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Once people have passed their 60th, they may well feel less like having a party to celebrate

their birthdays. Quite often they don't really


want a huge fuss made. So bear that in mind and keep things simple and a bit more low-key. It's all about getting the tone right, so
think of it less like a traditional party and approach it perhaps more like a family gathering or informal get-together of friends.
The guest of honour may well prefer to keep numbers small, so perhaps lunch,afternoon tea, or a small dinner partymight be more
suitable that a full-on party. Whatever format you choose I would advise you to keep it quite relaxed and laid back. Focus your efforts on
creating some good food and drink, a nicely dressed table, perhaps a birthday cake, and a small group of family and friends. You don't
need to worry too much about entertainment or elaborate decorations for 70th birthdays. Although this isn't an excuse not to make an
effortyou still want to put plenty of thought into things like the food or table stylingso that it feels like a special occasion and not just
a normal get together. Aim for something that is slightly out of the ordinary yet at the same time tasteful and understated.
Whatever you do, don't be too literal with a 'turning 70' theme. The last thing the guest of honour will probably want to see are balloons,
decorations, and tableware with 70 printed all over them. If you're going to use party decorations, plain colored ones will be far more
tasteful. There's really no need to focus on their age. Be respectful and celebrate the person, not their age. Think about how you can
make the party as personal as possible by focusing on their tastes and interests.
I also suggest creating a photoslide show that documents their lives through the decades and highlights their achievements. This
creates a nice sentimental touch to the party and lets everybody share in some fond memories. See my page about 40th Birthday
Parties for more information on this. A nice variation on thiswhich works particularly well for the more senior milestone birthdays is to
have the guest of honour share stories and anecdotes about each photo in the slide show that might not be obvious to everyone else.
Older people have so many great stories to tell and it's a great opportunity for them to take a trip down memory lane while letting
everyone else share in the memories.
One word of warning though, if you are using a photo slideshow remember to keep the atmosphere light with a few funny photos,
particularly towards the end. You don't want the guest of honour to get too emotional as they look back over the livesespecially if it has
involved some losses. Keep things cheery and upbeat and surround them with their friends, children and grandchildren.
Age is not measured by years. Nature does not equally distribute energy. Some people are born old and tired while others are going
strong at seventy.
Dorothy Thompson

April 22 (Earth Day), 2014 marked my transition from aged 69 to 70, as if a number has any strategic bearing upon the unfoldment of nature.
Yet, despite its irrelevance, the growing Sangha of Dharma practitioners took it upon themselves to remind this Buddha Wallah* that my birthday
provided a reason, or perhaps an excuse, to express friendship and love to myself plus exceptional generosity. These gifts of money included fund
raising projects for the beloved Prajna Vihar School in Bodh Gaya, school, India that had its first spark with my morning class for the poorest children
in the village some 25 years ago. Friends also gave money for reforestation in Tiruvannamalai and Himachel Pradesh, India and support for farmers
and families in the open prison of the Palestinian community. The Buddha Wallah also found himself the beneficiary of wonderful financial donations
plus books, DVDs, CDS and various other gifts.
I have been offering a retreat for the past 30 years at the time of my birthday a refuge from a birthday party. It is a blessing to be out of earshot of
Happy birthday, dear Christopher, Happy birthday, to you. It is hard to imagine anything less significant than the self marking its birthday, despite
loving all the attention for two and a half hours at the evening birthday event last month.
Friends organised the birthday gathering behind my back. They know I have little interest in such situations. Mind you, I added names to the guest
list. I appreciated the initiative of my friends as it is valuable for those of us with some authority to have our authority undermined. The interests of
the Sangha take priority over the interests, or in this case lack of interest, of a teacher.
I would have been on retreat on April 22, 2014 but Tovana, the Israeli Dharma network, kindly switched my annual teaching programme in April in
Israel to September so that Kye, aged 13, my grandson, could spend some of his temporary liberation from school (Easter holidays) at my home in
Totnes.
April 22, 2014 demanded some reflection from me after the barrage of birthday goodwill messages. The friendship between a teacher and practitioners
develops over weeks, months and years. Initially, the teacher may figure largely in the consciousness of the yogi. For example, the yogi can have
endless inner conversations with the teacher. As wisdom and insight develop, the teacher will gradually fade into the background of the practitioners
consciousness. So the yogi sees their teacher as an occasional resource, if at all. As time passes, there is a depth of friendship between the teacher and
the practitioner, often informal. From time to time, the friendship will revert to the teacher-practitioner when appropriate and supportive.
