• 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
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.
“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.”
“It is also important to grow used to sitting regularly for longer lengths of time. That’s because when you try to meditate, even if you’re able to sit for one hour, your real, true meditation may be no more than 15 minutes. So, as you work with your practice, work on sitting a little longer each time. This is another reason why it is important to go to retreats regularly and also to find a supportive sitting group in your area, where possible. These will all help you in deepening your practice.
“Many people come here to the Bhavana Society and hope to maintain a regular link to the center and to the monastics here. We ask them how much time do you spend on meditation? How frequently? These are essential matters. The answers help us help them. But what if that person doesn’t keep up their regular meditation practice? All of a sudden, problems arise and they consult us for help. It will be hard for us to give them the necessary help, because they haven’t been doing their homework!
~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Preserving the Dhamma (Page 199, 200). Bhavana Society Forest Monastery (2007). www.bhavanasociety.org
“Ethical action shifts our focus from what we personally want to what will most benefit us and others. When we are obsessed with our own desires, we are motivated primarily by hatred, greed, envy, lust and other selfish preoccupations. Then we have neither the self-control nor the wisdom to act rightly. But when we abstain from negativity, our mental fog clears a bit, and we begin to see that loving-friendliness, compassion, and generosity genuinely make us happy. This clarity of mind helps us to make ethical choices and to progress on the Buddha’s path.”
“… The mind is very powerful. There’s a tremendous strength there, and it makes such a big difference how this mind, this will, this intention is being steered. And everything depends on whether it allows itself to relax and be serene, or whether it allows itself to get caught up in anxiety, grasping, and fear; it makes a difference if you do something with a relaxed, easygoing frame of mind, or if you do it in a harried and distracted way.
“In past times, people used to walk from eastern Tibet all the way to Lhasa, in central Tibet. Some types wanted to get there really fast, so they’d walk as quickly as they could. They’d tire, or get sick, give up and have to return. But other people, they would just walk at an easy pace, and they’d sit down, take breaks, pitch camp for the night, have a good time. And then, the next day, continue. And in that way they would actually reach Lhasa quite quickly. Thus the Tibetan proverb, “If you walk with haste, you do not reach Lhasa. If you walk at a gentle pace, you will make it there.”
Here’s a wonderful interview from Mask Magazine with the Buddhist scholar monk, Thanissaro Bhikku. The whole thing is worth a read, but these paragraphs really stuck out:
“Try to have a part of your mind that doesn’t buy into everything around here. You can create that. The Internet has the advantage that now you can listen to dharma talks at any time. You can read dharma passages for some of these alternate ideas.
“Hold to your precepts. Try to develop a state of mind, where you’re in touch with that part of the mind that’s not affected by anything. So that whatever comes in, you don’t feel overwhelmed. That sense of being overwhelmed is what makes people desperate. Develop that part of the mind that can tell itself: okay, no matter what comes, I can handle it.
“That requires some meditation. And having the precepts as the basis for your self-esteem. Basically, that there are certain things that nobody can ever pay me to do. If you’ve got a precept and someone offers you a million dollars to lie, you say “nope” – and suddenly, you’ve got a precept worth more than a million dollars.”
Download a .pdf of Issue 1 of The Forest Path, the revamped newsletter for the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery in High View, W.Va. The debut issue features an inspiring article on why the longtime Bhavana cook decided to ordain, with photos from Bhante’s Pannaratana’s recent novice ordination ceremony. There’s a new, regular feature called “Ask Bhante G,” featuring questions posed to Bhavana abbot, Bhante Gunaratana. He answers the question “How much effort should we apply in our meditation practice?” Plus guidelines on visiting the monastery and more: http://bhavanasociety.org/newsletters/
“If the breath seems an exceedingly dull thing to observe over and over, you may rest assured of one thing: you have ceased to observe the process with true mindfulness. Mindfulness is never boring. Look again. Don’t assume that you know what breath is. Don’t take it for granted that you have already seen everything there is to see. If you do, you are conceptualizing the process. You are not observing its living reality. When you are clearly mindful of the breath or of anything else, it is never boring. Mindfulness looks at everything with the eyes of a child, with a sense of wonder. Mindfulness sees every moment as if it were the first and the only moment in the universe. So look again.”
Note: This quote comes from the very active and rich Facebook page of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery in the mountains of West Virginia. If you have an interest in Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation, you can follow the page here.
“We carry addictions. The first step is acknowledging that. The acknowledgment itself is the purpose of the First Noble Truth. If you really look at the Buddhist tradition, the First Noble Truth is to understand the truth of suffering, which means acknowledge the problems we face, the addictions we have. If drinking coffee makes you sick, you have to cut the coffee out—and likewise when you recognize the addictions of attachment, anger, hatred. The Second Noble Truth is to find out what it is that causes these addictions and then to separate yourself from it. There are many causes of suffering created by individual karma—anger, hatred, jealousy, and, above all, ignorance. Ignorance is the most important one, the one which really creates all other negative emotions, such as anger, attachment, hatred.
“The Third Truth is cessation of ignorance. And the Fourth Truth is the Path, which is the medicine. If you have too much acid in your stomach, you take Pepto-Bismol. The practice, the path, is the antidote to whatever your problem is. If you’re too angry, you deal with the passions. If it’s laziness, you deal with diligence. If it’s ignorance, you use wisdom. If you’re wandering or thinking too much, you use meditation. These are the methods that automatically bring us to Buddhist ethics.”
“Once we understand that everything we think, say or do is a cause that leads inevitably to some effect, now or in the future, we will naturally want to think, say, and do things that lead to positive results and avoid those thoughts, words, and deeds that lead to negative ones. Recognizing that causes always lead to results helps us accept the consequences of past actions. It also helps us focus our attention on making choices that can lead to a happier future.
“Skillful actions are those that create the causes for happiness, such as actions motivated by loving friendliness and compassion. Any action that comes from a mind not currently filled with greed, hatred, or delusion brings happiness to the doer and to the receiver. Such an action is, therefore, skillful or right.”
In the first of a series of short videos on a single Dhamma question, Bhante Seelanada answers a retreatant’s query: “Bhante, are you enlightened?” The question was posed during a March 2015 retreat at the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery in the West Virginia mountains.
When fear arises within our meditation, we apply an antidote. Recognizing what is happening at each instant as mind, we remain in the present. It is important to remember that patterns don’t have to repeat themselves. Through remaining in the present, we can let go of the past and the future—the headquarters of our fears. We recognize and then we let go, whether coming back to the focal point of our meditation—posture, breath, visualization—or non-conceptual space. Through motivation, honesty, and confidence you can practice with your fears and go beyond them in a way you never thought possible.