A few thoughts on Right Effort

Image of gluttony by Artemio Rodriguez. Click image for artist site.

Right Effort is our current discussion theme of the month for the Meditation Circle. (See the post below for more on that.) Robin shares some thoughts on this essential part of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Add your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section:

ROBIN WRITES: Reading over the elements of right effort I thought of the seven deadly sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. (Wikipedia has a good summary right here.) I was struck by how what is considered a sin changes in time and cultural context.  I’m also interested in the varying approach to how effort can reduce sins/distance from Buddha nature.  Often it seems non effort is what helps bad habits fall away.  For example, being aware could keep one from gluttony by being conscious of the following: bad health effects, the injustice of taking more than ones share, tuning into biological signals of when one has had enough, and the use of food as a tranquilizer/depressant for unfelt pain.

However, in traditional Christianity it often seems more of a battle between good and evil behavior. The cure for sloth was to run at top speed – maybe this would work?  I like the idea of finding the right balance.  Do you think all the deadly sins have a positive reason when they are in balance?

All is fully interpenetrating…

Indra’s Net of Pearls

Subject and object from the start
Are no different,
The myriad things nothing
But images in the mirror.
Bright and resplendent,
Transcending both guest and host,
Complete and realized,
All is permeated by the absolute.
A single form encompasses
The multitude of dharmas,
All of which are interconnected
Within the net of Indra.
Layer after layer there is no
Point at which it all ends,
Whether in motion or still,
All is fully interpenetrating.

– Zhitong (d.1124)

LETTER FROM MOSCOW: Tolstoy and Buddhism

Meditation Circle member Robin Wilson is in Moscow, visiting his son and daughter-in-law (she’s a New York Times correspondent posted to Russia). He e-mailed this blogpost to us on Sunday:

Yesterday, I visited a Tolstoy Museum in Moscow. Tolstoy was the inspiration and name for the first commune I moved to in 1964.  Tolstoy became a champion of nonviolence, vegetarianism, simple living, anti-inheritance, free schools, and anti-authoritarian government through his writing and experiments.  Also, as the piece from Wikipedia below points out he was influenced by Buddhist thought.  In a nice example of international “what goes around comes around,” Henry David Thoreau influenced Tolstoy, who influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King. ~ from Robin Wilson

On Tolstoy (from Wikipedia):

The years 1856–61 were passed between Petersburg, Moscow, Yasnaya, and foreign countries. In 1857 (and again in 1860-61) he traveled abroad and returned disillusioned by the selfishness and materialism of European bourgeois civilization, a feeling expressed in his short story “Lucerne” and more circuitously in “Three Deaths.” As he drifted towards a more oriental worldview with Buddhist overtones, Tolstoy learned to feel himself in other living creatures. He started to write “Kholstomer,” which contains a passage of interior monologue by a horse. Many of his intimate thoughts were repeated by a protagonist of “The Cossacks,” who reflects, falling on the ground while hunting in a forest: Continue reading LETTER FROM MOSCOW: Tolstoy and Buddhism

Thought for the Day: When falsity is extinguished …

Although we know that a
Frozen pond is entirely water,
The sun’s heat is necessary to melt it.
Although we awaken to the fact
That an ordinary person is Buddha,
The power of dharma is necessary
To make it permeate our cultivation.
When the pond has melted,
The water flows freely.
When falsity is extinguished,
The mind will be numinous
And dynamic and then its function
Of penetrating brightness will manifest.

– Kuei-feng

quote from www.dailyzen.com

“The Buddhamas Carol” or “Ode to the Vipassana Yogi”

NOTE ON LOADING TIMES: Try waiting a few seconds before starting the show, to give it a little time to load. With a fast connection (or mindful patience) you can watch the show full-screen by clicking on the ‘four-arrows’ icon at lower right of the viewing screen.



SO, BHANTE YOGAVACARA RAHULA, an American Buddhist monk, stayed at my house earlier this year. We lodged him downstairs in a guest room that shares space with my home rehearsal and recording space. I came back from work to find he’d written and recorded on my BR 600 notebook recorder what he called “a Buddhist Christmas carol.” It’s about a yogi who sits down and attains enlightenment one silent night. My monk friend titled it “The Buddhamas Carol or Ode to the Vipassana Yogi.” Since monks aren’t supposed to become the next Myspace web stars, I recorded the song with harmonies by The Clementines, which would be Casi Null and myself. It’s a rough recording with a lot of ambient noise in it. (I recorded Casi at her kitchen table in a drive-by visit to her new digs in Princeton, W.Va., near the Riff Raff Art Collective. I think at one point, you hear Hendrix the Dog skittering across the linoleum kitchen floor). One day, we’ll do a proper recording in a real live studio with a sound engineer who knows his stuff. The lyrics are below. Let us know what you think. For more on Bhante Rahula, see here and here.

