A Classic Zen text written in the 8th century by Hui Hai. He was a student of Ma-tsu and from the same line as Hui Neng, Huang Po and Rinzai (Lin-chi).
Ajahn Sumedho urges us to trust in awareness and find out for ourselves what it is to experience genuine liberation from mental anguish and suffering.
The Short Prajnaparamita Texts were composed in India between 100 BC and AD 600. They contain some of the most well known Buddhist texts such as The Perfection of Wisdom in 700 Lines, The Heart Sutra, and The Diamond Sutra.
Trevor Leggett points to the truth beyond words, beyond explanations and methods.
An easy to follow guide to Buddhist meditation.
Meditations and exercises to help us understand karma and rebirth and to live from the unborn moment.
Stories, parables, and examples pointing to the spiritual implications of practical events in daily life.
Modern practical teachings from an American monk living within one of the oldest Buddhist traditions.
People often believe contemplation is the same as thinking about something. But when I use the word it means rather ‘contemplating what an existing condition is like’. If you feel angry or resentful, contemplate that feeling. This isn’t to say you should try to figure out why or where the feeling came from, but look at the way it is. Let it be and notice what it feels like as an experience in the present.
The three characteristics of impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and not-self (anatta) are the guiding suggestions. Not in the sense of going around thinking that anger is just impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self, or to project those ideas onto experience, but to look at impermanence and to contemplate it. I remember noticing the passage of time—of how the sun rises and sets—and using impermanence as a subject to contemplate for the day or for several days. We can notice visual change and sound. When an aeroplane flies over or somebody says something, for example, we can be aware of how sound is very definitely impermanent, fleeting, ephemeral. And taste and touch—are these things permanent? No! (more…)
One way of dividing up the conditioned realm is into five aggregates (khandhas)—
mental formations (sankhara) and
When I first started meditating many years ago, I could understand the definitions of the five aggregates, but I did not know their reality; I had never really contemplated these things in an intuitive way through observing my own body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, or consciousness. Initially, I really only contemplated the physical body, the four elements (earth, fire water and air), the parts of the body (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, etc) and the body itself. I contemplated material things, anything formed. (more…)
I’ve been here at Amaravati for fifteen years . We have a nice temple with cloisters now, and somebody has donated funds for a very nice kuti, the nicest kuti I’ve ever had. And one may become attached to Amaravati, or ideas about Amaravati, or the sangha, to monasticism or Buddhism, to being a good Buddhist monk or to the Theravada tradition, to the Thai forest tradition, to establishing Buddhism in the West. All these things are very good and one gets praised for them. People sometimes say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful what you’ve done! You’ve established monasticism in the West.’ I get a lot of these kinds of messages. But one has to be careful not to start attaching to these things, and suffering when one doesn’t get the compliments or when the monks and nuns start disrobing and people start finding fault with you. When one responds to praise and blame, success and failure, those are the signs of attachment. This is where I’ve made a strong determination. In my practice the priority is always towards this purity, never towards any worldly thing, not towards the monastic life, towards Buddhism, individual monks or nuns, orders of monks and nuns, Buddhism in the West, Buddhism in the East, Buddhism in the North, or Buddhism in the South. Even if I am successful at these things, even if I do establish Buddhism permanently for the next thousand years in Europe, the priority can only be to realise nibbana, to cross over the sea of suffering. We’ve made this temple at Amaravati so sturdy it’ll last a thousand years. Buddhism may not survive, but the temple will. The architect said twenty elephants could dance on the roof of that temple and it would not cave in! But to realise nibbana is the whole purpose of ordaining as a monk or nun. This has always meant a lot to me. I could see that it might be sometimes easier to build temples than to practise and to keep that practice going until you really know so that it’s not theoretical. Each one of us has this opportunity to know this for ourselves. That’s the only way we can be liberated, through knowing it for ourselves, not through anyone else’s understanding. (more…)
The Buddha approached the spiritual path through the noble truths. These are based on the existential reality of suffering. This is where many people in the West misunderstand Buddhism. They compare it to other religions and come out with statements about it being a negative approach, and that Buddhists don’t believe in God. There is this idea that it’s some kind of atheist religious form. But if you contemplate the Buddha’s teaching, the important thing to realise is that it’s a teaching of awakening rather than of grasping any kind of metaphysical position.
