All posts filed under: Features

Mindfulness Vs Concentration

By BHANTE G  * Art FLATBUSH BROWN *  Concentration and mindfulness are distinctly different functions. They each have their role to play in meditation, and the relationship between them is definite and delicate. Concentration is often called one-pointedness of mind. It consists of forcing the mind to remain on one static point. Please note the word FORCE. Concentration is pretty much a forced type of activity. It can be developed by force, by sheer unremitting willpower. And once developed, it retains some of that forced flavor. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a delicate function leading to refined sensibilities. These two are partners in the job of meditation. Mindfulness is the sensitive one. He notices things. Concentration provides the power. He keeps the attention pinned down to one item. Ideally, mindfulness is in this relationship. Mindfulness picks the objects of attention, and notices when the attention has gone astray. Concentration does the actual work of holding the attention steady on that chosen object. If either of these partners is weak, your meditation goes astray. Concentration could …

The Power of Compassion

By AYYA YESHE  * Art PABLO MEDINA *  I never grew up thinking that I would one day run a temple in the slums of Central India, or a charity for that matter. But I suppose I should have known better when my favorite movie was ‘The Sound of Music’ and my vision was of being a nun was running over hills, climbing trees, and occasionally helping people! What first drew me to spiritual practice was the death of my father, when I was 14. That sent me into a suicidal depression and existential crisis. If life was finite (which no one around me seemed to live with the comprehension of, with their 30 year mortgages and reinsured and reimbursable spider webs of administration) what was the most important thing to do? Who are we, why are we here and where will we go? I could no longer accept mundanity, the pressing urgency of finding a way out of suffering pushed me to leave my Catholic girls school and to embark on life on the road. After …

Meditation Instructions

By BHANTE SUDDHĀSO  * Art MARTINA PAUKOVA * At its heart, Buddhism is about transforming the way we think in order to eliminate the sources of discontent, dissatisfaction, and distress in our lives.  This is done not by changing the outside world, but by identifying and eliminating the self-destructive habits and tendencies within our own minds. An intellectual understanding of what mental and emotional habits are harmful is just the beginning; in order to locate and remove those harmful habits, the mind must be focused and imperturbable, with the appropriate attitude.  This is very difficult to achieve with our ordinary, everyday ways of thinking and acting, which tend to be scattered, diffuse, and instinctual. This is where meditation comes in.  By taking the time to tranquilize and focus the mind, we begin to develop the mental habits of awareness, equanimity, and concentration, which make it much easier to diagnose and correct the internal flaws that cause us so much anguish and turmoil.  In this way we can establish our baseline state of being as one of peacefulness, …

Meditating on Non-Self

By SISTER KHEMA * Art U LUN GYWE (Courtesy Thavibu)*  In Buddhism we use the words “self” and “no-self,” and so it is important to understand just what this “no-self,” anatta, is all about, even if it is first just an idea, because the essence of the Buddha’s teaching hinges on this concept. And in this teaching Buddhism is unique. No one, no other spiritual teacher, has formulated no-self in just this way. And because it has been formulated by him in this way, there is also the possibility of speaking about it. Much has been written about no-self, but in order to know it, one has to experience it. And that is what the teaching aims at, the experience of no-self. Yet in order to experience no-self, one has first to fully know self. Actually know it. But unless we do know what this self is, this self called “me,” it is impossible to know what is meant by “there is no self there.” In order to give something away, we have to first fully gave it in …

Guidelines for Happiness

By BHANTE SUDDHĀSO  * Art JUNGYEON ROH * In Buddhism, everything is optional. Faith is optional. Meditation is optional. Morality is optional. So the question becomes: Why bother with morality? What’s the point? What is morality anyway? Where does it come from? What effect does it have? Why should we care? Many people think of morality as a set of commandments given by a supreme being; a list of orders given by an indisputable divine authority. This is what I was taught by my parents when I was a child: God said not to do certain things, so we shouldn’t do them. End of story. There’s no arguing with God because, well, it’s God. This rationale worked perfectly well for me until I stopped believing in God – at which point I naturally stopped believing in morality as well. I was 13 at the time, and it was a stunning revelation for my young mind to discover that I could do whatever I wanted. So I embarked on a grand quest of unrestrained self-indulgence which lasted several …

Taking Stock of Oneself

By BHIKKHU BODHI * Art PANYA VIJINTHANASARN (Courtesy Thavibu)*  Though in principle the Buddhist path leads straight and unerringly from bondage to freedom, when we apply it to ourselves it often seems to take a tortuous route as imposed by the twists and turns of our own contorted mental topography. Unless we have exceptionally mature wholesome roots, we cannot expect to approach the goal “as the crow flies,” soaring unhindered through the quick and blissful skyways of the jhanas and higher insights. Instead we must be prepared to tread the path at ground level, moving slowly, steadily and cautiously through the winding mountain roads of our own minds. We begin at the inevitable point of departure — with the unique constellation of personal qualities, habits and potentials that we bring with us into the practice. Our ingrained defilements and obstinate delusions, as well as our hidden reserves of goodness, inner strength and wisdom — these are at once the material out of which the practice is forged, the terrain to be passed through, and the vehicle that takes us to …

Accelerating our Practice

By BHANTE SUDDHĀSO  Everyone loves to talk about meditation. It’s cool. Heightened awareness? Control of your mental experience? Profound tranquility and joy? Sounds great. So we learn some basic meditation techniques and start practicing. We notice some benefits arising from their practice, so we keep it up. Then eventually it seems to plateau. Years go by with little or no noticeable improvement. We’re stuck: despite meditating every day, we’re still not enlightened. In fact, far from it. We start to wonder: What went wrong? This is not a hypothetical scenario; in fact it’s something people ask me relatively often.  They’ll say things like, “I’ve been meditating for 10, 20, 30 years.  Why am I not enlightened yet?” Well… the truth is, there’s a lot more to the Buddha’s path than meditation.  If all we’re doing is meditation, then we’re missing out on several major components of the practice.  These other aspects of practice receive very little press and often aren’t even known to be part of spiritual self-development.  And yet they are just as vital to …

Laying the Foundation for Social Action

By AJAHN PASANNO * Art AUNG KYAW HTET  (Courtesy Thavibu)*  From a Buddhist perspective, anything to do with other people can be considered social action: how we relate to the individuals close to us such as family or neighbors, to society at large, and to the world around us. The field of social action expands out, but it begins with ourselves and our relationships to others. The individual is at the core of all relationships between any parts of society. We must always return to that core, to recognize that our own actions affect other people and the society around us. This is simply the basic law of karma-anything we do affects ourselves and others. It’s not a matter of “me” and “society,” as if they were separate. There isn’t really any separation. The two are interrelated all the time. What we bring to the society around us are simply our own qualities of mind, of heart, of being-our intentions and how they manifest in our actions. In order to understand our effects on society, we first have …

Three Kinds of Desire

By AJAHN SUMEDHO * Art JUNGYEON ROH * Desire or tanha in Pali is an important thing to understand. What is desire? Kama tanha is very easy to understand. This kind of desire is wanting sense pleasures through the body or the other senses and always seeking things to excite or please your senses — that is kama tanha. You can really contemplate: what is it like when you have desire for pleasure? For example, when you are eating, if you are hungry and the food tastes delicious, you can be aware of wanting to take another bite. Notice that feeling when you are tasting something pleasant; and notice how you want more of it. Don’t just believe this; try it out. Don’t think you know it because it has been that way in the past. Try it out when you eat. Taste something delicious and see what happens: a desire arises for more. That is kama tanha. We also contemplate the feeling of wanting to become something. But if there is ignorance, then when we are …