Browsing Category "Practice"
10 Aug
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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When It’s Good….

In the same Q&A session I wrote about yesterday, Ajahn Sucitto was also asked:
Do you think jhana training is necessary? [jhana: deep states of meditative absorption]

He says:
I think it’s very helpful. Train towards that. The degree to which one has results is sometimes dependent on one’s capability or one’s limitations or on situations. But train towards that because jhana training encourages one to keep discarding what’s not necessary.

It keeps us centering, centering, centering…and discarding that, discarding that…and protecting and enjoying the good (the qualities that develop as the mind purifies).

So it’s that attitude of homing in. But also of enjoying, deeply absorbing, taking in…. Anything you do with that attitude — it’s going to help in the process of training the mind not to keep skipping on and not to go off onto side tracks. And to stay on theme. And to enjoy the good.

This is absolutely necessary. To the degree to which your mind will stabilize into jhana — it takes time, you know, and certain capacities — but the attitude is one you must always bear in mind: Absorb into the good!

When it’s good — take it in, feel the quality of good. Because this is going to enrich you. If you skip off onto the next thing, you didn’t taste the fruit. You just picked it. But you didn’t taste it! So then it doesn’t have the deep effect.

***

Great! This is exactly what I’m going to be doing at the Concentration Retreat beginning August 19. Can’t wait!

9 Aug
2018
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Sucitto’s Advice for Dharma Teachers

In a different Q&A session from the one I posted yesterday (but from the same retreat), Ajahn Sucitto was asked:
What advice can you give upcoming Dhamma teachers in the West?

His answer:
More practice is necessary. And, kalyana mitta. 

Practice a lot. And cultivate kalyana mitta — spiritual friendship. Those are for anybody…not just Dhamma teachers…but for upcoming human beings! [laughter]

Practice a lot and stay with what you know. And don’t bluff. And seek kalyana mitta, who will help to tell you when you’re bluffing….and will accept you — love you — all the same.

That’s briefly speaking. I’m sure there’s much advice in detail you can get from other Dhamma teachers, but that would be my little piece in it.

***

Sounds like enough to me!

(The exchange above was part of this Q&A session (beginning at the 33-minute mark). The tape (at the time of this post) is incorrectly identified as Guided Meditation: Everything Unfolds from the Center. But it is, in fact, the recording of Q&A: Negotiating Contact and Gladdening the Mind, a session that also includes questions on the meaning of spirit, spiritual powers, consciousness creating duality, transmuting sexual energy, sampajanna, and jhana training. Click here to listen.)

8 Aug
2018
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It Begins to Shine

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ajahn Sucitto’s new talks lately and, as always, have come across several teachings that have grabbed my attention so powerfully, that I had to stop and let my heart drink it in. Here’s one from a recent Q&A session, in which he talks about the quality of adhitthana (usually translated as “resolve” or “determination”).

“Pick one or two parami [wholesome qualities such as: generosity, patience, honesty, goodwill, etc] that you really want to focus in on, and then you can do things [to deepen your commitment to this quality], like make an image of it.

“This is what shrines and rituals are about. You pick up on something, or you feel something where there’s a glow in your heart, a strength, a keenness… Yeah, a glow in your heart that says: This is meaningful; This is beautiful; This is strong; This is what I value — deeply. Or you look in your life and you think: What DO I value — deeply?

“If you’ve got one or two of those, you hold it and you contemplate it and you take it in — and it begins to shine, and fill you.

“Then you want to make some kind of image out of it. You can use a word for that — a verbal image — or a sound, or a chant or a prayer. Or you can make a physical image, like something you can fashion or paint, or just use flowers or sticks or something. And then you make a shrine. And you want to put that thing up there, and you want to look at it every day, and you want to offer things to it, and you want to bow at it — and then you’re establishing a real participating field with that quality. This is how you generate fields.

“You generate a meaningful field not just by thought, but by really placing something, going to it, enacting it, chanting it, praying to it — you know?

“Why do people do this? It’s not just because of some superstition. It’s because when you put it there and you keep activating it, potentizing it by your presence and by your actions — it starts to pay off. It starts to hold you. Yeah. And the next time you’re about to “lose it,” you remember that. You remember that, and you come back. You’ve look to that and you’ve thought about that every day and the next time you’re about to lose that quality — it brings you back.

“This adhitthana principle is something that I’ve used a lot. It’s powerful. You say what you resolve — and then, you listen. If something inside you says: That’s a good idea, then it’s not enough. So you say it again: I resolve this. If something says: Yeah, that’s interesting. Then no, that’s not good enough. So you say it again, until something in your heart goes: Mmmmm. Then you’ve got it. And maybe you fold your arms or you bow or something. Then that’s locked it.

“Then it’s not just a good idea. It’s not a thought that will later change its mind and say that’s NOT a good idea. This goes beyond that. You’ve planted something in the field.

