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Educating fear

“.. Don’t hate your fears or fear your fears. Learn how to educate them. When they’re educated and trained, they’re part of the path to the end of suffering. This is part of the Buddha’s genius: He took things that many of us don’t like about the mind, things that actually cause trouble in the mind, and learned how to tame them, to train them, so that they actually become part of the path to the end of suffering. In this way, you can reach a place in the mind where there really is no more reason to fear. As Ven. Ananda said, you use desire to come to the end of desire. In the same way, you can use fear, treating it wisely, to bring yourself to the end of fear. And as it turns out, that’s the only way you can get there.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu from “The Uses of Fear”

 

 

Like a cup of water

“Many of those who come to see me have a high standing in the community. Among them are merchants, college graduates, teachers, and government officials. Their minds are filled with opinions about things. They are too clever to listen to others. It is like a cup of water. If a cup is filled with stale, dirty water, it is useless. Only after the old water is thrown out can the cup  become useful.

“You must empty your minds of opinions, then you will see. Our practice goes beyond cleverness and stupidity. If you think that you are clever, wealthy, important, or an expert in Buddhism, you cover up the truth of non-self. All you will see is self — I and mine. But Buddhism is letting go of self. Those who are too clever will never learn. They must first get rid of their cleverness, first empty their ‘cup.'”

~ Ajahn Chah

The Path of Practice is Nothing Far Away

DHAMMATALK

Ajahn Chah

Ajahn Chah was one of the great Buddhist masters of the 20th century. The following is a vintage talk given by him in his direct and unadorned style of teaching. The aside (“Whose parents are these?”) is quite charming and the extemporaneous talk he gives turns into an illuminating seminar on sitting meditation practice. Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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This was a public talk by Ajahn Chah given on October 10, 1977, addressed to the parents of a monk who had come from France to visit their son at his Thai monastery. From “Still Flowing Water”

SO NOW… There’s been not enough time…. too little time…. You’ve been visiting for many days now, and we haven’t had the chance to talk, to ask questions, because here at Wat Nong Pa Pong there’ve been many visitors, both day and night. So we haven’t had the opportunity to talk.

[Aside: Whose parents are these?]

[Answer: Ṭhitiñāṇo’s.]

Ṭhitiñāṇo’s parents have come to visit from Paris for several days now, staying three nights at Wat Pa Pong and three nights at Wat Pa Nanachat. In two days you’re going to leave. So I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you how glad I am that you made the effort to come here to Wat Nong Pa Pong and that you’ve had the chance

to visit with your son, the monk. I’m glad for you, but I don’t have any gift to give to you.

There are already lots of material things and whatnot in Paris. Lots of material things. But there’s not much Dhamma to nourish people’s hearts and bring them peace. There’s not much at all. From what I observed when I was there, all I could see were things to stir up the heart and give it trouble all the time. From what I observed, Paris seems to be very advanced in terms of all kinds of material things that are sensual objects—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas that act as temptations for people who aren’t familiar with the Dhamma, getting them all stirred up. So now I’d like to give a gift of Dhamma that you can put into practice in Paris after you leave Wat Nong Pa Pong and Wat Pa Nanachat.

The Dhamma is a condition that can cut through and reduce the problems and difficulties in the human heart—reducing them, reducing them until they’re gone. This condition is called Dhamma. So you should train yourself in this Dhamma in your daily life. When any preoccupation strikes and disturbs the mind, you can then solve the problem, you can resolve it. That’s because problems of this sort, everyone—whether here in Thailand, abroad, everywhere: If you don’t know how to solve this problem, it’s normal that you suffer.

When this sort of problem arises, the way to solve it is discernment:

building discernment, training discernment, making discernment arise from within our heart. As for the path of practice, it’s nothing far away. It’s right within you: in your body and mind. It’s the same whether you’re Thai or from abroad. The body and mind are what stir up trouble. But the body and mind can bring peace.
Continue reading The Path of Practice is Nothing Far Away

Details on Meditation Group Meeting Times

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NOTE: We recently revised the set-up of our meeting times for the Meditation Circle’s “About” page and wanted to share that with members of the circle and those interested in attending. | Thad and Doug 

WHO WE ARE:

Welcome. The Meditation Circle is a meditation group in the Buddhist tradition, practicing vipassana or insight meditation. We’re based in Charleston, West Virginia, and meet every Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd.

Those wishing instruction in basic, breath-centered Buddhist meditation  are welcome to arrive from 5:30 to 6 p.m., along with seasoned meditators who may wish to sit longer or for whom that time period is better for their schedules.

We’re a lay support group for people interested in meditation or who wish to deepen their practice through the support of a meditation sangha. Our members come from a wide variety of spiritual traditions and backgrounds. You do not need to be Buddhist to enjoy the benefits of a meditation practice. The circle’s facilitators are not teachers and we encourage people to seek out seasoned teachers to further their practice. Cushions, meditation benches and chairs are available or you are welcome to bring your own cushion, if you wish.

WHAT WE DO:

The time from 5:30 to 6 p.m. p.m.. is set aside for basic instruction in sitting, standing, and walking meditation for those new to meditation, along with discussion about maintaining a regular meditation practice. Regular meditators are also welcome to come and sit during this period.

