BHAVANA SOCIETY NEWSLETTER (excerpts) Vol. 10, No. 2 April-June, 1994 Vesak Issue Copyrigh

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BHAVANA SOCIETY NEWSLETTER (excerpts) Vol. 10, No. 2 April-June, 1994 Vesak Issue Copyright 1994 Bhavana Society Bhavana Society Rt. 1 Box 218-3 High View, WV 26808 Tel: (304) 856-3241 Fax: (304) 856-2111 This electronic edition is offered for free distribution via DharmaNet by arrangement with the Bhavana Society. DharmaNet International P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951 * * * * * * * * CONTENTS {1} Meditation on Loving-kindness (Metta) -- Bhante H. Gunaratana {2} Journey of Renunciation -- Rev. Sister Sucinta (Ruth Baumann) {3} The Sangha of My Peers -- Geoffery Huggins {4} Book Review (Kornfield: //Path with Heart//) -- Douglas Durham {5} Mindfulness Meditation Group Forming in Virginia {6} Notes & News * * * * * * * * {1} MEDITATION ON LOVING-KINDNESS (METTA) By Bhante Henepola Gunaratana Sometimes the practice of Insight meditation may be interpreted to be a kind of practice which makes the meditator a heartless or indifferent being, like a vegetable without any love and compassion for other living beings. We must remember, however, that the Buddha has strongly advised us to cultivate four sublime states of mind: loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity.[1] The first of these four is so important that the Buddha said that one who depends entirely upon people for one's living can repay one's indebtedness to lay supporters if one practices loving kindness towards all living beings, even for such a short time as a fraction of a second each day. Karaniyametta Sutta says "One should develop this mindfulness which is called divine behavior here"[2] Mindfulness is one of the most important factors in the entire teaching of the Buddha. From the day he attained enlightenment till he passed away at the age of 80, in almost every Dhamma talk he stressed mindfulness. When he equates the practice of loving-kindness with that of mindfulness, we can understand the significance of the practice of loving-kindness in the Buddha's teaching. The Buddha perfected it for the attainment of Enlightenment and balanced it with wisdom. Even after the attainment of Enlightenment, the very first thing he did every day, was to enter into the attainment of Great Compassion,[3] which is an outcome of the practice of loving-kindness. Then he surveyed the world to see if there were any beings whom he could help to understand Dhamma. These four sublime states of mind are called Brahma Vihara, best behavior or best attitude. The first three of these are strong enough to attain the first three Jhanas and the last to attain the fourth jhana. They are so important in the practice of Vipassana meditation that they are included in the second step of the Noble Eightfold Path. In fact, no concentration is possible without these sublime states of mind because in their absence the mind would be filled with hatred, rigidity, worry, fear, tension and restlessness. Preliminary to the practice of these noble states of mind is overcoming our hatred, which is a thoughtless way of wasting one's energy. Hate is compared to boiling water when it is active or jaundice when it is unexpressed. It can destroy your meditation practice and moral training. The hateful person is compared to a half burned log of wood left in a funeral pyre. Both ends of this log are burned and turned to charcoal and the middle is covered with filth. Nobody would like to pick it up for firewood or for any other purpose because it can dirty the hand of the person who handles it. Similarly the hateful person will be avoided by all means, if possible, by everybody. We must start the practice of loving-kindness with ourselves first. Sometimes some of you may wonder why we have to love ourselves first. Wouldn't that amount to self love and lead to selfishness? When you investigate your own mind very carefully, however, you will be convinced that there is no one in the whole universe that you love more than yourself. The Buddha said, "Investigating the whole world with my mind never did I find anyone dearer than oneself. Since oneself is dearer than others, one who loves oneself should never harm others"[4] One who does not love oneself can never love another at all. By the same token one who loves oneself will feel the impact of loving-kindness and then can understand how beautiful it is if every heart in the whole world is filled with the same feeling of loving-kindness. The loving-kindness that we want to cultivate is not an ordinary love as it is understood in everyday application. When you say, "I love such-and-such a person" or "such-and-such a thing", for instance, what you really mean is that you desire that particular person's appearance, behavior, ideas, voice, or overall attitude; either towards you in particular or towards life in general. If that person changes the things you like very much in him or her you may decide that you do not love him or her. When your tastes, whims and fancies or that of the other person change, then you would not say "I love so-and-so". In this love-hate duality you love one and hate another. You love now and hate later. You love when you wish and hate when you wish. You love when everything is smooth and rosy and hate when anything goes wrong with the relationship between you and the other person or thing. If your love changes from time to time, place to place and situation to situation in this fashion then what you call "love" is not true loving-kindness but lust, greed, or desire--not love by any means. The kind of loving-kindness that we want to cultivate through meditation does not have its opposite or an ulterior motive. Therefore, the love-hate dichotomy does not apply to loving-kindness cultivated through wisdom or mindfulness, for it will never change into hate, as circumstantial changes take place. True loving-kindness is a natural faculty concealed under the heap of greed, hatred and ignorance. Nobody can give it to us. We must find it out within ourselves and cultivate it mindfully. Mindfulness discovers it, cultivates it and maintains it. "I" consciousness [ahankara] dissolves in mindfulness and its place will be taken by loving-kindness free from selfishness. Because of our selfishness we hate some people. We want to live in certain ways, do certain things in certain ways, perceive things in certain ways; not in any other way. If others do not agree with our views, our ways and our styles, we not only hate them but become entirely so irrational and blind with unmindfulness that we might even deprive them of their right to live. When you practice loving-kindness you do not get angry if you do not receive any form of favor in