“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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following: Name, age, address, gender, beginner to meditation? Any medical conditions that might limit you movements/participation, prescribed medications?
“Look at the particular emotion that might be driving the proliferation of thoughts. And as you are watching, take some deep breaths. Looking at it, breathe out deeply—looking at it, breathe in deeply. You will see it disappearing. Mindfulness comes to rescue us from getting carried away with runaway thoughts, to offer support to increase wholesome mental states. Mindfulness works in both ways—one is to address negative states that have arisen. The other is to encourage us to direct the mind into more wholesome paths.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.
The Pali word most often translated into English as mindfulness is sati, and here’s something important Anālayo Bhikkhu has to say about it:
Another aspect of the early Buddhist conception of sati
is that mindfulness is a mental quality that we have to bring into
being. Mindfulness has to be established; it is not just a quality that
is present anyway in any type of experience. This marks the difference
between mindfulness and consciousness. Consciousness … is a
continuously present process of knowing [which allows us to register
experience]. … Whether we are mindful of a meditation object or caught
up in a dream or fantasy, the flow of consciousness is always there.
The same does not apply to mindfulness.
is a point that is often overlooked or ignored. Mindfulness includes a
clarity about the context of our experience, and there’s a vividness to
engaged attention that keeps us planted in the here and now.
When we are not attending fully, we often experience events through a filter we’ve developed over time. We may be looking for ways in which we are being ignored, or treated unfairly, or noticed when we don’t want to be, or even that we’re being appreciated and admired. There tends to be a story about “me” that we reinforce with our observations. So of course, what stands out in our memories are the instances that confirm our ready-made attitudes. Mindfulness with clear comprehension can cut through this way of experiencing our lives.
Ven. Anālayo suggests that we can view sati as our good, supportive, pleasant-to-be-with friend, available whenever we turn towards her (female, as the word sati in Pali is feminine). We may not notice her company for periods, but she is always there for us to share our experience with.
Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.
NOTE: For an interview with Anālayo Bhikkhu and a link to his books, some of which are avaialble for free download, see this link.
How to cope with wavering thoughts?
Versatile are flying clouds,
Yet from the sky they’re not apart.
Mighty are the ocean’s waves,
Yet they are not separate from the sea.
Heavy and thick are banks of fog,
Yet from the air they’re not apart.
Frantic runs the mind in voidness,
Yet from the Void it never separates.
Now, the word ‘ignorance’ as used in Pali means ‘not knowing the Four Noble Truths with their three aspects and twelve insights’ (that is the formula of the Four Noble Truths). And the path is in terms of being eightfold (the Eightfold Path). But the Eightfold Path is really just awareness. Awareness is the path, and the eight parts are more or less positions for reflection rather than actual steps on an actual path. It is not a matter of taking this whole conception of a path too literally, thinking that one step leads to the next ― first you do this and then you do that.
Taken in personal terms, you might start wondering, ‘Do I have right view? Is my speech really right speech all the time?’ And then maybe thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not on the path! I said something the other day I shouldn’t have said.’ If you start thinking about yourself in that way, you just get confused. My advice is not to make a problem of yourself. Give up making a problem about yourself, or how good or bad you are, or what you should or shouldn’t be. Learn to trust in your awareness more, and affirm that; recognize it and consciously think, ‘This is the awareness ― listening ― relaxed attention.’ Then you will feel the connection. It is a natural state that sustains itself. It isn’t up to you to create it. It isn’t dependent on conditions to support it. It is here and now whatever is happening.
Every moment we recognize awareness ― and really trust and learn to appreciate it ― joy comes, compassion comes, and love. But it isn’t personal; it isn’t based on liking, preferences, or kammic attachments. The dhamma is not the destruction of conditioned phenomena, but the container of it. All possibilities of conditioned phenomena arise and cease in the dhamma; and there is nothing that can bind us once we see that, because the reality of the dhamma is seen rather than the forms that arise and cease. Mindfulness reflections are skilful means the Buddha developed for investigating experience, for breaking down the illusions we hold, for breaking through the ignorance we grasp at, for freeing ourselves from form, the limited and the unsatisfactory.
Rather than teaching too many techniques now, or giving too much structure, I prefer to encourage people just to trust themselves with mindfulness and awareness. Often meditation is taught with this sense that one has to get something or get rid of something. But that only increases the existing idea of ‘I am somebody who has to become something that I am not, and has to get rid of my bad traits, my faults, my defilements.’ If we never see through that, it will be a hopeless task. The best we will ever do under those circumstances is maybe modify our habit-tendencies, make ourselves nicer people and be happier in the world ― and that isn’t to be despised, either ― but the point of the Buddha’s teaching is liberation.
Here is a Dhamma talk on meditation given by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Oct. 14, 2016, during his visit to Charleston and Huntington, W.Va. Bhante’s talk concerns the practice of mindfulness meditation. Below are the opening minutes of the talk.
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BHANTE RAHULA: In general. the practice of meditation helps a person to kind of cool their hot-tempered mind down a bit and helps their mind deal with the stresses of fast-paced living and also the general ups and downs of life. How to handle the crises and other surprising events and situations that throw people’s mind a little bit off balance and cause them to do some unskillful types of actions of body speech and thought. And then they have to suffer the consequences. Or just generally, learning to help free the mind of its repetitive habits, whether its unskillful speech or just the habits of useless thinking, especially thoughts about weakening one’s over-dependence on sensory stimulation, and learning how to develop more inner calmness and balance of mind that’s not so dependent on sensory overload.
So, there are many kinds of benefits that can be acquired from the practice of meditation. Although, of course, mindfulness meditation a lot of times it’s taught in a very secular way, it does come from the tradition of Buddhist meditation as taught by the Buddha for also helping to overcome suffering. One of the main aspects of the Buddha’s teachings is about the nature of suffering and happiness. And how we create it in our own minds and how we can use meditation and the whole practice and teachings of the Eighfold Path and so on as a way to help sort of bring more order and calmness and understanding and wisdom and also love into our mind and to help to deal and live with our fellow beings in a more skillful way.
The word mindfulness — or sati — it means to remember. But specifically to remember the present moment. So, it’s a way of helping to train the mind and allowing the mind to kind of rest a little bit more in the present moment, without so much this neurotic rushing to the future and remembering the past. Most of people’s problems come from obsessing about the past — either guilt, worry or remorse or fear. Or pining about the past to bring it back, which you can’t. Also, then, fearing about the future. What’s going to happen to me in the future, whether it’s health-wise, job-wise, or other things, obsessing about the future that also you cannot control. The future hasn’t come but yet most of the time people’s minds are caught back and forth between the past and future. Rarely does a person ever actually rest in the present moment….
A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.