We are in this together

Here is an inspiring article recently posted on the website of the Alliance for Bhikkunis, an organization committed to supporting ordained Theravada Buddhist women (bhikkhunis). It features an interview with Venerable Bhikkhuni Thanasanti on the role of Buddhist organizations in addressing climate change. For Amma (or ‘Dear One’ as she chooses to go by) addressing climate change is a natural extension of bringing attention to suffering, seeing suffering’s cause, and finding a path that supports it’s end — all fundamental to the Buddha’s teachings. She notes, “For many people who are very committed contemplative practitioners, there has been an overarching bias that if you practice meditation and have profound insight then there’s no more suffering. This is the prevailing view of a traditional approach whereby engagement can seem to be in conflict with the path of contemplation.” For Amma, this bias has resulted in a lack of response from Buddhist communities within the United States. However, recently we have seen a change. More and more Buddhist practitioners are bringing the power of insight and compassion into dealing with the imminent and global problems at hand. Read the full article.

An indestructible refuge

eye“Awareness is your refuge. Awareness of the changingness of feelings, of attitudes, of moods, of material change and emotional change. Stay with that, because it’s a refuge that is indestructible. It’s not something that changes. It’s a refuge you can trust in. This refuge is not something that you create. It’s not a creation. It’s not an ideal. It’s very practical and very simple, but easily overlooked or not noticed. When you’re mindful, you’re beging to notice, it’s like this.”

Ajahn Sumedho

Overcoming Unworthiness

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“Remind yourself, in whatever way is personally meaningful, that it is not in your best interest to reinforce thoughts and feelings of unworthiness. Even if you’ve already taken the bait and feel the familiar pull of self-denigration, marshal your intelligence, courage and humor in order to turn the tide. Ask yourself: Do I want to strengthen what I’m feeling now? Do I want to cut myself off from my basic goodness? Remind yourself that your fundamental nature is unconditionally open and free.”

~Pema Chodron
(from “The Pocket Pema Chodron”)

Aspiring to make Dhamma central to one’s life

I recently attended a retreat on Metta or loving-friendliness meditation at the Bhavana Society, led by the Buddhist monastery’s abbot, Bhante Gunaratana. You can experience that retreat for yourself, including all the great Dhamma talks and the very rich and fruitful Q-and-A sessions each evening with Bhante G, through the monastery’s YouTube channel video playlist devoted to the Metta retreat. Bhante G excels at off-the-cuff responses to a wide variety of Dhamma and life questions.

But I also wanted to point readers’ attention to the retreat’s closing talk (see video above) by a young American-born monk named Bhante Suddhaso, now in residence at Bhavana. It is a wonderful and inspiring talk on the importance of devoting oneself to Dhamma practice in one’s life and aspiring to make such practice central to one’s daily routines. In questions after the talk, he also speaks very movingly on working with self-hostility and self-forgiveness — when we don’t live up to the precepts or when we commit unwholesome actions. As he says, the entire ‘tone’ of the Buddha’s many teachings is about developing wholesome mental states and abandoning unwholesome ones. This talk is a great boon of encouragement to all of us in deepening our commitment to practice.

~ Douglas

Online course on the Middle Length Discourses

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If you wish to deepen your understanding of the Buddha’s actual teachings, pay heed. Starting Jan. 19, the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies will offer a free online course on the Majjhima Nikāya, the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Registration deadline is Jan. 12 through the center’s website here. You can also take the courses as a graduate-level class for academic credit for $300. The weekly course runs through April. Here is more about it from the Sati website:

The Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikāya) might be the most important collection of the Buddha’s teachings. They contain many of the central teachings, practices, and stories from the earliest period of Buddhism in India. A careful study of this collection is an indispensable foundation for the study and practice of Buddhism.

The course consists of weekly readings of suttas from the Middle Length Discourses plus study guides written by Gil Fronsdal.  These study guides function as the “lectures” for the class, helping to bring the richness of this early literature alive.  Participants will have access to a Google Drive where the study guides will be located and may participate in video study-discussions and teacher Q&A audio/video sessions.

The course is organized around ten themes found in Middle Length Discourses:

  1. Faith and The Path
  2. The Buddha
  3. Karma
  4. Effort and Training
  5. Happiness, Sensuality, and Renunciation
  6. Mindfulness
  7. Concentration
  8. Wisdom
  9. Attainments
  10. Nirvana

A soft and accepting heart

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“In a general sense, restlessness is a sign of lack of contentment. Let’s take remorse first as it’s a special kind of restlessness. Remorse is about feeling bad about something we’ve done. When that kind of feeling comes up, apply the ‘AFL’ formula: 1) Acknowledge what you’ve done, 2) Forgive yourself and 3) Learn from your mistake.

Remember, everyone makes mistakes—big and small. Try to adopt the attitude that there is nothing you have done, absolutely nothing, that cannot be forgiven. It will soften your heart, and a soft and accepting heart makes for good meditation. Strive to cultivate an unconditional acceptance of yourself. Say to yourself, “No matter what I may have done, the ‘door to my heart’ is always open to me.”

~ Ajahn Brahm

What we do matters

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“When the Dalai Lama was here some years ago, he was asked by somebody giving a talk about these two aspects of the teachings, understanding emptiness and the ultimate nature of all experience, and then understanding the law of karma in the relative world, the world of relationship. He was asked if he had to make a choice between these two approaches and could only teach one, which one would he teach? He said he would teach the law of karma because, in each and every moment, if we understand that law, we have the possibility of really transforming our lives.

“The middle way is a view of life that avoids the extreme of misguided grasping born of believing there is something we can find, or buy, or cling to that will not change. And it avoids the despair and nihilism born from the mistaken belief that nothing matters, that all is meaningless. It avoids these extremes by offering us a vision that is empowered by its alliance with the truth of how things are: that everything arises, but also passes; that what we do matters, though we won’t find anything that does not change; that totems against impermanence won’t keep us safe, but we can, in accordance with laws of nature such as karma, create a life filled with wisdom and love.”

~ Sharon Salzberg
Read the full article from which this excerpt comes here

A wise and prudent friend

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Daily Words of the Buddha for December 13, 2014

Sace labhetha nipakaṃ sahāyaṃ
saddhiṃ caraṃ sādhuvihāridhīraṃ,
abhibhuyya sabbāni parissayāni,
careyya tenattamano satīmā.

Listen: http://host.pariyatti.org/dwob/dhammapada_23_328.mp3

If for company you find a wise and prudent friend
who leads a good life,
you should, overcoming all impediments,
keep their company joyously and mindfully.

Dhammapada 23.328

Like water behind a dam

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Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery in High View, W.Va.

Traditionally, Buddhists are reluctant to talk about the ultimate nature of human beings. But those who are willing to make descriptive statements at all usually say that our ultimate essence or Buddha nature is pure, holy and inherently good. The only reason that human beings appear otherwise is that their experience of that ultimate essence has been hindered; it has been blocked like water behind a dam.

The hindrances are the bricks of which the dam is built. As mindfulness dissolves the bricks, holes are punched in the dam and compassion and sympathetic joy come flooding forward. As meditative mindfulness develops, your whole experience of life changes. Your experience of being alive, the very sensation of being conscious, becomes lucid and precise, no longer just an unnoticed background for your preoccupations. It becomes a thing consistently perceived.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
from “Mindfulness in Plain English”

A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.