The number 70 bears no true reality, but functions as a mental construct to interpret the unfolding process. Bound to time, the 70 th birthday had a
symbolic significance a round number that served for the collective (the Sangha) to marshal together certain feelings and thoughts, and empower
them with an action of love. The number 70 consolidated a movement of the hearts of practitioners in appreciation of the service of this Buddha
Wallah over the years to the Sangha in a trans-world: transpire, transfer, transaction, transmit, translation, transformation. transcendence These
kinds of trans-ferences reflect an ongoing dynamic between the teacher and practitioners through the passage of time.

What is the relationship, if any, between the 70 year old Buddha Wallah and a dynamic Sangha, frequently anarchic in its expression, not needing to
show (fortunately) any loyalty to this rapidly ageing figure, yet not ignoring his transmissions of knowledge through the quirky forums of retreats,
workshops, public talks, inquiry sessions and inter-views?
As a symbolic number, the 70th birthday informs the Sangha of the finite signs of the Buddha Wallah, who now journeys into the winter of life, towards
the fading away of the faculties until they become cold. Does the body/mind abruptly come to an end? Does the body weaken first and the mind stays
clear for a longer period of time? Does the mind gradually lose its faculties first and the body stays healthy for longer? Does the mind/body gradually
fade together in an inseparable embrace? Even as the body becomes ever more vulnerable to the fortitudes of natural circumstances, the mind might
lose whatever resilience and communication skills it has developed.
The number 70 makes clear that the dissolution of nama/rupa (mind/matter, psychology/physicality, and name/form) is in sight. To be born and to
die requires belief in the notion of a self, a me, who is born and who dies. The grasper takes up the identity of the one who is born and the one who will
die. The birthless/deathless reveals effortlessly in seeing the emptiness of the one who grasps.
I regard loyalty as lacking virtue since loyalty easily inhibits development and transformation through dependency and identification with the past.
Through not submitting to a version of nama/rupa, the Sangha has the opportunity to explore a range of experiences through the offerings of different
teachers, masters, gurus, mind/body workers, pilgrimages, yoga, solitude, texts, lifestyles, numerous disciplines and the wander lust. Such a
contemporary tradition safeguards the practitioners from becoming defined by a single teacher or system. An adventurous Sangha protects the
teacher from indulging in control issues, power building and notions of self-importance. The Sangha knows it is free to come and go. This mutual
arrangement keeps alive the inquiry for the teacher and yogis into meaningful undertakings different what the teacher offers.
The Buddha Wallah then finds time to explore further the relevance of the teachings to contemporary circumstances.
The Personal Past
We can employ the past to shed light on the present rather than have the past act as a shadow over the present. The past can illuminate the present
through personal reflection on experiences and events that we recall. The Buddha Wallah has some knowledge to transmit emerging out of these three
score years and ten. This experience of a yatra (pilgrimage) through the fields of daily life, and the fluctuation of roles, serves as a useful support to
express the Dharma.
Birth, childhood, religion, teenage life, journalist, wanderer, monk, lover, parent, partner, activist, Dharma teacher and ageing man become resources
for insights and understanding into the Dharma, and occasionally the drama, of daily life. The fusion of the personal and transpersonal through
practice remind us that every arena of daily life, past and present, provide infinite opportunity for a liberating wisdom.
The drawing on the past by an ageing man must transmit applicable insights to meditators who may be, for example, 30 years, 50 years or more
younger. As the subject, the Buddha Wallah speaks to subjects, namely the consciousness of the Sangha, not to transfer information about the past but
in order to transform the consciousness of the Sangha in the present. Otherwise, the past becomes an expression of self- indulgent nostalgia without a
trace of significance for a Dharma Hall of practitioners inquiring into the living truths.
I recall mentioning in a Dharma talk a few years ago that as kids in primary school during the 1950s, we played football and cricket on the streets,
came home from the outdoors after dark and walked to and from school by ourselves. One person whispered to me: Youre getting old, Christopher.
He was right. It was the nostalgic bleating of an old man. I told the yogis once: If you hear me living in the past, then you have my permission to shoot
me. Do not think of it as violation of a precept. Regard it as compassion for the Sangha.
