Tag Archives: Readings

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

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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

 

A discourse on Anapanasati Meditation

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Ven. Buddhadàsa Bhikkhu

In 2016, The Meditation Circle has been focusing on the Buddhist meditation known as Anàpànasati (the development of mindfulness of breathing)  To learn more about this meditation technique, we encourage you to download this .pdf of a teaching on Anàpànasati by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.

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As the introduction to this document notes:

Originally published in Thai, this manual is one of the major works of the Ven. Buddhadàsa Bhikkhu and delivered in 1959 in the form of a series of lectures to monks of Suanmokkha Monastery, Chaiya, Thailand.

Ven. Buddhadàsa Bhikkhu, a major voice in the Buddhist world, is an accepted master of Buddhist meditation. In constructive positive language, the manual guides the meditator through the 16 steps of ânàpànasati. Every difficulty that the meditator is liable to face as well as the benefits of practice is examined at length. All that remains is for the aspirant to the noble path to get on with the job.

Sitting through fear

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“States of fear sometimes arise during meditation for no discernible reason. It is a common phenomenon, and there can be a number of causes. You may be experiencing the effect of something repressed long ago. Remember, thoughts arise first in the unconscious. The emotional contents of a thought complex often leak through into your conscious awareness long before the thought itself surfaces. If you sit through the fear, the memory itself may bubble up to a point where you can endure it. Or you may be dealing directly with the fear that we all fear: “fear of the unknown.” At some point in your meditation career you will be struck with the seriousness of what you are actually doing. You are tearing down the wall of illusion you have always used to explain life to yourself and to shield yourself from the intense flame of reality. You are about to meet ultimate truth face to face. That is scary. But it has to dealt with eventually. Go ahead and dive right in.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English,” p. 101

mindfulness just accepts it

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“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

Look again

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“If the breath seems an exceedingly dull thing to observe over and over, you may rest assured of one thing: you have ceased to observe the process with true mindfulness. Mindfulness is never boring. Look again. Don’t assume that you know what breath is. Don’t take it for granted that you have already seen everything there is to see. If you do, you are conceptualizing the process. You are not observing its living reality. When you are clearly mindful of the breath or of anything else, it is never boring. Mindfulness looks at everything with the eyes of a child, with a sense of wonder. Mindfulness sees every moment as if it were the first and the only moment in the universe. So look again.”

~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
from “Mindfulness in Plain English” (pages 106, 107). Wisdom Publications (2002). http://wisdompubs.org/author/bhante-gunaratana

Note: This quote comes from the very active and rich Facebook page of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery in the mountains of West Virginia. If you have an interest in Buddhism, mindfulness and meditation, you can follow the page here.

Acknowledging the problem

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“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.)

Understanding Cause & Effect

 

Bhante Gunaratana

Bhante Gunaratana

“Once we understand that everything we think, say or do is a cause that leads inevitably to some effect, now or in the future, we will naturally want to think, say, and do things that lead to positive results and avoid those thoughts, words, and deeds that lead to negative ones. Recognizing that causes always lead to results helps us accept the consequences of past actions. It also helps us focus our attention on making choices that can lead to a happier future.

“Skillful actions are those that create the causes for happiness, such as actions motivated by loving friendliness and compassion. Any action that comes from a mind not currently filled with greed, hatred, or delusion brings happiness to the doer and to the receiver. Such an action is, therefore, skillful or right.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana

from “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness”
p. 27-28

A primer on karma

stonemanCheck out this Tricycle article on the much misunderstood Buddhist concept of karma. It’s an interview with Matthieu Ricard, born in France in 1946, and who trained as a molecular biologist at the  Institute Pasteur before taking up robes as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in 1972. Note: the article is live to non-members of Tricycle.com only through Sunday, June 2. Some highlights:

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RICARD: At each point in our lives, we are at a crossroads. We are the fruit of our past and we are the architects of our future. When we ask, “Why did this happen to me?” it is because of our limited view. If we throw a stone up in the air and forget about it, when it falls down on our heads, we shouldn’t complain, although we usually do. We have this notion that what happens to us is somehow independent of our own actions. We can ask, why did this happen? but the more important question is, what we are going to do about it?

