Suffering Ends, by Ajahn Sumedho

Photograph from the British Library #endangeredarchives project.The third Noble Truth is the truth of cessation. Not only do we let go of suffering and desire, we know when those things are not there. And this is a most important part of meditation practice, to really know when there is no suffering. Suffering ceases, and you are still alive, still aware, still breathing. It doesn’t mean that the world has ended, that everything has become blank; it means that the suffering has ceased. The suffering ends, and there is knowledge of the end of suffering. Continue reading

Symbols, forms and conventions, by Ajahn Sumedho

Standing Buddha, Cambodia.Photo © Janet NovakThe Buddhist monk’s robe—because one is wearing it — is for mindfulness. I could see it in terms of attachment. In fact, I have been attached to robes and things like this. But the point of these things is to reflect and remind yourself of what you are doing. When I look at my robe of saffron or orange — a colour that people would seldom wear — it impinges on my consciousness and reminds me of Buddhist monks, which in turn reminds me of sangha [Community of Buddhist monks or those on the path], which is also a reminder of wakefulness. In the same way, how can the Amaravati temple be used? We can look at it aesthetically, in worldly, practical, utilitarian, terms, or we can use it as a symbol. There are Buddha-relics enshrined in the pinnacle of the spire — I enshrined them myself. So you can look up at the pinnacle, and you can look beyond it into the sky, into the spaciousness. Our consciousness can be attuned to infinity and space, and not bound by the five khandhas [Form, feeling, perception, mental activity, and consciousness.] and conditioned realm. These kinds of symbols, forms and conventions can be used for awareness rather than for developing worldly attitudes or attachments to becoming some kind of Buddhist. They can be used as forms which says: Wake up! Pay attention! Be mindful! Continue reading

Contemplate your own goodness, by Ajahn Sumedho

Light on stone path.Contemplate your own goodness. In England sometimes, we don’t dare do that because it sounds like boasting. Or we may be afraid of inflating our egos. In fact, we tend to dwell on our faults. If I say to someone, ‘Okay now, be honest, what are you really like?’ They probably tell me about their faults, because most people identify strongly with their faults. Sometimes there has to be the determination to dwell on the goodness of one’s life. My life here at Amaravati is very good. And people who come here try to be as good as they can be. I have witnessed much human goodness by being at this place. And the intention of my life is to cultivate the good and to refrain from doing bad. The selfishness of humanity gets all the news, and yet my experience is mainly of something very good. Continue reading

Is Monasticism Necessary? By Ajahn Sumedho

Monk Crossing River. Photo © Lisa DaixAs Buddhism moves into the western world, the question is asked, ‘Is monasticism necessary? Do we really need monks and nuns? Maybe that old stuff worked in Asia but is no longer profitable?’ There is a lot of this, especially in the States, about it ‘no longer meeting the needs of modern people.’ But that is an opinion, a view, which can be argued and rationalised on both sides. You can see it as totally useless, or you can make a case for its absolute necessity. The point is not to take sides but to use the forms of Buddhism, when they are around, for mindfulness rather than for taking positions. Continue reading

Propaganda is not the way things are, by Ajahn Sumedho

Rokuharamitsu-ji. Photo © @KyotoDailyPhotoOne wonders how people can commit genocide! How can one group slaughter another group of people? When one gets into cultural habits and ethnic biases, then those things can easily take over the mind. If one is not reflective and has no understanding of the way things are, one is easily pulled into the prejudices of one’s particular ethnic background. Identifying as an American and growing up during the Second World War, my childhood was influenced by propaganda against the Germans and Japanese. They were the enemy! The Russians were allies until 1945, so they were the good guys. Propaganda is instilled in the mind so that you hate the enemy. After all, if you are going to kill somebody, you first have to hate them. You cannot think of them as nice people; they are monsters and demons. We used to have lurid posters in Seattle of barbed wire and swastikas and Nazi-like figures dragging women down dark alleyways. I remember looking at those posters as a child and thinking that if they came to America, they were going to do that to my mother. There was, therefore, a sense of horror, fear, and dread of the enemy. Propaganda demonises; it is a conditioning process. Propaganda is not the way things are; it is encouraging people to attach to certain views. Continue reading

This reflective mind, by Ajahn Sumedho

Gargoyle Lion Sumiyoshi-jinja.Photo © @KyotoDailyPhotoDhamma [Truth, reality, the Buddha's teaching; dharma (Sanskrit).] allows us to respect all life itself. We recognise that animals have the same pain that we have. Some people think that a dog’s experience of pain—of being kicked, for example—is different from their own. Contemplate that! I don’t really know, not being a dog, but how could it be different? The dog is a conscious and sensitive being. It feels, not only pain, but also the nastiness of that state of mind which just sees a dog as something to abuse. A dog will pick that up along with the physical pain. I’m reflecting now; just contemplating pain and suffering. When you contemplate like this, then you feel an empathy for the suffering of creatures—not just human beings, or not just nice people that you get along with, but even the horrible ones. Continue reading

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