return from persons and beings to whom you radiate your loving-kindness, because you have no ulterior motive when you radiate loving-kindness towards them. In this net of loving-kindness not only do you include all beings as they are, but you wish all of them, without any discrimination, to be happy minded. You continue to behave gently and kindly towards all beings, speaking gently and kindly about them in their presence as well as in their absence. When we meditate, our minds and bodies become naturally, relaxed. Our hindrances dissolve. Our sleepiness and drowsiness, for instance, are replaced by alertness. Doubt is replaced by confidence, hatred by joy, restlessness and worry by happiness. As our resentment is replaced by joy, loving-kindness hidden in our subconscious mind expresses itself, making us more peaceful and happy. In this state of meditation we gain concentration and overcome our greed. We can see how meditation destroys hatred and cultivates loving-kindness, which in turn supports our practice of meditation. Together these two operate in unison, culminating in concentration and insightfulness. Therefore, to pick up one's own mind wave of loving-kindness one must fine tune oneself through the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindful observation of our own individual mental states can make us aware of how some thought waves are harmful, destructive and painful. Others are peaceful and joyful. Then our mind rejects that which is harmful and cultivates that which is peaceful and joyful. We don't learn this from books or teachers or friends or enemies, but from our own practice and experience. When harmful thoughts arise we learn not to entertain them and when peaceful thoughts arise we let them grow and stay in the mind much longer. This way we learn from our own experience how to think more healthily. This practice conditions our minds to grow loving-kindness. This means that peaceful thought waves appearing in our mind by themselves can be generated at will later on. This practice helps us to comprehend that loving-kindness does grow in the backyard of our own mind. Environmental or circumstantial factors play an important role to cultivate it. No human being could be totally devoid of loving-kindness, no matter how cruel he or she may appear to us. The loving-kindness, concealed in each person's subconscious mind, should be brought out through the skill of mindfulness. "Mitra" in Vedic literature and "Mitta" in Pali literature means the sun. The nature of the sun can be called "Maitri" or "Metta". Maitri or Metta also means friendliness or loving-kindness. Perhaps the reason why loving-kindness is called so is that it generates very warm feeling towards all beings. Like warmth comes from the sun, one who has loving-kindness has a warm heart towards others. Just as the sun shines indiscriminately on any object in the world, "Metta" or "Maitri" pervades all beings without any discrimination. Just as the sun dispels darkness, loving-kindness destroys the darkness of hatred. Just like some objects absorbs sun more than others, some living beings absorb loving-kindness better than others. Those beings who absorb more loving-kindness are the ones who learn to relax because of their Kamma. The Buddha had cultivated such a powerful loving-kindness that he loved his bitterest enemy, Devadatta, who tried many times to kill him. He loved the highway robber and murderer, Angulimala, who also came to kill him. He loved Dhanapala, an elephant that came to kill him. He loved all of them just the same way he loved his own son, Rahula. When Devadatta died on the way going to see the Buddha, monks asked the Buddha what his future would be. The Buddha said that he would become a silent Buddha in future. That is the kind of loving-kindness, guided by mindfulness, that allows us to live in peace and harmony. Loving-kindness or Metta cannot be cultivated by mere repetition of words of loving-kindness. Repetition of such a formula is very much like repeating a prescription to a patient in a hospital or a menu to a hungry person in a restaurant. Repeating a list of things will never produce the tangible result of the words in the list. Loving-kindness is something we have to cultivate intentionally in our own minds by ourselves. Loving-kindness develops through meditation. When the mind is relaxed the meditator is able to forgive and forget any offense committed against him. One can practice Metta through tranquillity (Samatha) meditation. But that is not perpetual because tranquillity achievement can be only temporary. Friendliness cultivated through Vipassana, on the other hand, is perpetual because the effect of Vipassana meditation takes deep root in one's mind. Vipassana meditation softens the mind, and friendliness, cultivated along with the softening of the mind, will take deep root in the mind. Vipassana meditators see the impermanence in their forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. They can compare the changes of these aggregates with those of others. Then they do not see any person or thing to hate. If they ask themselves whom they hate, they may not find any individual to hate. By the same token they may not find any being towards whom they can cultivate loving-kindness, too. All they perceive is the phenomena of continuous flux of events that take place every moment in their own states of affairs and that of others. This enables them to forgive and forget the offenses that other aggregates have committed against them or their friends or relatives. Loving-kindness meditation is the real thing that genuinely develops our noble qualities which can promote peace and happiness. We cannot inculcate loving-kindness in others' minds. Nor can others give theirs to us. You cannot inculcate loving-kindness in me by force if my Kamma prevents my mind from accepting it. Each one of us must prepare the ground for loving-kindness to grow within our own minds. Also you must have it within yourself before you teach it to others just like you cannot teach someone a subject if you do not know it yourself first. Suppose you try to teach a subject to others without a having any knowledge of it. You make a fool of yourself. The better you know your subject the better you can teach others. Similarly, the better you train your mind in the discipline of loving-kindness the better you can teach the world how to cultivate it. Of course, you don't have to wait until all your training and learning are complete to start your teaching. While practicing loving-kindness by yourself you can gain practical experience. You can't practice it in a vacuum. There should be other living beings for you to work with or work for in order to gain experience. So while receiving your