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

Universal Original Purity, by Ajahn Sumedho

Standing Buddhas Cambodia Photo: © Janet NovakThe 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. Continue reading

Clinging to Self, by Bhikkhu PA Payutto

Standing Buddha, Sri lanka Photo: © Hazel WaghornA certain Mr Porng went to visit the abbot of a nearby monastery, and he asked, ‘Luang Por [Reverend Father], the Buddha taught that everything is not-self and is without an owner—there is no one who commits karma and no one who receives its results. If that is the case, then I can go out and hit somebody over the head or even kill them, or do anything I like, because there is no one committing karma and no one receiving its results.’

No sooner had Mr Porng finished speaking than the abbot swung his walking stick down like a flash. Mr Porng could hardly get his arm up fast enough to ward off the blow. Even so, the stick struck solidly in the middle of his arm, giving it a good bruise. Clutching his sore arm, Mr Porng said, ‘Luang Por! Why did you do that?’ His voice trembled with the anger that was welling up inside him. Continue reading

The Middle Way, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Buddha in wall The bright mind is balanced and the defiled mind is imbalanced. When defilements (kilesa) come in, they take over. Then things are no longer in balance. And when the mind is out of balance, sometimes it goes off to the left, sometimes to the right, sometimes it goes up, sometimes down, or there is too much, or too little. This is what happens with defilements—the natural, pure balance of the mind is interfered with. This shows the importance of getting away from the influence of the defilements in order to live in the balanced Middle Way.

When the instincts are out of control, they become selfish, and this gives rise to all the defilements. The out-of-control instincts pull the mind off the Middle Way into the dead-end of the kilesa (the mental defilements). This is very important to know.

We often call these things the defilements, but we can see that they are just instincts which are out of control. Seeing this gives us an insight into how to bring them under control so that they no longer become defilements. This is something to be very interested in in order to get back on the path, to return to the balanced, right state of mind. To make it easier to understand, we can look at certain pairs of things which take us off the Middle Way. Continue reading

The Development of Loving-kindness

This was said by the Lord.

Stone Buddha in Dartington gardens“Bhikkhus, whatever grounds there are for making merit productive of a future birth,[i] all these do not equal a sixteenth part of the mind-release of loving-kindness.[ii] The mind-release of loving-kindness surpasses them and shines forth, bright and brilliant.

“Just as the radiance of all the stars does not equal a sixteenth part of the moon’s radiance, but the moon’s radiance surpasses them and shines forth, bright and brilliant, even so, whatever grounds there are for making merit productive of a future birth, all these do not equal a sixteenth part of the mind-release of loving-kindness.

“Just as in the last month of the rainy season, in the autumn, when the sky is clear and free of clouds, the sun, on ascending, dispels the darkness of space and shines forth, bright and bril­liant, even so, whatever grounds there are for making merit pro­ductive of a future birth, all these do not equal a sixteenth part of the mind-release of loving-kindness…. Continue reading

Five Spiritual Powers, by Mahesi Caplan

Awakening: The Five Spiritual Powers (Faith, Energy, Mindfulness, Serenity, and Wisdom).

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Golden Buddha Centre Totnes Nov 2012 Continue reading


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