The Past and the Tradition
The Buddha Wallah also draws upon the past of the Buddhist tradition, not for the perpetuation of the tradition, for it has no independent existence
outside of varying perceptions. This kind of reference to the past also requires discernment. Traditionalists easily identify with the past engaging in
reproducing it for its own sake. This can become a mind-numbing repetition serving the unconscious needs of the lazy who sleepwalk through the
Dharma of daily life. Teacher and practitioner can keep repeating the same teachings, forms and methods as handed down from the previous
generation, while becoming alienated from the urgent needs of the present.
Those who dismiss all religious traditions, and that includes Buddhist secularists, may find themselves more and more relying upon their own strain of
thought. They believe in their non-religious views and advocate them. They might well generate a new tradition devoid of the depths of the religious
experience. Like those who bear witness to a religious tradition, the secularists bear witness to their own strands of thought, equally burdened with
the mumbo-jumbo of corporate consumerism and scientific materialism. The orthodox religious and the secular traditionalists resist change. Both end
up directing a polemic against each other even though they have much in common, i.e. divisive opinions on the issue.
We can neither afford to uphold for its own sake the religious past, nor dismiss it. We can draw upon the knowledge, insights and wisdom of old and
employ the spirit and the letter of some of the religious forms, methods and rituals. The Achilles heel of the religious past shows itself as the blind

adherence to the past, struggling against change in the contemporary world. The Achilles heel of the secularist shows as adherence to the present
without the capacity to draw upon the wealth of religious inquiry into the human spirit.
Spiritual, mystical and religious experiences contribute to the transformation of the consciousness. Militant secularists will usually reject the spiritual,
religious or mystical experience. They will undermine religious observances, as well as the monk, the nun or the long term meditator in the
monastery, forest or cave. Monasteries provide an important refuge for spiritual seekers. They offer resources for meditation, reflection and
community. Many Buddhist monasteries make their facilities available for spiritual seekers on a donation (dana) basis or modest daily rate. Religious
services provide a place of gathering of the faithful. Religious life has an important function in society. Having identified with secular culture,
secularists fail to see the relevance of religious practices and the capacity of such experiences to transform consciousness.
Neither religionists nor secularists remain immune from their belief system. We cannot put our faith in secular Buddhism because it marginalises, if
not dismisses, the transformative power of consciousness through spiritual/mystical/religious events. We cannot seize upon old religious beliefs as
they seem to have little connection with daily life.
The Meaning of Impermanence
The Buddhas strategic emphasis on impermanence, on change, includes the capacity to witness change but also to implement change. There is the
witnessing of impermanence and equally there is the willingness to make things impermanent- such as any continuity of the unwholesome, unhealthy
and irrelevant. The witnessing of change and the making of change serve as mutual supports for each other.
I am regularly asked whether my teachings have changed in 40 years of teaching. I would like others to share my view, of course. From this side of the
transmission, I have kept faith in the past four decades with the exploration of ultimate/relative truth. The Dharma talks, meditations, inquiries,
books, blog, articles, critiques and items on the websites remain true, as much as possible, to the engagement with reality and in order to dispel any
condition of consciousness that inhibit wisdom about reality.
The Dharma teacher draws upon the past, not only of the Buddhist tradition, but the explorations, East and West and the long distant past of
humanity of our species, so that we can see the present, as a confirmation of the past, and an interruption to the past as well. We cannot absolutely
separate the past from the present nor can we separate the present from the past. We can also see, to some degree, the way the past and present
casually winds its way into the future. The future of humanity, and the Earth, finds its way more and more into public consciousness as we experience
climate change and other consequences of human behaviour, for example, war, overpopulation, capitalism and its pathological obsession with excess.
This Buddha Wallah reaches back frequently to the discourses (suttas) of the Buddha and the contemporary commentaries on the suttas. Within some
10,000 discourses, there lies a wealth of wisdom, practices and offerings for humanity. Like diamonds buried in the earth, we can go deep into the text
to find the jewels. Like early gold hunters, we need to swirl the tray to find the small nuggets of gold. As with some precious jewels, we may have to go
deep into the mine underground. We can discover jewels of wisdom in the ancient texts to share with others in daily life.
When reading texts of the Buddha, such as Middle Length Discourses (MLD) and Connected Discourses (SN), I use my Kindle to type in a word or
phrase in the Search option to check its use and the context for its use. I have discovered a wealth of precious jewels of insight in the past three years
through this approach to passages in the suttas. For example, I wrote a critique for the blog this month on Mindfulness and the Military. I used the
Kindle to search words in the in the MLD and SN such as killing, harm, torture, wrong action, right intention, evil, hate cruelty and compassion. The
Buddha showed an unwavering commitment to non-violence and the ending of violence upon humans and animals. The Buddha Wallah loves the
Buddha.