own training in practice of loving-kindness you train others to practice it. While teaching you can learn. While learning you can teach. Even the Bodhisattas, while working hard for their own salvation, help the world. Their practice helps them to attain enlightenment first so they are able to help the world reach the same goal. If they teach others to practice loving-kindness without practicing it by themselves, they would not attain enlightenment, nor would they be able to help others to practice loving-kindness. Each and everyone of us must cultivate it by ourselves and for ourselves. You cannot cultivate it for others. Nor can others cultivate it for you. If I promise to save you by practicing loving-kindness by myself and if you do not practice it yourself then only I alone will free my mind from ill-will and I cannot free your mind from those negative states. By the same token, if you cultivate loving-kindness for me and I cultivate it for you, then both of us are practicing it. I should not wait for you to cultivate loving-kindness for me. Neither should you wait for me to cultivate it for you. If you say "Don't practice loving-kindness by yourself but I will do it for you," it does not work. Don't say "How can I cultivate loving-kindness towards so and so who is hating me?" If you hate him/her who hates you, both of you are equal in doing evil. By asking this question what you are saying, in other words is, "How can I be good if others are evil?" Or "How can I avoid committing crimes when others commit crimes?" You practice loving-kindness not because others cultivate it. You want to cultivate it for the reason that others do not cultivate it. In the final analysis the practice of loving-kindness depends on an individual's spiritual development and Kamma. Some people's minds are Kammically so unfortunate that they find it almost impossible even to dream of the effectiveness of loving-kindness let alone practicing it, for their Kamma prevents them from seeing the benefit of loving-kindness. If you teach a class you will notice that each and every student's performance is not equal. Even identical twins have different performances in a class taught by you. Individuality is the way of expressing one's own emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual development conditioned by one's own Kamma. Not even the Buddha can intervene in some body's Kamma. We are not created equal, but born different from one another according to our own Kamma which divides beings into superior or inferior qualities. [5] If you do some good Kamma and enjoy its result I cannot steal or take it away from you by force or by friendly means. If I practice loving-kindness for all beings I can clear my mind from hatred. Thus my practice of loving-kindness manifests in my behavior. Beginning the practice of loving-kindness is the beginning of practice of good Kamma, for no good Kamma can be practiced without loving-kindness. Introducing the four Foundations of Mindfulness,[6] therefore, the Buddha asked meditators to overcome covetousness and hatred [7] for the reason that during the practice of mindfulness the meditator will encounter many problems with both covetousness and hatred. More often than not, people ask, "Can we eliminate other people's pain, suffering and hatred by cultivating loving-kindness within ourselves?" Even the Buddha is unable to eradicate other people's pain and suffering by wishing peace and happiness. The Buddha said: "You must work out your own salvation. The Buddhas are teachers." [8] As individuals have their share of Kamma, each and everyone has to work for their own salvation. If we can eliminate others' suffering by wishing them to be free from their pain and suffering, then bringing peace and happiness to the whole world is very easy. If this is possible, by the same token, it should also be possible for a vindictive person to destroy all their enemies by wishing them: "Let them be ugly, let them lie in pain, let them have no prosperity, let them not be rich, let them not be famous, let them have no friends and let them, after death, be born in woeful states of existence." [9] In reality those who make these types of unwholesome wishes themselves can be ugly, in pain, have no prosperity, not be rich, not be famous, have no friends and after death be born in woeful state of existence, because they commit evil Kamma in their own minds by making a wish full of hatred. Evil thoughts have the power of making others ill and good thoughts have the power of making others well. You may wonder, "If there are no beings in the ultimate sense or no self in any sense or if there are beings in conditional sense and if my practice of loving-kindness does not annihilate their pain and suffering because of their own Kamma, why should I cultivate loving-kindness?" You should remember that when your mind is full of evil thoughts or angry thoughts, for instance, you speak very roughly in filthy language, cursing language, slanderous language and falsehood. You talk maliciously. When your mind is full of hatred whatever you see brings you pain; whatever you hear is painful; whatever you smell is unpleasant to you; whatever you eat makes you sick, whatever you touch is unpleasant to your body; and whatever you think is painful. You become vindictive. You always speak ill of others, never see any good in others. You become very critical. You always find faults in others. You never appreciate any good things others do. You can be very jealous all the time. You become very arrogant, ungrateful, mean, very wicked minded. You always think of doing harm to others. You enjoy seeing others in pain, in trouble, in difficulties. You will be very happy to see others fail in their lives. Then your behavior is very offensive to others. You can easily make others sick. Your behavior will be very unpleasant to others. All who are around you will feel sick in their stomach to work with you. They get headaches and stomachaches. They become very nervous to be around you. This is how your unwholesome thought affects others. If your mind is full of loving-kindness, on the other hand, you will speak gently, kindly, in friendly language. Whatever you see will be a source of happiness to you; whatever you hear is pleasing to your ears. You can taste your food better. Whatever you touch makes you glad. Whatever you smell will be pleasing to your nose. Whatever you think will be very pleasant and peaceful. You would go out of your way to be very helpful to people. You would become very considerate and understanding. You would have great patience. You would be accommodating. You would always speak the truth. You would always wish to please others. You would be ready to forget and forgive people who wronged you. You