29 Aug
2012
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One Book

At the end of the retreat, someone asked the teachers what “one book” they would recommend….like the Bible or the Koran….to read/study/ponder as a guide in following the Buddhist path.

Phillip Moffitt immediately suggested The Middle Length Discourses: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi. It’s the main text for the Dedicated Practitioner Program, and it’s definitely on par with the Bible and Koran, but frankly it’s a bit….daunting.

Sally Armstrong and Andrea Fella both suggested The Life of the Buddha, by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. That’s a new one for me, but coming so highly recommended, it must be worth checking out.

Here’s the description on Amazon.com: “Composed entirely of texts from the Pail canon, this unique biography presents the oldest authentic record of the Buddha’s life and revolutionary philosophy. The ancient texts are rendered here in a language marked by lucidity and dignity, and a framework of narrators and voices connect the canonical texts. Vivid recollections of his personal attendant Ananda and other disciples bring the reader into the Buddha’s presence, where his example offers profound inspiration and guidance on the path to freedom.”

I think I’ll add it to my list.

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

28 Aug
2012
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“Dancing” with Phillip

I talked with Phillip Moffitt after the retreat and told him about the two KM groups we’ve organized to discuss his book, Dancing with Life. I told him that one of the groups is taking the time to read the book out loud, word for word, during the meetings — then stopping to discuss whatever anyone wants to discuss. And that the other group is reading the book at home, in short sections, then bringing a sentence or two to discuss with the group.

He was really touched by the care and attention we are taking and asked that I post something about our methods on his Facebook page. (Which I did, here.)

He also said that I should emphasize to the groups that the 4 Noble Truths (which are what he uses for the basis of his book) are not just Truths that are Noble, but in fact, are Truths that Ennoble. He said that he mentioned this point in the book, but was advised not to press it too strongly, for fear (on the publisher’s part) that it would not be understood.

Seems pretty clear to me. But OK.

Phillip was very insistent that I make this point to the group. The truths that the Buddha taught are not just noble in themselves; they are truths that ennobles us.

There you go.

Straight from Phillip to you.

(image from  “Dancing in Colombia,” by Fernando Botero) 

27 Aug
2012
Posted in: Retreats
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The Gift of Attention

I want to write about what it was like being on retreat, about the beauty of the land, the bell in the dark of the morning, the palpable presence of stillness in a room of 100 people, the happiness and the boredom, the discomfort, the striving, the confusion, and the peace. But it’s all just words.

What I really want is for you to experience this for yourself.

But I know that’s not possible for everyone.

If you can’t find a way to get away on retreat, then maybe you can find a quiet place, even for just a few minutes a day, where you can sit relaxed and undisturbed, and give the gift of attention to yourself.

Maybe you could even listen to one of the morning instructions we heard at the retreat, like this one here, given by Phillip Moffitt.

24 Aug
2012
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So Quiet

I’m back from the Spirit Rock retreat and after 10 days of silence, I’m still feeling a bit of a loss for words. So I think I’ll just post some photos I took one morning, while I was taking a walk after breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Aug
2012
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On Retreat till August 24

I’ll be at away on retreat at Spirit Rock from Monday, August 13 through Thursday, August 23, so I won’t be posting on Dharma Town till I get back. This will be my first retreat focused on Concentration Practice and I’m really looking forward to it. The teachers are Phillip Moffitt, Sally Armstrong, Andrea Fella and Tempel Smith.

Here’s what the Spirit Rock Program Calendar says about the retreat:
“Concentration (samadhi), defined as the collection and unification of the mind, was emphasized by the Buddha as one of the aspects of the Eightfold Path. It can bring joy to your practice and develop the skillful use of pleasure in the meditation process. Whatever your level of practice, you can improve your Insight Meditation (vipassana) by strengthening your concentration skills. Your ability to concentrate will develop in response to the attention you give it.

“The retreat offers a series of techniques for staying on the meditation object for extended periods of time. We will explore the factors of concentration that lead to the deep absorption states known as jhana. Teachers will also give instruction utilizing concentration during insight practice.”

Stay tuned!

(image from Sprit Rock publications)

9 Aug
2012
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Perfect

At the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group last night….just as we were starting the meditation…someone, somewhere in the building, started practicing the drums.

Such is life.

