You Are Not A Permanent Person, by Ajahn Sumedho

Sheep on roadside Dartmoor, DevonThe Five Aggregates

One way of dividing up the conditioned realm is into five aggregates (khandhas)—

  1. body (rupa),
  2. feeling (vedana),
  3. perception (sanna),
  4. mental formations (sankhara) and
  5. 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. Continue reading

If Only He Were a Cat! by Diana St Ruth

Photo of Sam and Diana.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!’ Continue reading

One Door, by Kusan Sunim

The Red Shop (The October Sun) by Walter Richard Sickert, Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service (Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery) There is one door. The Buddhas of the three times and also the successive patriarchs pass through this door. The bodhisattvas of the ten directions and the spiritual advisors of this world also pass through it.

Moreover, those of you gathered here today as well as all sentient beings likewise are passing through this door. So, say something! Have you completely awakened and realized this single great door?

[Kusan Sunim pauses and then strikes the base of his seat with his staff.] Continue reading

The outside of people is no clue to what is inside, by Trevor Leggett

White BlossomSceptics 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.’ Continue reading

Liberation Here and Now, by Ayya Khema

DaffodilWhen we hear or read the word ‘liberation’ (nibbana), we often get the idea that it is unattainable, otherworldly, reachable only by spiritual giants, and that it has very little to do with us. We do not have to look at it that way. Let us consider the three kinds of liberation—’signless’, ‘wishless’, and ‘voidness’ liberation. Signless liberation is attained by completely penetrating impermanence (anicca), wishless liberation by completely penetrating unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and voidness liberation by penetrating coreless substance (anatta).

We’re all familiar with impermanence, but what is signless liberation? Suppose we are attached to or highly appreciative of a person, a situation, a belonging. Can we let go of clinging to it? We can try to let go of anything at all, no matter how small. We direct our attention to the fact that all we examine is totally fleeting. We fathom that truth in everything, in all living beings, and, having seen it, we let go of our belief in the solidity of things. We thereby let go of our attachment. If we can do that with anything or anyone, even for a moment, we have won a moment of signless liberation—a moment of direct knowledge that nothing has any intrinsic value, that it’s all a passing show. Having had that experience, even for one moment, gives us an inkling of what the Buddha meant when he spoke about freedom. Freedom is often misunderstood as the ability to do anything we want. We have probably tried that already and found that it doesn’t work. Even if we were to follow only our desires, we would soon be satiated and then feel unfulfilled. Continue reading

Life in a Korean Monastery, Jisu Sunim

Jisu Sunim holding up a rubbing of Bodhidharma which has just been presented to him by Shi Yanzi. Photo © Gerda ChapuisKorean 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. Continue reading


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