would always be relaxed. You would not have an unnecessary and nervous giggle, but would have a friendly smile on your face. Then people would love to work with you. They would feel comfortable around you. Their minds also would be very soft and gentle towards you. They would be protective of you. They would not speak ill of you behind your back, but would speak well of you. Their productivity level would increase. Your reputation would increase. Moreover, you may ask "What is the use of practicing loving-kindness for all living beings by saying: 'May all beings be happy and secure! May all beings have happy minds! Whatever living beings there may be without exception, weak or strong, long, large, middling, short, subtle, or gross, visible or invisible, living near or far, born or coming to birth--may all beings have happy minds!' Why should one wish, 'Let no one deceive another nor despise anyone anywhere. Neither in anger nor ill-will should anyone wish harm to another. As a mother would risk her own life to protect her only child even so towards all living beings one should cultivate a boundless heart'. Why should 'one cultivate for all the world a heart of boundless loving-kindness, above, below, and across, unobstructed, without hate or enmity. Whether standing, sitting, walking or lying down one should cultivate this mindfulness?'" Also sometimes people wonder how can we wish our enemies "May my enemy be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them; may no difficulty come to them; may no problem come to them; may they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems and failures in life?" We must remember that we practice loving-kindness for the purification of our own minds, just as we practice meditation for our own attainment of enlightenment. As I practice loving-kindness within myself I can behave in a most friendly manner without biases, prejudices, discrimination or hate. My noble behavior helps me to help the other conditional beings in a most practical manner to reduce their pain and suffering. It is the compassionate people who behave very gently and kindly to make people around them feel comfortable. Compassion is a manifestation of loving-kindness in action, for one who does not have loving-kindness cannot help others. Noble behavior means behaving in a most friendly and most cordial manner. Behavior includes our thought, speech and action. If this triple mode of expression of our behavior is contradictory, then something is wrong in our behavior. Contradictory behavior cannot be noble behavior. If someone speaks of loving-kindness and behaves in a most unkind manner, he/she is hypocritical, not honest. On the other hand, pragmatically speaking, it is much better to cultivate the noble thought, "May all beings be happy minded" than the thought "I hate him". The noble thought will definitely express itself in our noble behavior and our spiteful thought will express itself in our evil behavior. We must remember our thoughts are transformed into speech and action in order to bring the expected result. Intention or thought translated into action is capable of producing a positive hormone in our brain. This positive hormone acts as a nutrient and nourishes and strengthens our nerves. When our nerves are positively charged with this positive hormone they become strong. This positive hormone will also be transported throughout our bodies by blood circulation, making our cells very healthy. All healthy nerve cells and blood cells make our body and mind strong and very healthy. We should always speak and do things with mindfulness of loving-kindness. While speaking of loving-kindness, if you act or speak in a diametrically opposite way you will be reproached by the wise. As mindfulness of loving-kindness develops, our thoughts, words and deeds become gentle, pleasant, meaningful, truthful and beneficial to us as well to others. If our thoughts, words or deeds cause harm to us, to others or to both, then we must ask ourselves whether we are really mindful of loving-kindness. For all practical purposes, if all of your enemies are well, happy and peaceful, they would not be your enemies. If they are free from problems, pain, suffering, affliction, neurosis, psychosis, psychosomatic, paranoia, fear, tension, anxiety, etc., they would not be your enemies any more. Your practical solution to them being your enemies is to help them to overcome their problems, so you can live in peace and happiness. In fact, if you can, you should fill the minds of all your enemies with loving-kindness and make all of them realize Nibbana, so you can live in peace and happiness. The more they are in neurosis, psychosis, fear, tension, anxiety, etc. the more trouble, pain and suffering they can bring to the world. If you can convert a vicious and wicked person into a holy and saintly person then you perform a miracle that the Buddha permitted us to perform. Let us cultivate adequate wisdom and loving-kindness within ourselves to convert evil minds to saintly minds. (Next issue: //Practice of Loving-kindness//) Notes ~~~~~ 1. //metta//, //karuna//, //mudita//, and //upekkha// respectively. 2. //Etam satim adhittheyya; Brahmam etam viharam idhamahu// (Karaniyametta Sutta KN) 3. Mahakarunasapatti. 4. //Sabbadisa anuparigamma cetasa - nevajjhaga piyataram attana kvaci yasma piyo puthu atta paresam - tasma na himse param attakamo// (SN I 75) 5. //Kammam satte vibhajati yadidam hinappanitataya// (Culakammavibhanga Sutta MN #135) 6. Mahasatipatthana Sutta (DN # 22) 7. //Vineyya loke abhijjha domanassam// (Ibid) 8. //Tumhehi ciccam atappam - akkhataro Tathagata// (Dhp. 276) 9. AN IV, 94-95 * * * * * * * * "Satimato sada bhaddam - satima sukham edhati satimato su ve seyyo - vera na parimuccati yassa sabbam ahorattam - ahimsaya rato mano mettam so sabbabhutesu - veram tassa na kenaci" (SN I. 208) "For one whose mind ever by night and day In harmlessness, in kindness takes delight, Bearing one's share in love for all that lives, In that one no hate is found toward anyone." (Adapted from KS. I. 266) * * * * * * * * {2} JOURNEY OF RENUNCIATION By Rev. Sister Sucinta (Ruth Baumann) And how is a monk contented? Here a monk is satisfied with a robe to protect his body, with alms to satisfy his stomach, and having accepted them as sufficient, he goes on his way. Just as a bird with wings flies hither and thither, burdened by nothing but his wings, so he is satisfied... In this way , Sire, a monk is contented." [1] When I flew from England to the USA as an Anagarika (homeless person) to be ordained as a Theravadan ten-precepts-nun, I wanted to arrive with as little luggage as possible and leave the past behind me. It might be helpful to recollect, how the journey began and where it is