It would have been even more fitting if I had brought the passage that I had planned to read, which is a teaching from Ajahn Chah, titled: Who is Bothering Whom?:

“In our practice, we think that noises, cars, voices, sights, are distractions that come and bother us when we want to be quiet. But who is bothering whom?

“Actually, we are the ones who go and bother them. The car, the sound, is just following its own nature.

“We bother things through some false idea that they are outside us and cling to the ideal of remaining quiet, undisturbed.

“Learn to see that it is not things that bother us, that we go out to bother them. See the world as a mirror. It is all a reflection of mind.

“When you know this, you can grow in every moment, and every experience reveals truths and brings understanding.”

–from A Still Forest Pool: The Insight Mediation of Achaan Chah, by Jack Kornfield and Paul Breiter

(image from A Whole World, by Couprie and Louchard)

8 Aug
2012
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Receiving with Generosity

The latest issue of Spirit Rock News includes an excerpt from Phillip Moffitt‘s terrific new book, Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life.

The excerpt is about generosity, which “does not mean self-sacrifice or reckless giving everything away. Such acts,” Phillip writes, “are actually grandiosity disguised as generosity.”

I love that he talks about generosity in such, well….generous terms. He says, “In daily life, generosity means receiving each moment with a generous attitude and meeting it with patience.”

“When interacting with friends or strangers, you give them your full attention as you listen to their words, and you interpret their actions with sympathy, even when they are clumsy.

“You cultivate magnanimous thoughts that allow you to see others in their best light and to interpret their actions as well-meaning until proven otherwise.

“Being generous in your thoughts doesn’t mean that you’re naive or that you permit a wrong action to go uncorrected. Rather, it means that you treat every one as innately worthy of your respect and care.”

What a beautiful way to live.

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

Note: Dharma Town Times got hit last night with a major spam attack, so I’ve temporarily closed the comments section. You can always send a comment directly to me here.

7 Aug
2012
Posted in: Practice
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Engaged

The topic for this month’s DPP homework is Socially Engaged Buddhism. There’s a lot of reading this month, which I expect I will be posting about later on, but one of the reflections and related practice exercises has already captured my attention.

The question is: How do I work with strong emotions…such as anger, despair, sadness, etc…..that arise about the state of the world?

The practice is: When you notice yourself with a fixed opponent or “enemy”….someone you know or a public figure….investigate how you think, feel, and speak about this person, and notice if you are developing a strongly polarized position in relationship to him/her.

Hmmmm.

 

 

 

 

(image from Phaidon Portraits)

6 Aug
2012
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“Dancing” Tonight

Tonight the Monday night “Dancing” KM Group meets for our on-going discussion of “Dancing with Life,” by Phillip Moffitt. So far, we’ve read to the end of Chapter 6, “The Call to Know That You Know.” As always, we bring a sentence, phrase or paragraph from the current reading to discuss with the group.

I’ve chosen a couple of snippets from various paragraphs on page 61:

“….beginner’s mind requires you to forsake your desires and ideas about what you will accomplish.”

The Buddha cautioned: ‘The future is always other than you imagined it.'”

Look to those far lofty peaks of enlightenment, heaven, or paradise for inspiration, but live in the now. For in this moment, you are either creating suffering for yourself and others, or you are not.”

(I hope I am not.)

 

 

 

(image from A Whole World, by Couprie and Louchard)

3 Aug
2012
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7 Things on a String

I had such a good time finding 10 Things to represent the 10 Perfections (which I wrote about here), that I decided to do something similar for the 7 Factors of Awakening.

This time I chose things I could string. I started with a little brass bell for mindfulness (sati), then bone, glass and clay beads for investigation (dhamma-vicaya), energy (viriya), joy (piti), and tranquility (passaddhi), a polished jade circle for concentration (samadhi), and a little silver heart for equanimity (upekkha).

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them now. The string is a little too heavy to wear as a bracelet, but I like having it on my desk and picking it up every now and then. It makes a nice little jingling sound that I find…well….pleasant.

I also like that it reminds me of what U Tejaniya says about the 7 Factors: “The first three factors — mindfulness, investigation and energy — are causes. The latter four — joy, tranquility, concentration and equanimity — are effects. We need to cultivate the causes, because these are what we can work on. We don’t need to do anything for the effects. We can’t create them, nor can be make them happen.”