Awareness is your refuge

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“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 beginning to notice, it’s like this.

~Ajahn Sumedho

Purifying the Mind

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“Nibbana is not a location or condition somewhere outside of us. Rather, it is within. Nibbana is the total destruction of all defilements. The very moment our greed, hatred and ignorance are destroyed, nibbana arises. The key to overcoming defilements and reaching nibbana is cultivating (or training) the mind. As the Buddha said, “As rain does not get into a well thatched house, so craving does not get into a well trained mind.”

So how should we proceed? First, we must understand what we are trying to accomplish and develop some skill in mindfulness both during meditation and in life. We use this mindfulness to prevent external defilements from entering the mind by carefully guarding the senses. We also use it to prevent latent tendencies that exist as traces within the mind, such as craving, hatred, greed, jealousy and pride, from arising. If, in spite of these efforts, latent tendencies do arise or reach the stage of manifestation in words and deeds, we apply additional mindful efforts to overcome them.

Then, instead of worrying over past unwholesome thoughts, we arouse wholesome thoughts, such as generosity, patience, and loving-friendliness and use effort to strengthen the wholesome thoughts. In addition we use mindfulness to guard the senses against external sensory experiences that might stimulate any unwholesome tendencies. As we have said, mindfulness is in essence vipassana or insight meditation. Only insight meditation can train the mind to watch and discipline itself in order to purify it, eventually destroying all the defilements, including their latent tendencies.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
pp. 34-35, “Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate Mindfulness”
Wisdom Publications

Turning on the light

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“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.

It’s never too late to take a moment to look.”

~ Sharon Salzberg
from “Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation”

Introduction to Meditation Retreat at Bhavana Society

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Wanted to pass along this post below from the Bhavana Society Facebook page. Registration for the first retreat of 2015 at the Therevadan Forest Monastery in the woods of eastern West Virginia is now open. It’s a good one if you’re just starting a meditation practice as the theme is an “Introduction to Samatha and Vipassana Meditation.” It takes place March 23-29, 2015, and will be led by Bhante Seelananda. Here’s the link to the Bhavana site for more details on the retreat and to register:
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Registration for the Introduction to Samatha and Vipassana Meditation Retreat is now open! This retreat is open to meditators of all levels of experience.

Since this is the first retreat for 2015, here are some reminders concerning the registration process.

First, if you’ve never been on retreat at the Bhavana Society, you’ll need to register for an account. It’s free and pretty simple. Fill in all the information and click “send.” Because of programming issues, it’s a good idea to send an email to the Main Office to make sure that you have an account. Simply email info@bhavanasociety.org.

Second, register for the retreat you wish to attend. Registration begins 30 days prior to the scheduled retreat (you won’t be able to register months in advance).

Third, once you’ve registered, you should receive an email from the Bhavana Society confirming your registration. If you don’t, please contact the Main Office to see if it has been received.

Right Effort

 

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“It is very easy to do things that are harmful to oneself.
It is very difficult to do things that are beneficial to oneself.
~The Buddha (The Dhammapada 163)

Nevertheless, you should hold firmly to the knowledge that prevention is always easier than cure. Mindfulness practiced with Skillful Effort can prevent negative thoughts and actions from arising in the future. Preventing harmful habits of body, speech and mind is not impossible, if you train yourself in mindfulness. When negative thoughts and actions do arise in spite of your sincere efforts to prevent them, you should not be depressed or disappointed. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it means you have more work to do. Be happy in realizing that you have a helper to assist you: the effort to overcome negative states of mind.

Prior to full enlightenment, we cannot choose what thoughts will arise, so there’s no need to be ashamed or to react with aversion to whatever comes up. We do choose, however, what thoughts we allow to proliferate. Positive and wholesome thoughts help the mind. They should be cultivated. Negative and unwholesome thoughts, such as the five hindrances and the ten fetters, harm the mind. They should be opposed immediately with Skillful Effort and overcome. This is the Buddha’s own advice.