going. Growing up in Germany, I did not know anything about Buddhism, let alone "The Fruits of the Homeless Life" I was only familiar with the Christian belief of heaven and hell. When I was asked by a psychologist at the age of 12 "to put a spell on my family" to change us into animals, I drew myself as a little bird. Spending half a year in a children's hospital in Freiburg/Breisgau, I already knew both physical and mental hunger and suffering. Meeting a woman psychologist who understood the valley of despair where I found myself, appeared to me like a miracle. Psychology and psychotherapy seemed to help overcome my sorrow, lamentation, grief and despair, though there were many up and downs. Later I put a lot of effort into studying social sciences and become a psychologist. When I finally got my diploma from Hamburg University I became involved in a ruthless competition among unemployed psychologists, many of whom had been my fellow students and friends. My first full-time job as a psychologist was to help establish a center where unemployed people could meet and get advice. I knew many of their problems from my own experience, and was very interested and wished to find solutions. This phenomenon of unemployment struck me deeply. It even turned my whole view about the world upside down. During a one-year training in psychotherapy we had a teacher, a psychiatrist, who was a member of a Buddhist group. Our subject at that time was addiction in all its forms and aspects. Then came a period of unemployment. Now I was open for Buddha's teaching, and I had time to read about the life of the Buddha and his discovery. In the light of the Buddha's teaching all "my" suffering was so normal. Not getting what we want -- a job for example -- is a very common fact in our lives, and no reason to feel bad about ourselves on top of it. I also suffered from this belief in "my self" and had great concern about it. My intention to help and understand people was mixed with selfish wishes for social security, acknowledgment, even privileges. Therefore I was disappointed and felt injured. Then I found another chance to earn my living in a good way. My task was a kind of "investigation of dukkha", to study lots of documents, mainly judgments by psychiatrists about children, and to find out what happened to them (both children and doctors) during the time of Hitler. The vocabulary used was utterly despising, there was no trace of compassion at all, and some of the most miserable and neglected children were murdered later in so-called "Kinderfachabteilungen" (special sections of asylums and hospitals for children), by poisoned food or lethal injections. Of course there was no "final end" of suffering by sterilizing or killing extremely poor, confused, sick or disabled persons, labeled as "Euthanasia", but only enormous increasing of misery. Modern technology and science (including medicine and psychology) or political movements are not able to overcome old age, sickness and death. Only by accepting these basic human conditions and by accepting all living beings in every state, "weak or strong....", can we learn to live in harmony and peace. To put into practice what the Metta-Sutta is teaching, would be a job for at least one lifetime, I realized. Meanwhile I had attended my first meditation course at the Buddhist Society in Hamburg and started to meditate regularly. During a holiday I attended Bhante Rahula's retreat in "Haus der Stille" near Hamburg. While my professional research was jumping from one aspect to another and some centuries backwards as well, getting more and more complicated and still expanding, Bhante Rahula taught us, that "Investigation of Dhamma" leads to simplicity and towards cessation. And I could see that he himself lived the simple life he was talking about. There were still dreams and a desire for playfulness in my mind. I discovered that some elements of play survived even in these horrible institutions called "Kinderfachabteilungen". When there were children in concentration camps, there were adults making simple toys for them almost out of nothing. The (now grown old) persons I interviewed, who had spent some time of their childhood in an orphanage in Hamburg between 1930-45, were alert and cheerful, when they told me their games they used to play. I was dreaming of having a special kind of psychological praxis -- maybe an attic with all kinds of "toys" (objects, and material and tools and space) just to play with, to experiment with everything and to gain insight into the world outside and human nature inside. There were so many questions I could not answer myself. What was the game? What was reality? Which was my part in this game? There was also the simple, but very basic question: How could I get what I needed for living? After finishing the report of my research I flew to Sri Lanka and spent three months on Parappuduwa Nuns' Island under guidance of Ayya Kheminda, a Theravadan nun from the Netherlands. I returned with a new certainty that there must be a "way out" of this kind of museum I was lost in. Then I flew to Washington D.C. and came to Bhavana Society, where I felt welcome. I liked the gong calling for meditation in early morning and found there was a lot of work to do. Back in Germany I gave up my apartment, as I had made up my mind to return to Bhavana Society to live there as a nun. But my visa application for USA was refused and I was glad to find refuge in England at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. In December 1991 Ajahn Sumedho gave me the eight precepts formally, and from that time on I have been wearing the white robe of Anagarikas. During this time as a novice, it occurred to me that the attic I was still dreaming of was actually here, but it was open and had neither roof nor walls nor other limitations. It was not even limited to the monastery I was living at that time. It was the whole world, and it was here all the time, in this body and mind. However, the attitude of openness and lightness is like a seed that needs to grow and to be cherished all the time. It tends to disappear when we meet all kinds of obstacles and hardships. Pema Chodron described in her book "The Wisdom of No Escape", the "journey of awakening" as a continuous series of challenges, but just by meeting them we can develop the kindness and playfulness of a mind clinging to nothing in the world: "The whole journey of renunciation, or starting to say yes to life, is first of all realizing that you've come up against your edge, that everything in you is saying no, and then at that point, softening. This is yet another opportunity to develop loving-kindness for yourself, which results in playfulness - learning to play like a raven in the wind." [2] Ordination is a kind