Buddhism and Meditation

Life With Full Attention – Week 5


Yesterday the Milton Keynes Triratna Buddhist Group met up and practiced Mindfulness of Breathing meditation. After a tea break we continued with our Life with Full Attention Course. Here are the notes from the meeting:


Life with full attention -Week 5 – Bringing the teachings (Dhammas) to mind


Virtues and strengths – “We experience a special kind of pleasure when we do something that brings us into contact with our virtues and strengths”.

Compare the vedana we get from drinking a  nice cup of coffee or tea with comforting a friend in a time of need.

Martin Seligman calls this ‘authentic happiness’ as it is qualitatively superior to ordinary pleasure.


Dhamma – Meaning ‘teaching’ or ‘truth’


Dhammas -’being aware of our experience in the light of what we have already learnt – bringing the teachings to mind’.


Mindfulness of dhammas – becoming aware that when we act out of positive states of mind we become happier, more connected, and expansive. Whereas negative states make us feel isolated, constricted, unhappy.


Requires us to do 3 things:

- notice the state of mind we are in
- create a gap of honest self reflection
- decide how best to act by bringing to mind the teachings that lead to authentic happiness


Buddhist ethics are natural

- Negative states cause pain to us and to others.
- Positive states make us and others happy.


Buddhist ethics are volitional

- how mental states motivate our actions not how any culture or society views our actions.


Buddhist ethics are about practicing to become a Buddha

- Meaning we are making an effort to release ourselves from conditioned existence – to become free from pain and ultimately happy.
- We are not expected to suddenly become enlightened or be overwhelmed by the task; remember-’a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Any positive actions we take are worthwhile and a step in the right direction.

Mindfulness and imagination

- Mindfulness is an act of imagination – our capacity to see deeper, further and in new ways
- A mindful person is imaginatively alive and imagines the consequences of their actions
- Unethical actions are failures of imagination - our actions have consequences and affect others


The Four forces (or Right Efforts) - a microscopic view; cultivating mindfulness of  dhammas from moment to moment

1/ Eradicating already arisen unskilful mental states. By noticing citta (our states of mind); dropping beneath citta into verdana and not relating to uncomfortable verdana; and bringing mindfulness to the body as an antidote to toxic mind.

2/ Preventingthe arising of as yet un-risen unskilful mental states. By enjoying positive states of mind!; watch for early warning signs of bad moods; and taking evasive action before we spiral into negativity.

3/ Cultivatingthe arising of as yet un-risen skilful mental states. Practicing life with full attention!- mindfulness of the body and verdana; not taking inner narratives too seriously; and bringing to mind the teachings in the moment we need them.

4/ Maintaining already arisen skilful mental states. By dwelling in the positive, creative, energetic, aware states of mind! – without becoming intoxicated by it.


Remember, we are all learning a craft and it takes time, application and patience to master it. We need to be kind/ not overly critical with ourselves whilst remembering we need to make an effort to be able to make progress.


5th practice week

- Keep up what is working for you from previous weeks – consider the four forces in relation to your practice.
- Make an ‘ethical inventory’ of your life – you might want to consider:  Do I take the not given? Drinking habits (effects on my mind & on others). Relationship to Sex (healthy or neurotic). Can I be kinder?
- Consider a personal precept for the week.
- Remember to contact your mindfulness buddy and to keep up the journal.

Life With Full Attention – Week 4

This week the MK Meditation Association met up and practiced a Cultivation of Loving Kindness meditation. After a tea break we continued with our Life with Full Attention Course. Here are the notes from the meeting: 

Week 4Mind (Citta)


Unhappy People in a Happy World – we live in a highly affluent society – compared to the majority. Yet we are not happy in proportion to all we have and own.


Happiness is not about “things” it is about our state of mind.


Citta (Pali) – Mind (not the brain) – includes thoughts and emotions (head and heart), has an active and an intuitive aspect. The more & less conscious aspects of ourselves.


