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Metta For All

Namaste Art Print by Claudia Tremblay. Order it here

QUESTION: The world seems so full of hatred, violence, and pain. How is it possible to pursue joy and also have compassion for those who commit such cruelties?

BHANTE GUNARATANA: “It is very difficult to imagine how cruel human beings can be. We cannot even say ‘bestial’ since wild beasts don’t commit the kinds of heinous crimes people do. When wild beasts kill, it’s to eat. When full, they don’t bother to kill other animals. So, beasts often behave much better than human beings!

“Fortunately, not all human beings are violent and cruel. There are many kind, compassionate and good people. In fact, they are in the majority when we think about it. Yet only a small minority makes the news—the ones whose cruel-hearted, violent actions shake the whole world.

“So we have to cultivate loving-friendliness—metta—for them along with all others. They commit crimes as they themselves are suffering. As a result, they are totally confused. I don’t think any right-minded person, one who thinks and sees clearly, would commit such violence. People have to be very, very confused to be worse than beasts. We should not give up on them—we must try to share loving-friendliness with them. They need a lot of metta.

“By sending our metta they will not, of course, suddenly change. Sometimes a person’s kamma is so strong, they cannot see the pain they’re causing others or they don’t care. So they commit more bad kamma and suffer yet more.

“We can at least have metta toward them. We can try to understand how much they must suffer to have become so violent and indifferent to other people’s lives.

Please keep practicing metta for yourself and share your metta with all: criminals, the victims of criminals, their bereaved relatives. All deserve our metta. I can send my metta to all of them. May all learn to live in peace and harmony.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana (p. 87, WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully,” Wisdom Publications 2020)

Learn About Your Mind

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu from “No Dharma Without Karma”

“There’s no Dharma without karma. I keep running into this again and again – people who want to be told that the reason they’re suffering has nothing to do with them. It’s somebody else’s fault. They’re miserable because someone taught them to fear the world or fear their desires, whereas all you have to do is realize that the world is basically good as it is, your desires are perfectly fine, and you just relax into the goodness within and without, and you won’t have to suffer any more.

“But the Buddha never taught like that. If there’s going to be goodness in the world, it has to start with your *giving* something – giving your time, giving your energy, giving the things that you have control over. And you learn about your mind that way.

Continue reading Learn About Your Mind

Bhante Rahula to visit Huntington/Charleston in August 2020

We will have more details as we lock them down, but American Buddhist monk Bhante Yogavacara Rahula will make a return visit to the Meditation Circles in Huntington and Charleston, W.Va., in early August, 2020. Bhante Rahula will lead a day-long ‘Day of Mindfulness’ at the Peacetree Center for Wellness in Huntington, WV, on Saturday, Aug. 8. He will also attend the Tuesday, Aug. 11, weekly sitting of The Meditation Circle, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 520 Kanawha Bld. W, in Charleston, WV. There is no charge for either event (donations will be accepted). Advance registration will be required for the Peacetree event because of limited space. REGISTRATION IS NOT YET OPEN FOR THE PEACETREE EVENT. We encourage you to subscribe to this site for updates on these and other events, as well as regular quotes and readings on breath-centered meditation and mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition.

Bhante Rahula is director and principal teacher at the Paññāsīha Lion of Wisdom Meditation Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was born Scott Joseph DuPrez in Southern California in 1948. After following the hippie trail to India, he eventually discovered Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, where he ordained as a novice monk in 1975 at Gothama Thapovanaya, Kalupaluwawa.

He received his bhikkhu upasampada ordination at Wat Thai Los Angeles in May 1979. After returning to Sri Lanka for some years, he came to help Bhante Henepola Gunaratana establish the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, where he served as vice-abbot from 1986 to 2010. Now, after seven years of teaching Dhamma and leading retreats around the world, he has taken on the role as director and chief meditation teacher at Lion of Wisdom .

The rural meditation retreat facility is a branch of the Washington Buddhist Vihara. The center offers Days of Mindfulness, Afternoon Intensives and two- and three-day retreats.

