. I always appreciate the challenge of getting the message of the Buddha across to people for whom it is new, as I have to re-connect with that message again myself. It is so easy to slip into the habit of taking things for granted, whether it is the teaching of re-birth, the four Noble Truths, Karma or anything else. I hope I managed to get something of value across to our visitors this afternoon. At least they appeared to have learnt something and afterwards they expressed their gratitude.

Finally the six-week Introduction to Buddhism Course this evening that I've been leading came to an end. Again, these courses never fail to give my own practice a boost and I always enjoy the freshness and energetic inspiration that the participants inevitably bring with them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Yesterday we held the annual General Meeting of the charity. I have been the Chairman now since November 2003 and feel that I am am beginning to find my feet. As always there is a lot of formality in such meetings, and a lot of preparation, writing and copying the papers and reports. At the same time the meetings provide a focus for the members of the charity, all members of the Western Buddhist Order, to come together and meet on a basis of common interest and shared vision. The vision is not always so explicit, but there is undoubtedly a lot of overlap, which expresses itself in the harmonious and friendly manner in which we get things done.

Photos of my ordination

Having written about my ordination yesterday, I thought I'd post a couple of photos from the ordination course in Spain in 1997.

17 new Order Members and their preceptors.

8 men from Padmaloka

Me in my shiny new kesa

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Garland of Terms in German

Although I felt pretty tired on Monday after the race at the weekend, I enjoyed a gentle 8KM along the banks of the canal yesterday.

In the evening I was very happy to introduce Ashvajit at the Buddhist Centre, who in the course of the Sangha Evening, launched the publication of the German translation of his and Cittapala's popular booklet A Garland of Terms. Beginning as a purely personal project to improve my German, I spent several years systematically collecting translations for the terms in the booklet and later realised that a German edition of the title would be much appreciated.

With the assistance of Elisabeth Bendlin and Aryadeva who checked and improved the reanslations, Harald Eckhoff who translated the prefaces, and Andreas Eickelkamp who provided the index and worked on the layout, the booklet is published as Buddhistische Begriffe und Listen, die man kennen sollte, which translates into English as Buddhist Terms and Lists, that one should know. Proceeds from the sale of the booklet will go towards helping to finance our new centre in Berlin, which is planned to open in 2011.

Copies of the booklet can be purchased from Buddhistisches Tor for 5 Euros. Ashvajit is my preceptor, which means it was he who ordained me in 1997 in the course of a four-month retreat at Guhyaloka in the mountains of southern Spain. In the course of the ceremony he witnessed my Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels, gave me my new name and introduced me to a new meditation practice, which involves the visualisation and mantra-recitation of the Buddha Shakyamuni.

A few days later at my public ordination ceremony, when my name was made public, Ashvajit introduced my name as follows:

The ex-Adrian Weller is a member of the Padmaloka community, so I have had all sorts of opportunities to get to know him and to see all sorts of qualities really beginning to shine in him or through him. Perhaps the first quality that I would like to allude to is an emotional positivity. In every situation that he has been in, although he himself has admitted to difficulties at times, what shows outwardly is his emotional positivity. He is also able to apply himself to things successfully, and he has applied himself to all sorts of things. He has applied himself particularly to the garden at Padmaloka and the garden at Padmaloka nowadays is an object of everybody's admiration. So he has green fingers. He has also applied himself successfully to cooking at Padmaloka and I think he makes the best soup of anybody. He has also got other fine qualities, he has considerable dramatic potential. I call it potential because it is not yet fully realised, but one of the things that I did with the ex-Adrian was to read the Lord of the Rings aloud with him. I noticed that he gave beautiful characterisations of people, he could really get inside the characters in the tale. It is as if he sort of understood them from the inside. He also has this capacity just to respond appropriately to the Situation, and yes, to be successful in
whatever he does.

So I thought to myself what is it, who is this person who is always successful, who has the secret of successfully applying himself to so many things? And of course it came to me it is one of the Dhyani Buddhas, infallible success, amogha, as in the Buddha Amoghasiddhi. So that was the

first part of his name. Of course this seemed wonderfully appropriate because one of his kalyana mitras is Amoghavamsa. The other one is me. So perhaps it is only natural that there should be an affinity of qualities. Then I thought amogha, green, and all the qualities that go with that
magnificent Dhyani Buddha. He is a very mysterious figure, that dark green, but the ex-Adrian isn't mysterious in quite that way. Yes, there is a sense of mystery to him in that I feel there is this tremendous potential which has yet to come out, which has yet to manifest. One can see his qualities beginning to emerge, but there is much more to come.

