“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.”
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 CarolorOde 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:
“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.”
“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.”
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→
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.
+ + + 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
+ + + 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.
+ + + 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
+ + + 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.”
“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.”
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.
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HERE IS A PORTION of a talk given by Ven. Ajahn Sumedho on a recent visit to Washington, D.C., his first trip ever in his long life. Ajahn Sumedho talks on mindfulness and meditation. The talk was given July 1, 2017, and was co-sponsored by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C., and the Thai Embassy. Ajahn Sumedho is the senior Western representative of the Thai forest tradition of Theravada Buddhism.
Bhante Jayasara, a Theravadan Buddhist monk from the Bhavana Society in High View, W.Va., gives a Dhamma talk on “making meditation part of one’s livelihood.”
The talk was part of a day retreat on May 27, 2017, at the Peace Tree Center for Wellness in Huntington, W.Va., sponsored by PeaceTree and The Meditation Circle of Charleston WV. For more on the Bhavana Society Buddhist monastery and retreat center, visit bhavanasociety.org
Here are some places to meditate in the Huntington, W.Va., area:
WHAT: Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington Meditation Group WHEN: The group meets every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. for mindfulness meditation at the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington, 619 6th Ave., Huntington, WV. ABOUT: The group’s members come from a variety of spiritual traditions. The format includes two meditations along with short discussions. Beginners are welcome. Cushions and chairs are available; however, you may bring your own cushion if you wish. Donations are appreciated. LINKS:Here is the group’s Facebook page
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WHAT: Huntington Studio 8 Meditation Group WHEN: The group meets every Sunday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., for a Dharma talk and 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. for meditation at Studio 8, 803 8th Ave., Huntington, WV. ABOUT: The group’s members come from a variety of spiritual traditions and the Dharma talks are facilitated by different members of a team. The meditations relate to the Dharma talk, and may include both sitting and walking meditation. Join the group for the talk, the meditation or both. Beginners are welcome. Cushions and blankets are available, or you may bring your own. Donations are appreciated. LINKS: Here is the group’s Facebook page
+ + + RELATED:
The PeaceTree Center in Huntington, W. Va., at 5930 Mahood Dr. (about 10 minutes from the Huntington Mall) is now hosting the PeaceTree Meditation Circle every Saturday, facilitated by members of Meditation Circle of Charleston, W.Va. The weekly meditation takes place from 11 a.m. to noon every Saturday. More details here.
Have faith in the Buddha’s path to happiness that so many people have followed to enlightenment. Faith, in Buddhist terms, means confidence–confidence based on what you have seen so far, and confidence in what you can project to be true based on what you have seen. For example, you have personally observed that whenever you were full of negative mental states, you suffered. You recall that whenever you were full of positive states of mind, you felt happy. When all these states changed you saw their impermanence. These are facts. You can have confidence in this. This kind of confidence keeps you on course until a deep realization of truth leaves no more room for doubt.