Everything we experience is through the mind.


  • We do not see things as they are – we “cast a spell” – we call it our experience and believe it is real and objective.


  • We are “under a spell” – in the grip of opinions and the beliefs/thoughts of others.


  • Yet, we can learn to understand the mind and to see things as they really are.


How we Change – we want to be different, better, improved. We cannot become something entirely different, but we can Grow.


The Spell We Cast:


Expectations – we have lots but we are not very aware of them – until they fail to get met. We need to learn to see our expectations for what they are.


Assumptions – our assumptions shape our lives and we have many of them. Some will come from our childhood.


Predictions – what could, should or might happen next. Thoughts have vedana (texture) and can be painful. Negative predictions can cause a painful feedback loop – increasing our experience of suffering.


Pattern Matching – making sense of experience by comparison with other experience (snake or rope?). We react accordingly and often habitually.


The Spell We are Under:


Conditioned by teachers, parents, religion, media, history, culture….Many of our views are formed before we reach the age of 7.


Mind & World Condition each other – the kind of world we grew up in shapes our mind. The kind of mind we have shapes the world we experience. What “we are” is largely our conditioning.


“Self” – a story we keep telling ourselves. Our stories make sense and have truth, but they are not the whole story. We edit !


Check our stories – go back to awareness of Body and Vedana (feeling/texture) – what do these tell us? Is this thought true? Is it one sided? Is it extreme? Am I laying blame on myself or others?


Self & World – Samjna – the moment of perception – the moment of pattern matching and naming. We create a “real” outer world and an inner world. Where does one end and the other begin?


Practices for this Week


1/ The Mindful Walk. Use this to tune into our internal commentary. What am I thinking about? Am I anxious? Is it pleasant? Is it obsessive? Is it useful?


Use awareness of body, movement and vedana (sensation) to bring yourself back to the here and now – relax.


- Keep the mind open, free from focus

- Watch the mind wander towards thoughts – become aware of “the story”

- Notice the affect on the body – the belly, shoulders, neck.

- Reflect on your thoughts


2. Mindful Moment. Either use The 3 Minute Breathing Space or chose a simple daily activity – e.g. cleaning teeth.


- Notice the sensations in the body, it’s weight, position and movement

- Notice the Vedanas – pleasant, painful, neutral

- Follow the breathing or the activity

- Become aware of thoughts – fleeting or “sticky”. Why does it stick? Have I lost perspective? Am I taking things too seriously? Do I have an unconscious need?


3/ Meditation. Try 15-20 mins. if you can (less is OK). Put it in your diary.


Day 1Build up mindfulness – body scan, notice vedana/tone. Become aware of mood (body clues). Ask: “is there anything that needs attention?”

Day 2Working with inner narrative – dropping peddles in a well: “what makes me happy?”, “Am I happy now?”, “What is the story”

Day 3Awareness of distraction – start with body scan, then notice where your mind goes. Are you preoccupied? Is it familiar? Is it a habit?

Day 4Let go of unhelpful narratives – notice unpleasant feelings and let go of the story around it. Try experiencing it with kindly awareness.

Day 5Letting go – notice the feeling/vedana then the narrative. Relax into the feeling & keep letting go of narratives – use the out breath – spacious

Day 6Breathing & thinking – tune into body and breath. Watch the mind wander – keep thinking & bring awareness of breath to the thought. Rest.

Day 7Meeting needs. Sit very still, notice body, vedana & thoughts. Do these express a need? Can you meet this within yourself – in the meditation?


Life With Full Attention – Week 3

Yesterday the MK Meditation Association practiced a Buddhist meditation called the Mindfulness of Breathing. After a tea break we continued with our Life with Full Attention Course. Here are the notes from the meeting:


Life With Full AttentionWeek 3Feelings / Vedana



Vedana (Pali) – the fundamental “feel” or “taste” of life. All experience has a flavour. Whether a physical sensation (touch/taste/smell etc) or the mind (memory/fantasy/thoughts). Traditionally explained as either: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral (somewhere in between).