The first noble truth, suffering (dukkha), brings us back to a very banal and ordinary human experience. The suffering of not getting what we want is common to all of us. We all experience suffering from being separated from what we like and love, and having to be with what we don’t like. So we can all relate to it, rich or poor. We all have to experience old age, sickness and death, grief and sorrow, lamentation, despair, doubt—these are common to every human experience. There is nothing particularly unusual about this suffering; it’s ordinary. But it is to be understood. And in order to understand it, you have to accept it. (more…)
We identify with what we look like, with our faces. We also identify with the conditioning of our minds, the ways in which we have been trained to think and feel, with values, with habits acquired in our lifetimes, and so on. But, beyond the conditioned realm is the unconditioned, the unborn, the uncreated, something without form, quality, or quantity. This is where everything ceases, and our abilities to imagine and perceive end. By speaking in this way, however, we still create images of the conditioned and unconditioned!
For most people the conditioned is all they ever really relate to, the unconditioned remains a kind of metaphysical belief, or some abstraction they might accept. And some do not even consider it. Even in metaphysical doctrine the unconditioned is given conditions. So, we give God attributes; we give God all kinds of qualities which are, of course, conditioned. An attribute, a quality, a quantity, is ‘born’, ‘created’. (more…)
You see people sometimes trying to have right speech: ‘I’m going to vow not to talk badly about anybody! I’m not going to gossip any more. If I speak it will just be on the dhamma! I’m not going to talk about worldly things like politics and football or anything like that.’ So I make this vow before the Lord Buddha. It might work for a while. Then you have tea with the bhikkhus and they are talking in very worldly ways about what kind of cheese they like and so on, and you think, ‘I’m not going to join in with them,’ in a rather supercilious way. So you then go and sit, or read a dhamma book, or find someone who wants to talk about serious things.
You might try your very hardest to live up to this vow, but one day you lose it and start talking in foolish ways. Perhaps somebody starts criticising other people and you get caught up in your own views about them. And then suddenly you think, ‘Oh gosh, I got lost again. Here I go gossiping; saying bad things about others; being foolish. Oh, my vow!’ Then comes remorse and often feelings of despair and just hating yourself. (more…)
When one composes one’s mind and looks inwards, there is a sense of coming to one point. If we are not caught in the thinking process, we can be aware of the here and now, the body, the breath, mental states, moods; we can allow everything to be what it is.
The attitude of many people in meditation is that there is always a need to change something. There might be an attempt to attain a particular state or some kind of blissful experience they have had before, or even if they haven’t had anything like that, they might hope that if they continue to practise, they will. When we practise meditation with this idea of getting something, then even the idea of practice, even the word ‘meditation’, can bring up this conditioned reaction of: ‘There’s something I’ve got to do. If I’m in a bad mood I should get rid of that mood. I’ve got to concentrate my mind.’ If the mind’s scattered and we’re all over the place, ‘I should make it one-pointed; I’ve got to concentrate.’ And so we make meditation into hard work and there is a great deal of failure in it because we’re trying to control everything through these ideas. But this is an impossibility. (more…)
It is interesting that there are now all kinds of stress reduction programmes; people are aware of stress and tension in society. A modern life is a very stressful one and things move too quickly for us, actually. We’re propelled through high technology and a fast-lane type of life whether we like it or not, and this does affect us. We get a sense of this kind of driven quality, this quality that makes us very restless, and we tend to distract ourselves endlessly. This then creates tension and stress and when we do this to the body, the body stops. It can’t take it any more and starts creating problems for us. Relaxation is therefore something that is encouraged now very much in our society, just on a popular, worldly level. (more…)
When I was eighteen years old and at University, I fell in love. I had this powerful experience. For the first time in my life I would do anything for another person. That part was very pure. But, then, being eighteen I didn’t know how to handle the experience; my emotions were still very immature and I ended up being possessive, demanding and jealous. There was no wisdom involved. I thought, ‘If I have this girl, if I possess her, then I’ll get this feeling all the time.’ There was a kind of mystical moment of selflessness, but the emotions were unprepared. I simply reverted to the old habits of grasping, possessing, feeling jealous, making a general nuisance of myself and making myself totally unlovable. This was in about 1952. (more…)
Header photo left to right: Jisu Sunim, DaeHungSa, Korean Son (Zen / Ch'an) Monk, Geshe Tashi Tsering, Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London, and Ajahn Sumedho, Amaravati Buddhist Monastery.
The photo was taken at a BPG Buddhist Summer School in Leicester, England, around 1998 by Gerda Chapuis.