If you want to know your past, look at your present circumstances. If you want to know your future, look at what is in your mind. If we know that our fate is in our hands, then the quality of our actions becomes a central issue. The whole point of karma is to recognize how our actions determine our future, so that we can begin to act properly. It’s not just a cosmological or philosophical matter. It’s entirely practical. The main point is not to get in trouble again.

THE LAWS OF KARMA

1. Karma is definite: An action will definitely bring its specific results unless it meets an obstacle. A positive action will result in happiness. A negative action will ultimately produce suffering.

2. Karma increases: Just as a small seed gives rise to a towering tree, the seeds of both positive and negative karma increase in potency unless they are obstructed. Positive results can be obstructed by expressions of anger and other negative actions. Negative results can be obstructed through purification.

3. Karma is specific: Karmic results are experienced only by one who created the cause for that experience.

4. Karma is never lost: The karmic seeds do not lose their potency of their own accord. Without purification and the cessation of negative actions, those karmic seeds will never lose their potential. They will continue to have the power to bring us suffering when the proper conditions arise. -Mark Magill

An inescapable fact and challenge

Bhavana Society Buddha ~ 2010

In this uncertain political season, full of angst, anger and fear, I have wondered what to remark about the current agitated national scene in America. I will not use a Buddhist blog to share my own particular points of view except to note that when it comes to nations and politics, angst seems the norm. Yet how are we to face bedeviling fears and enormous questions – how shall we run our country? – when we are also consumed with the equally enormous question of how to run our daily lives?

I’ve been on vacation the past week, the first four days spent at the Bhavana Society Buddhist monastery in the eastern mountains of West Virginia. Now, I abide in a friend’s lovely townhouse in Washington, D.C., preparing to head out to the National Mall for Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” (and good luck with that!). So, the personal and the national have been playing out in my travels and in my thoughts. With coffee cup in hand, I cracked open Chapter 15 of Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano’s remarkable book, “Longing For Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life,” (Wisdom Publication) this morning, instead of  lap-topping to my favorite political blog and getting all agitated again.

The good monk serves up much nourishment in the closing pages of a book whose voice and vivid imagery on finding Dhamma in daily life has become a treasured resource for me. The following is a gorgeously written call to attention to wake up out of the gloom of our moody, distracted introspections. Some members of our Meditation Circle purchased this book after reading other excerpts on this blog. I encourage other readers to do likewise for the full course of this American monk’s wise peregrinations and clear-headed expositions of the Buddha’s core teachings:

Excerpt (p. 71) by Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano from “Longing For Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life,” (Wisdom Publications).

After enough hard experience we cannot believe that living comes to any wise conclusion by itself, or that suffering will finally be outlasted by patience alone. Among the numberless hours of dreaming and speculating, where is the true time that counts toward wisdom? Cause and effect crash through us every moment, unseen and unheard, perhaps, but making us and remaking us according to the nature of our actions. In considering history – of our own family or of all humanity – we are considering actions, changes, the endless turn of circumstances, the surge and fall of generations. Why should our own generation necessarily surge higher than any other and carry us with it? Whatever the fanfare around us, still we act as individuals, well or badly, and receive the results of those actions. Our own past and all of history teach us the essential sameness of worldly things, show us the prevailing passions of living beings, but do not direct us to liberation from suffering. For that we need the teachings of the Buddha.

We gaze out the window at the dazzling, motionless neighborhood – bright white under a winter blue – and through the near houses are new enough, time seems strangely indefinite, blown away as the snow has been blown away from the branches of the trees. We might also be living in any century, looking up with surprise from any life, any domestic moment, into that amazing emptiness of sky. Always it is something like this when we sit still enough and watch with mindfulness. We sense the vastness of the season, wherein we are always, it seems, beginning again to grapple with birth and death, beginning and hesitating and faltering for lack of knowledge or lack of faith.