 Emotions are another type of feeling – more secondary – how we feel “about” things – something we create after the fact. Vedana is more immediate, it is in the sensation – not an idea about it.


The Texture of Life


1/ We do not like unpleasant Vedana


  • we try to avoid it and bring it to an end
  • we usually react with varying degrees of aversion
  • unpleasant Vedana cannot be avoided – it is part of life



We can change how we respond


We can be aware of what we feel, aware that we are feeling it, then we can investigate it – rather than blindly reacting.


The reaction can make things worse:


  • our distress becomes highlighted and then more vivid
  • we tense up in the body, fight or flight
  • the “stories” can take over: “why are they doing this to me…they are so selfish….”



2/ We like pleasant Vedana


  • we want more
  • but how much pleasure do we really enjoy?
  • do we tend to rush from one thing to the next?
  • do we enjoy every mouth full of a good meal or do we forget the main course as our mind turns towards dessert?


The first goal in being mindful of pleasant Vedana is learning to relish it!


  • The Discipline of Delight – in order to really relish a pleasurable experience there has to be some self-restraint
  • craving to repeat an experience is Dukkha (unsatisfactory)
  • the law of diminishing returns means that we are playing a loosing game



We need to handle pleasure carefully.


“He who binds to himself a joy, Does the wingèd life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies, Lives in eternity’s sunrise” – William Blake


3/ Neutral Vedana is somewhere in the middle


  • perhaps our most common experience
  • a sort of bland OK, merging into boredom
  • how much of this is a lack of sensitivity?
  • embrace the neutral – don’t run away!
  • be discerning, look for the subtleties and nuances in the “grey experiences” perhaps there is more going on than you think



Practices for this Week


1/ The Vedana Diary


Keep a record of painful, pleasant and neutral experiences – try to notice them before they harden into moods or attitudes.


We can train ourselves to notice the pleasant as it’s happening and not skip over it (relish!).


We can train ourselves to catch notice unpleasant feelings before they turn to negative mental states – try to open up the gap. Acknowledge what is happening.


Embrace neutral experiences – cultivate interest into what is happening. Don’t be scared of boredom, what happens if you don’t run towards stimulation?


2/ The Mindful Walk


Continue with the intention to take a daily mindful walk – just do your best.


Notice comfort and discomfort in the sensations of the body and in your environment. What do you like? What is jarring or irritating?


Emphasise the pleasant experience. Give more awareness to this. Look for pleasant situations, however mild.



3/ The 3 Minute Breathing Space


See if you can practice this twice a day – particularly if things are getting on top of you.


1/ Stop. Sit comfortably. Hands on your lap. Close your eyes.

2/ Scan the body. Soften. Release any tension – face, shoulders, belly

3/ Become aware of Sounds – broaden your awareness

4/ Tune in to the breath – take a few breaths and follow them

5/ Come back to the body & sounds.

6/ Continue with your day.



4/ The Path of Meditation


Try to find 15 or 20 minutes per day if you can – if not, then start with 5 minutes.

Use your diary – schedule it in.

Don’t try to do too much. Be realistic.

Try not to get disheartened if it doesn’t happen.

Every meditation you manage to do is a victory.


Do not look for deep or powerful experience – just try to do the practice.

Decide which practice to do before you sit down.

Use an alarm if it helps.

Led meditations on mp3 can be downloaded at: www.freebudhistaudio.com




  • Fill in your your journal daily
  • Contact your mindfulness buddy
  • Planning and supportive conditions will really help

Life With Full Attention – Week 2

This week the MK Meditation Association practiced some Metta Bhavana and continued with r Life with Full Attention Course. Here are the notes from the meeting:

Life With Full AttentionWeek 2The Body

Body Awareness  


What would the Buddha make of us today?


