Friday, November 30, 2012

letting go and going on

Quotations below are from Ajahn Cha
The Buddha did not teach to fix things, but to see according to the truth. If you want to change things, that is not Dharma, that is not truth; it is just the habit of someone who wants to create and manipulate. If you do not see the truth of the way things are, there is no path to practice, and you are outside of the noble truth of suffering, its causes, its cessation, and the path. (p.20, Being Dharma)
This does not mean there is no place for creating. In fact a lay life requires it. We not only need to recognize the truth of insubstantiality and the hollowness of our constructions, but we must learn to dance within them, aware of their benifits to our personal life and the good of our culture as well as their limitations.

Since the very beginning of the Buddha's dispensation, for those who hear and practice there has not been any requirement to adjust or modify things, only to know and surrender....[conditioned phenomena] have their nature to arise and pass away. Any other view of things is impure dharma, the teaching of ignorance embedded in the heart. There will be no cessation, the wheel turning endlessly: no soloution, no end, no way to stop.  (p.20, Being Dharma)

There is a time to step off the wheel. That time is always right now...and yet we go on. The stepping off has to happen over and over again as we navigate daily life, as we play in the constructions, but by also not being trapped in them. Surrendering again and again to things as they are, but also putting one foot in front of the other to face the changing moment and the truth that whatever we create will not last. Everything we build is like a sandcastle on the beach. Beautiful for a time (or useful depending on what we construct), but temporary. Suffering is in the ignorance of the nature of things - in the clinging to anything as it is in the moment.

Its like insects crawling on the rim of a water barrel. They are always moving, but they aren't going anywhere, only traveling around and around the rim. The thoughts of ordinary benighted beings are the same. We may think we are headed far away, but we are only going around in circles, always, coming back to the same place. We don't see this cycle in the heart because there is no wisdom to see. ..In Dharma we want to see..that there is no solution, nothing to change or adjust, because the Dharma is always complete as it is. So we give up trying. (p.20, Being Dharma)

Until we choose or are confronted with an ultimate cessation, we live on with as much wisdom as possible of things as they are. We can change things within the constructions we have created, our own or our societies - and we should, but we also recognize our personal limitation and a broader scope from which our constructions have arisen. Ultimate reality does not need fixing.


Living skillfully

Thursday, September 20, 2012

simple meditation

"The word 'meditation' covers many mental experiences, but the goal of Buddhist meditation is to see things as they are; it is a state of awakened attention. And this is a very simple thing. It isn't complicated or difficult or something that takes years to achieve. It is so easy, in fact, that you don't even notice it... 
You are [likely] conceiving of it as something you have to attain -- you have to subdue your defilements, you have to control your emotions, you have to develop virtues in order to attain some kind of ideal state of mind...
The real challenge is to develop attention, awakenedness, in the flow of life. This doesn't remove the option of going on retreat or diminish the value of it in any way. The point is to look at meditation as awakenedness and awareness throughout daily life in whatever conditions. There is in that the sense of allowing things to be in this present moment, allowing whatever way the body is or the emotional and mental states right now to be the way they are. Just be the observer of what is. Right now the mood is 'this', 'I feel this.' Just be aware whether you are confused, indifferent, happy, sad, uncertain or whatever. Be that which allows things to be as they are."

Ajahn Sumedho
Chapter One, Starting From Here
Don't Take Your Life Personally

Our current cyber course for our dana group for experienced sharma students is at:  Contact me so we can connect on Skype and for entry code

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

centered in emptiness

A lay Buddhist is one who fully embodies his or her entire life of work, family, and relationships without spiritually prioritizing any activity.  From this perspective all moments are equally precious, and whether we are practicing formal meditation on retreat or showing up for ordinary moments of our lay life, freedom is never diminished. The unequivocal resolve not to move away from where we are is essential. Once we abandon the belief that there is a more spiritually useful moment than the one we are in, we have embraced our life and infused it with the energy for awakening.  
Rodney Smith, Stepping out of Self-Deception

This does not mean practice, application of skillful means, and developing deep intimacy with the mind are not important. However changing our perspective from one of doing and achieving to one of releasing our centrality in the universe transforms every moment.