“You don’t enter this field just by a little thought. You’ve got to plant it there. And then you’ve made that. And, at that depth, it holds you. It’s very powerful…..

“These are things that…. if it means something, it really… It does work. It works — on a level that’s difficult to explain rationally. Because the mind is not just rational. These are strong psychological potencies. When you make adhitthana, they go in there. This can be because you make a resolution with another person or because you know the “sign” of something that gives you faith and strength and then, if you get that sign, that’s fantastic. Then make the most of it. Really. Get it established strongly. And don’t think about it ‘working’ in terms of time…”

***

When I first hear this I had to get up right in the middle of it and go make a drawing. (A graphic symbol, actually.) Which is not quite in its finished form, but which I will put on my altar as soon as it is.

(The excerpt is edited for readability. It begins at about the 34-minute point on the tape, but really, you should listen to the whole thing. FYI: In this talk, he also gives a thorough and quite beautiful response to a question about female monastics. Click here.)

26 Jul
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice, Suttas
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Happily Ever After, and Even After That!

At Sunday Sangha last week we got into a discussion about the fact that of course we “cling” to our loved ones (spouses, children, grandchildren, etc.). And Brian mentioned that at a recent retreat, Bhikkhu Bodhi pointed out that while many of the Buddha’s teachings were given to monastics, many of them were not — they were given to “regular people,” who were married and had children, etc. — and that it’s important to know who the Buddha was talking to when we try to understand these teachings.

Which brought to mind the sutta where the Buddha tells Nakulapita and his wife Nakulamata how they could stay together and in love with each other as long as they lived….and on into future lives as well!

This discourse also shows that far from demanding that his lay disciples spurn the desires of the world, the Buddha was ready to show those still under the sway of worldly desire how to obtain the objects of their desire. The one requirement he laid down was that the fulfillment of desire be regulated by ethical principles.” (from In the Buddha’s Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Here’s what it says in the sutta:

“One morning the Blessed One dressed, took his upper robe and bowl, and went to the dwelling of the householder Nakulapita. Having arrived there, he sat down on the seat prepared for him. Then the householder Nakulapita and the housewife Nakulamata approached the Blessed One and, after paying homage to him, sat down to one side. So seated, the householder Nakulapita said to the Blessed One:

Venerable sir, ever since the young housewife Nakulamata was brought home to me when I too was still young, I am not aware of having wronged her even in my thoughts, still less in my deeds. Our wish is to be in one another’s sight so long as this life lasts and in the future life as well.

“Then Nakulamata the housewife addressed the Blessed One thus: Venerable sir, ever since I was taken to the home of my young husband Nakulapita, while being a young girl myself, I am not aware of having wronged him even in my thoughts, still less in my deeds. Our wish is to be in one another’s sight so long as this life lasts and in the future life as well.

“Then the Blessed One spoke this: If, householders, both wife and husband wish to be in one another’s sights so long as this life lasts and in the future life as well, they should have the same faith, the same moral discipline, the same generosity, the same wisdom; then they will be in one another’s sight so long as this life lasts and in the future life as well.” (AN 4:55)

***

How sweet is that!

24 Jul
2018
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Which Is Always Beaming in All Directions

The Dilation of What Seems Ordinary
from Things that Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living, by Mark Nepo

Just now, it happened again. My defenses were down, my memory machine asleep, my dream machine tired, and so the Mystery — which is always beaming in all directions — made it through. And the moment of clarity the Mystery releases is always like a return from amnesia. So this is what it means to be a person, how could I forget: To be alive, to look out from these small canyons called eyes, to receive light from the sun off the water and feel it shimmer on the water in my heart. To listen to the silence waiting under our stories, long enough that all the vanished words said over time simmer together to make me feel journeys beyond my own. Till I surface before you with a humbled sense of happiness. Not because I’m any closer to what I want, or even know what I want. But because in the flood of all that is living, I am electrified–the way a muscle dreams under the skin that holds it of lifting whatever needs to be lifted. 

23 Jul
2018
Posted in: Poems, Practice
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And So On, And So Forth

Zazen
by Jenny Xie

Sour tobacco, tofu bowl, bright.
Planks of hollyhock in Anhui,
the way I don’t know could open
months later like a hive.
Hard tide of shame that I thought
had dried out years ago.
Love’s barks grow watery, faint.
I walk the edge of an honest life.
The lash of carnal thoughts, followed
by the thin whip of banal guilt.
Hot yellow lights of cities
where I once pressed, over and over,
up against alternate lives.

Now, I sit. Above a deep ground.
The mind fetches the chatter.

And so on, and so forth.

17 Jul
2018
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Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. ME!

One of my dharma buddies sent me a great series of talks by Tenzin Palmo, a British woman who spent twelve years practicing in a remote cave in the Himalayas and was the first to receive full bhiksuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition. (Thanks Betsy!)