Whether we yearn for the charming past or the intriguing future, still those white and blue depths of winter surround us – emblematic of the great dukkha that is continually regenerated out of ignorance by our actions. While cause and effect inexorably race on we have no grounds for esteeming ourselves necessarily superior or inferior, in moral safety or religious confidence, to past generations or our own past lives. We make our guesses, restrain or obey our impulses, and run along through the brief warmth of our years, hoping to attain at last to peace and contentment; but history, read out of books or sensed now in the belongings of our family, tells only of sameness beneath the flickering of incidents – the timeless moral questions and groping for certainty. Continue reading An inescapable fact and challenge

“A Pilgrimage in Autumn”

autumn cul-de-sac | october 2010

NOTE: An earlier posting of this excerpt contained several misspellings. This one fixes them!

Regular readers of this occasional blog will know of my current infatuation with the book “Longing For Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life,” (Wisdom Publications) by Bhikku Nyanasobhano, excerpted once before here. It may be that this American Buddhist monk’s approach to Buddhist Dhamma accords with my own stumblebum Buddhist path – seeking out the actuality and truth of the Buddha’s teaching in the evidence of daily life, often through the filter of the senses on long peregrinations through the back woods. Yet it is also one of the most beautifully written books you’ll hope to find by an American-born Buddhist, steeped in the teachings of the Buddha and capable of communicating them in vivid, accessible language culled from common experience.

Since we here in West Virginia are now experiencing one of the most glorious Indian summers in many a year, it came as both serendipity and blessing to come to Chapter 13 in the Bhikku’s book this morning, titled “A Pilgrimage in Autumn.” An excerpt follows. But the chapter and book is so rich I encourage those of like-minded sensibilities to buy it for the full flavor of his strolling investigations of Dhamma in daily life.

Or if you attend the weekly 6 p.m. Tuesday gatherings of the Meditation Circle of Charleston, ask me for my copy once I finish or Thad’s when he’s done since he bought the book after I posted the last excerpt. And yes, I realize it’s a form of attachment to be infatuated with a Buddhist book – what’s a stumblebum Buddhist to do but stumble onward, carting along all his contradictions? This chapter also contains a skillful explication of one of the Buddha’s most difficult teachings, that of “no self.” ~ Douglas I.

READINGS | From “Longing For Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life,” by Bhikku Nyanasobhano

… OUT HERE IN THE COUNTRY the world looks different – not necessarily more beautiful or cheerful, but more dignified, at least, more graceful and significant. We had been intending to enjoy some of that autumn beauty, but if we cannot we may as well take meaning instead – or not even meaning if we think of it as chunks of information or succinct conclusions, but perhaps the intuition of splendor that the land inspires in us. For we feel that the land is old, ancient with respect to us and our ancestors. Empty woods all around, windy solitude, antiquity, huge oaks in the distance – these shrink us almost to nothing, yet impart something of richness and freedom. We hurry on through our trivial moment with the intention (frail as it is) of glimpsing certainty in old things, great things not made by man.

The noise, speed, and brilliance of what is called society do not, it seems, satisfactorily answer our longing for certainty; at any rate, from the stimulation of our social life we have turned aside for a while, to get far away from even from ourselves so that we might look around unimpeded and contemplate whatever is noble and true. Out here we walk through the wind that streams and lags and streams again, exploring the cold, vital, primitive land until we feel somewhat less bound to our old preoccupations, more concerned with wind, creeks, and brambly meadows. A day of sunshine and stillness would have given us more pleasure, but by now we are not really sorry about it, for the gray weather smooths a fine wonder over everything, suggesting greater truths than we might have suspected in more conventional beauty. Continue reading “A Pilgrimage in Autumn”