Attentive, Awake and Aware, by Ajahn Sumedho

Standing Bodhisattva, probably Avalokiteshvara, Anuradhapura period, ca. 8th century, Sri Lanka. © Metropolitan Museum of ArtAt ease and relaxed but attentive, awake and aware with the attitude of the knower, the observer, just witness the feelings, emotions, thoughts, memories and sensations that come and go; just observe the breathing, the experience of the body sitting, and maybe the ‘sound of silence’ (the background to the sounds of the traffic). This attitude of being here and now in the present is what we call ‘cultivation’ (bhavana), which is reminding oneself that there is only the present. The body is present now ― it is ‘like this’; the breathing is now ― it is ‘like this’; the ‘sound of silence’ is ‘like this’. Be aware of your mental state, your mood ― right now. Is it happy, sad, confused, peaceful, anxious or worried? The quality of your mental state is not the issue here because you are not being the judge or owner of what is present but only the witness. Many experiences don’t really have a clear-cut quality to them, do they? You might feel confused, uncertain, anxious, a lack of clarity and a general feeling of unease, sadness or loneliness, but reflecting that ‘it is like this’ or ‘this is the way it is’ is using the thinking process not to define or judge but to point to ― ‘My mood at this moment is like this.’ By just thinking these words, you become aware of your mental state, while at the same time being aware of the body and the breath. So this is discerning rather than discriminating. It isn’t a judgemental process but an observing, a witnessing without judging anything as right, wrong, good or bad. Continue reading

What really works? By Ajahn Sumedho

Question: An academic friend of mine has done some research and come up with the theory that the historical Buddha didn’t really live, that the Buddhist teachings were of a later period. Is the personality of the Buddha important for Buddhist practice?

The Buddha Shakyamuni, Five Past Buddhas, and Maitreya. ca. 15th century, Tibet © Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ajahn Sumedho: It’s a convention. It doesn’t matter whether there was ever a Buddha or not, it still works. If you want to say there was nobody like Siddhattha Gotama who became the Buddha, and this was all made up by Joe Bloggs, or somebody, it still wouldn’t make any difference in terms of practice. People, now, want to prove that Jesus Christ never existed. There’s a great deal of interest in history, in trying to prove that this didn’t actually happen, or this person didn’t really exist, but that is being very simplistic and shows a blind faith in history as being reality.

What works? What really works? This you have to find out for yourself. I find the Buddhist convention a very skilful one for me. Buddha was really not leaving anything to be grasped, and so one often feels frustrated by the practice. There’s something in us that wants to grasp something and hold on, but every time we do, it’s pulled out. So you may become an Advaita-Vedantist for a while because you would really like a metaphysical doctrine, or you would like to have, say, Buddha-nature. ‘That’s it!’ You know, get a nice name for it, something you can name and have faith in. But in the long run, even that is relinquished, even the hope and the need for grasping anything, any concept. The Simile of the Raft is a very good simile of what the Buddha was teaching. He was just giving us a convenient vehicle, a practical vehicle to use, not something to hold or grasp, but to use. Continue reading

Ethnicity and Buddhism in the UK, by Noy Thomson

Noy ThomsonEthnicity and Buddhism in the UK, by Noy Thomson (Thai name Mom Rajawongse Saisvasdi Svastis Thomson) at The ‘British Buddhist Landscape —Transplantation and Growth’ conference.

 Talk given on Saturday June 28 2008 at Taplow Court. The conference was organised by the Network of Buddhist Organisations (UK) & The Institute of Oriental Philosophy-UK

How Things Are, by Ajahn Sumedho

Laos Mosaic  Photo: Janet NovakNow, investigating the way things are, we observe. What I have been doing so far this evening is reflecting out loud. What it is that we all have to bear with is having to accept the sensory world for what it is, from whatever extremes it manifests, the best and the worst of it. And reflecting on it means that we have a perspective on it. We suddenly see that this is what life is all about; it’s being sensitive, and having to bear with this whole experience of being born, growing up, getting old, and dying. This is what we are all involved with. This is what life is for us at this time. We are all alive now, living within the restrictions of our bodies and minds. Whether you like it, approve of it, or whatever, it doesn’t matter. We are not saying it’s good or it’s bad — just re­flecting that this is the way it is. We are not judging it. Continue reading

Is awareness lonely? Ajahn Sumedho

Ajahn Sumedho at a Buddhist Publishing Summer School

Short talk of around 3 minutes.

Extract from a talk given at the Buddhist Publishing Group 2002 Summer School.

Click here to read more teachings by Ajahn Sumedho.

The Path of Wisdom, by Ajahn Sumedho

The Six Realms of Birth, 10 hanging scroll paintings Japan Edo period, 19th century ADSometimes people criticize Buddhism because they say it’s pessimistic — we just talk about suffering; why not talk about love? Love is much more in­spiring than suffering, isn’t it? Talking about universal love is a very inspiring subject. There is nothing wrong with contem­plating universal love, either. But if that’s all we are doing, then it can be merely a whitewash over inner pain and anguish. We might want to love all beings and live in a world of unity and total love. That might be a very appealing idea. What is it that prevents us from that unity? If we trace it back, we will find it’s the ignorance that we have about ourselves. The suffering that we create in life is always the tendency to divide and separate, compare, accept and reject. So the Buddha emphasized the Noble Truth of suffering — not as an absolute, pessimistic view, but as a truth that we can be free from. The Buddha said, ‘I teach only two things — suffering and the end of suffering’. Continue reading


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