Upcoming 2020 events at Lion of Wisdom include:

  • Saturday February 22, Afternoon Intensive, 1-4 pm
  • Sunday March 1, Day of Mindfulness, 9 am-4 pm; bring a bag lunch or potluck item to share.
  • Sunday, March 8, Afternoon Intensive, 1.30-4.30 pm
  • Saturday, March 14, Day of Mindfulness; 9 am-4.30 pm; bring a potluck item to share.
  • Weekend Retreat, Friday, March 20, 7 pm until Sunday, March 22, finish at noon. Register for overnight accommodation.
  • Weeklong Retreat, May 15-23, 2020. The retreat theme will be: Awakening body/mind awareness with vipassana meditation and yoga breathing/exercises. Registration is required; a few spaces are still available; camping in your own tent is possible.

 To register for the above overnight retreats send an e-mail to: info@lionwisdom.org and include the following: Name, age, address, gender, beginner to meditation? Any medical conditions that might limit you movements/participation, prescribed medications?

Mindfulness Comes to the Rescue

Photography Pablo Orcaray | unsplash.com

“Look at the particular emotion that might be driving the proliferation of thoughts. And as you are watching, take some deep breaths. Looking at it, breathe out deeply—looking at it, breathe in deeply. You will see it disappearing. Mindfulness comes to rescue us from getting carried away with runaway thoughts, to offer support to increase wholesome mental states. Mindfulness works in both ways—one is to address negative states that have arisen. The other is to encourage us to direct the mind into more wholesome paths.”

~Bhante G (p.127, “WHAT WHY HOW’: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully,” Wisdom Publications, 2020)

Mindful Reflection on the Body

“We don’t meditate to hate our bodies or other bodies. Unsatisfactoriness depends on clinging to impermanent bodies. A mindful meditator should remind himself or herself that an attractive object has triggered sense desire. One should then develop wise reflection or mindful reflection.

“The Buddha gave a very meaningful simile to underscore the meaning of mindful reflection, or yoniso manasikara. Suppose you throw a stick to a dog. The dog runs after the stick and bites on it or brings it back to you. But if you throw a stick to a lion, he does not run after the stick. He runs after you! He wants to know where the stick came from. The lion wants to go to the root.

“Similarly, mindful reflection goes to the root. We have six roots. They are greed, hatred, and ignorance on the unwholesome side. And nongreed, nonhatred, and nondelusion on the wholesome side. When an unwholesome emotional state arises, we should be mindful enough to go to its roots and mindfully reflect that it is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and without self.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
(p. 129, “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully,” from the chapter ‘Working With Thought and Speech.’ Wisdom Publications 2020)

ASK BHANTE G book available

To order the book or sign up for a free weekly WISDOM EXPERIENCE email series featuring Q-and-A excerpts, click here

CHECK OUT THE NEW WISDOM EXPERIENCE BOOK “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully.” The book compiles Bhante G’s answers to both beginning and advanced questions about meditation practice, mindfulness and Buddhist teachings.

Bhante G, as he is known around the world, is abbot of the Bhavana Society Buddhist retreat center and monastery in the West Virginia hills and is a beloved teacher worldwide. (The book details how one of the leading Buddhist teachers and authors in the Western world ended up in the West Virginia backcountry). Wisdom is now offering a free weekly series of emails featuring Q-and-A’s from the book. Click here for more on that and the book.

Meditation Circle co-coordinator Douglas Imbrogno helped compile the book’s contents, along with other Bhavana lay supporters, from questions Bhante G has answered on the cushion, in interviews and on retreats around the world.

We Can Compare Notes

Singing Goldfinch by OlaLiola on Etsy.com

A bird in a secluded grove sings like a flute.
Willows sway gracefully with their golden threads.
The mountain valley grows the quieter
As the clouds return.
A breeze brings along the fragrance
Of apricot flowers.
For a whole day I have sat here
Encompassed by peace,
Till my mind is cleansed in and out
Of all cares and idle thoughts.
I wish to tell you how I feel,
But words fail me.
If you come to this grove,
We can compare notes.

