Category Archives: Mindfulness

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?

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

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

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


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