Category Archives: Readings

Informing Practice Through Study

“Upon embarking on any course we need to understand what we are undertaking and why. This is especially true for endeavors of great consequence, such as Dharma practice, which have the power to reshape our lives in radical ways. Buddhist contemplative practices challenge our fundamental assumptions about ourselves, our experience, and our relationship with the world around us…”

Richard Shankman

Read more:

http://www.richardshankman.org/blog/informing-practice-through-study.shtml

Dealing with frustration

Readings

“Greed and hatred and delusion or confusion are not coming from outside. They all come from within, in our own minds. So, when we meditate we can see how greed arises in us, how hatred and confusion arise in us. And then immediately we try not to cultivate them, not to let them grow. On the one hand, we can prevent them from arising. Or we can see in our unmindful moments these mental states arise and then immediately we try to nip them in the bud.

“For instance, when greed takes over there is a space in our mind to cultivate generosity — letting go of greed. When hatred fades away there is room in our mind to generate loving kindness — metta. When delusion fades away there is room in our mind to develop wisdom. So, we will be able to remove these things a tiny little bit at a time Not the whole lot. But slowly and gradually they become weak and eventually they will fade away. And this is how we learn to neutralize frustration and eventually get rid of frustration.

“Friends, there are thousands of occasions and moments every single day to become frustrated. Therefore, it appears to be very difficult. But through constant, persistent, diligent practice, it becomes easy. So, it is possible to neutralize our frustration.”

~Bhante Gunaratana

This Breath

Readings

“Don’t tell yourself you’ve got a whole hour to sit here. Just tell yourself you’ve got this breath: this breath coming in, this breath going out. That’s all there is: this breath. As for the breaths for the rest of the hour, don’t even think of them right now. Pay attention to them when they come. When they go, you’re done with them. There’s only this breath.
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Your meditation needs that kind of focus if you’re going to see anything clearly. This attitude also helps to cut through a lot of the garbage at the beginning of the meditation. You may have experience from the past of how long it takes for the mind to settle down. But by now you should have a sense of where the mind goes when it settles down. Why can’t you go there right now?
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Once you’re there with the breath, and you can get your balance, try to maintain balance. Again, it’s just this breath, this breath. See what you can do with this breath. Welcome it as an opportunity for making things better. How deep can it go, how good can it feel? How much of your attention can you give to it?”

~Thanissaro Bhikkhu
READ REST OF DHAMMA TALK: “Just This Breath”

WORTH THE EFFORT

Readings

“SO, IN THE BEGINNING you have to take it on faith — that we’re not living in a totally deterministic world or totally random world, and that it really is worth the effort to try to develop a skill, particularly in the area of the mind. There’s enough orderliness in this world that the skills you learn today are going to help tomorrow. At the same time, things are not so deterministic in an iron-clad way that you can’t make any difference. You can make a difference by the choices you make, in the lessons you learn. And making good choices today will help you make better choices tomorrow. That’s something you take on conviction. That can help further your persistence in the practice as well.”

~Thanissaro Bhikkhu
READ FULL DHAMMA TALK: “Effective Self-discipline”

The Basic Pattern

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“The important thing is that you look at your meditation in terms of action and result.
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So whatever level of practice you’re on, whether it’s simply day-to-day interactions with other people or working directly with your mind, this is the pattern the Buddha has you adopt all the time: Look at your intentions, look at you actions, look at their results, and then adjust things based on what harm you see your actions have done. If you see that the results aren’t as good as you’d like, go back and look at the intention, change the action. This requires two principles: integrity and compassion.
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These are the basic Buddhist values. These are the basic values of the practice. And they can be applied at any level: among students in a classroom, or just interacting with other people in general, or as you’re sitting here meditating. Remember, you’re doing something. The principle of karma, which is the Buddha’s basic teaching, underlies everything, reminding you that your actions are important, that they do have consequences, and that you have the freedom to change the way you act. If you see that the consequences are causing harm, causing suffering, you can change the way you act. You have that freedom. You can learn from your mistakes…

…So as we practice in our imperfect ways, it’s good to remind ourselves that the Buddha himself started out imperfect as well. As we make mistakes, it’s good to remind ourselves that the Buddha made mistakes, too, but he also pointed the way out of your mistakes. You can change the way you act, and it’s important that you do because your actions shape your life. The pleasure and pain you experience in life comes from your actions, not from anything you innately are. So when you notice that there are problems in your life, look here at what you’re doing. What are your intentions? What are your actions? What can you change?
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This requires that you be very honest with yourself, that you have the integrity to admit your mistakes, to see the connection between your intentions and the results of your actions, and the compassion, both for yourself and the people around you, not to want to cause harm. Once you’ve developed this integrity in your day-to-day life, then it’s a lot easier to bring the integrity into your meditation, because integrity lies at the basis of meditating well, too. This is why the precepts are so important. They develop this quality of integrity. If you can’t be honest with yourself on the blatant level, then it’s very hard to be honest with yourself on the subtle level of the practice…”
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Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Excerpt from “The Basic Pattern.”
Read full Dhamma talk here.

 

Free the Mind

READINGS

“We must always remember that our highest goal is to free our mind from all greed, all hatred, all confusion. The greatest impact we can have on the world is to face every circumstance with a mind of clarity, compassion and love .

“From a place of calm and equanimity, we act or decline to act, doing whatever most skillfully cultivates and expresses our loving-friendliness and compassion.”

