Meditation: What and Why?

Sep 09

 

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“Meditation is training for the mind, to help it develop the strengths and skills it needs to solve its problems. The mediation technique taught in this book …(mindfulness of breathing, leading to insight)….is a skill aimed at solving the mind’s most basic problem: the stress and suffering it brings on itself through its own thoughts and actions.”

 

from the Introduction to With Each and Every Breath  by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), the abbott of Metta Forest Monastery, Valley Center CA.

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The Five Wonderful Precepts

Sep 05

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Here is Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh‘s take on the Five Precepts in Buddhism, which expands their definition to include some wonderful nuances. (Thanks to Robin Wilson for passing these on).

The Five Wonderful Precepts

FIRST PRECEPT

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of live, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

SECOND PRECEPT

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

THIRD PRECEPT

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

FOURTH PRECEPT

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I know not to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all affords to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

FIFTH PRECEPT

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

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Where the Dhamma is to be found

Aug 26

scales“The Dhamma has to be found by looking into your own heart and seeing that which is true and that which is not, that which is balanced and that which is not.”

~ Ajahn Chah

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Time and Now

Aug 26

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Time and Now

(interesting article on consciousness, please  open the link.)New Picture

All Actions are led by the Mind

Mind is their master,

Mind is their maker,

Act or speak with an impure state of mind and suffering follows as the cartwheel follows the hoof of the ox.

 

All actions are led by the Mind

Mind is their master,

Mind is their maker,

Act or speak with a pure state of mind and happiness follows as your shadow, never departing.

 

( The Dhammapada: twin verses, 1 and 2)

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What is Perception?

Aug 23

Hoeft Marsh, Greenbottom, WV

 

For the Buddha, perception is pure and simple. When the eyes see a visual object they do so without embellishment. As the Buddha explained to his monks on the Connected Discourses:

And why Bhikkhus, do you call it perception? It perceives, bhikkhus, therefore,  it is called perception. And what does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. It perceives, bhikkhus; therefore it is called perception.

(tr.Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Gunaratana, Henepola, ( forward by Bhikkhu Bodhi.)  Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate Mindfulness. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2014. Print.

 

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LIke A Mirage

Jul 26

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Distorted perceptions are like a mirage. Deceived by a mirage, a deer runs quickly toward what it perceives as water. As he runs, he sees that the water-like mirage is still far ahead of him. So he keeps running toward it to drink. When he is even more tired and thirsty, he stops and looks back. Then he sees that he has gone past the water. When he runs back, he perceives that the water is ahead of him. So he runs back and forth until he is exhausted and falls to the ground.

Distorted perception is like that for us. Pulled by our own attachments, we are always chasing phantoms. Terrified, we run away from monsters created from our own aversions. So long as perception is distorted, we are unable to see the true nature of what is in front of us—nothing but an ever-changing collection of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts or concepts. Moreover, nothing that we perceive has a self or soul; and nothing can bring us permanent happiness or unhappiness.

In essence, when perception is distorted, we perceive impermanence as permanence, suffering as happiness, something neither beautiful nor ugly as beautiful or ugly, or something not self as self.

From Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate, by Bhante Gunaratana © 2014 Wisdom Publications. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

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The Everyday Sublime

Jul 11

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The experience of the sublime exceeds our capacity for representation. The world is excessive: every blade of grass, every ray of sun, every falling leaf is excessive. None of these things can be adequately captured in concepts, images, or words. They overreach us, spilling beyond the boundaries of thought. Their sublimity brings the thinking, calculating mind to a stop, leaving one speechless, overwhelmed with either wonder or terror. Yet for the human animal who delights and revels in her place, who craves security, certainty, and consolation, the sublime is banished and forgotten. As a result, life is rendered opaque and flat. Each day is reduced to the repetition of familiar actions and events, which are blandly comforting, but devoid of an intensity we both yearn for and fear. We crave stimulation, we long for a temporary derangement of the senses, we seek opportunities to lose ourselves in rapture or intoxication. Yet once we have tasted such ecstasies, we often sink back with a sigh of relief into the dullness of routine.

