Right View…plus some Encouraging Words

“The ability not to get discouraged by events comes down to your ability to keep talking to yourself with the right tone of voice, saying the right things to yourself. That’s what right view is all about. Remind yourself that no matter how bad things get or how long the dry stretches seem to last, it’s not the end. The possibility for knowledge is always there. This is one of the amazing things about the mind: It’s always aware. There’s always that potential for knowledge, for understanding. Sometimes it may seem weak, but it’s there, and you can encourage it. That’s how, when things get bad, you can become your own best counselor, your own best advisor, so that when things crash, not everything gets demolished. Your determination not to keep on suffering: That’ll see you through.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “When Things Aren’t Going Well”

https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/Meditations5/Section0027.html

 

 

 

 

Essential Attitudes for Meditation

“The mind itself is a set of events, and you participate in those events every time you look inward. Meditation is participatory observation: what you are looking at responds to the process of looking. In this case, what you are looking at is you, and what you see depends on how you look. Thus, the process of meditation is extremely delicate, and the result depends absolutely on the state of mind of the meditator. The following attitudes are essential to the success in practice:

1. 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 results whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and its own directions. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to our expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspention 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.

2) Don’t strain. Don’t force anything or make grand, exaggerated efforts. Meditation is not aggressive. There is no place or need for violent striving. Just let you effort be relaxed and steady.

3) 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.

4) Don’t cling to anything and don’t reject anything. Let come what comes, and accommodate yourself to that. Whatever it is. If good mental images arise, that is fine. If bad images arise, that’s fine, too. Look on all of it as equal and make yourself comfortable with whatever happens. Don’t fight with what you experience, just observe it all mindfully.

5) Let go. Learn to flow with all the changes that come up. Loosen up and relax.

6) Accept everything that rises. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even ones you hate. Don’t condemn yourself for having human flaws or failings. Learn to see all the phenomena as being perfectly natural and understandable. Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times with respect to everything you experience.

7) Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. You may not be perfect, but you are all you’ve got to work with. The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.

8) Investigate yourself. Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don’t believe anything because it sounds wise and pious and some holy man said it. See for yourself. That does not mean that you should be cynical, imprudent, or irreverent. It means you should be empirical. Subject all the statements to the act or test of your own experience, and let the  results be your guide to truth. Insight meditation evolves out of an inner longing to wake up to what is real and to gain liberating insight into the true structure of existence. The entire practice hinges on this desire to be awake to the truth. Without it, the practice is superficial.

9) View all problems as challenges. Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow. Don’t run from them, condemn yourself or bury your burden in saintly silence. You have a problem? Great. More grists for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate.

10) Don’t ponder. You don’t need to figure everything out. This cursive thinking won’t free you from the trap. In meditation the mind is purified naturally by mindfulness, by wordless bare attention. Habitual deliberation is not necessary to eliminate those things that are keeping you in bondage. All that is necessary is a clear, conceptual perception of what they are and how they work. That alone is sufficient to dissolve them. Concepts and reasoning just get in the way. Don’t think. See.

11) Don’t dwell upon contrast. Differences do exist between people but dwelling upon them is a dangerous process. Unless carefully handled, this leads directly to egotism. Ordinary human thinking is full of greed, jealousy, and pride.

The meditator’s job is to cancel this unskillful habit by examining it throughly and then replacing it with another. Rather than noticing the differences between oneself and others, the meditator trains him- or herself to notice the similarities. She centers her attention on those factors that are univeral to all life. Things that will move her closer to others. Then her comparisons, if any, lead to feelings of kinship rather than of estrangement.

Bhante Gunaratana (2015)
Mindfulness in Plain English
20th Anniversary Ed.
Wisdom Publications, p 33-36

 

A Definition of Mindfulness

Bhante Gunaratana’s Definition of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness (Sati)
Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word  sati .  Sati  is an activity. What exactly is that? There can be no precise answer, at least not in words. Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind, and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness is presymbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, mindfulness can be experienced—rather easily—and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the moon itself. The actual experience lies beyond the words and above the symbols. Mindfulness could be described in completely different terms than will be used here, and each description could still be correct.
Mindfulness is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal—quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality that gives rise to words—the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. So it is important to understand that everything that follows here is analogy. It is not going to make perfect sense. It will always remain beyond verbal logic. But you can experience it. The meditation technique called  vipassana  (insight) that was introduced by the Buddha about twenty-five centuries ago is a set of mental activities specifically aimed at experiencing a state of uninterrupted mindfulness.
When you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize the thing, before you identify it. That is a state of awareness. Ordinarily, this state is short-lived. It is that flashing split second just as you focus your eyes on the thing, just as you focus your mind on the thing, just before you objectify it, clamp down on it mentally, and segregate it from the rest of existence. It takes place just before you start thinking about it—before your mind says, “Oh, it’s a dog.” That flowing, soft-focused moment of pure awareness is mindfulness. In that brief flashing mind-moment you experience a thing as an un-thing. You experience a softly flowing moment of pure experience that is interlocked with the rest of reality, not separate from it. Mindfulness is very much like what you see with your peripheral vision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central vision. Yet this moment of soft, unfocused awareness contains a very deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and objectify the object into a thing. In the process of ordinary perception, the mindfulness step is so fleeting as to be unobservable. We have developed the habit of squandering our attention on all the remaining steps, focusing on the perception, cognizing the perception, labeling it, and most of all, getting involved in a long string of symbolic thought about it. That original moment of mindfulness is rapidly passed over. It is the purpose of  vipassana  meditation to train us to prolong that moment of awareness.
When this mindfulness is prolonged by using proper techniques, you find that this experience is profound and that it changes your entire view of the universe. This state of perception has to be learned, however, and it takes regular practice. Once you learn the
technique, you will find that mindfulness has many interesting aspects.

