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A Buddhist Holiday Carol

“A Buddhamas Carol or Ode of a Vipassana Yogi” by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula,

Every year about this time, we like to post what has to be one of the few Buddhist Christmas carols out there. This is one by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula, a Theravadan Buddhist monk. Born 1948 in Southern California as Scott DuPrez, he became a Buddhist monk in 1975 at Gothama Thapovanaya in Kalupaluwawa, Sri Lanka. His colorful life story is told in “One Night’s Shelter: From Home to Homelessness,” which you can download on the book page of his blog at bhanterahula.blogspot.com. He lived at the Bhavana Society, a Buddhist monastery and retreat center in Hampshire County, West Virginia, from 1986 until 2010. He is now the principal teacher at the Lion of Wisdom Meditation Center near Damascus, MD.

Bhante Rahula performs “A Buddhamas Carol or Ode of a Vipassana Yogi” with help from singer-songwriters Casi Null and Douglas John Imbrogno (one of the co-facilitators of The Meditation Circle). Below are the lyrics, which are a Dhamma discourse in themselves:


A Buddhamas Carol or Ode of a Vipassana Yogi | by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula)

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 good-will to the whole human race.

buddhaeyes_gold

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.

Silent mind, tranquil mind,
Thoughts are stilled, body is light,
All the Five Hindrances 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.
Sitting in rapturous joy,
Sitting in rapturous joy.

Silent mind, focused mind,
All is calm, 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 shows.
The Five Aggregates appear empty as foam,
The Truth of No-Self is easily known.

Silent Mind, Wisdom Mind,
Awareness is strong, 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’s took his last gasp.
This body-mind house is empty at last.
Sitting and walking the whole night through,
Greeting the dawn completely anew.

Silent mind, holy 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.


MORE FROM BHANTE RAHULA:
Here is a guided meditation by the monk:

That’s How It Goes on the Spiritual Path

UU Meditation Circle photo. | CHARLESTON, WV

DZOGCHEN PONLOP RINPOCHE | “If we want to be free of the pain we inflict on ourselves and each other — in other words, if we want to be happy — then we have to learn to think for ourselves. We need to be responsible for ourselves and examine anything that claims to be the truth. That’s what the Buddha did long ago to free himself from his own discontent and persistent doubts about what he heard, day after day, from his parents, teachers, and the palace priests …

“Those teachings today still describe a deeply personal inner journey that’s spiritual, yes, but not religious. The Buddha wasn’t a god — he wasn’t even a Buddhist. You’re not required to have more faith in the Buddha than you do in yourself. His power lies in his teachings, which show us how to work with our minds to realize our full capacity for wakefulness and happiness. These teachings can help us satisfy our search for the truth — our need to know who and what we really are.

“Where do we find this truth? Although we can rely to some degree on the wisdom we find in books and on the advice of respected spiritual authorities, that’s only the beginning. The journey to genuine truth begins when you discover a true question — one that comes from the heart — from your own life and experience. That question will lead to an answer that will lead to another question, and so on. That’s how it goes on the spiritual path.

“We start by bringing an open, inquisitive, and skeptical mind to whatever we hear, read, or see that presents itself as the truth. We examine it with reason and we put it to the test in meditation and in our lives. As we gain insight into the workings of the mind, we learn how to recognize and deal with our day-to-day experiences of thoughts and emotions. We uncover inaccurate and unhelpful habits of thinking and begin to correct them. Eventually we’re able to overcome the confusion that makes it so hard to see the mind’s naturally brilliant awareness. In this sense, the Buddha’s teachings are a method of investigation, or a science of mind…”

~Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (excerpt from a 2010 Washington Post essay, titled “The Buddha Was Not a Buddhist”) | CLICK HERE for full essay


Meditation Circle Meets 6 pm Tuesdays in Charleston WV | and 11 am, Saturdays in Huntington, WV

IN ADDITION TO THE REGULAR WEEKLY gathering of The Meditation Circle from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 520 Kanawha Blvd., W., 25302, on the west side of Charleston, WV, the Circle also gathers 11 a.m to noon Saturdays at the PeaceTree Center for Wellness, 5930 Mahood Dr., Huntington, WV, 25705 (about ten minutes east of the Huntington Mall at Barboursville). A Peacetree community yoga class (by donation) precedes the Saturday sit from 10 to 11 am.

BEGINNERS AND THOSE WISHING TO DEEPEN a home meditation practice are welcome at both circles. We are a meditation group in the round, with facilitators and no formal teachers. Small donations are welcome to help our generous sponsoring spaces with their electric bills and for occasional visits from teachers for day retreats.

A constant, persistent Approach

“If a person has a really deep interest in spiritual growth, he or she cannot do away with the practice of meditation. That is the key! Just a mere prayer or wish will not affect this inner spiritual change.

“The only way for development is through a constant effort through meditation. Of course, in the beginning it is not easy. You may find difficulties, or a loss of enthusiasm. Or perhaps in the beginning there will be too much enthusiasm—then after a few weeks or months, your enthusiasm may wane. We need to develop a constant, persistent approach based on a long-term commitment.”

~ H.H. The Dalai Lama

How Much Is enough?

“Monks, if you want to be free from suffering, you should contemplate knowing how much is enough. By knowing it you are in the place of enjoyment and peacefulness.

“If you know how much is enough, you are contented even when you sleep on the ground. If you don’t know it, you are discontented even when you are in heaven.

“You can feel poor even if you have much wealth. You may be constantly pulled by the five sense desires and pitied by those who know how much is enough. This is called “to know how much is enough.”

