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Harmonious Speech

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Text from the website “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” by Lynn J. Kelly

A second category of Right Speech (after truthfulness) is harmonious speech, or refraining from saying things with the intention of dividing people or groups from each other. It is a challenging moment in history, in many places, to hold to this principle. Our public discourse seems to have descended to a level where hardly anything can be said without someone objecting.

Behind this trend is an increasing strain of “us vs. them” thinking, writing, and talking. It is human nature to prefer “our own” people to those who seem different, whether by dint of language, class, education, nationality, color, ethnicity, age, gender, political position, etc. The boundaries between groups are variable (not fixed), and in any given moment we can create or destroy categories in our own mind. In some situations a particular “us-them” divide arises and in other situations it dissipates. When others express strong opinions, sometimes we may be infected with a divisive mind-set. Likewise, we may feel inspired when we witness harmonious speech.

Extra-terrestrial invasion was a theme of 20th century science fiction, in some cases specifically in order to create an “us” out of world-wide humanity. It seems as if we only pull together if there is an outside threat of some sort, whether from a natural disaster or other causes. But we don’t need an enemy, real or imagined, to consider ourselves “us” with every living being. We have the option of remembering that we are all in the same situation with respect to old age, sickness, and death. We are all subject to the vagaries of weather, bad luck, and the random nature of our world. We are all trapped together in saṃsāra.

Saṃsāra: The word literally means “wandering through, flowing on”, in the sense of “aimless and directionless wandering”. The concept of saṃsāra is closely associated with the belief that the person continues to be born and reborn in various realms and forms [Wikipedia]. This is our condition, wandering aimlessly in search of comfort and fleeing discomfort, never reaching any resting place except temporarily. 

It’s our actions and words that make our world, not how we feel about a particular person or group of people. In the end, only kind intentions and the words and actions that come from them are beneficial.

So when we are tempted to righteous indignation, to denigrating or dismissing others, we would do well to pause and consider: How would words spoken in anger, even (or especially) righteous anger, be received? Would they bring about healing or hurting? Would they persuade others to our position or harden their opposition? Are we able to bring enough awareness to our speech to avoid divisiveness?

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Creating our lives

PHOTO BY Matt Briney https://unsplash.com/photos/0tfz7ZoXaWc

“We’re creating our lives. And even when the mind seems to be simply spinning its wheels, it’s not just idly spinning its wheels. It’s creating new states of being, new possibilities — some of which are good, some of which are not so good. You have to keep that principle always in mind as you’re meditating. You’re not simply here innocently watching what’s going on without any responsibility for what you’re experiencing. You’re responsible for your experiences — through your actions in the past and in the present moment. On the one hand, this sounds a little onerous because nobody likes to take responsibility. On the other hand, though, it’s empowering. If you don’t like the present moment, you can create a new present moment because the opportunities to do so are endless.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“Producing Experience” (Meditations1)

BHANTE G AT THE UNITED NATIONS

Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Bhavana Society Buddhist Monastery in High View, W.Va., , delivered a 9-minute speech on May 1 at the United Nations in New York, on the occasion of Vesak, the festival which commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition of Buddhism. This year’s Vesak will be celebrated at the Bhavana Society on Sunday, May 27.

The point of equilibrium

Excerpt from “Finding the Center” in chapter 2 of “Untangling Self” by Andrew Olendzki:

At some point all this tranquility devolves into sleepiness, laziness, or a sluggishness of mind where it seems a struggle just to remain conscious. This too is natural, and it does not mean you are doing anything wrong. Having established these two end points on a continuum, practice involves moving back and forth between them until one finds the point of equilibrium. You can get a sense when the mind is too active, at which point you let go of your attachment to the stimulant du jour and allow the mind to rest. And when you feel it getting drowsy, it is time to sit up straighter, take a deeper breath, and give yourself a little mental kick into wakefulness. Eventually, becoming familiar with both ends of this specturm, you will find the midpoint where the mind is simultaneously tranquil and alert.