But there is something else about him which is already very evident, that he not only has a beautiful smile, he has very expressive eyes with a gentle sort of sparkling quality to them. So again I thought ratna. So he is Amogharatna. So here we have the Jewel of Successful Application. Mogha, apparently, is the origin of a word meaning unprofitable, vain, useless, and
given its similarity to the Pali moha, meaning, ignorance, it seems very likely that amogha ("a" being a prefix meaning "not") originally meant simply non-ignorance. So here is a man who is not ignorant, not that he need possess any tremendous knowledge in a worldly sense, although he is quite worldly wise, he has had quite a lot of experience, a not always happy experience of life, he has seen the dark, side of life. But he values spiritual knowledge, he values the Dharma, he is not someone who professes ignorance, he is someone who is led by the Truth, he is someone in
particular who loves Bhante's teaching. And one of the marks of someone who is not ignorant, we find in the Pali Canon, is that he follows the words of the True Individual. In order to remove ignorance, in order to remove that spiritual veil, what you do to begin with is you just listen to the words of the True Individual. So that is another aspect of our new Dharmachari Amogharatna. The Successful Jewel, the Jewel of Non-­Ignorance.

Monday, March 15, 2010

10km in Adlershof

On Sunday morning I took part in the 24th 'Little Birch Wood' 10km run in Berlin Adlershof. According to the forecast we were to expect wild, wet and windy conditions, but in the event it was a pleasant, if overcast morning, and I was reasonably pleased with my performance. I ran the course in 49:32, eight seconds longer than I took for the 'Berlin Grand' 10km in October 2008. I could have run faster this time around, but was aiming to run at 95% HF(max). Unfortunately I had forgotten my table and miscalculated so that instead of running with a heartrate of 177, I actually averaged 172. So not too disappointed, but will learn the lesson hopefully.

On Friday evening I visited the cinema for the first time in many months to see Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland, and thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of a 3-D film. Although not altogether true to Lewis Carol's original, having received the Walt Disney treatment, it was a fascinating and enchanting experience.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Over the past few weeks I've noticed quite a lot of people around me have been suffering from colds or other illnesses, and my responses have varied from sympathy and compassion to fear that I might catch something. These are probably quite normal responses, but they demonstrate the ongoing struggle between the ego and the development of more altruistic responses to our fellow human beings.

Since Monday I have noticed a slight tingling sensation in the back of my throat and today a couple of friends have pointed out that my voice sounds strangely different. This afternoon I set out for a 7 x 1000m interval training session, and after 4 x 1000m I realised I was not up to it. In the last few weeks I have been very busy and possibly overworked and overstretching my capacities, leaving me quite tired and probably a bit run down. These are not good conditions for someone training for a half marathon, so I intend to do something about it.

Much of the Buddhist Path is about setting up the conditions to support one's spiritual practice. So no late night for me tonight! Responding to other beings in a more loving and compassionate way is likewise an important feature of Buddhism. So more Metta Bhavana (a meditation with the goal of developing loving kindness for all beings) in the coming weeks!

Monday, March 8, 2010

My shoes

In response to a suggestion from friends, here is a photo of my own running shoes, rather than a picture taken from an advert.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Weekend in the country

On Friday I attended a meeting in Essen to discuss the translation and implementation in Germany of the new FWBO Mitra Dharma course. It was a long day, having to get up at 4.30 to catch my train and returning to Berlin around 11.00 pm. It was however a very productive meeting and I appreciated everybody's contributions. I think we reached a suitable conclusion and am sure the course will be of benefit to many people in the years to come.

In the train I watched the DVD about Shostakovich against Stalin and was strongly moved by it. I also listened to several of Shostakovich's preludes and fugues, which I recently acquired. My limited knowledge of music theory no doubt restricts my ability to fully appreciate the subtlties of classical music, but I am increasingly aware of the potential of music to move one and to touch one's emotions. When I find the time I hope to be able to learn more about music theory.