To experience the everyday sublime one needs to dismantle piece by piece the perceptual conditioning that insists on seeing oneself and the world as essentially comfortable, permanent, solid, and mine. It means to embrace suffering and conflict, rather than to shy away from them, to cultivate the radical attention (yonisomanasikara) that contemplates the tragic, changing, empty, and impersonal dimensions of life, rather than succumbing to fantasies of self-glorification or self-loathing. This takes time. It is a lifelong practice.

From “The Everyday Sublime,” by Stephen Batchelor, published in After Mindfulness: New Perspectives on Psychology and Meditation, edited by Manu Bazzano © 2014 Palgrave Macmillan. Reprinted with permission.

Here is a link to a talk on Dharmaseed.org of  The Everyday Sublime by Stephen Batchelor:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/169/talk/17170/

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New Book by Bhante G

Jun 17

A new book,   Meditation On Perception by Bhante Gunaratana, the abbot of the Bhavana Society in Highview, WV has recently been published by Wisdom Publications. The method of mindfulness or insight meditation as taught by Bhante G in his book Mindfulness in Plain English is the meditation method practiced at the Meditation Circle. This new book is a wonderful addition to the resources available to those who would like to deepen their meditation practice.

From the Wisdom Publications website review:

Use the unique Buddhist practice of meditation on perception, as taught by the best-selling author of Mindfulness in Plain English, to learn how shifting your perspective can transform mental and physical health.

Perception—one of the basic constituents of the body and mind—can be both a source of suffering and pain, as well as a source of happiness and health. The Buddhist tradition teaches that perception can be trained and ultimately purified through the practice of meditation. When we understand how perception impacts our lives, we can use it, just as we do any other object of meditation, to overcome harmful ways of thinking and acting and to develop healthy states of mind instead. In Meditation on Perception Bhante G brings us, for the first time in English, an illuminating introduction to the unique Buddhist practice of meditation on perception as taught in the popular Girimananda Sutta.

The ten healing practices that comprise meditation on perception make up a comprehensive system of meditation, combining aspects of both tranquility and insight meditation. Tranquility meditation is used to calm and center the mind, and insight meditation is used to understand more clearly how we ordinarily perceive ourselves and the world around us. Alternating between these two practices, meditators cultivate purified perception as explained by the Buddha. As a result of these efforts, we progress on the path that leads to freedom, once and for all, from illness, confusion, and other forms of physical and mental suffering.

Meditation on Perception gives us the keys to move beyond ordinary, superficial perception into an enlightened perspective, freed from confusion and unhappiness.

Here is also a link to related Blog posts that contain excerpts from Meditation On Perception. These links can also be found on the Wisdom Publication site,

http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201406/healing-meditation-1

http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201406/healing-meditation-2

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Moral Health

Jun 11

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That morality is a natural feature of the natural world is an insight we all have to learn if we hope to be deeply well. The more the sense of an autonomous self is injected into any situation, the more it acts as a lightning rod for greed, hatred, and delusion, which inevitably bring suffering. The more we can get the self out of the way, the more clearly we can see the effect of our thoughts, words, and action upon ourselves and others.

 

 

—Andrew Olendzki, “Moral Health”

 

 

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Spencer Retreat on April 19

Apr 11

The Spencer Meditation Group is having a Day Long Interfaith Meditation Retreat.  The retreat will be April 19, from 9 AM until 5 PM at the Spencer Presbyterian Church in Spencer, W.Va.  Instruction will be offered in the vipassana (Buddhist) and contemplative prayer (Christian) traditions.  The day will mostly consist of alternating sessions of sitting and walking meditation, (and optional chanting!) with plenty of time for discussion and questions and answers.

We are asking people to please bring a bag lunch, and your own meditation cushions if you have them.  We will provide chairs, but we do not have extra cushions.  The retreat will be held in silence.   More information will be provided later for those who plan to attend. For more information, call Ken Lewis at 304-927-1505.

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