Moving perpendicularly, we then notice that the mind is drawn habitually toward those objects of experience it finds gratifying. This need not be full-on lust or the irresistible drive of addiction; more often it is a gentle inclination toward what we like. The senses revel in sensation, the mind delights in momentum, and we are usually “leaning in” to the next moment and faintly grasping after the next experience. Notice this, and softly back away from it. Continue reading The point of equilibrium

Bhante Jayasara to visit area May 19-20 and 21, 2018

The Meditation Circle is pleased to announce a return visit to Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., by the Theravadan Buddhist monk Bhante Jayasara (Bhante J), from the Bhavana Society Theravadan Buddhist Monastery in High View, W.Va. He will be here:

Saturday, May 19 (Huntington: day-long quiet retreat); Sunday May 20 (Huntington: guided meditation, talk and questions)
Monday, May 21 (Charleston: guided meditation, talk and questions).

Below is the schedule for his visit. We encourage folks interested in attending the Saturday day-long quiet retreat to sign up early as space is limited at the PeaceTree Center for Wellness and registration is limited to the first 45 people who sign up through EventBrite, in order not to overwhelm the room. There is also a sign-up for Studio 8 in Huntington because of the size of the room.

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SATURDAY, May 19: Silent Day Retreat: ‘Deepening a Meditation Practice’
LOCATION: PeaceTree Center for Wellness, 5930 Mahood Dr., Huntington, W.Va. 25705
WHEN: Morning: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Lunch break: 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Vegetarian lunch provided.) Afternoon: 1 to 3:30 p.m.
WHO: For people familiar with sitting meditation, wishing to deepen their practice. There will be several sessions of guided and silent meditation and walking meditation. We ask that folks who sign up stay for the entire day if possible. The day will be conducted in Noble Silence, except for talks by Bhante J and question and answer sessions.
COST: Admission is free with donations accepted at the door, to pay for travel costs, and to offer donations to the Bhavana Society and PeaceTree.
SIGN-UP: Click on this Eventbrite link

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SUNDAY, May 20: Guided Meditation, Talk and Questions
LOCATION:Studio 8 Yoga and Wellness, 803 8th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701
WHEN: 12:30 to 2 p.m.
WHO: For anyone interested in meditation
DETAILS: Bhante J will give a Dhamma talk, lead a meditation and answer questions
COST: Admission is free with donations accepted at the door, to pay for travel costs, and to offer donations to the Bhavana Society and Studio 8.
SIGN UP: Click on this Eventbrite link to register.

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MONDAY, May 21: Guided meditation, talk and questions
LOCATION: Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 520 Kanawha Boulevard, Charleston, WV
WHEN: 5:15 to 6:45 p.m.
WHO: For anyone interested in meditation
DETAILS: Bhante J will give a Dhamma talk, lead a meditation and answer questions

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MORE on Bhante J:

Bhante Jayasāra (“Bhante J”) is an American-born Buddhist monastic who currently resides at Bhavana Society, a Theravadan Buddhist Monastery and retreat center near High View, W.Va. He was born in 1978 and raised Catholic. He came to Buddhism in his late 20s and officially took refuge and precepts to become a practicing Buddhist lay disciple on Vesak in 2008. In 2011 he took the Eight Lifetime Precepts with Bhavana Abbot Bhante Gunaratana and was given the name Jayantha.

By this point, the practice had instilled in him a desire to become a monastic. Bhante J began to regularly attend retreats and weekend visits to Bhavana and learned all he could about the monastic life. He began living at Bhavana Society in September 2014, became an Anagarika (postulant) in March 2015, became a Sāmaṇera (novice monk) in October of 2015, and a Bhikkhu (fully ordained monk) in October 2016. NOTE: Bhante (BON-tay) is an honorific that refers to Buddhist monks in the Theravada tradition. Bhante literally means “Venerable Sir.”