of "birth", a new starting point within this journey, and it is given out of kindness and compassion. I feel very fortunate and grateful having found Bhante Gunaratana as my preceptor and teacher and Bhavana Society, a place to practice Dhamma as a ten-precepts-nun. Notes ~~~~~ 1. Samannaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Homeless Life, Digha Nikaya; //Thus Have I Heard//, Translated by Maurice Walshe p. 101 2. //The Wisdom of No Escape//, By Pema Chodron p. 55 * * * * * * * * {3} THE SANGHA OF MY PEERS By Geoffery Huggins We honor the Triple Gem at the beginning and ending of each meditation period. The first gem, the Buddha, is the most obvious. It is his enlightenment and boundless compassion that laid the path we all tread. The second gem -- the Dhamma or Dharma -- is the foundation upon which we base our journey. To most people, the Dhamma is also a very visible and prominent member of the Triple Gem. The third gem (the sangha) gets the least attention, I feel. It sits awaiting us in the background, ready for the support we need on our journey. Over the last year or two, I have increasingly come to appreciate and honor the sangha. I owe a great debt and have a profound sense of gratitude to the monks and nuns of the sangha who have paved the way for me and who have instructed me. They have maintained Buddhism over the centuries and kept the message of the Buddha and Dhamma vital. Without their dedication, the first two jewels would not be as readily available to me as it is. The monastic community is a priceless gem. However, in this essay, I'd like to direct my attention to just a portion of the sangha: my peers -- lay persons who are in practice with me, at approximately my level. It is this subset of the sangha that I've come to particularly appreciate and would like to pay tribute to here. Many feel that Buddhism is an individual religion, wherein one practices in isolation; the implication being that community is less important than it is in other religions. I disagree. My community (my fellow travelers) of sangha peers is a jewel to me. It gives me great support. What support do I feel from the sangha that is so important to me, in my practice? First, I feel uncritical and unconditional acceptance. I also feel a nonjudgmental caring that is extended to me, regardless of who I might be. I am one of them, a member of the sisterhood and brotherhood, with no questions asked or hesitation shown. There is a sense of unity that pervades the atmosphere when I am present with the sangha -- lending a sense of purpose and direction. This unity of purpose does wonders in sustaining my focus and dedication. I am not alone when the sangha is present. Indeed, we are more than the sum of our individual members. There is a spiritual force that our gathering creates. The support and encouragement our spirit provides each other is a very powerful force. It lets me have the confidence that those around me care about me. This support is very buoyant. It provides a safety net for me, that encourages my progress, because I can be comfortable about taking risks and exposing myself to mistakes and stumbling. If I fall, no one will deride me; I will not be humiliated -- rather, that compassionate safety net cushions my fall. It empowers and enables my growth. This loving support of the sangha fosters a relaxed, open feeling within me. And of course, relaxed and open is exactly what I need to be, to become more aware, and to grow spiritually. These are some of the aspects of why I treasure the third jewel of the Triple Gem. The Buddha and the Dhamma make it possible and chart the course, but the sangha gives personal support and encouragement as we engage in the journey. It is supporting and comforting to be accompanied by a group of fellow travelers who struggle with the same challenges. I have asked myself if why it is that a group of lay people are able to give such support to each other. What is going on? How are we different from any other group of people that might gather for a common purpose? Of course, one obvious special quality is that the grace of the Buddha and the Dhamma provides the nurturing spiritual atmosphere that makes it all possible. The first two of the Triple Gems allow the third to be; they endow the sangha with a beauty of purpose that fosters the abilities of the individuals to aid and encourage each other. My question, however, asks specifically about what is going on inside each of us. What interior action creates the sangha support mechanism? First, we all feel a sense of unity because we are all on the same path; we share a common goal. Any group that gathers with a common purpose will naturally feel supportive of one another. We all also sense that our cooperation is in the common interest -- there is no place for competition amongst us. We know that each of us will benefit from the boosted progress of the others. My helping you helps me. Further, we know that we are gathering to learn; we are there to absorb the teaching. Being students, we understand each other's incompleteness, frailties, and faults. Because we feel safe in the setting prepared by the first two Gems, we feel no pretensions; we can let our guard down and relax. This creates the nourishing environment that forgives the naivete and lack of polish in each of us; that provides the safety net. This, in turn, waters the seeds of love and compassion present within each of us. It strengthens our relationship and provides a sense of unity, as peers. The company of our sangha peers helps to put our own position in perspective: we are here, right now, together on the path. We are working both together and individually to make progress, to move forward. In doing so, we feel compassion (rather than smugness and superiority) for those behind us on the path. We understand that we once were stumbling in darkness at the beginning of our journey, and that a momentary loss of awareness and sense of purpose can quickly cause us to stumble again, or fall by the wayside. Similarly, we feel gratitude and respect for those ahead of us on the path -- rather than feel envy or adulation or a have sense of inferiority to them. We know that at one time they were struggling where we are now. The progress they have made gives us the encouragement to work hard and stay at the task. They serve as beacons to indicate the way forward. And so I place my forehead to the floor three times to honor the three jewels. The first time for the Buddha -- in gratitude for his enormous accomplishment and gift to us. The second time for the Dhamma -- in recognition of its wisdom and guidance for us all. The third time for the sangha -- in gratitude for the countless disciples who have kept the path available and vital. I owe