At the same time doing and achieving are not outside this realm of awakening. We might ask ourselves as we go about our walk on the planet:  How can I, this person, perform skillfully without participation in ancient human struggles for control and manipulation based in fear and desire? How can this life be lived freshly in every moment? Can there be awakening to the experience of truth unfolding right now? Can I stay with current experience? What intentions are the foundation of this life?

Life can flow out of spontaneity and good will rather than conditioning and defensiveness. Like playing music we hold an image of the whole piece or the primary threads, then just play our part in harmony with others. What arises is more likely to be wholesome, includes shared experience of whatever is, and results in the best possible unfolding. Contentment and satisfaction can be present even in (or perhaps especially in) the most challenging moments.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Conquering Discontent and Delight, Fear and Dread  M 6 
This is a passage from our exploration of ethics.

 Discontent and Delight [entrapping delights, not happiness of contentment] 
If a person should wish: 
         "May I become a conqueror of discontent and delight,
          and may discontent and delight not conquer me;
          may I abide transcending discontent and delight wherever they arise,"
    • let her/him fulfill the precepts [=sīla]
    • be devoted to internal serenity of mind
    • not neglect meditation [=samādhi]
    • be possessed of insight [=paññā] 
           and dwell in  empty huts

Fear and Dread 
If a person should wish:
 "May I become a conqueror of fear and dread,
  and may fear and dread not conquer me;
  may I abide transcending fear and dread wherever they arise,
    • let her/him fulfill the precepts [=sīla]
    • be devoted to internal serenity of mind
    • not neglect meditation [=samādhi]
    • be possessed of insight [=paññā]
          and dwell in empty huts.  

I especially like the last line of this instruction.  I understand the meaning to be literal, however, it works much better for me to think, not so much a physical empty hut, but a personality empty of attachment to it's self.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

progress is natural

From one of the suttas in our summer dharma study:

Progress is Natural   A 10:2
For one who is virtuous and endowed with virtue,
there is no need for an act of will:
May non-remorse arise in me!
It is natural ... that non-remorse will arise in one who is virtuous.
For one free of remorse,
there is no need for an act of will:
May gladness arise in me!
It is natural ... that gladness will arise in one who is free from remorse.
For one who is glad of heart,
there is no need for an act of will:
May joy arise in me!
It is natural ... that joy will arise in one who is glad of heart. 
For one who is joyful,
there is no need for an act of will:
May my body be serene!
It is natural ... that the body will be serene for one who is joyful.
For one of serene body,
there is no need for an act of will:
May I feel happiness!
It is natural ... that one will be happy whose body is serene.
For one who is happy,
there is no need for an act of will:
May my mind be concentrated!
It is natural ... that one will have a concentrted mind whose mind is happy.
For one who is concentrated,
there is no need for an act of will:
May I know and see things as they really are!
It is natural ... that one with a concentrated mind will see things as they really are.
Thus ... the preceding qualities flow into the succeeding qualities;
the succeeding qualities bring the preceding qualities to perfection,
for going from the near shore to the far shore.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

letting buddha live today

"Buddha" means "The one who  is awake." The Buddha who lived two-and-a-half thousand years ago  was an embodiment of that quality. As my teacher, Ajahn Cha, would often say, "People believe the Buddha passed away two-and-a-half thousand years ago, but the real Buddha is alive today."  The "Buddha" we are talking about here is that quality of wakefulness - that quality of wisdom - which is in the heart. 
  from Ajahn Amaro in Finding the Missing Peace

Any spiritual practice is only as alive as our active participation in the truth of the teachings. With our lives we manifest the wisdom to the degree we are in touch with and actually embody their truth. In the case of the Buddha's teaching being in contact with what is true right now, in this moment, is the whole point. We are invited to live, not according to an imposed set of rules, but to  become awake and  alive. In doing so we thus live wisely and happily. Wisdom and compassion rule.

