We can’t wait


“We can’t wait until the world gets straightened out before we straighten out our own minds, because the cause is in the mind. The world out there is the realm of effects. The realm of causes is in here: That’s one of the basic lessons of dependent co-arising. All the causes of suffering come prior to your engagement with the world. If you want other people to change their behavior, you’ve got to straighten out your behavior. You have to walk your talk, so that your talk is compelling. You can’t force other people to follow your example, but at least you establish that example here in the world. It’s good to have these examples in the world. Otherwise the world would be a totally depressing place.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“True Protection for the World” (Dhamma talk)
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(Quote and link courtesy of Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s Dhamma Talks Facebook Page)

Sitting through fear

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“States of fear sometimes arise during meditation for no discernible reason. It is a common phenomenon, and there can be a number of causes. You may be experiencing the effect of something repressed long ago. Remember, thoughts arise first in the unconscious. The emotional contents of a thought complex often leak through into your conscious awareness long before the thought itself surfaces. If you sit through the fear, the memory itself may bubble up to a point where you can endure it. Or you may be dealing directly with the fear that we all fear: “fear of the unknown.” At some point in your meditation career you will be struck with the seriousness of what you are actually doing. You are tearing down the wall of illusion you have always used to explain life to yourself and to shield yourself from the intense flame of reality. You are about to meet ultimate truth face to face. That is scary. But it has to dealt with eventually. Go ahead and dive right in.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English,” p. 101

Admirable Friendship

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One (the Buddha) was living among the Sakyans. Now there is a Sakyan town named Sakkara. There Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.”

“Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk (person) has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he (they) can be expected to develop & pursue the Noble Eightfold Path.

Upaddha Sutta: Half (of the Holy Life)
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Just One Breath

In this world of onrushing events the act of meditation—even just a “one-breath” meditation—straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment—is a refreshing island in the stream. Although the term meditation has mystical and religious connotations for many people, it is a simple and plain activity.  Attention: deliberate stillness and silence
Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream, so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies. Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally into it
Spending time with your own mind is humbling and broadening. One finds that there’s no one in charge, and is reminded that no thought lasts for long. The marks of the Buddhist teachings are impermanence, no-self, the inevitability of suffering, interconnectedness, emptiness, the vastness of mind, and the provision of a Way to realization.

Gary Snyder lives in the northern Sierra Nevada and practices in the Linji Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist tradition. Pulitzer prize-winning poet and essayist, his most recent book is This Present Moment: New Poems.
Read more at:



mindfulness just accepts it


“It is psychologically impossible for us to objectively observe what is going on within us if we do not at the same time accept the occurrence of our various states of mind. This is especially true with unpleasant states of mind. In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can’t examine our own depression without accepting it fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration , and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can’t examine something fully if you are busy rejecting its existence. Whatever experience we may be having, mindfulness just accepts it. It is simply another of life’s occurrences, just another thing to be aware of. No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake — what is there is there.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English” (Wisdom Publications)
p. 133

The heart of our true nature


“…To forgive does not necessarily mean to forget. Sometimes to forget is not wise, but to forgive is wise. And it is at times not easy. It can, in fact, be quite challenging. It will come as no surprise that one of the most difficult people to forgive can be yourself. Yet with patience and gentle determination, it can be done.

Parami (Pali), Paramita (Sanskrit): literally, perfection, or crossing over (to the other shore).

The paramis are practices that can lead one to the perfection of certain virtuous or ennobling qualities. They are practiced as a way of purifying karma and leading the practitioner on a path to enlightenment. In the Theravada tradition, the ten paramis are dana (generosity), sila (morality), nekkhamma (relinquishing), panna (wisdom), viriya (effort), khanti (patience), sacca (truthfulness), adhitthana (determination), metta (lovingkindness), upekkha (equanimity). In the Mahayana there are six paramitas: generosity, morality, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom.

It is interesting to note that the parami of generosity comes first, before the other practices, even morality. Some commentators suggest that the list begins with the easiest practice and becomes progressively more challenging. Another view is that until one sees the interconnected nature of phenomena and has a heart open to the needs of all beings, the other paramis can remain beyond reach. With practice, the virtuous qualities become stronger and support one another. Generosity supports relinquishing, which supports morality, which supports truthfulness, which supports wisdom, which supports equanimity, and so forth.

The paramis are seen as the heart of our true nature but greed, hatred, and delusion cause them to become somewhat blurred. Practicing the paramis is said to help us see in a different, more beneficial way. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “These deeds, called the perfections, constitute the essential and comprehensive path to enlightenment, combining method and wisdom.” Thus the paramis are important practices for one who seeks to become an awakened being and to end the cycle of samsara, or cyclic existence. The key point to remember is that the paramis are offered not as philosophy but as practices. To be effective, practices need to be practiced.”

~ Allen Lokos
Read full excerpt here

A Single Excellent Night


“Let not a person revive the past
Or on the future build his hopes;
For the past has been left behind
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let him see
Each presently arisen state;
Let him know that and be sure of it,
Invincibly, unshakeably.
Today the effort must be made;
Tomorrow Death may come, who knows?
No bargain with Mortality
Can keep him and his hordes away,
But one who dwells thus ardently,
Relentlessly, by day, by night —
It is he, the Peaceful Sage* has said,
Who has had a single excellent night.”