~ Fa-yen

Like a Cup of Muddy Water

“The mind before meditation is like a cup of muddy water. If you hold the cup still, the mud settles and the water clears. Similarly, if you keep quiet, holding your body still and focusing your attention on your object of meditation, your mind will settle down and you will begin to experience the joy of meditation.”

~Bhante Gunaratana
8 Mindful Steps to Happiness,” p. 18

‘The Skillful Heart Gives Us Happiness’

Unsplash photo by Debby Hudson

“There are times when the heart is in bad shape. Bad mental qualities get mixed up with it, making it even worse, making us suffer both in body and mind. These bad mental qualities are said to be “unskillful” (akusala). The Buddha teaches us to study these qualities so that we can abandon them.

“There are other times when the heart is in good shape: at ease with a sense of wellbeing. We feel at ease whether we’re sitting or lying down, whether we’re alone or associating with our friends and relatives. When the heart gains a sense of ease in this way, it’s said to be staying with the Dhamma. In other words, skillful (kusala) mental qualities have appeared in the heart. The skillful heart is what gives us happiness. This is why the Buddha taught us to develop these skillful qualities, to give rise to them within ourselves.“

~ Ajahn Suwat

Patience, Patience, Patience

“Don’t rush. There is no hurry, so take your time. Settle yourself on a cushion and sit as though you have the whole day. Anything really valuable takes time to develop. Patience, patience, patience.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana, from “Mindfulness in Plain English”

NOTE: For more Bhante G quotes, see the @BhavanaVisitor Twitter feed or follow the Bhavana Society page on Facebook

There is no “time off” from karma

By LYNN J. KELLEY | From “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog

The Dhammapada is probably the most popular Buddhist literature in the world. It consists of 423 verses — sort of poetry, sort of philosophy, and a useful set of instructions to guide our deepening practice of the Dhamma. There are more than 50 translations from the Pali into English, and many more into other languages. For our reflections, I’ve chosen Gil Fronsdal’s translation because his purpose aligns with my own: to translate the Buddha’s teachings with all possible accuracy and in a way that enables the practitioner to deepen her wisdom in the here and now.

Without further ado, we begin:

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.

Gil explains in a footnote that “preceded by mind” is sometimes translated as “impelled by mind”, giving the image more force. But our minds don’t compel us to do anything; we decide how to act, whether consciously or subconsciously motivated. If our mind is habitually angry or selfish or confused, our actions are likely to be the same. And if our thoughts tend to be kind, generous, and wise, then our actions are likely to be more in that vein.

Continue reading There is no “time off” from karma

A flower has no intention of making us happy

Photo by Tanalee Youngblood on Unsplash

“WHEN WE SEE A FLOWER, we think, ‘How pretty.  I like looking at this.’ The feeling is one of acceptance.  Seeing a cockroach, however, may cause revulsion and rejection.  We may experience feelings like ‘I don’t want to see that.  It’s disgusting.  I wish it would go away.’

“So, who is doing all this accepting and rejecting?  The answer, of course, is your own mind.  We make these decisions as we see the world around us with our eyes, hear it with our ears, and feel it with our bodies.  Acceptance of something gives rise to attachment, rejection to anger.  Therefore, we can see that the true source of anger lies in the individual, not in the object.  Objects are neutral.  A flower has no intention of making us happy; neither does a cockroach intend to cause repulsion.  Every individual’s perception is fixed by his or her attitude.

“Let us say that all of us are wearing colored glasses.  These glasses are the difference between whether one lives in the light of contentment or in the darkness of dissatisfaction.  The Buddha provides instructions to remove the glasses and correct our vision, but the responsibility of actually taking the glasses off falls entirely upon the individual.  Please do not wait until a mystical being intervenes.  That will never happen.”

~ Venerable Sumanasara
from “Freedom From Anger, Understand It, Overcoming It, and Finding Joy,” p. 12