“What we are doing here is so important, we better not take it too seriously.”
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.
“The first thing to do is stop whatever else you are doing.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
from “How to Sit”
“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.”
“8 Mindful Steps to Happiness,” p. 18
“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.”
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.
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:
Na tam mata pita kayira
anne vapi ca nataka
seyyaso nam tato kare.
No mother nor father nor
any other kin can do
greater good for oneself
than a mind directed well.
~ The Buddha | Dhammapada 3.43
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…”
“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
“Don’t get lost in the details of practice and forget the big picture. Always make sure your efforts actually bring more wholesome states.”
(“Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness,” p. 192)
“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.”
“The Sound of Silence” | free download at this link
“There is nothing superior to Mindfulness and Self-Awareness for the control of our body, speech and mind.”
~Ajahn Plien (from Forest Sangha Twitter feed)
“DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Take an active interest in the test itself, but don’t get distracted by your expectations about the results. For that matter, don’t be anxious for any result whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and in its own direction. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to your expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspension of all our preconceptions and ideas. We must store our images, opinions, and interpretations out of the way for the duration of the session. Otherwise we will stumble over them.”
from “Mindfulness in Plain English”
“The next basis for success is persistence. You really stick with it, not just while you’re sitting here with your eyes closed, but you also want to learn how to be familiar with how the breath energy feels as you walk around, as you stand, as you lie down. When you talk with other people, can you stay in touch with how the breath energy in the body feels? Because when we talk about “breath,” it’s not just the air coming in and out of the lungs, it’s the energy throughout the body that permeates through all the nerves. You want to get more and more sensitive to those sensations of subtle energies and learn how to stick with them.
“Make this your default mode: that you’re going to stay centered right here. This gives you a good foundation as you go through the day. It’s not just one more thing to add on top of what you’re already doing. It’s actually a solid center from which you can deal with all your other duties and responsibilities as you go out into the world. We all need this center here because otherwise we get blown around by the slightest breeze. So stick with it, stick with it, stick with it. Learn how to pace yourself so you can put in just the right amount of effort that you can maintain.”
~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
from “Four Bases of Success”
Take small steps. Follow gentle guidance. Welcome kind thoughts. Enjoy what your day brings.
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(Image and words courtesy of Sivali on Facebook. 🙏🏼)