The Pleasures of Growing Old
There are certain pleasures about getting old. Yes, there is the happiness of having stayed faithful to a life free and adventurous throughout with
enough thick skin to work with the necessary fault finding from others, without the pangs of guilt and failure that haunt far too many people. As a
servant of the Dharma, I rely upon the power of practice to deal with the bows and arrows of outrageous misfortune or outrageous good fortune.
There are the pleasures of the ageing father whose daughter shows incredible devotion to the marginalised members of society. There are the pleasures
of the grandfather with his grandchildren. Kye said to me a year ago that he wanted to live until he was 86 years old. I said: Thats a good age for
anyone to say goodbye to this world. I am 69. I will be happy if I have another 17 years to live.
Kye said: Oh, granddad that means I will be only 29 years old when you die.
Yup. Thats impermanence for the two of us.
Every year for about 40 years, meditators have sat in the crowded and austere spaces of the Thai Monastery in Bodh Gaya for our annual 10 day
retreat. The years pass by at a gallop. Some sons and daughters have come to the retreat and sat in much the same spot where their parents sat years
before. It is hard to explain why but this brings happiness, knowing one generation of Dharma practitioners leads to the next. Sometimes the parents
have come to Bodh Gaya in the footsteps of their children. This also brings happiness.

To Transform
Throughout the past 40 years, the Buddha Wallah has endorsed meditation with an unbroken passion for its transformative capabilities, but has
equally advocated action on behalf of others or against the oppressive systems impacting our lives. The financial centres of our cities have become tall
monuments to greed, and the wasteful and wasted lives of the rich and shameless. My spoken and written critiques on greed and consumerism have
defined the duality of the separation of the haves and the have-nots.
I do not subscribe to the view All is One. Such language rarely empowers compassionate action but instead easily serves as a band-aid to the brutal
dualities of human conflict. I do not believe in one world and that we are all created equal. I do not see the evidence for such sweeping and misleading
beliefs. I do not see the evidence for a single world, since the world depends for its confirmation on consciousness, tendencies and numerous blind
spots. The condition of consciousness for sentient creatures, including ourselves, appears similar and dissimilar. It is surely arrogance that claims to be
living in the real world?
We cannot compare the world of the super-rich with the world of the desperately poor. We cannot compare the worlds of the varieties of sentient
creatures, including humans, with the different senses and internal faculties of other creatures experience of the world. We cannot compare the world
of the peaceful with the world of these suffering a mental breakdown. We experience altered states of consciousness within the waking state, in our
dreams and in our sleep. We know the experience of being very much in love with another and we know the experience of rejection.
There is a danger when we intensify the gap in all these different worlds. The dependent arising nature of consciousness, under the influence of
underlying formations, impact on mind/body to generate countless worlds: heavenly, hellish, creatures, worldly and spiritual. Rather than attempt to
subsume these worlds into a single world, we explore the gap between the worlds. At a certain point, the gap can expand until it breeds violence
between us and others, us and the world. We reduce the gap through support to the marginalised, the disempowered and the troubled. We show the
privileged 1% to 5% that we work for their ultimate interest through pointing the way to ethics, depths of meditation, generosity, justice and wisdom.
The wise acknowledge differences and diversity without clinging to a view of equality. They know there are worlds of experiences with the potential for
love and insights to bridge the differences. Sometimes, a pure truth emerges from the oddest of places. As you disembark from the underground train,
you will frequently hear the recorded voice from the loudspeakers saying: Mind the Gap. Never was a more true statement made on the London
underground!
As a group of noble and practising participants, the Sangha shares more in common with indigenous communities, networks of non-violent activists,
people in engaged in forms of public service and those who dwell humbly as servants of nature. We delude ourselves if we think we are masters of
nature, as the so-called Age of Western Enlightenment has led us to believe. Due to the vulnerability of human life, we could become extinct like the
dinosaurs.
As a group in the web of humanity, we have the duty to support the range of thoughtful small groups, to applaud diversity and not to submit to the
pressures of the predominant paradigm which seeks to make small groups subservient to the message of production and consumption as all that
matters. The Sangha engages in the revolutionary act of sustainability, moderation of lifestyle, enduring friendships, endless discoveries and drawing
upon the wisdom of our species.