Posted on 16 May 2013 by Buddhism Now
Watchfulness is the path to immortality and thoughtlessness the path to death. The watchful do not die, but the thoughtless are already like the dead.
When we wake from a dream, we seem to leave a fantasy world and enter staid reality again. But we have merely exchanged one kind of story for another.
We feel we need those beginnings, middles and ends. We build a world in our minds, which is a copy of the real world and deal with that in preference to the original. And we only update it when something goes wrong and our copied version clearly does not fit. We need a landscape made of time to find our way round. Even our memories are constructed and edited all the time. When we go back to look at familiar things many years later, they don’t look the same. We change and adapt all the time, not only physically, but mentally and as we do so we alter all those monuments and memories to make them fit the things that are around us now, and the way we would like to remember things. (more…)
Filed under: Beginners, Buddhism, John Aske | Tagged: Ajahn Chah, kabir, Katha Upanishad, Krishnamurti, Photo: Hazel Waghorn, Ramana Maharshi, Sati | Leave a Comment »
Posted on 25 March 2013 by Buddhism Now
What was the message of the Buddha and almost all the other great teachers? Was it to found a religion? Old rituals and formal beliefs were things they would have understood but not necessarily taught; they were the normal cultural background in which they lived. Those things admittedly help people to construct a relatively moral and reflective life rather than the heedless rush to pleasure and burn-out which is so characteristic of the modern world but. important as they are, they are not conducive to liberation. What they were teaching was not a belief or a belief-system, but a description of how and what they were, and what that could mean for us, ‘The difference between myself and you is that I am awake to what I am, and you are not,’ said the Buddha. And Jesus said, ‘These things that I do, you shall do after me.’ (more…)
Filed under: Buddhism, History, John Aske | Tagged: Amaravati Monastery, Baso, Buddhist blog, Mazo, Nalanda, Nangaku, Rituals | 8 Comments »
Posted on 1 January 2013 by Buddhism Now
‘Dreaming is one of our roads into the infinite.’ (Henry Havelock Ellis)
You might sensibly ask why those interested in following the Buddha’s path should pay any attention to dreams. They represent—to many of us at least—a retrograde step; a falling back into the emotional and the irrational, and this does not seem to sit easily with the idea of balance and enlightenment. But balance and enlightenment refer to the whole human, not just a part. And if the irrational and emotional are part of us—and they are—then we must deal with them too, and the resulting balance must inevitably take them into consideration as well.
The Buddhist saying that ‘the passions are the Buddha’ was not made idly. The problem is that our conscious mind is too often blind to our faults and problems, and only our whole psyche is directly involved with them and can deal with them. The fact that the rocks are invisible does not mean that they can be ignored, and too many come to grief by doing just that. The dream is one of the psyche’s most effective and powerful means of unmasking and displaying the problem, and often guiding us to its solution. (more…)
Filed under: Buddhist meditation, Encyclopedia, History, John Aske | Tagged: Buddha’s path, Charlie Brown, Dreams, Elizabeth Fenwick, Freud, Havelock Ellis, philosophy, Synesius | 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 29 September 2012 by Buddhism Now
One thing, 0 Monks, developed and repeatedly practised, leads to the attainment of wisdom. It is the contemplation of the body.
Wherever we go, all day long and all night long, we have a constant companion. We are joined at the hip and everywhere else. Yet we seldom consider this most profound of relationships. We pass it over without a thought, as if it were of no importance whatsoever. But in ignoring it, we ignore both the source and solution of many of our problems and put off our encounter with the mystery of our real nature.
Our bodies go back in a long chain of being to our most distant ancestors, and beyond them to microscopic plants and the inorganic matrix of the world. If over the billenia one tiny part had been different, we might never have existed. We are part of the great chain of being that nature is, part of that interbeing of which Thich Nhat Hanh speaks. Not only are we all made of the same stuff, but without one another we would almost certainly die. Not only do we have all that is necessary for that study at hand, but we can begin nowhere else.