 

 

Harmonious Speech

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Text from the website “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” by Lynn J. Kelly

A second category of Right Speech (after truthfulness) is harmonious speech, or refraining from saying things with the intention of dividing people or groups from each other. It is a challenging moment in history, in many places, to hold to this principle. Our public discourse seems to have descended to a level where hardly anything can be said without someone objecting.

Behind this trend is an increasing strain of “us vs. them” thinking, writing, and talking. It is human nature to prefer “our own” people to those who seem different, whether by dint of language, class, education, nationality, color, ethnicity, age, gender, political position, etc. The boundaries between groups are variable (not fixed), and in any given moment we can create or destroy categories in our own mind. In some situations a particular “us-them” divide arises and in other situations it dissipates. When others express strong opinions, sometimes we may be infected with a divisive mind-set. Likewise, we may feel inspired when we witness harmonious speech.

Extra-terrestrial invasion was a theme of 20th century science fiction, in some cases specifically in order to create an “us” out of world-wide humanity. It seems as if we only pull together if there is an outside threat of some sort, whether from a natural disaster or other causes. But we don’t need an enemy, real or imagined, to consider ourselves “us” with every living being. We have the option of remembering that we are all in the same situation with respect to old age, sickness, and death. We are all subject to the vagaries of weather, bad luck, and the random nature of our world. We are all trapped together in saṃsāra.

Saṃsāra: The word literally means “wandering through, flowing on”, in the sense of “aimless and directionless wandering”. The concept of saṃsāra is closely associated with the belief that the person continues to be born and reborn in various realms and forms [Wikipedia]. This is our condition, wandering aimlessly in search of comfort and fleeing discomfort, never reaching any resting place except temporarily. 

It’s our actions and words that make our world, not how we feel about a particular person or group of people. In the end, only kind intentions and the words and actions that come from them are beneficial.

So when we are tempted to righteous indignation, to denigrating or dismissing others, we would do well to pause and consider: How would words spoken in anger, even (or especially) righteous anger, be received? Would they bring about healing or hurting? Would they persuade others to our position or harden their opposition? Are we able to bring enough awareness to our speech to avoid divisiveness?

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Creating our lives

PHOTO BY Matt Briney https://unsplash.com/photos/0tfz7ZoXaWc

“We’re creating our lives. And even when the mind seems to be simply spinning its wheels, it’s not just idly spinning its wheels. It’s creating new states of being, new possibilities — some of which are good, some of which are not so good. You have to keep that principle always in mind as you’re meditating. You’re not simply here innocently watching what’s going on without any responsibility for what you’re experiencing. You’re responsible for your experiences — through your actions in the past and in the present moment. On the one hand, this sounds a little onerous because nobody likes to take responsibility. On the other hand, though, it’s empowering. If you don’t like the present moment, you can create a new present moment because the opportunities to do so are endless.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“Producing Experience” (Meditations1)

BHANTE G AT THE UNITED NATIONS

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.

The point of equilibrium

Excerpt from “Finding the Center” in chapter 2 of “Untangling Self” by Andrew Olendzki:

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

Bhante Jayasara to visit area May 19-20 and 21, 2018

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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.”

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For more on Bhante J, visit his personal blog at:
bhikkhujayasara.wordpress.com 

When this mind is clear and bright…

Photo by Bekir Donmez (unsplash.com)

When this mind is clear and bright
And is not covered over,
Then you are not very different
From the sages.
If you allow no wavering
From this clarity, and do not
Let it change,
And do not cling to it,
And do not neglect it:
This is learning.
Just protect it all the time
And do not damage its clarity.

– Luo Hongxian (1504-1564)
Quote courtesy dailyzen.com

The other option


“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.”
 
Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English,” pp. 6-7

What we can give

“So remember, we’re here to go beyond ourselves, to go beyond just being beings that are consuming all the time. We try to redefine ourselves, not by what we eat or what we own or what we consume, but by what we produce, what we can give. Making this switch in the mind changes everything. Difficult patches come up in the meditation and you ask yourself not, “Why is this so bad? Does this mean I’m a miserable meditator?” You say, “No, what can I give to this situation so that it doesn’t snowball? What resources do I still have? What can I draw on to give to the situation to turn it into a different kind of situation?” When things are going well, again, what do you give to make sure that they continue to go well?”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“Better to Give than to Consume” (Meditations6)

A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.