Posted on 20 April 2013 by Buddhism Now
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…)
Filed under: Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, Biography, Buddhism, History, Metta, Theravada | Tagged: anatta, Anicca, Brahma-viharas, Cambodia, Chithurst House, Darjeeling, dukkha, Khmer Rouge, monks and nuns, Photos Lisa Daix, Pol Pot, WPLongform | 1 Comment »
Posted on 4 April 2013 by Buddhism Now
The Five Aggregates
One way of dividing up the conditioned realm is into five aggregates (khandhas)—
- body (rupa),
- feeling (vedana),
- perception (sanna),
- mental formations (sankhara) and
- consciousness (vinnana).
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…)
Filed under: Ajahn Sumedho, Biography, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Metta, Theravada | Tagged: Buddhist teachings, khandhas, rupa, sankhara, sanna, vedana, vinnana | 5 Comments »
Posted on 18 March 2013 by Buddhism Now
If you like cats—if you are a total fool when it comes to cats, as I am—you will probably make a beeline for them when you see them in the street, and pet them if they’ll let you. But you won’t be upset if they turn their backs on you, stick their tails in the air, and walk off—because that’s how cats are. And if your cat at home makes self-centred demands—as they are wont to do—you probably won’t mind in the least. And they can be quite moody—all over you one minute and ignoring you the next—but you simply won’t mind, because you don’t expect cats to be any other way. So, cat lovers tolerate their cats’ little quirks and foibles with ease and just think: ‘Oh well, that’s cats for you!’ (more…)
Filed under: Beginners, Biography, Buddhist meditation, Diana St Ruth | Tagged: animals, Buddhist blog, Buddhist Monastery, Cat lovers, Cats, Meditation Retreat | 11 Comments »
Posted on 28 February 2013 by Buddhism Now
Sceptics say that in meditation you’re simply sitting there and basically you’re dreaming, or falling asleep sometimes, and no more can come out of the meditation than you began with. This is put by Mephistopheles very powerfully in Goethe’s Faust. Faust sits in meditation and Mephistopheles comes up and he says, ‘You know, there you are; you’re like a sort of frog, blowing yourself up bigger and bigger and bigger, and at the end of it you’re just a frog and you’ll have to come down again, won’t you? Nothing new can come from the meditation. Maybe you’re not doing that much harm to anybody, but that’s about all that can be said.’ (more…)
Filed under: Biography, Buddhist meditation, Ch'an / Seon / Zen, Encyclopedia, History, Trevor Leggett | Tagged: Albertus Magnus, Chindit expeditions, Chinese, Goethe's Faust, Greeks, Japan, Japanese language, Kobo Daishi, Mephistopheles, Pope Sylvester II, Romans | 2 Comments »
Posted on 21 February 2013 by Buddhism Now
Pushing and shoving, I came to realize, is part of a Tibetan monk’s way of life, but there was nothing malicious about it. On the contrary. To see young monks struggling to get into the main gompa at Drepung early one morning when the Dalai Lama moved from Ganden in the middle of his stay was a sight indeed! The object, it seemed, was to get into the gompa itself where His Holiness was about to give a puja. The main doorway was completely blocked with a sea of maroon spilling out, down the steps and onto the surrounding area below. But there was a side door which was still being bombarded by younger monks to the obvious displeasure of the disciplinarians who were straining to lash out with long sticks. But their blows were mostly ineffectual, failing to find the mark. The whole crowd cheered as yet another monk hitched up his robes and climbed up the little wall and over the railings which flanked the doorway. These young ones continued to surge forward and the packing of bodies became even tighter — a little frightening to see. Not one more human being could be accommodated in that space and so when yet another one tried, the obvious happened — he was transported like a bird through the air on the raised hands of those beneath him, and in. A wave of laughter swept through the crowd. Then another one did it, and another. They were swept through that doorway as though down a plughole, to the utter delight of the crowd. The odd blow of a flailing stick mattered little to these tough youngsters who got the prize — inside, witnessing a colourful puja with high lamas and the greatest of them all, the Dalai Lama. It would certainly do you no good to come to a Kalachakra Initiation at Mundgod, or probably any other gathering of this nature, if you didn’t like being touched. Everything was boisterous, jokey, speedy and physical. And it was clear this was the way it was meant to be, especially when it came to tea time! Woe betide the unsuspecting soul who got in the way of a dashing monk with a teapot. And they dashed in groups! Tea time at Kalachakra was a sight to behold. How else are thirty thousand people going to get their cuppas in such a short time unless it is with great speed? Besides, this was obviously a time-honoured custom and one performed, as with most other things it seemed to me, with joyful vigour. (more…)
Filed under: Art, Biography, Buddhism, Diana St Ruth, History, News & events, Tibetan | Tagged: Dalai Lama, Drepung, Ganden, Gompa, Kalachakra Initiation at Mundgod, Photo: Lisa Daix, Puja, Tibetan sand mandala, Tsampa | 3 Comments »
Posted on 15 February 2013 by Buddhism Now
Korean food is very hot and spicy compared to the British diet which is rather sweet. We always have chilli sauce with our food. We have pickles made with Chinese leaves, cucumber, spinach, and so on, and everything is mixed with at least a little amount of chilli. So Korean dishes are very hot and spicy.