~Bhante Gunaratana

“Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness” (Wisdom Publications)

When mindfulness is present

READINGS

… Hindrances cannot arise when mindfulness is present. Mindfulness is attention to present-moment reality, and therefore, directly antithetical to the dazed state of mind that characterizes impediments. As meditators, it is only when we let our mindfulness slip that the deep mechanisms of our mind take over–grasping, clinging, and rejecting. The resistance emerges and obscures our awareness. We do not notice that the change is taking place–we are too busy with a thought of revenge, or greed, or whatever it may be. While an untrained person will continue in this state indefinitely, a trained meditator will soon realize what is happening. It is mindfulness that notices the change. It is mindfulness that remembers the training received and that focuses our attention so that the confusion fades away. And it is mindfulness that then attempts to maintain itself indefinitely so that the resistance cannot rise again. Thus, mindfulness is the specific antidote for hindrances. It is both the cure and the preventive measure.

~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English” (Updated and Expanded Edition), p.146. (Wisdom Publications, 2002)

READINGS: It’s like this

READINGS

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Excerpts from a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Sumedho, one of the most esteemed Western monks in the Thai Forest tradition.

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Bring your attention to this moment, here and now. Whatever you’re feeling physically or emotionally, whatever its quality, this is the way it is. And this knowing of the way it is is consciousness; it’s how we experience the now. Be aware of this. When we’re fully conscious, aware of here and now with no attachment, then we’re not trying to solve our problems, remembering the past, or planning for the future. And if we are doing these things, then we stop and recognize what we’re doing. Non attachment means that we’re not creating anything more in our minds; we’re just aware. This is reflecting on the way it is. When we’re thinking, planning, dreading, anticipating, hoping, expecting something in the future, this is all taking place in the here and now, isn’t it? These are mental states we’re creating in the present. What is the future? What is the past? There’s only now, this present …
Continue reading READINGS: It’s like this

Studying the Dhammapada: Verses 1-2

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The Meditation Circle of Charleston has a new schedule that began this week, moving our regular Tuesday meeting to every Monday. We’ve also expanded the meeting time, adding an optional half-hour session from 5:30 to 6 p.m., featuring Qigong moving meditation and a new weekly study of verses from the Dhammapada, a book of the Buddha’s essential teachings. Meditation follows from 6 to 7 p.m., with two rounds of sitting meditation, with a short period of standing or walking meditation in between.

So, we begin with our Dhammapada study during the 5:30 to 6 p.m. timeframe on Monday, Sept. 6. We’lll be using Gil Fronsdal’s book “The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic With Annotations.”

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We will start with verses 1-2 for our Sept. 6 meeting:

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind, Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows
Like a never-departing shadow.

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For a little background on The Dhammapada, here is a portion of Jack Kornfield’s introduction to the Fronsdal translation:

These verses of the Dhammapada sum up in the simplest language the core teachings of the Buddha. Memorized and chanted by devoted followers for thousands of years, these words remind all who hear them of the universal truths expounded by the Buddha: Hatred never ends by hatred. Virtue and wise action are the foundation for happiness. And the Buddha’s teachings offer the possibility of a thoroughly unshakable peace and liberation of heart for those who follow the way of the Dharma and free themselves from clinging.

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And here is an excerpt by Fronsdal himself, from his preface to his translation:

The Dhammapada was first introduced to the non-Buddhist modern world during the second half of the nineteenth century. It has come to be recognized as a great religious classic, one bearing an uncompromising message of personal self-reliance, self-mastery, and liberation.

The major audience for the Dhammapada historically has been the ordained Buddhist community. Thus a number of the verses understandably address issues of monastic life. However, many of these verses can apply to anyone who seeks a life dedicated to dharma practice.

The challenge for lay practitioners is to discover how to appropriately incorporate into lay life the renunciation and purity that characterize monastic life. I have taken them that way for myself. When verses 9 and 10 state that the monastic form is useless unless the monk or nun is virtuous, self-controlled, and honest, I translate that for myself as saying that the lay life is similarly worthless without these qualities. Anyone who lives in this way may figuratively be called a monastic, as is done in verse 142.

The second issue—whether the text has a world-rejecting message—is more challenging, perhaps because the text was meant to challenge our relationship to the world. An initial reading of a number of the verses seems to reveal a negation or an aversion to the world (in fact, some English translations seem to translate the entire text based on this impression) …

While initial appearances may sometimes suggest a world-negating message, I believe that the issue in the Dhammapada is neither negating or affirming the world. The issue is becoming free of clinging to the world. For those who take on this challenge, the resulting freedom helps us live in the world as wisely as possible, which includes experiencing joy.

Summer 2016 “Forest Path” Newsletter Online

forestpathlogo

The Summer 2016 edition of “The Forest Path,” the online newsletter of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Buddhist Monastery and retreat center in High View, W.Va., in Hampshire County, is now online at this link.

From the introduction to this newsletter:

The Summer 2016 edition of the Bhavana Society’s quarterly newsletter features an excerpt from Bhante Seelananda’s new book, “Our Buddha, His Life and Teachings In His Own Words,” a book rich in Dhamma drawn straight from the Buddha’s direct teachings. There’s also an article from Bhavana’s newest fully ordained monk, Bhante Pannaratana, titled “The Walking Dead,” with advice on avoiding the zombie virus of heedlessness — pamada — by understanding its opposite, appamada. Abbot Bhante Gunaratana is featured in another installment of “Ask Bhante G,” in which he talks about how long laypeople should meditate in their daily lives. This issue also introduces a new feature, “Bhavana Moments,” where visitors recall special moments during visits to the Therevadan monastery deep in the West Virginia hills.” | READ ON

 

mindfulness just accepts it

meditator

“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

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“…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

Walking to Lhasa

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“… 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.”

~ from a Tricycle  interview with Mingyur Rinpoche

Hold to your precepts

thanissaro_bhikku

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.”

Acknowledging the problem

Pepto-Bismol-3075

“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.”

~ Gelek Rinpoche
(from a very rich interview, “A Lama for All Seasons,” in Tricycle. Read the whole thing here.)