From 6 to 7 p.mtime is set aside for seated meditation. The format consists of two rounds of meditation, each lasting about 20 minutes, with a  5 minute period of standing or walking meditation between rounds.  We close the evening with a short Metta meditation. (Metta is the Pali term for loving-kindness or friendliness.) There is an opportunity for questions or discussion about practice at the end of the meditation period. Feedback welcome!

Those new to meditation practice may visit our Resource page for more information about the type of meditation we practice at the Meditation Circle.

There is no cost to join the circle. We do accept donations in a box titled ‘dana’ to offer to the Unitarians to cover the costs for their kindness in letting us  use the space and also to help defray the costs of occasionally bringing Buddhist monks to town.

Come join the Circle! (Although sometimes it resembles an oblong or parallelogram, but the Meditation Parallelogram of Charleston didn’t have quite the right sound.)

Summer issue of “The Forest Path” now online

“The Forest Path,” The Summer 2017 newsletter of the Bhavana Society Monastery and Retreat Center in High View, W.Va., the first Theravadan Buddhist monastery in North American, is now online.

The issue features the fourth and final part of a series on the Four Noble Truths, written by Mangala Bhikkhu. This series seeks to explore the Buddha’s powerful teachings on the nature of suffering in a way that clarifies and engages the reader, asking one
to question why we suffer in the first place. The second article is from the ‘Ask Bhante G’ series, in which Bhavana  abbot Bhante Gunaratana answers questions posed to him during interviews and retreats. The third article is an excerpt from The Sedaka Sutta in the Samyutta Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

View in your browser or download a .pdf of the issue at this link:

http://bhavanasociety.org/newsletters/issue/summer_newsletter_2017

PS: One of Bhavana’s monks, Bhante Jayasara, recently led a day-retreat in the Charleston-Huntington area. Here is one of his recorded Dhamma talks.

DHAMMA TALK EXCERPT: Ajahn Sumedho

DhammaTalk

HERE IS AN EXCERPT of a talk given by Ven. Ajahn Sumedho on the occasion of a recent visit to Washington, D.C. The talk, given July 1, 2017,  was co-sponsored by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C., and the Thai Embassy. Sample: “What is it that’s aware of inhaling and exhaling?… Through this kind of investigation, this awareness or mindfulness, we begin to have the insight knowledge into consciousness knowing itself.” Ajahn Sumedho is the senior Western representative of the Thai forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism.

Spring 2017 edition of ‘The Forest Path’ now online

The Spring 2017 edition of the Bhavana Society’s quarterly newsletter, ‘The Forest Path’, features the third part of a series on the Four Noble Truths, written by Mangala Bhikkhu. This series seeks to explore the Buddha’s powerful teachings on the nature of suffering in a way that clarifies and engages the reader, asking one to question why we suffer in the first place. The second article is a reflection by Michael Summers, a member of Bhavana’s Media Team, who recently gave a presentation on Buddhism at a local West Virginia community college. The third article is from our ‘Ask Bhante G’ series, which focuses, in this issue, on answering questions concerning metta and vipassana meditation.

Click here to read the issue.

not overlooking the breath

It’s surprising that in our lives we often overlook the breath and that in our meditation practice we are sometimes bored by it. Not only is each breath sustaining our lives, but being aware and mindful of the breath was also the basis for the Buddha’s own awakening. It can be for our own awakening as well:

“Bhikkhus, if wanderers of other sects ask you: ‘In what dwelling, friends, did the Blessed One generally dwell during the rains residence?’—being asked thus, you should answer those wanderers thus: ‘During the rains residence, friends, the Blessed One generally dwelt in the concentration by mindfulness of breathing.’ . . . “If anyone, Bhikkhus, speaking rightly could say of anything: ‘It is a noble dwelling, a divine dwelling, the Tathāgata’s dwelling,’ it is of concentration by mindfulness of breathing that one could rightly say this. “Bhikkhus, those Bhikkhus who are trainees, who have not attained their mind’s ideal, who dwell aspiring for the unsurpassed security from bondage: for them concentration by mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, leads to the destruction of the taints. Those Bhikkhus who are arahants, whose taints are destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached their own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, those completely liberated through final knowledge: for them concentration by mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, leads to a pleasant dwelling in this very life and to mindfulness and clear comprehension.”  (Bodhi, “The Connected Discourses” 1778)

from “Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening” by Joseph Goldstein

 

Mind habits

Quote/Unquote

“Although we have the potential for liberation, our awareness is not able to reach it, because we are concerned with what we already know. We are habit-formed and habit-prone and every meditator becomes aware of the mind habits with their old and tried reactions to outside triggers. They have not necessarily been useful in the past, but they are still repeated out of habit. The same applies to our moods, which are arising and passing away and have no other significance than a cloud has in the sky, which only denotes the kind of weather there is, without any universal truth to that. Our moods only denote the kind of weather our mind is fabricating, if it believes the mood.

“The four supreme efforts are, in the first place, the avoiding of unwholesome, unskillful thought processes. If we look at them as unskillful, we can accept the fact of learning a new skill more easily. Avoiding means we do not let certain thoughts arise, neither reactions to moods, nor to outside triggers. If we find ourselves habitually reacting in the same way to the same kind of situation, we may be forced to avoid such situations, so that we can finally gain the insight which needs to be culled from it…”

~Ayya Khema

from “Supreme Efforts”