I think that what we eat is what we are. Because we eat hot and spicy food our lifestyle seems to be rather hot and spicy compared to yours in the west. Zen monastic life is hot and spicy. The Zen retreat that I shall be holding in a few weeks’ time, for example, has been advertised by Dick and Diana as a rather ‘tough regime’. But when I refer to Zen retreats in a western country, I usually call them ‘sugar Zen’ because they are adjusted to accommodate westerners. Even so, it still seems to be too much for people on this side of the world, so maybe I need to put a bit more sugar in this second retreat that I will be doing. (more…)
Filed under: Biography, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Ch'an / Seon / Zen, Encyclopedia, History | Tagged: Buddhist Monastery, Buddhist monk, Korean Buddhism, Korean Temple, moktak, Shramanera, Songgwangsa, Zen koan, zen retreat | 1 Comment »
Posted on 7 February 2013 by Buddhism Now
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…)
Filed under: Ajahn Sumedho, Beginners, Biography, Buddhism, Theravada | Tagged: Amaravati, awareness, Buddha Sangha, Buddhist blog, Buddhist monk, religion, spirituality, Vipaka-kamma | 4 Comments »
Posted on 17 November 2012 by Buddhism Now
The following is adapted from a talk on Right Livelihood
given at a Sharpham colloquium in March 1998
When it comes to Right Livelihood, it’s good to have the freedom to do what you really feel is Right, to keep the Right Livelihood spirit in whatever way that that spirit manifests in you. And I say that from experience, because while probably most jobs don’t come into the distinct category of wrong livelihood as listed in the Buddhist texts—dealing in arms, slaughtering animals, and so forth—some do, and I happened to get a job many years ago which, for me, actually came dangerously close to falling into that awful category, though I was unaware of it to begin with. (more…)
Filed under: Biography, Diana St Ruth, Encyclopedia, History, News & events | Tagged: Buddhist blog, Buddhist Books, Buddhist world, personal growth, Right Livelihood business, Sharpham Colloquium | 2 Comments »
Posted on 9 November 2012 by Buddhism Now
I once asked Phiroz Mehta what the central problem of our lives was. He pinched his arm and said: ‘We think we are this body, but we’re not.’
When I lost my mother after looking after her for five years, not only had I lost the last member of my family, but I also lost the main motivation for getting up in the mornings.
First comes the self-pity. But since no amount of that helps you or the way you feel — it just makes you feel worse! — you have every reason to put it aside and no reason whatsoever to let it nibble at you; that’s just as pointless as concerning yourself with the weather!
Much more of a problem for me was seeing something interesting or going to the theatre or a concert, and not having anyone to discuss it with. If I went on holiday — I went to Mexico in the spring of 2011 — I could tell someone all about it, someone who was genuinely interested. But suddenly there was no one to tell, and no one to be interested in what I was, or did, or anything. Unsurprisingly, I lost interest in myself. (more…)
Filed under: Ajahn Chah, Beginners, Biography, John Aske | Tagged: A Still Forest Pool, Ajahn Chah, Bereavement, Digha Nikaya, Kevatta (Kevadda), Phiroz Mehta, Wat Pah Pong | 5 Comments »
Posted on 4 September 2012 by Buddhism Now
Having come down with a cold, I couldn’t properly smell or taste anything. Even though I hadn’t eaten seaweed soup (miyeokguk) for a long time, I was completely unable to know whether it was too salty or too bland. Feeling like that one bright morning, listening to the call of the the cuckoo from the forest nearby, I drank the nectar of the new tea sent from the Gwangju Tea Company, but it seemed like I could only taste the fragrance.
I set out the undergarments I had soaked yesterday in the brook to dry on the line in the backyard. Straightening up the jars of rice, I took some grains that had spilt out and set them on the windowsill for the birds to eat. In the field, I planted three rows of peppers and kale. Since frost comes here until the end of May, I purposefully planted them rather late. (more…)
Filed under: Biography, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Ch'an / Seon / Zen, History | Tagged: Beopjeong Sunim, Korean Buddhism, seaweed soup, wind chime, Zen koan, Zen master Mazu | 2 Comments »