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RETREAT: Swami Vidyadhishananda leads West Virginia retreat

Charlotte Pritt, who has hosted past Meditation Circle sessions at her Better Balance office in Charleston, W.Va., passes on word of the following event in West Virginia, coming up soon and featuring a renowned Indian teacher. Her e-mail notes: “People from all over the world are flying into West Virginia to experience this retreat, and I want those of us who are close enough to drive to Moundsville to have the opportunity to experience this as well. My fear is that someone will say, ‘Why didn’t someone tell me?  I have been praying for something like this.'”

Swami Vidyadhishananda Giri, recipient of “The Great Ordained Teacher” award/decree given by the Indian Government for exceptional knowledge of Sanskrit and the Vedic heritage, will be offering some of the highest spiritual teachings from June 4-9, 2009 in the New Vrindavan Golden Temple, near Moundsville, West Virginia.

Although Swami Vidyadhishananda Giri has been teaching at International retreats for more than a decade, this is the first time he will be offering this body of teachings.  There are only 200 spaces set aside and devotees from all over the world will be attending. The SāmkhyaTriveni Retreat (mostly silent) is an opportunity to explore the subtler aspects of philosophy, meditation and spirituality.

COST: The cost of the retreat, including meals and lodging for 5 nights, is $395 if registration is completed before May 29th and $450 after that date.

HOW TO SIGN-UP: Registration is open to the first 200 participants. To pre-register and tentatively reserve your spot, please email self.fellowship@yahoo.com with your full name, address, phone number and email. You will be emailed a Registration form to fill out and mail back with a check. Unfortunately, the organizers are unable to accept credit cards at this time, but will let you know if this becomes possible.

ACCOMMODATIONS: All rooms in the main lodge and cottages at New Vrindavan are shared. Private bedrooms are not available on-site. Those participants who absolutely need a private room can book hotel accommodation in Wheeling, WV (15 minutes from retreat site), upon approval by His Holiness. Please note that staying off-site will not change the registration donation.

In a letter about the retreat, the Swami writes in part:

Essential principles of creation, sustenance and dissolution through mutation, latency and cognition along with the deeper inquiries about God and consciousness will be explored. What is the conscious entity? Are we evolving? Is our self-awareness eternal? Have we always been around? If we are many how are we all one? Does God have a mind? Are there many overlords for multiple universes? Where is the place for love? Is the path of love connected with service to God? These are some of the inquiries waiting to be resolved.

P.S. Here is an article about the Swami from the Santa Barbara Independent.

P.S.S. Click here for some photos of the must-see “Palace of Gold” in northern West Virginia where the retreat takes place.

Meditation Circle meets 6 p.m., Tuesday May 26

The MEDITATION CIRCLE of CHARLESTON (W.Va.)
http://hundredmountain.com

NEXT MEETING: The Meditation Circle gathers next 6 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 26 (and every Tuesday) at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd., in Charleston, W.Va. Bring cushions or we have chairs available. Beginners welcome with basic instruction in meditation available. Come join the circle.

> THOUGHT for the DAY

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

~ Dalai Lama

> ABOUT:

See the ‘About‘ page of our website – themeditationcircle.com – for more on the Meditation Circle of Charleston, including a map to our Charleston, W.Va., location in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation there. We begin each meeting with a short session of simple yoga, followed by a 30-minute sitting, then discussion. Please feel free to forward this e-mail to interested friends.

> BEGINNERS WELCOME:

We welcome beginners who wish to learn Buddhist meditation or who want to revive a sitting practice that may have lagged. If you’re a lone sitter who may benefit from a supportive group to deepen your practice, drop by. We encourage all to seek out established teachers to deepen their practice.

> NOTE TO MEMBERS:

Send us prospective blogposts, tips, quotes, events and other news for the Web site at douglas @hundredmountain.com. And let me know at this e-mail if you have problems signing up for the Meditation Circle e-mail newsletter a our website. Some have reported it took many tries.

SUBSCRIBE TO MEDITATION CIRCLE E-MAIL NOTICES: Click here
SUBSCRIBE TO RSS NEWS FEED: Click here
DIRECTIONS TO MEDITATION GROUP: Click here.

My best,
Douglas (on behalf of the Meditation Circle)

RETREATS: Around the region

Robin Wilson passes along word of this meditation retreat in the region:

The Mid-Atlantic Vipassana Network is hosting a retreat with Shinzen Young from May 22 – 31, 2009, outside of Richmond, VA. As a religious scholar and ordained monk at Mt. Koya, Japan, Shinzen is a westerner with decades of knowledge and experience in Buddhism and many other contemplative traditions.  He leads retreats throughout the U.S. and Canada and is involved in the growing interface between meditation and neuroscience.  Shinzen brings a scientific rigor to his system of mindfulness meditation that is very accessible to the western mind.