~ The Buddha

Making a Move against the Hindrances

Chess image by jeshoots | unsplash.com

By LYNN J. KELLEY | from ‘The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople’

Here we are, considering the fourth framework for cultivating mindfulness: principles/phenomena/dharmas. Specifically, we’ll take up how we can practice mindfulness with the hindrances. As a reminder, the hindrances are:

  1. sensual desire,
  2. anger,
  3. sloth-and-torpor
  4. restlessness-and-worry, and
  5. doubt.

To be clear, we are mainly thinking of our own hindrances, not other peoples’. We can learn from observing other folks’ mistakes, but the errors we make ourselves are the ones most likely to make a lasting impression on us.

Before we get into specifics on each of the hindrances, we should remember that the fourth framework asks us to observe the conditions that lead to the arising of the hindrances and the conditions that lead to the fading or overcoming of the hindrances. Unfortunately, there is not a simple list of things to avoid and things to draw near to us. Because our life experience is unique, we need to figure some specific things out for ourselves.

Ven. Anālayo offers an excellent metaphor in his book “Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation: A Practice Guide” (p. 154). We can imagine ourselves as a chess player…

Our friend has just made a threatening move, attacking our queen (gardez!). We will not get angry because of that. After all it is a game and the other player is our good friend. Yet at the same time we do want to win.

With this type of attitude, wanting to win without getting angry, we examine the situation: “Let me see, how did I get into this? How come I am now in the situation of being about to lose my queen?” On examining how this happened, we keep a lookout for the type of move that will save our queen. In other words, we try to identify the condition that will lead us out of this situation.

Ven. Anālayo goes on to point out that by seeing an arisen hindrance as a chess move, we are less likely to take it personally. That is, we don’t need to see our sensual desire or anger as something to feel guilty about or get annoyed with. It is simply what is happening now. It is also likely that whatever our favored hindrance is will arise in the future. Can we prepare ourselves by changing our attitude to our own obstructions, or by adjusting how we handle them?

The degree to which this particular mental condition can actually function as a “hindrance”, in the sense of obstructing our inner clarity, is inexorably interwoven with the degree of our identification with the images and associations it conjures up in the mind.

That is to say, the more closely we identify with our desire or anger or agitation or sloth or doubt, the harder it is to work with. By creating a little distance between “me” and the present obstructive mind state, we make a space we can work in.

The hindrances obstruct our mental clarity and actually block our pathway towards non-clinging, towards liberation. Only we have the power to mindfully, methodically, remove those obstacles.

NOTE | Follow future posts by Lynn E. Kelly by subscribing to her free blog at https://buddhasadvice.wordpress.com/

“Refuge: The Heart’s Own Knowing”

Swirled circle planet photo by David Imbrogno | cowgarage.com
NOTE: Thanisssara will offer an online teaching on “Refuge: The Heart’s Own Knowing,” on SUNDAY Sept. 29, 2019. Register here at WorldwideInsight.org., the site of an online Dharma practice group. The teachings are given in the Buddhist tradition of dana: “The Buddhist tradition views teachings of liberation as priceless, and this online class is offered in the spirit of generosity, called Dana. The teacher is directly supporting your practice. Please support her / him directly, through your generosity.



Our practice is preparation for when real challenges hit.” – Ajahn Chah

It’s important to recognize that we are living in extremely challenging times, and because of this, we are going to experience some very painful and disturbing bodily feelings, emotions, and mind states.

When the norms and forms of life we are used to radically change, we can become very triggered and overwhelmed. Our nervous system deregulates and old traumas can activate destabilizing our sense of cohesion and focus. Feelings of profound fear, anxiety, panic, outrage, shock, despair, disorientation can arise, and when they do, we need to take extra special care. To pause and recognize that there’s nothing wrong with us, that actually what is felt is an appropriate response to a fast dismembering world.

So, as profound uncertainty deepens and intensifies within and all around, our Dharma practice becomes ever more vital. The ground and heart of this practice is alignment with Refuge. This offers a direct connection to sustaining and nourishing qualities of peace, equanimity, joy, clarity, impassioned fearless compassion, discernment, and the confidence to listen ever more deeply into the “here and now” living Dharma.

We are in a time that is inviting us to be more real, more authentic and to let go of what is no longer essential, to forgive it all, and to trust the capacity of the heart’s ability to regenerate and hone to integrity and love.

It’s a time when each breath becomes ever more precious and when Rilke’s encouragement is superbly meaningful:

Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Thanissara trained in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah as a Buddhist nun for 12 years. She is a Dharma teacher and co-founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat Centre in South Africa and Sacred Mountain Sangha in the US with Kittisaro. She is an author and poet and is currently involved in mobilizing a Buddhist initiative to Declare Climate Emergency Now in the San Francisco Bay area.  

relaxing from THE intensity of fear & ignorance

Simon Migaj photograph | unsplash.com

“In meditation we can begin to tune in on this universal level through letting go of the conditions, of this blind holding to conditioned phenomena. It isn’t annihilation or a rejection of anything; it is just releasing, relaxing from this intensity of fear and ignorance. We try to control and hold on to conditions without realising how painful and miserable it makes us.

“The Buddha advised us to see ‘letting go’ as opening, receiving, and nothing to fear. Space and consciousness, the sound of silence — you don’t create these; they are here and now. But we may never notice or observe them. As we recognise them, we begin to have perspective on conditions.

“In terms of living in society, we do good and refrain from doing bad. We can work for people’s welfare, if we wish, help the educational system, the health system, try to promote harmony between nations and harmony between religions — we can still do all these things. It isn’t that we’re too ethereal for dealing with anything practical. But we recognise conditions for what they are, and we are no longer coming from idealism.”

~Ajahn Sumedho
“The Sound of Silence” | free download at this link