~ The Buddha
from the “Bhaddekaratta Sutta”
(A Single Excellent Night),
Sutta 131, “The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha,”
translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi

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* The “Peaceful Sage” (santo muni) is the Buddha

What we do when we meditate


“… That’s what we do when we meditate: We step back from all the influences inside our mind — ideas that this is good, that’s bad, you should do this, you shouldn’t do that. You have to stop and really take stock of these things, find a place within where you can be really, really quiet, and then look clearly at these voices to see what they are. Instead of identifying with them, you watch them. You watch to see what they’re coming from, where they’re going, seeing them as part of a causal process. What kind of mind state do they come from, what kind of mind state do they encourage? Are those the kind of mind states you want to identify with?

“This is essentially how the Buddha’s teaching on not-self works: seeing the things that have control over our lives, that have power over our minds, and in the course of the meditation stepping back a bit from them, gaining enough independence from them that we can look at them simply as events and see if we really want to identify with them. As the Buddha pointed out in one of his discourses, you can’t really look at these things as long as you’re identifying with them. You’ve got to step back. This applies not only to ideas in the mind, but also to the body, this form we’re sitting with here. The same principle also applies to feelings of pleasure and pain as they come and go, to perceptions, to thought-constructs, even to our consciousness of things. Meditation gives us a place where we can step back from these things and watch them to see the influence they have over the mind, to decide whether that’s an influence we’d like them to continue having.

“So as we practice it’s important to create this space where you can step back. The quietude and seclusion are important….”

~ Thannisaro Bhikkhu
(Read the full Dhamma Talk
“Rites of Passage”)

Turn on the light

“It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn’t depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn’t depend on how long you’ve held on to the old view. When you flip the switch in the attic, it doesn’t matter whether it’s been dark for ten minutes, ten years or ten decades. The light still illuminates the room and banishes the murkiness, letting you see the things you couldn’t see before.”

Fall edition of The Forest Path Buddhist newsletter now out


A photo from the newsletter, taken during the June 21, 2015 ordination of Ayya Dhira bhikkhuni at Anenja Vihara in Bavaria.

The Fall 2015 edition of The Forest Path, the newsletter of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Buddhist Forest Monastery is now out. The issue has a variety of features devoted to the recent ordination of a bhikkhuni, a female Buddhist nun, in Germany, the first such ordination in Europe in history. The ordination is part of an ongoing revival of the bhikkhuni order within Therevada Buddhism. Among the features in this issue:

• Into the Future With An Open Heart:  A Reflection on the European bhikkhuni ordination by Mangala Bhikkhu
• Ask Bhante G: A View From Germany and the first European Therevada Bhikkhunī Ordination
• On Resident Life
• Listening In on the Lives of the First Buddhist Women
• A Day of Great Joy

Click here to download a pdf of the newsletter: http://bhavanasociety.org/newsletters/issue/fall_newsletter_20151

Bhante Gunaratana to visit Charleston


SAVE the DATES: Bhante Gunaratana, an internationally known and beloved Buddhist monk, meditation master and author, will speak in Charleston, WV  for those interested in meditation, mindfulness, Buddhism and the spiritual life.

FRIDAY, OCT. 2: He will give a short talk and answer questions from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2 at Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle Rd..

Bhante G, as he is known worldwide, is author of the best-selling guide to insight meditation “Mindfulness in Plain English,” and many other books. He is abbot of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery in High View, W.Va., the first such monastery established in North America. At 87, he still travels the world teaching and leading retreats. His visit is sponsored by The Meditation Circle of Charleston. All events are free (with donations welcome to help defray costs of the visit). PS: ‘Bhante’ (BON-tay) is a term of respect and is akin to ‘Reverend’ in the Buddhist world.

NOTE: A Saturday event at the Unitarians is now full and no longer able to accept reservations.


Start with what you know


“We’ve got to come from a position of strength when we meditate. There’s a passage in the Canon where the Buddha says that a person who doesn’t have a basic level of happiness and goodness inside simply cannot do goodness. It sounds like a catch‐22, but that’s not the point. The point is that we all have a certain amount of goodness in our minds, so tap into that first. The goodness here means not only good intentions, but also having a good‐natured attitude toward what you’re doing, a good‐natured attitude toward the people around you. That’s why we chant the passages on goodwill every night, every night.

And bring some humor to the practice, the humor that allows you to laugh at your own mistakes. Without that, things start getting bitter, and when things start getting bitter inside then you start lashing out at the people around you outside. You start criticizing the technique ‐ there are all kinds of things you can criticize. But if you can sit back for a bit and tap into your own good‐natured attitude—and it’s there inside all of us—try to bring that to the fore. Then work from that. It may be a small thing, but you’ve got to start small.

Start with what you know. The breath is going in. Do you know that? Yes, you know that.It’s going out. Do you know that? Well, yes, you know that, too. Okay, know just that much. Don’t forget that. Is it comfortable? You may not be sure. Could it be more comfortable? Well, experiment and see. Try to sensitize yourself to how the breathing feels. Without sensitivity, it all becomes mechanical, and when it becomes mechanical it becomes a chore. And when it becomes a chore the mind is going to start to rebel.

So, ask yourself, ʺWhat really feels good when you’re breathing right now?ʺ If you can’t figure out what really feels good, just hold your breath for a while until the mind is screaming at you that you’ve got to breathe, you’ve got to breathe. Then when you breathe in, notice where it feels really good. Take that as your guide.”

~Thanissaro Bhikku
from “A Small Steady Flame: Seven Dhamma Talks on the Basics of Breath Meditation”

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