For more information on Shinzen and this retreat (including scholarship information), please visit www.shinzen.org and click on “Shinzen’s Retreats” or click on this link for a pdf file of the retreat registration form. Or you may call Nancy Elizabeth Nimmich at 301-334-4445.

Next Meditation Circle: May 5

The MEDITATION CIRCLE of CHARLESTON (W.Va.)
http://hundredmountain.com

Please note: Doug will not be at Tuesday’s meeting as I have a rehearsal for the “West Virginia: Words and Music” show later this month at the Clay Center’s Walker Theater. Any volunteer meeting facilitator candidates for this Tuesday?

> NEXT MEETING: THE Meditation Circle gathers next 6 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 5 (and every Tuesday) at the Unitarian Universalist Congregration, 520 Kanawha Blvd., in Charleston, W.Va. Bring cushions or we have chairs available. We sometimes undertake a few minutes of light yoga before sitting for 30 minutes. Beginners welcome with basic instruction in meditation available. Come join the circle.

> THOUGHT for the DAY

I explain to you matters
Pertaining to enlightenment,
But don’t try to keep
Your mind on them.
Just turn to the ocean
Of your own essence
And develop practical accord with its nature.

– Yangshan (quote courtesy of www.dailyzen.com)

> TOPICS:

We’re currently considering Right Concentration as part of an ongoing look at the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. What are examples from your own life of wholesome and unwholesome concentration? Why should it make a difference? What blocks concentration from coming into focus?

Right Concentration: The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object.

Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.

Click here for more on the Noble Eightfold Path, from the website we are using to help stir our discussions.

> ABOUT:

See the ‘About‘ page of our website – themeditationcircle.com – for more on the Meditation Circle of Charleston, including a map to our Charleston, W.Va., location in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation there. We begin each meeting with a short session of simple yoga, followed by a 30-minute sitting, then discussion. Please feel free to forward this e-mail to interested friends.

> BEGINNERS WELCOME:

We welcome beginners who wish to learn Buddhist meditation or who want to revive a sitting practice that may have lagged. If you’re a lone sitter who may benefit from a supportive group to deepen your practice, drop by. We encourage all to seek out established teachers to deepen their practice.

> NOTE TO MEMBERS:

Send us prospective blogposts, tips, quotes, events and other news for the Web site at douglas @hundredmountain.com. And let me know at this e-mail if you have problems signing up for the Meditation Circle e-mail newsletter a our website. Some have reported it took many tries.

SUBSCRIBE TO MEDITATION CIRCLE E-MAIL NOTICES: Click here
SUBSCRIBE TO RSS NEWS FEED: Click here
DIRECTIONS TO MEDITATION GROUP: Click here.

My best,
Douglas (on behalf of the Meditation Circle)

Bhante Gunaratana on effort and meditation

The following is from an interview with Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, abbot and co-founder of the Bhavana Society Monastery and Retreat Center in Hampshire County, W.Va., near Wardensville. “Bhante G,” as he is known worldwide, is one of the leading Therevadan Buddhist monks teachers in the Western world and author of several books, including the best-selling “Mindfulness in Plain English” (Wisdom Books), which can also be read in its entirety online. ‘Right Effort’ is the discussion theme for February for the Meditation Circle. In a related vein, how much effort should we bring to our meditation practices?

QUESTION: How much effort should be bring to our meditation practice? Zen teachers sometimes speak of ‘effortless effort’ and to ‘just sit’ when meditating. How hard should we be trying when meditating?

BHANTE G: When it comes to meditation, your effort should not be haphazard or blind. It’s a committed effort. Before you even start, you should consider: “Is this the right moment for me to practice?” Suppose it’s a busy time, the TV is blaring somewhere, people are running around. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to do the practice. So you have to understand the situation, you have to be mindful of when to sit.

But once you’ve chosen the place and time to practice, by all means, apply every ounce of effort to overcome laziness, drowsiness, restlessness, worry and so on. These are very common, ordinary obstacles. In Buddhism, we call them ‘hindrances’ since they hinder our progress. When hindrances arise, we shouldn’t be lazy. We shouldn’t think: “Well, this is just way too hard. I’m wasting my time. This stuff always comes up and blocks me when I try to meditate. I give up.” You must encourage yourself and always renew your effort at sitting. You might tell yourself: “I can do this. This is possible. I can overcome my sleepiness, I can work with this restless mind. I see other people who have learned how to do this. I can do this myself.” So you must exert yourself, you must try to shake yourself awake and tell yourself: “Hey, you! Don’t chicken out of this!” Continue reading Bhante Gunaratana on effort and meditation

Next Meditation Circle: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

THE MEDITATION CIRCLE OF CHARLESTON gathers next from 6 to 7:30 p.m.,  Tuesday, Feb. 3 (and every Tuesday) at the Unitarian Universalist Congregration, 520 Kanawha Blvd., in Charleston, W.Va. See the ‘About‘ page for more on the group.