homage to all those nuns and monks who went before me. But I add an extra moment at the very end of my bows, in honor of and with metta towards the sangha of my peers; perhaps some future monks and nuns amongst them. * * * * * * * * {4} BOOK REVIEW by Douglas Durham A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield; Bantam Books; New York 1993 $11.95 Many Americans would appear to be suffering for psychological reasons, stemming from childhoods in dysfunctional families. Like Jack Kornfield, many of them have taken refuge in Buddhism, seeking a solution to their problems as Kornfield says (page 5): "In joining the monastery, I had hoped to leave behind the pain of my family life and the difficulties of the world, but of course they follow me. It took me many years to realize that these difficulties were part of my practice." On page 246, Kornfield goes on to say: "In truth, the need to deal with our personal emotional problems is more the rule in spiritual practice than the exception. At least half the students at our annual three-months retreat find themselves unable to do traditional Insight meditation because they encounter so much unresolved grief, fear and wounding and unfinished developmental business from the past that this becomes their meditation". This book has significant value for American Buddhists, dealing with past psychological issues hindering them from gaining full access to the powerful, transformative techniques of mindfulness meditation. The strengths of this book are: (1) the inspiration of Kornfield's own story of overcoming his immature behaviors and developing "wholeness" in mind, body and heart; (2) the experience of over 20 years of insight meditation and personal and professional therapy which Kornfield has; (3) good advice, based on that experience, on the practical use of meditation for healing and achieving health. Kornfield's main themes are: (1) use professional psychological counseling to complete your growth to emotional maturity; (2) pick one meditation practice and persist with it for years; (3) choose a good teacher for consistent guidance in that practice; (4) use your problems as your practice; (5) develop loving-kindness (metta) towards yourself and others; (6) practice giving as way to spiritual growth. Having discussed the book's strengths, I would like to suggest some areas where it might have provided more value or information. First, the discussion of the different counseling or therapeutic approaches for healing were general, almost to the point of being vague (at least in my mind). There is missing a comparison or analysis of the uses and limits of each therapy. Those interested should read Michael Murphy's The Future of the Body for a detailed review of many different approaches to spiritual and emotional "wholeness". The extensive references are very useful. Second, there is not as clear an analysis I would like on the relationship between psychological development work and the uses of insight meditation while that development work is proceeding. Some discussion of the issues raised in Michael West's The Psychology of Meditation, especially the chapter by Carrington might have been useful. Third, while the practical advice on meditation is superb, the look might have benefited from some similar practical advice on psychological coping strategies. Those interested might read Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman for detailed information on some successful strategies developed by cognitive therapy. These three suggestions are not meant to be criticisms of Kornfield's excellent and useful work, which I enjoyed and found personally helpful. They are intended to provide additional references and resources for those working towards the goal of emotional maturity and "wholeness". * * * * * * * * {5} MINDFULNESS MEDITATION GROUP FORMING IN VIRGINIA The Opportunity ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A group is being formed to learn and support the practice of mindfulness meditation in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. We will meet Monday evenings, 7-9, near Reston, VA. Our first purpose is to establish a regular weekly meditation session to strengthen our practice of Theravadan Buddhism by joining with other like-minded individuals. Our second purpose is to learn to use mindfulness meditation to achieve clear comprehension of our daily behavior, leading to significant change towards greater patience, joy, compassion and wisdom. What Mindfulness is ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Cultivation of mindfulness is the heart of Buddhist meditation practice. With the guidance of experienced teachers, and consistent and balanced practice, you become aware of your sensory experiences from moment to moment, directly and immediately, overcoming the distorting influences of socially conditioned responses. Silently and thoroughly, piece by piece, you obtain a greater understanding of your behavior and beliefs, through watching the functioning of your mind in a calm and detached manner. Put another way -- you learn to listen to your own thoughts without being caught up in them. This self-knowledge frees you from the limitations of your accustomed behavior patterns. With this freedom of clear comprehension you can take the ancient way to profound transformation in your daily work, sport and personal relationships. Objectives ~~~~~~~~~~ Patience; Self-Knowledge; Joy; Equanimity; Compassion; Wisdom; Time Frame ~~~~~~~~~~ Meditators display some movement towards these objectives after the first full year of sustained, energetic practice. However, mindfulness and clear comprehension take years of work for full effect. There are no quick fixes here. Teachers ~~~~~~~~ Two Theravadan Buddhist monks with a combined total of over 70 years of meditative experience will provide over-all guidance. Bhante Gunaratana, ordained in 1939 in Sri Lanka, received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from American University where he was also Buddhist Chaplain. Bhante Rahula, an American monk ordained in 1975 in Sri Lanka, regularly teaches meditation throughout this country and abroad. Both monks reside at Bhavana Society, a near-by forest monastery, where they conduct regular meditation retreats. Weekly Sessions ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The first 15-20 minutes will be a guided series of relaxation and breathing exercises to prepare you for up to 60 minutes of seated meditation. (If you are new to meditation and not accustomed to sitting for an hour, we will help you make the transition) When one of the monks is present, the last 40 minutes will be devoted to instruction on how to setup and deepen your practice at home and a discussion of Buddhist