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For more on Bhante J, visit his personal blog at:
bhikkhujayasara.wordpress.com 

When this mind is clear and bright…

Photo by Bekir Donmez (unsplash.com)

When this mind is clear and bright
And is not covered over,
Then you are not very different
From the sages.
If you allow no wavering
From this clarity, and do not
Let it change,
And do not cling to it,
And do not neglect it:
This is learning.
Just protect it all the time
And do not damage its clarity.

– Luo Hongxian (1504-1564)
Quote courtesy dailyzen.com

The other option


“You can’t ever get everything
you want. It is impossible. Luckily, there is another option. You can learn to control your mind, to step outside of the endless cycle of desire and aversion. You can learn not to want what you want, to recognize desires but not be controlled by them. This does not mean that you lie down on the road and invite everybody to walk all over you. It means that you continue to live a very normal-looking life, but live from a whole new viewpoint. You do the things that a person must do, but you are free from that obsessive, compulsive drivenness of your own desires. You want something, but you don’t need to chase after it. You fear something, but you don’t need to stand there quaking in your boots. This sort of mental cultivation is very difficult. It takes years. But trying to control everything is impossible; the difficult is preferable to the impossible.”
 
Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English,” pp. 6-7

What we can give

“So remember, we’re here to go beyond ourselves, to go beyond just being beings that are consuming all the time. We try to redefine ourselves, not by what we eat or what we own or what we consume, but by what we produce, what we can give. Making this switch in the mind changes everything. Difficult patches come up in the meditation and you ask yourself not, “Why is this so bad? Does this mean I’m a miserable meditator?” You say, “No, what can I give to this situation so that it doesn’t snowball? What resources do I still have? What can I draw on to give to the situation to turn it into a different kind of situation?” When things are going well, again, what do you give to make sure that they continue to go well?”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“Better to Give than to Consume” (Meditations6)

PeaceTree Center Meditation Circle on Saturdays

If you are within striking distance of the Huntington Mall on Saturdays near Barboursville, W.Va., you are within striking distance of the PeaceTree Center for Wellness, 5930 Mahood Dr, Huntington, WV. There is community yoga at 10 a.m., followed by a meeting of the PeaceTree Meditation Circle from 11 a.m. to noon. At 1 p.m., there is Tai Chi.

Sometimes, there’s soup…

Audio Dharma guided meditations

At last evening’s meditation, someone inquired about where to find a good place online for some guided meditations.  AudioDharma.org has a wonderful and rich body of guided meditations and Dharma talks. Here is a direct link to the site’s many guided meditations:
www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1835/

As the site description puts it:
“This site is an archive of Dharma talks given by Gil FronsdalAndrea Fella and various guest speakers at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. Each talk illuminates aspects of the Buddha’s teachings. The purpose is the same that the Buddha had for his teachings, to guide us toward the end of suffering and the attainment of freedom. These talks are freely available to download or listen to. Please help support this service with a tax-deductible donation.”

 

Independent happiness

Ajahn Sumedho

With mindfulness, we can be independent of the positions other people are taking. We can stand on our own two feet and take responsibility for acting in a virtuous way, regardless of what the rest of society is doing.

I can be kind, generous, and loving toward you, and that is a joy to me. But if I make my happiness dependent upon your being kind to me, then it will always be threatened, because if you aren’t doing what I like—behaving the way I want you to—then I’m going to be unhappy. So then, my happiness is always under threat because the world might not behave as I want it to.

It’s clear that I would spend the rest of my life being terribly disappointed if I expected everything to change—if I expected everybody to become virtuous, wars to stop, money not to be wasted, governments to be compassionate, sharing, and giving—everything to be just exactly the way I want it! Actually, I don’t expect to see very much of that in my lifetime, but there is no point in being miserable about it; happiness based on what I want is not all that important.

Joy isn’t dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn’t dependent upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving. It’s that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science of goodness.

Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond my control—I can’t go around making everything how I want it—still, I can be kind, generous, and patient, and do good, and develop virtue. That I can do, and that’s worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn’t make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.

Ahahn Sumedho, from “The Mind and the Way: Buddhist Reflections on Life.” pp. 158-159