DISCUSSION THEMES: We’ve been moving monthly through the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. The next step is RIGHT EFFORT, which is an essential ingredient in making any changes in how we experience life. Here is a description from the website we are using to guide us through the Eightfold Path:

Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

Click here for more on the Noble Eightfold Path, from the website we are using to help stir our discussions. We hope to see you in this new year.

BEGINNERS WELCOME: To start the year, we especially invite beginners who wish to learn Buddhist meditation or who want to revive a sitting practice that may have lagged. If you’re a lone sitter who may benefit from a supportive group to deepen your sitting practice,  join us in this new year.

SUBSCRIBE TO MEDITATION CIRCLE E-MAIL NOTICES: Click here
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DIRECTIONS TO MEDITATION GROUP: Click here.

NOTE TO READERS: Let me know at this e-mail if you have problems signing up for the Meditation Circle e-mail newsletter in the upper right corner of this page. Some have reported it took many tries.

A few thoughts on Right Effort

Image of gluttony by Artemio Rodriguez. Click image for artist site.

Right Effort is our current discussion theme of the month for the Meditation Circle. (See the post below for more on that.) Robin shares some thoughts on this essential part of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Add your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section:

ROBIN WRITES: Reading over the elements of right effort I thought of the seven deadly sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. (Wikipedia has a good summary right here.) I was struck by how what is considered a sin changes in time and cultural context.  I’m also interested in the varying approach to how effort can reduce sins/distance from Buddha nature.  Often it seems non effort is what helps bad habits fall away.  For example, being aware could keep one from gluttony by being conscious of the following: bad health effects, the injustice of taking more than ones share, tuning into biological signals of when one has had enough, and the use of food as a tranquilizer/depressant for unfelt pain.

However, in traditional Christianity it often seems more of a battle between good and evil behavior. The cure for sloth was to run at top speed – maybe this would work?  I like the idea of finding the right balance.  Do you think all the deadly sins have a positive reason when they are in balance?

LETTER FROM MOSCOW: Tolstoy and Buddhism

Meditation Circle member Robin Wilson is in Moscow, visiting his son and daughter-in-law (she’s a New York Times correspondent posted to Russia). He e-mailed this blogpost to us on Sunday:

Yesterday, I visited a Tolstoy Museum in Moscow. Tolstoy was the inspiration and name for the first commune I moved to in 1964.  Tolstoy became a champion of nonviolence, vegetarianism, simple living, anti-inheritance, free schools, and anti-authoritarian government through his writing and experiments.  Also, as the piece from Wikipedia below points out he was influenced by Buddhist thought.  In a nice example of international “what goes around comes around,” Henry David Thoreau influenced Tolstoy, who influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King. ~ from Robin Wilson

On Tolstoy (from Wikipedia):

The years 1856–61 were passed between Petersburg, Moscow, Yasnaya, and foreign countries. In 1857 (and again in 1860-61) he traveled abroad and returned disillusioned by the selfishness and materialism of European bourgeois civilization, a feeling expressed in his short story “Lucerne” and more circuitously in “Three Deaths.” As he drifted towards a more oriental worldview with Buddhist overtones, Tolstoy learned to feel himself in other living creatures. He started to write “Kholstomer,” which contains a passage of interior monologue by a horse. Many of his intimate thoughts were repeated by a protagonist of “The Cossacks,” who reflects, falling on the ground while hunting in a forest: Continue reading LETTER FROM MOSCOW: Tolstoy and Buddhism

“The Buddhamas Carol” or “Ode to the Vipassana Yogi”

NOTE ON LOADING TIMES: Try waiting a few seconds before starting the show, to give it a little time to load. With a fast connection (or mindful patience) you can watch the show full-screen by clicking on the ‘four-arrows’ icon at lower right of the viewing screen.

VIEW FULL AUDIO SLIDESHOW

……………………………

SO, BHANTE YOGAVACARA RAHULA, an American Buddhist monk, stayed at my house earlier this year. We lodged him downstairs in a guest room that shares space with my home rehearsal and recording space. I came back from work to find he’d written and recorded on my BR 600 notebook recorder what he called “a Buddhist Christmas carol.” It’s about a yogi who sits down and attains enlightenment one silent night. My monk friend titled it “The Buddhamas Carol or Ode to the Vipassana Yogi.” Since monks aren’t supposed to become the next Myspace web stars, I recorded the song with harmonies by The Clementines, which would be Casi Null and myself. It’s a rough recording with a lot of ambient noise in it. (I recorded Casi at her kitchen table in a drive-by visit to her new digs in Princeton, W.Va., near the Riff Raff Art Collective. I think at one point, you hear Hendrix the Dog skittering across the linoleum kitchen floor). One day, we’ll do a proper recording in a real live studio with a sound engineer who knows his stuff. The lyrics are below. Let us know what you think. For more on Bhante Rahula, see here and here.