texts and experience as they relate to cultivating the clear comprehension of your behavior in daily life. When no monk is present, there will usually be a discussion of meditative practice and its application to daily life. Retreats ~~~~~~~~ If you wish to have greater contact with the monks to deepen your practice, you can always go to the monastery. The opportunity for (and practice of) continuous mindfulness is of great value. Cost ~~~~ In the spirit of the Theravadan tradition, participation in this weekly group and in the retreats at the monastery, including all meals, is offered free of charge. From those who find the experience worth while, donations are gratefully accepted. All donations are tax-deductible. Religious Affiliations ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Theravadan Buddhist mindfulness is a way of life which can be practiced regardless of your religious affiliation. Reading ~~~~~~~ A suggested reading list is available which might be helpful. Initial Seminar ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Bhante Rahula will lead an introductory seminar in Reston, VA Saturday afternoon, July 16th. This meeting will be an introduction to mindfulness and breathing and will include a guided meditation. It is open to anyone seriously interested in joining a regular Theravadan meditation group. Registration ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Registration for the seminar opens on June 27 and is limited. Contact ~~~~~~~ Douglas Durham 11254 Silentwood Lane Reston, VA, 22091 (703) 391-6884 (between 9 AM and 5 PM) Please call or write for further information on the group being formed and how to register for the seminar. Mr. Durham is writing a book on the key physical and mental practices which can improve your running speed and enjoyment. He coaches runners, providing training in both physical and mental practice, specifically how to use mindfulness in running. * * * * * * * * {6} NOTES AND NEWS Ruth Baumann's Ordination ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ruth Baumann was ordained as a novice nun at the Bhavana society. Her new name is Sucinta. She is the second woman to be ordained at the Bhavana Society, Meditation Center. The first woman to be ordained at the center was Sama in 1989. There were twelve monks, two nuns and two hundred lay people including the Sri Lankan Ambassador. Please read the article by Ruth to know more about her. Sri Lankan Ambassador's speech was well received. Travels ~~~~~~~ Bhante Gunaratana will be teaching at the following locations between April and July 1994: Apr 15-17 New Jersey Apr 29-May 1 Toronto, Canada May 20-23 Bodhitreee Dhamma Center, Florida June 3-13 Ocamora Foundation, Ocate, NM June 17-27 IMS, Barre, Mass. June 29-July 25 Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Australia Bhante Rahula will be teaching in Europe between May 10 and June 28, 1994. Vesak Celebration ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As usual, this year's Vesak celebration was held at the Bhavana Society Meditation Center on the 29th of May. We thank each and everyone who generously donated food and other items and those who decorated the place to make this Vesak Celebration a success. Improvements ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Two rest rooms and a shower were added to the women's quarters. Now there are four rest rooms and two showers in that section. A new store room was built in order to facilitate the storage of numerous materials in the center. New Meditation Hall ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ From time to time, some of our very enthusiastic members ask about the status of the New Meditation Hall. We would like to report at this point that we are still planning to build it. We plan to do ground breaking this July and start building slowly as we get support from people. As soon as we build up sufficient funds we will go in full swing and keep you all posted its progress. We are still updating our mailing list ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Please take a look at your mailing label. If it says YOUR LAST NEWSLETTER - we need to hear from you in order to keep you on our mailing list. You simply need to fill the card in the inside back cover and mail it to us. We will stop sending the newsletter if we don't hear from you by July 20th as we cannot be certain if you are getting our newsletter, especially since many people have moved and not given a forwarding address. You can also call us at (304) 856-3241 or FAX to (304) 856-2111 instead of sending the card. Regular Donor Program ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Bhavana Society now has a regular donor program designed for your convenience. It is for those who wish to donate on a regular basis. There is no need to remember when to donate as we will send a stamped and addressed return envelope to you at the appropriate time decided by you. You simply have to put your donation check in the envelope and put it into a mailbox. You may withdraw from the program at any time or make changes to the amount you wish to donate. You can help Bhavana Society's community of enlightenment, and its transmission of the Buddha Dhamma by partaking in this program; please fill the DONATION FORM near the last page. Buddhist Dictionary available for FREE ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Edited by the late Ven. Nyanatiloka, the BUDDHIST DICTIONARY has clear explanations of all key Theravada terms and doctrines accompanied by textual references. It is an indispensable aid for the serious student of Buddhism. We have a limited number of copies so please limit to one per person. While the book is FREE, donations are welcome to cover cost of packaging and postage. We must get your request by July 10th (USA and Canada) as shipments will be made in mid July. Dhamma from your computer ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you own a computer you now have easy access to a mountain of Dhamma material. //DhammaDisk// is a new offering from us that you can use even if you feel you are computer illiterate. Consisting of two floppy disks its contents include Dhamma discourses, meditation instructions, previous Bhavana newsletters, book reviews, daily recitations at Bhavana, directory of vipassana sitting groups, dozens of articles, and entire books. To receive //Dhamma Disk//, write us telling which type of computer you have (IBM clone or Mac). The disks fit any 3.5 inch floppy drive but if you have a different size drive write us anyway, we may be able to help. The information is FREE and donations are welcome to cover cost of disks, packaging, and postage. * * * * * * * * [end of file]


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