There just aren’t that many Buddhist Christmas carols out there. Here’s one by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula, a Theravadan Buddhist monk who guides the Lion of Wisdom Meditation Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Years ago, Bhante Rahula approached me with the verses below, set to “Silent Night,” and asked if we might record it. I grabbed my classical guitar, sought out my bandmate at the time, Casi Null, to sing harmony, and we sat in her apartment and recorded what you’ll hear. It’s unpolished (that’s a police car in the distance), but sweet. Encapsulated in its rich, dense lyrics is a host of the Buddha’s teaching on mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual development, and how to devote oneself to the path of enlightenment that leads to nirvana (or ‘nibbana,’ as the Pali word pronounces the more familiar Sanskrit one). Born 1948 in Southern California as Scott DuPrez, Bhante Rahula became a Buddhist monk in 1975 in 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. | May the peace of the season be with you. ~ Douglas John Imbrogno
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“A Buddhamas Carol (orOde 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.
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.
Bhante Yogavacara Rahula will visit Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., in the week ahead. Click on this previous post for details on his visit (Thursday evening and Saturday morning in Huntington and Friday evening and Saturday night in Charleston). Here is a 16-minute video of Bhante Rahula, a globe-trotting American-born Buddhist monk, giving a Dhamma talk on the nature and function of vipassana or insight meditation in the Buddhist tradition.
“The Buddhamas Carol” or “Ode of a Vipassana Yogi” was composed by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula with a little musical accompaniment by The Clementines. The lyrics are a short course in Buddhist teachings on the path to enlightenment. See more about Bhante Rahula below the lyrics and follow his world travels at bhanterahula.blogspot.com. Through the years, he has visited the Meditation Circle several times and is planning a return visit in 2016.
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“The Buddhamas Carol” by 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.
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Bhante Yogavacara Rahula
Bhante Rahula has led an interesting life, chronicled in his book “Autobiography of an American Monk.” Here is a little more more about him from a 2008 profile by Bill Lynch in the Charleston Gazette newspaper in West Virginia. He is planning on making a visit to Charleston and the Meditation Circle in 2016.
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Bhante Rahula’s story of how he went from typical hippie to clear-headed Buddhist monk is chronicled in his book, “One Night’s Shelter: Autobiography of an American Monk.” Two versions of the book exist. There’s the “green” version, which catalogs his extensive drug use and sexual escapades. It details his time as a drug dealer, mentions his time in the Army stockade for being AWOL, as well as his arrest and detainment in an Afghan prison after trying to smuggle drugs into India.
“That’s the toned-down version,” said the 59 year-old monk, laughing. “The other version is much juicier. More sex, more drugs, more rock ‘n’ roll.”
Bhante Rahula doesn’t celebrate who he was in the 1960s, but he’s not afraid of it. He’s at peace with it. If not for the constant craving for chemically induced experiences, he might not have found his way to the dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. Wishing now to have been different then is pointless.
“It’s all just grist for the mill,” he said. “Taking all of those drugs. I didn’t know any alternative
He acknowledges that he got off pretty easy. He made it out alive.
Becoming a Buddhist, then a monk started with his craving. He was always on the lookout for the next high, the next profound experience. While he was traveling in the mountains of Asia, he heard about a meditation course in Katmandu. He went looking for another experience, but stayed for the enlightenment.
“That was the turnaround for me,” he said. “I had this very deep insight, and I just wanted to pursue meditation and the dharma.”
I recently attended a retreat on Metta or loving-friendliness meditation at the Bhavana Society, led by the Buddhist monastery’s abbot, Bhante Gunaratana. You can experience that retreat for yourself, including all the great Dhamma talks and the very rich and fruitful Q-and-A sessions each evening with Bhante G, through the monastery’s YouTube channel video playlist devoted to the Metta retreat. Bhante G excels at off-the-cuff responses to a wide variety of Dhamma and life questions.
But I also wanted to point readers’ attention to the retreat’s closing talk (see video above) by a young American-born monk named Bhante Suddhaso, now in residence at Bhavana. It is a wonderful and inspiring talk on the importance of devoting oneself to Dhamma practice in one’s life and aspiring to make such practice central to one’s daily routines. In questions after the talk, he also speaks very movingly on working with self-hostility and self-forgiveness — when we don’t live up to the precepts or when we commit unwholesome actions. As he says, the entire ‘tone’ of the Buddha’s many teachings is about developing wholesome mental states and abandoning unwholesome ones. This talk is a great boon of encouragement to all of us in deepening our commitment to practice.
Those of you who have visited the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery in High View, W.Va., the first Therevadan forest monastery in North America, know what a special place it is. Led by internationally known abbot and Buddhist scholar Bhante Gunaratana, Bhavana is a rich source of Buddhist teachings rooted in the Pali canon and the Buddha’s original teachings. Within the past year, some lay followers have developed some social media sites that feature Dhamma videos of teachings by Bhante G and other Bhavana monks, Dhamma quotes and imagery.
Bhikku Piyadhammo, a monk friend who resided recently at the Bhavana Society, told me about a rich collection of Buddhist-themed videos that he maintains on a YouTube channel called “Dhammatube.” The channel, which features pithy short videos on useful topics to anyone interested in Buddhist practice, has a series of short interviews with a thoroughly charming young monk named Tan Dtoon. I like what a commentator to the video above said about him:
I like Tan Dtoon because he doesn’t seem lofty and rehearsed. There’s wisdom in his honesty and spontaneity…..even if he’s searching for the answer himself. There’s something about knowing yourself without putting on an act. I find that more impressive then pretending you have authority.
In this video, the monk talks about what Ajahn Chah and other monks have had to say about trying too hard in meditation, always a good topic to consider for anyone who has ever tried to keep a regular meditation practice going. We’ll be e-posting more Dhammatube videos.
Sister Dang Nhiem is a nun at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. She practices Zen Buddhism in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Sister D shows us the proper way to invite the sound of the bell. She also teaches us how to cultivate that peacefulness when we hear noises that might otherwise cause stress.
A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.