How do we know about the world? — via the body, perception, sense consciousness and so on, all dependent on this embodied state. (more…)
Filed under: Beginners, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Ch'an / Seon / Zen, John Aske, Theravada | Tagged: Buddha, Buddhist blog, Pali Canon, spirituality, Therese Bertherat, Thich Nhat Hanh | 5 Comments »
Posted on 10 August 2012 by Buddhism Now
Early in the teaching life of the Buddha, Mahavira the great Jain teacher died. His death in about 527 bce was—to the alarm of the Buddha’s followers—followed by great argumentation about what Mahavira had actually said and what he had not. It was clear that this might happen at some future date with the Buddha’s teaching and steps would be necessary to prevent the problem occurring. The Buddha did not stay in one place, but moved about over a wide area of northern India, teaching and instructing any who would listen, as well as those of his monks who dwelt in those places. For early on in his career as a teacher he had begun sending monks out to spread the doctrine of enlightenment and liberation from suffering:
`Go monks and travel for the welfare and happiness of the people, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, welfare and happiness of gods and men. No two of you go the same way. Teach the doctrine, monks, which is fine in the beginning, middle and end, and proclaim the pure, holy life. There are beings, naturally of little passion, who are languishing for lack of hearing the doctrine; they will understand it!’
said the Buddha as he dispatched the first sixty monks. (more…)
Filed under: Beginners, Biography, Buddhism, Encyclopedia, History, John Aske | Tagged: Ashvaghosha Buddhacharita, Buddha Sangha, Buddhist blog, Early Buddhism, indus valley script, life of the buddha, Mahavira, religion, Vinaya | Leave a Comment »
Posted on 26 February 2012 by Buddhism Now
Everything we do is directed outward. We spend most of our time doing things and reacting to things in a quite automatic way. A major part of our lives consists of just this acting and reacting, ‘Don’t just sit there, do something,’ we are told.
Just to sit there is ‘passive, lazy, and antisocial’. Though there are different kinds of ‘just sitting there’—aware and not aware, or perhaps we can say ‘awake (Buddho) and asleep’.
Most of the time we are pushed into courses of action without even noticing what has happened or what caused it, though the Buddha said that to look for causes is largely a waste of time. He told the story of the man who was hit by the poisoned arrow and before he would let anyone remove it, demanded to know who fired that arrow and why. By the time his desire for information was satisfied, he was beyond earthly help. Looking for causes and culprits is usually a waste of time; we have to deal with what is happening not what happened in the past.
The Buddha spent some time explaining how the mind goes astray and this process of confusion in order to help us clear our minds and see things as they are rather than as we assume them to be. (more…)
Filed under: Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, John Aske | Tagged: Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Buddho, Compassion, equanimity, loving kindness, Marcelle Hanselaar, Satipatthana, sympathetic joy | 3 Comments »
Posted on 3 February 2010 by Buddhism Now
There can be few sounds more maddening than snoring — someone else’s snoring I mean. A few years ago I put up a friend, who was between flats and who had just embarked on a university course. He had the back room and I had the front, where my books were.
Then, one night, an acquaintance appeared at my door, dishevelled and in a broken state, with nowhere to go. I didn’t want to put him up as well, as I had already parcelled out the rooms – all two of them – but I felt sufficiently concerned to do so — an old Hampstead custom. Unfortunately, he smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. And when people do that, they apparently snore very loudly due to damage of the soft palate. (more…)
Filed under: Ajahn Chah, Buddhist meditation, John Aske | Tagged: Ajahn Chah, Buddhist meditation, snoring | 9 Comments »
Posted on 29 December 2009 by Buddhism Now
We are beset by so many small (and sometimes large) problems. They fill the space in our heads to the point when there seems nowhere left to mount a solution.
The ego loves fighting, but doesn’t like solutions, and in any case is not very good at finding them. Our egos and our sufferings are the two sides of the human coin.
The central problem is that they all demand to be dealt with now, or otherwise there will be terrible consequences. Of course we can’t solve them all now, so we collapse in misery and the little voices in our heads panic and threaten to bring the whole house crashing down on us. They drown out both common sense and the quiet, wise voice that might sort the whole mess out. Whilst we are so off balance, we can’t think straight.
If we had any peace of mind, we would see that one thing had led to another, then another, and that is how the whole net that bound us had been spun. (more…)
Filed under: Beginners, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, John Aske | Tagged: Buddhist meditation, Buddhist teaching, John Aske, Problems | 2 Comments »
Posted on 29 December 2009 by Buddhism Now
John Aske with a monk in Burma
Sir John Aske has been a practising Buddhist for many years. He is a keen traveller and photographer (many of his photos on this blog), and is a regular contributor to Buddhism Now. He lives in Exeter.
Other posts by John Aske
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