My "born-again" understanding of the message of Jesus is that it is similar to that of Gautama, Buddha. According to Christian scriptures the first person Jesus saw upon resurrection was Mary Magdalene. His comment to her was reportedly, Do not cling to me. I take this to mean something similar to the Buddhas parting message, You know what to do, now go do it. These messages do not invite us to make rules to follow or impose on others, but to live what we have learned and continue the journey. If we do otherwise we tend to make false idols of our teachers instead of listening to the teachings and transforming our lives.

When we draw upon that Buddha-wisdom, its as if we can consult the Buddha at any time. If we don't make the effort to consult, then we won 't get the advice or the guidance. Buddha nature is another term for this faculty of awakedness that we can employ. Of course, we can go through life without employing it, just having it buried in layers of habit and compulsion and business and fear and laziness and everything else. But if we take the trouble to draw upon it, to recognize it, to open it up, then it can be what guides our  lives very directly.
from Ajahn Amaro in Finding the Missing Peace

Monday, May 7, 2012

hindrances to becoming peace

In our Cyber Course for experienced meditators we are working, just this week, with investigation of the primary qualities of mind that inhibit happiness and ease of being. We are also being aware of times when these hindrances are absent. Feel free to spend a week with each category -  no matter how much experience you have.

It is important to remember that these qualities, though referred to as hindrances, are very common conditions of the human mind. The idea is not to get rid of the experience, but to become aware of it. An aware mind is no longer inhibited by any quality of mind quality or experience.  It sees things as they are and acts accordingly as is appropriate in the moment.

"If sensual desire is present in [me],
[I know] 'there is sensual desire in me';
if sensual desire is not present in  [me] ,
[I know]  'there is no sensual desire in me';

"If aversion is present in  [me] ,
[I know]  'there is aversion in me';
if aversion is not present in  [me] ,
[I know]  'there is no aversion in me';

"If sloth-and-torpor is present in [me] ,
[I know]  'there is sloth-and torpor in me';
if sloth-and-torpor is not present in [me] ,
[I know]  'there is no sloth-and-torpor in me';

If restlessness-and-worry is present in  [me] ,
[I know]  'there is restlessness-and-worry in me';
if restlessness-and-worry is not present in  [me] ,
[I know]  'there is no restlessness-and-worry in me';

"If doubt is present in  [me] ,
[I know]  'there is doubt in me';
if doubt is not present in  [me] ,
[I know]  'there is no doubt in me';

Satipatthana Sutta (with my adaptations for practice purposes)

For comments about applying this practice in your personal and professional life see the blog From Drudgery to Joy on

Friday, April 6, 2012

treasure of spiritual practice

We practice Dharma because we see the value of noble treasure, the wealth that is within... This kind of wealth will be free from dangers of the elements, such as flood and fire... It is something that [thieves] cannot find. No external threats can touch this happiness of [heart/mind]. - Ajahn Chah

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

stages in meditation practice

We are working with the Satipatthana Sutta in a current online group. The Sutta is set up in a way that you could progress though it developmentally, working with one passage after the other, deepening and enriching your qualities of mind and your consciousness as you progress though the practices. You could also make the progression through just one of the four satipatthanas (foundations of mindfulness, frames of reference), or, because of the holistic nature of the Sutta, dip in to any one place.

Yet there is a general three stage progression that is foundational. These elements are found in the preliminary sections of the sutta and in the "refrain."

FIRST STAGE: Learning to bring mindful awareness to the chosen object. Please notice my use of the term mindful awareness. This was intentional so as to discourage a narrow definition of mindfulness as attention. Attention is only one element. Others include qualities necessary for steady and balanced focus on the frame of reference. These require a daily formal silent practice for development and in order to establish readiness for the real potential of wisdom or insight. Without a basis in skilled concentration, further stages may be beneficial but will not yield their very rich potential.

SECOND STAGE: Requires developed concentration. In this stage we begin to use our developed, focused, balanced concentration to actually develop our connection, our relationship, with any of the possible frames of reference. We investigate deeply the qualities and characteristics of the object or frame of reference: causal relationships within various elements of experience and ability and limitations in influencing the unfolding processes.

THIRD STAGE: Equipoise. We transcend our own skill and let subtle awareness and actions lead our way. This is not something that can usually occur without our intelligent and skillful development of consciousness. The skills are not hard to do, nor hidden or secret. But they do require our active engagement, a continuous choice to take responsibility for our own body, speech, and mind.