NOTE ON USAGE: Feel free to republish the song on your site, use the lyrics for your own version of the song (or slideshow). Or get the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to cover the tune. If you do record your own version, let me know (contacting me here) and I’ll post it here. If you republish it somewhere, it would be appreciated if you listed the web address: bhavanasociety.org.


A Buddhamas Carol
or Ode of a Vipassana Yogi

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 goodwill 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 feels light,
All the Five Hinderances 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,

CHORUS: Sitting in Joyful Peace, Sitting in Blissful Peace.

Silent Mind, focused Mind,
Awareness is strong, 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 flows,
The Five Aggregates appear empty as foam,
The Truth of No-Self is readily shown,

Sitting in insightful Joy, Sitting in insightful Joy…

Silent Mind, Equanimous Mind,
Awareness is clear, 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 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, Wisdom 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.

WORDS: By Bhante Yogavacara Rahula | bhavanasociety.org
By The Clementines and the RiffRaff Choir

A meditation on recycling…

I liked Meditation Circle member Craig Wilger’s letter to the editor (below) in the Friday, Dec. 12, 2008 “Reader’s Forum” of the Charleston Gazette. Isn’t the way we systematically plunder and gobble up the planet’s resources and places a spiritual malaise? (Or in a memorable line about voracious humanity from Bruce Cockburn’s “If a Tree Falls”: Busy monster eats dark holes in the spirit world…” Recycling may take only a sliver of the trash back from the torrent we vomit out daily because of the way we like to live. But along the way we role model a more sustainable and truer way of living. The letter below Craig’s makes an equally salient point — why must recycling pay for itself when it’s OK to toss out as much trash as you wish, while everyone pays the same  fee for pickup? (P.S. Don’t you like the way newspaper letters still begin with ye olde “Editor:” salutation? Can you imagine blog comments beginning that way? Many are more likely to start “Dolt!”)


I applaud South Charleston’s Frank Mullens and city council for standing strong with recycling. The very act of recycling is symbolic of a willingness to turn away from a way of living that considers only the immediate and insatiable need to consume. Rather it looks toward a future for our children based on a respect for ourselves and for the land’s limited resources. Continue reading A meditation on recycling…

Keep your karma in good working order…

Searching for Gathered Fragrance Temple
miles of mountains rise into clouds.
Ancient trees darken the narrow trail.
Where is that mountain temple bell?
Snowmelt crashes down on boulders,
the sun grows cold in the pines before
it drowns in the lake.
Keep your karma in good working order;
many dragons lie in wait.

~ Wang Wei (701-761)
courtesy DailyZen.com

NEXT MEETING: Meditation Circle at 6 p.m. Tues, Dec. 9

Need some down time from the holiday hustle (not mention bustle)? The Meditation Circle of Charleston will meet from 6 to 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregration, 520 Kanawha Blvd., in Charleston, W.Va. See the ‘About‘ page for more on the group. Newcomers to meditation are welcome.

Our current discussion theme is Right Action. The second ethical principle of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, Right Action involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind… Read on.


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Discussion Theme: ‘Right Action’

The December theme for Meditation Circle discussion is Right Action. Here’s a definition for this element of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, from the website we’re using to guide us:

The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts.

Article: Measuring meditation’s effects

Science is catching up to what meditation masters have taught for a long, long while:

For thousands of years, Buddhist meditators have claimed that the simple act of sitting down and following their breath while letting go of intrusive thoughts can free one from the entanglements of neurotic suffering.

Now, scientists are using cutting-edge scanning technology to watch the meditating mind at work. They are finding that regular meditation has a measurable effect on a variety of brain structures related to attention — an example of what is known as neuroplasticity, where the brain physically changes in response to an intentional exercise…

Read the rest of the article here. (Thanks to Robin for the link).

Quote: Fearless energy…

Practice is nothing other than the
capacity to arouse fearless energy.
Without this energy,
whatever practices you perform,
whatever virtuous feelings you have,
all are without substance.
Without this energy,
will you be prepared when
you come face to face with death
in your ordinary state of mind?
How then will you persevere over other hardships?

~ Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655)
courtesy www.dailyzen.com


November Discussion: Right Intention

OUR NOVEMBER 2008 discussion theme is ‘Right Intention.’ Here’s a definition from the website we’re using as we guide ourselves through regular discussions of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Have the intention of sharing your thoughts on this topic in the ‘Comments’ above or at Tuesday’s gathering:

RIGHT INTENTION: While Right View refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion. ~ from www.thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html

Loving-kindness Meditation

We’ve had a couple of requests for the metta (loving-kindness) meditation we do at the Meditation Circle of Charleston. It is adapted from a metta meditation done by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot at the Bhavana Society.

May I be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to me, may difficulties not last long, may I have a calm, centered mind. May I have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May my parents be well happy and peaceful.  May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life. Continue reading Loving-kindness Meditation

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