I haven’t listened to them all, but I plan to. Yesterday I listened to: Teaching on the Eight Verses of Mind, in which Palmo says:

“In Buddhism, pride means thinking we are superior to other people, but it also means thinking that we’re inferior to other people.

“Because if I think: Oh, I’m the most stupid person here; I’m hopeless; I can’t do anything; All these people, they’re so wonderful…. Or when you’re on retreat: Oh, everybody else is deep in the first jhana or at least some samadhi, I’m the only one that’s been caught up in these wondering thoughts…. That is not humility. That’s just the inverse of the ego, beating itself up.

“The ego is very happy to be miserable. Because, if we are miserable (especially full of self-pity) about how awful and hopeless and stupid we are…. what are we thinking about?

“Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Oh poor Me. Oh stupid Me. Oh hopeless Me. — ME!”

***

She nailed that one.

The whole talk is really quite wonderful. It’s long, but it’s worth it. (The excerpt above begins at about the 29 minute mark.) Click here to listen.

16 Jul
2018
Posted in: Books, Groups, Practice
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Heartwood

Our Dharma Book Group meets tonight (we’re reading In the Buddha’s Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi), and it looks like our discussion will take us into The Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Heartwood (MN 29), which includes one of my favorite quotes from the Buddha.

Here’s what Bhikkhu Bodhi has to say:

“The sutta is about a ‘clansman’ who has gone forth from the household life into homelessness intent on reaching the end of suffering. Though earnest in purpose at the time of his ordination, once he attains some success, whether a lower achievement like gain and honor or a superior one like concentration and insight, he becomes complacent and neglects his original purpose in entering the Buddha’s path. The Buddha declares that none of these stations along the way — not moral discipline, concentration, or even knowledge and vision — is the final goal of the spiritual life…”

The Buddha says, “But it is the unshakeable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end.”

***

“Unshakeable liberation of mind.” I just love that!

12 Jul
2018
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Something Naturally Arises

Another excerpt from Ajahn Sucitto, this time from a beautiful little talk (less than 12 minutes long!) in which he suggests “entering into a relational field” — instead of reacting to things in terms of “subject-and-object.” (Thanks for pointing me to this one, Carolyn.)

Sucitto says, “Be on guard for any time we see something as an ‘object’ — especially if it’s a person — (oh, her…or he’s my boss…or she’s my wife…). As soon as you get one of those: Uh-oh! You’ve just whistled up a problem! Because objects in that experience are always saturated with unconscious craving, resistance of various kinds, and mental factors we haven’t acknowledged.

“When that happens, it’s time to: Stop. And check. Not the object or the subject, but: What’s the relational tone of mind?  Is it ill will; is it regret; is it nagging; is it hungry; is it blaming; is it comparing; is it ‘should-be’; is it ‘if only he was…’

“Ask what is happening in that relational field. And then: could that activity just stop….and take a break — a break from suffering!

“Then from there, take a breather and ask: What seems important now? What’s the one important gesture now? 

“Then from that place, you can just… have a little bit of give. Because: Why not? And it makes you feel good!

“The more you can enter that kind of place, the more you can get all kinds of growth, development, understanding, realization… Shifts can occur. In relationship with other people. In relationship with yourself!

“….So, entering the relational field: It’s always kind of fresh because it’s not pre-conceived. Even a good strategy like: OK, I will be loving and peaceful. That’s a nice idea, but it’s an ideal. And where does that come from? [laughter]

“Instead, could something naturally arise…through the relinquishment of mental obstructions. That’s really a mystical and religious experience — when something naturally arises — which is not myself.

“And it happens. Definitely. It happens.”

***

This excerpt is edited and condensed. I highly recommend listening to the whole talk (and doing it more than once!). Click here.

11 Jul
2018
Posted in: Practice
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Yet Another Reason to Know How to Meditate

A friend just told me she heard this on BBC news (thanks, Judy):

Thailand cave rescue:
Meditation led by coach helped the boys survive terrifying ordeal, family say

“The 12 Thai boys and their football coach who were trapped in a cave in Thailand got through the ordeal by practicing meditation, family members have said.

“According to a mother of one of the boys, the team were meditating in the widely shared video of their discovery by two British divers.

“‘Look at how calm they were sitting there waiting. No one was crying or anything. It was astonishing,’ she told the Associated Press.

“The coach who was rescued from the cave on Tuesday, trained as a Buddhist monk for 12 years before he decided to coach the Wild Boars soccer team.

“‘He could meditate up to an hour,’ said his aunt, Tham Chanthawong. ‘It has definitely helped him and probably helps the boys to stay calm.'”

***

Wow, you just never know when it’ll come in handy!

(This story appeared yesterday in the Evening Standard. To read the full article, click here.)