NOTE ON USAGE: Feel free to republish the song on your site, use the lyrics for your own version of the song (or slideshow). Or get the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to cover the tune. If you do record your own version, let me know (contacting me here) and I’ll post it here. If you republish it somewhere, it would be appreciated if you listed the web address: bhavanasociety.org.

…………………………………….

A Buddhamas Carol
or Ode of a Vipassana Yogi

1.
Silent Night, Peaceful Night,
All is calm, Stars are bright,
Round the hall Yogis sitting still,
Keeping their backs straight, exerting will,
Enduring pain without any ill-will,
Pervading Metta all throughout space,
Wishing goodwill to the whole human race.

2.
Silent Mind, Peaceful Mind,
Thoughts are few, Pain is slight,
Focusing mind at the tip of the nose,
Knowing each breath as it comes and it goes,
Perceiving the light that steadily glows,
Feeling the Rapture from head to the toes.

3.
Silent Mind, Tranquil Mind,

Thoughts are stilled, Body feels light,
All the Five Hinderances have died down,
The Ego no longer is spinning around,
Mind is one-pointed not moving a bit,
Enjoying at long last the Jhanic Bliss,

CHORUS: Sitting in Joyful Peace, Sitting in Blissful Peace.

4.
Silent Mind, focused Mind,
Awareness is strong, Mind is bright,
The Spiritual Faculties are prepared,
Vipassana-Insight has Mara scared,
Scanning the body from head to the toes,
Anicca, Anicca, each moment goes,
Anicca, Anicca, Impermanence flows,
The Five Aggregates appear empty as foam,
The Truth of No-Self is readily shown,

CHORUS:
Sitting in insightful Joy, Sitting in insightful Joy…

5.
Silent Mind, Equanimous Mind,
Awareness is clear, Wisdom is fine,
The six sense-impingements arise and pass,
No desire, no clinging, no ego to grasp,
No holding to present, future or past,
Mara has vanished he took his last gasp,
This body-mind house is empty at last,
Sitting and walking the whole night through,
Greeting the dawn completely anew.

6.
Silent Mind, Wisdom Mind,
Now is the time, Conditions are prime,
The Enlightenment Factors are developed well.
The Four Noble Truths become clear as a bell,
The Eye of Dhamma is opened wide,
The three lower fetters are broken in stride,
Tonight the Yogi enters the Stream…
Tomorrow Nibbana no longer a Dream.

~ “BUDDHAMAS CAROL” (or “ODE to the VIPASSANA YOGI”)
WORDS: By Bhante Yogavacara Rahula | bhavanasociety.org
MUSIC:
By The Clementines and the RiffRaff Choir

A meditation on recycling…

I liked Meditation Circle member Craig Wilger’s letter to the editor (below) in the Friday, Dec. 12, 2008 “Reader’s Forum” of the Charleston Gazette. Isn’t the way we systematically plunder and gobble up the planet’s resources and places a spiritual malaise? (Or in a memorable line about voracious humanity from Bruce Cockburn’s “If a Tree Falls”: Busy monster eats dark holes in the spirit world…” Recycling may take only a sliver of the trash back from the torrent we vomit out daily because of the way we like to live. But along the way we role model a more sustainable and truer way of living. The letter below Craig’s makes an equally salient point — why must recycling pay for itself when it’s OK to toss out as much trash as you wish, while everyone pays the same  fee for pickup? (P.S. Don’t you like the way newspaper letters still begin with ye olde “Editor:” salutation? Can you imagine blog comments beginning that way? Many are more likely to start “Dolt!”)

Editor:

I applaud South Charleston’s Frank Mullens and city council for standing strong with recycling. The very act of recycling is symbolic of a willingness to turn away from a way of living that considers only the immediate and insatiable need to consume. Rather it looks toward a future for our children based on a respect for ourselves and for the land’s limited resources. Continue reading A meditation on recycling…

NEXT MEETING: Meditation Circle at 6 p.m. Tues, Dec. 9

Need some down time from the holiday hustle (not mention bustle)? The Meditation Circle of Charleston will meet from 6 to 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregration, 520 Kanawha Blvd., in Charleston, W.Va. See the ‘About‘ page for more on the group. Newcomers to meditation are welcome.

Our current discussion theme is Right Action. The second ethical principle of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, Right Action involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind… Read on.

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