~ Bhante Gunaratana
from “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness
(pp. 166-167) Wisdom Publications

WHERE TO START

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“Start where you are. This is very important. Meditation practice is not about later, when you get it all together and you’re this person you really respect. You may be the most violent person in the world–that’s a fine place to start. That’s a very rich place to start–juicy, smelly. You might be the most depressed person in the world, the most addicted person in the world, the most jealous person in the world. You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start. Just where you are–that’s the place to start.”

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

Just plant the tree

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“Your duty is to plant a tree, water it, and fertilize it, that’s all. Whether it’s going to grow fast or grow slowly, that’s not your duty. It’s the duty of the tree. You can stand there complaining about it until the day you die, but it won’t get you what you want. Where do your thoughts go? “Maybe the soil here isn’t good.” So you pull up the tree. Its roots are just beginning to grow, but now they’re torn off. You keep pulling it up, again and again, until it finally dies.

“Why do you want it to grow fast? Your desire for it to grow fast is craving. Your desire for it to grow slowly is craving. Are you going to follow your craving, or are you going to follow the Buddha? Think about this every day. What you’re doing: Why are you doing it? If you’re not at your ease, you’re doing it with craving. If you let go, then you’ll do the practice when you feel lazy; you’ll do it when you feel industrious. But here you don’t do it when you feel lazy. You do it only when you feel industrious. That’s just a practice that follows your craving. When are you going to practice following the Buddha?”

~ Venerable Ajahn Chah
from the downloadable free e-book

Fake Buddha Quotes: How to tell

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As part of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery social media team, I’ve been helping with the Twitter feed for the West Virginia  monastery. Which, if you are on Twitter, I highly recommend you follow, as it’s a great source for Dhamma talk videos by Bhante Gunaratana and other Bhavana monastics, plus quotes and links to talks rooted in the Buddha’s actual teachings.

I stress that because in surveying the Buddha-sphere on Twitter there are a lot of fake and false quotes that circulate attributed to the Buddha. For that reason, I highly recommend a wonderful blog called Fake Buddha Quotes, maintained by Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist teacher and author who has been practicing within the Triratna Buddhist Community since 1982 and has been a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order since 1993. Bodhipaksa previously taught meditation in the Religious Studies department at the University of Montana.

The blog politely but firmly does takedowns of the many supposed Buddha quotes that circulate on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, determining if the quote is outright something the Buddha never said, or if it has  roots in a loose translation, or if in fact it is just a well-intentioned restatement of something from the Pali canon. (He has some pretty sharp things to say about Osho, the guru formerly known as the Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, who was into collecting white Rolls Royces and — at least in the linked example — gets the Buddha’s intended meaning  exactly backward). Check it out. You can also submit quotes that sound ‘off’ or too modern in their phrasing and Bodhipaksa goes on the hunt to determine: fake or not?

PS: One of the more common fake Buddha quotes in circulation (below) gets a good analysis by Bodhipaksa at this link:

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

~ Douglas

Healing our wounds

earth-globe“The dharma can heal our wounds, our very ancient wounds that come not from original sin but from a misunderstanding so old that we can no longer see it. The instruction is to relate compassionately with where we find ourselves and to begin to see our predicament as workable.

“We are stuck in patterns of grasping and fixating, which cause the same thoughts and reactions to occur again and again and again. In this way we project our world. When we see that, even if it’s only for one second every three weeks, then we’ll naturally discover the knack of reversing this process of making things solid, the knack of stopping the claustrophobic world as we know it, putting down our centuries of baggage, and stepping into new territory. If you ask how in the world we can do this, the answer is simple. Make the dharma personal, explore it wholeheartedly, and relax.”

~ Pema Chodron

An essential task

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“Finding a way to extend forgiveness to ourselves is one of the most essential tasks. Just as other have been caught in suffering, so have we. If we look honestly at our life, we can see the sorrows and pains that have led to our own wrongdoing.

In this we can finally extend forgiveness to ourselves; we can hold the pain we have caused in compassion. Without such mercy, we will live our own life in exile…

When we clearly recognize the source of disharmony and misery in the world is ignorance, we can open the door of wisdom and compassion.”

~ Jack Kornfield

 

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