Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ajaan Chah's Practical Advice

     “Ajaan Chah’s … main approach to dharma was not to ask about people’s formal meditation practice, but to ask, ‘Are you suffering? And what kind of suffering do you bring?’
     It might have been that your house burned down, or that you were in the middle of a divorce, or that you were feeling great guilt from something you’ve done in your past. Or it might have been that you felt trapped in a meaningless life.
     Ajaan Chah would listen to it all. He would work with that person to uncover the attachments that were causing that suffering. Through teaching meditation and awareness, he’d show them how to release that suffering.
     He made no distinction between whether it was a problem of an obsessive thought about enlightenment or a problem in a divorce or a problem that had happened with one’s parents or a problem that was happening because you were sitting and energy and concentration weren’t in balance. He saw them all as different forms of clinging.”  

       Jack Kornfield, Tricycle, Winter 2004

The Biscuit Eater, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Buddhist Path Summarized

     The entire Buddhist path fundamentally entails: 
          • abandoning the 5 hindrances, 
          • developing the 4 foundations of mindfulness, &
          • realizing the 7 factors of enlightenment 
     so as to gain true knowledge & release from the bondage of suffering & rebirth.

       Shankman R. The Experience of Samadhi. An In-depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation. Shambhala, Boston, 2009.

      "5 hindrances are negative mental states that impede success with meditation:
          1. Sensual desire: Craving for pleasure to the senses.
          2. Anger or ill-will: Feelings of malice directed toward others.
          3. Sloth-torpor or boredom: Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
          4. Restlessness-worry: The inability to calm the mind.
          5. Doubt: Lack of conviction or trust.

     4 foundations of mindfulness, bases for maintaining moment-by-moment mindfulness and for developing mindfulness through
          1. mindfulness of the body
          2. mindfulness of feelings (or sensations)
          3. establishing mindfulness of mind (or consciousness) 
          4. mindfulness of mental objects (or qualities)

      7 factors of enlightenment:

          1. Mindfulness - to be aware & mindful in all activities & movements both physical & mental
          2. Investigation into the nature of dhamma
          3. Energy
          4. Joy or rapture
          5. Relaxation or tranquility of both body and mind
          6. Concentration - a calm, one-pointed state of concentration of mind
          7. Equanimity - to be able to face life in all its vicissitudes with calm of mind and tranquility, without disturbance."
       above from Wikipedia

near the Forest Refuge, Barre, MA

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Indigenous People's Day (regarded by some as "Columbus Day")

     "In Columbus' logs from his first voyage, he is continually astounded by the kind and thoughtful ways of the people he meets. Here are a few excerpts during the weeks after October 12, 1492:
     'And the people are all so gentle...These are the friendliest people...there cannot be better or more gentle people than these anywhere in the world... The chiefs are men of few words and fine manners, it is a marvel...The houses of the Indians are the most beautiful I have ever seen...They are well swept and quite clean inside, and the furnishings are arranged in good order.' 

     On Columbus' second voyage, a compatriot of Columbus noted that the native people came out 'to greet the ships with gifts of fish and fruit, as if we had been brothers.'
     Columbus thought that these people were a living expression of God, and the word Indian actually comes from the Spanish 'in Deos,' or in God. What an oddity it was, then, that they were wiped out in the name of Christianity... Pope Alexander VI issued the Bull Inter Caetera (May 3, 1493) granting the right to the monarchs of Spain to own, possess, and exploit any part of the Earth not already under control of a Christian nation. The real destruction began after his second voyage, which left for the Americas in 1493. This time there were 17 ships, and about 1,200 men. The arriving Spaniards were shown the same kindness and humanity as on the previous voyage, but this decency was not reciprocated, and in a generation's time, millions of native people were dead, and nearly every Caribbean island thoroughly devoid of its original inhabitants. As Columbus traveled through the Caribbean islands, in each place he would read the following fearsome document giving the Church and the monarchy of Spain the right to seize the lands, and if necessary, kill the occupants:
     'I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and Their Highnesses. We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as Their Highnesses may command. And we shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord and resist and contradict him.'

     In a generations time, millions of native peoples were dead, and nearly every Caribbean island thoroughly devoid of its original inhabitants. In time more than 95% of the first peoples of the Americas (an estimated 15 million) would perish and their way of life would be lost for ever."

       Excerpted and adapted from American Indian Prophecies by Kurt Kaltreider  (Hay House, 1998)

     May we all, individually and collectively, have the courage to look for and listen to the stories that bring the wisdom and compassion we need to heal the wounds of our past --- and present, and learn to live together and with the Earth in ways that honor the sacredness and potentials of life.