Work with the Going Beyond course to establish the first stage. Then join us in groups online for experienced students to open to the potential of stages two and three.

Or work individually in coaching format to develop the mind and to learn to integrate the wisdom, compassion, and joy of these skills into your personal and professional life.


Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff). Wings to Awakening: An Anthology from the Pali Canon. Dhamma     Dana Publication Fund: Barre, MA. 1996.

UPDATE:  This passage edited 2012 05  05 - contact author for original copy

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

mindful attention - where & how

The four frames of reference [satipatthana] are a set of teachings that show where a meditator should focus attention and how. This dual role — the "where" and the "how" — is reflected in the fact that the term satipatthana can be explained etymologically in two ways.

On the one hand, it can be regarded as
a compound of sati
(mindfulness, reference, the ability to keep something in mind)
and patthana
(foundation, condition, source),
thus referring to the object kept in mind as a frame of reference for giving context to one's experience.

Alternatively, satipatthana can be seen as
a compound of sati and upatthana
(establishing near, setting near),
thus referring to the approach (the how) of keeping something closely in mind, of establishing and maintaining a solid frame of reference.

Scholars are divided as to which interpretation is right, but for all practical purposes they both are.

The Buddha was more a poet than a strict etymologist, and he may have deliberately chosen an ambiguous term that would have fruitful meanings on more than one level.

In the practice of the frames of reference [satipatthana], both the proper object and the proper approach are crucial for getting the proper results. In fact....
the taking of a proper object entails the beginning of the proper approach,
and the approach ends by taking as its objects the qualities of mind developed in the course of pursuing the approach itself.

In other words....the "what" merges with the "how" as the "how" of the investigation ultimately becomes what gets investigated.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu in Wings, p. 72

I share this passage to emphasize the active and holistic nature of working with the Satipatthan Sutta (especially satipatthana, but other suttas as well). The sutta provides more than just a menu or curriculum for study. It provides a holigraphic map for practice. The map is useful to follow linearly because the practices build on each other, but it is not nesessary to follow linearly, because we can touch on the whole througout the process - or where ever we dip in.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

no fixing needed

The Buddha said to investigate this body and the other foundations of mindfulness. There is nothing to solve or undo; we just need to know according to the truth.
Ajahn Cha

By "truth" Ajahn Cha is not referring to some philosophical principle, but the truth of the immediate moment - the experience we access when we are not trapped by our perceptions, our thoughts, our preconceived notions.

We can train to be aware of what is true by personally investigating the four foundations of mindfulness, outlined in the Satipatthana Sutta.

Sutta Summary:

Monday, January 2, 2012

who do you trust?

"...The Buddha did not teach to fix things but to see according to the truth. If you want to change things, that is not Dharma, that is not truth; it is just the habit of someone who wants to create and manipulate...For those who hear and practice there has not been any requirement to adjust or modify things, only to know and to surrender." Ajahn Chah

The purpose of a transformational practice is to let go. Release leads to relaxation. It leads to good health, to happiness, to contentment. To success in many arenas. But if these good intentions become goals that we grasp, we are no longer relaxing. We are no longer practicing wisely. The relaxation of meditation or mindfulness is much more than the release of contractions and stress. It is relaxation of grasping, the freedom from trying to make things different than they are.

This does not mean we don't change what needs to be changed or that we can't integrate mindfuless, meditation, or mind training into professional arenas; but we can't introduce them as one of hundreds of strategies for achieving our goals, attaining what we desire. Instead, we learn to let go of the struggle and strife and open to dancing with things as they are, contributing from wisdom and insight, kindness and compassion. The bottom line results are powerful, but they come from deep integrity and intelligence that are within our natural human capacities.

I can think of several human beings I know who are in touch with this human capacity. I see them as the adults in our world. The people I trust. People who mean what they say and live their lives on the line every day, simply to do what is right. Most are not famous - or in any way dramatic. But they are the rich fabric that supports civilization.

Who do you think of? Who do you trust? Lets choose these beings as models for living our own lives in accordance with our simple greatest potential.