On Saturday morning Claudia and I took a train to the garden in Luckenwalde, enjoying the blue sky and sunshine, despite the freezing temperature. Last time we saw the garden was over the New Year when it was covered in thick snow. Although the snow had since melted, in the afternoon the sky darkened and from the warm comfort of the cottage we watched a snowstorm, which fortunately soon passed. I also ran a slow 8 km.

In the night the temperature fell to minus 8 and after a short walk through the local woods, by which time it had warmed up to around zero, I went for another slow run before lunch, this time around twenty kilometers. Everything seems set for a good run next weekend and for the half marathon in three weeks time, although I am still not so sure about the sole of my right foot. I had to stop briefly again to adjust the lace, after which all was well. I am beginning to suspect the discomfort may have more to do with my running style than with the shoes.

It is a real privilege to be able to enjoy the benefits of Claudia's cottage and garden and to watch the comings and goings of the various birds as they nourish themselves from the feeders hanging on the apple tree in front of the window. Time seems to pass much more slowly in the countryside than it does in the town.

A change in the weather

Friday, March 5, 2010

I have booked to participate in a 10km run through a birchwood in Berlin Adlershof on Sunday, 14th March. As well as fitting well into my half marathon training programme, my aim is of course to improve on my 10km best time of 49:24 from October 2008. Last year I ran 51:35 in the 'Champions Run' in full Berlin Summer sunshine. I'd be pleased to run under 50 minutes again as I'll be on course for my half marathon goal on 28th.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chintamani Community

Nearly nine years ago three other men and I moved into a flat in Auguststraße in Berlin Mitte to form a Buddhist men's community. It had been one of my first intentions on moving to Berlin to live with other practitioners as a mutual support to practice, as well as being a practice in itself. Initially we had to convince the person letting the flat that we were actually quite harmless, his first response to our proposal to live together was along the lines of "It is disgusting! Four middle-aged men wanting to live together" (our average age was about 40). However he did give us the benefit of the doubt, apparently on discovering that I am English.

We stayed in Auguststraße for about 18 months, calling the community 'Chintamani', the wish-fulfilling jewel carried by the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and decided to move on as the rent increased by about 50%. After a long search we found our present flat on the fourth floor in Alte Jakobstraße, Berlin Kreuzberg, less than ten minutes from the former Checkpoint Charlie. There has been some comings and goings in the community, and there are now six men, three of the original four (Karunada, Satyasthira and myself) as well as Christian, Dharmapriya and Mokshasiddha.

There are four bedrooms, though each is divided into two rooms vertically as they are so high creating eight rooms in all. There is a small but very pleasant winter garden in the middle of the flat making the flat very light. We get along harmoniously together and appreciate one another's qualities. At the start we agreed on three conditions that we would all fullfill: we would meditate together in the mornings, we would eat one meal a day together, and we would have a community meeting once a week. On the whole we continue to follow these 'rules', we meditate at 7 o'clock, we eat breakfast together and we try to meet as a community regularly, even though we rarely meet as frequently as we would like.

Although we have quite different lifestyles and routines, we have the practice of the Dharma in common and this naturally forms a common bond between us all. Over the years our friendships have developed and I would say we have to some extent at least loosened our egoistic clinging to personal preferences. Although sometimes challenging, living in this way is definitely helpful to the pursuit of a spiritual life. Having lived in such communities since 1994 I have no doubts about their benefits.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Another year older and maybe a little wiser too

It was my birthday yesterday. Thanks to all who sent me birthday wishes and cards and stuff. I am now fifty-three. I celebrated with breakfast in bed and a 20 KM run through Treptower Park in the morning, coffee and cake with a few close friends in the afternoon followed by supper with Claudia in our local restaurant, The Flying Table.

Among my presents was a DVD of Shostakovich against Stalin, which I am eager to watch as soon as I find time. Over the last year or so I have been dipping into Shostakovich and I have been much moved by his music, and the little I know of his life. I have particularly enjoyed listening to his 24 Preludes and Fugues, which I recently bought with a gift token I received for Christmas.

Although the snow had almost completely gone from the streets by Sunday morning, in the park there was still a good deal of slush and water underfoot. In the meantime the snow seems to have completely disappeared from the city's pavements, leaving behind an interesting mixture of debris dating back to the New Year's celebrations, two months accumulated litter and dog's mess, and tons of grit.