 - “a Dragons Head on a Snakes Body”. An overdeveloped head on an underdeveloped body

- we are wonderfully intellectual, lots of knowledge and ideas, but perhaps too one sided

- a tendency to rationalise and theorise


Alienation – Many of us feel alienated:


- from our body – through “brain work” and lack of physical activity

- from nature – we are nature, yet we live in a man-made environment & one that is becoming increasingly technological

- through abstraction – literacy is a wonderful thing but may distance us from our experience – favouring thought over sensation


Awareness of the body has many benefits:


  • making us calmer and more effective
  • more graceful – gives a feeling of vitality and being alive
  • a cure for stress and a key to insight


Seeing Life Whole


  • our view of the body is often mundane
  • it is a machine, a “thing” that doesn’t figure much in our lives unless it hurts or needs feeding
  • it is owned by us – the mind, the personality, the “Captain of the Ship”
  • the body is the only thing that we know directly, from the inside
  • everything else we experience is indirect – from the outside – mediated through the senses
  • our experience of body is a unique one. How strange! How mysterious


Cultivating Sensitivity to the Body


  • Our sense of what is going on in the body is often vague
  • It is likely that we hold tensions within the body without being aware of it – in the shoulders, stomach, throat…unconscious habits.
  • Letting go of this is as much to do with the mind as the body


Stress First Aid Kit


1/ Notice when something is causing you stress – noticing is the start of changing it

2/Catch it Early – stress can build quickly

3/ Do Something – come into the body/get grounded or stop something e.g. rushing

4/ Extend Your Out Breath – through the lips like blowing through s straw (5/6 times)


  • emotions affect the body the body affects emotions – a two way process
  • physical mindfulness is a journey into depth – the experience becomes more subtle & rich – more integrated
  • this reduces inner conflict and releases energy & a sense of well-being.


The Body has a Wisdom of its Own


Thoughts, emotions and the body become more connected.

Our body begins to give us direct information about our situation and what we need – not just thoughts.

Second Practice Week

The Health Audit – The Nutrition & Ethics of how we treat our body


In your journal keep a 1-10 scoring system using your own categories e.g.

5 veg a day, 2.5 litres of water, 8 hours sleep, cigarettes, alcohol, exercise sessions.


It’s easy not to notice when good intention go astray.

Use your journal to observe what is really happening.


The Mindful Walk – an island of mindfulness. Try to do this everyday this week.


Think of a walk (5-20 mins.) preferably one you already do. Using your journal:


-         describe the walk – perhaps draw a picture

-         describe obstacles that might prevent you being aware of your body e.g. people wanting to talk to you.

-         try to think of creative ways to overcome these obstacles

-         review how it went


Working normally but being aware that we are walking. Not overly slow or rigid. Try:


-         bringing awareness into the body & it’s movements

-         bringing awareness into the soles of the feet

-         count the steps (maybe up to 5) like the mindfulness of breathing

-         use phrases – e.g. “walking mindfully” or “walking peacefully”

-         appreciative awareness – bring awareness to pleasurable sensations, the breeze on the skin, smell of flowers, sunshine on the face etc.


The Daily Body Scan  (in addition to a mindful walk – if you can – maybe 15 mins.)


  • Filling the body with non-judgemental awareness – not trying to change anything, not even trying to relax, but just noticing what’s there


  • Lying on the back with knees raised, feet flat on the ground, something low and soft under the head. Hands rested on the belly or by our sides


  • Feel the warmth and the weight of your body on the floor


  • Starting with the soles of the feet work your way up to the crown of the head


  • Be as detailed as you can, noticing what is rather than what you think is there


  • You will have a clear awareness of some parts of the body, others will feel vague or non-existent. Don’t worry, just notice what you find


  • At the end of the scan open your eyes and just rest, with soft unfocused vision


  • Do not rush to get up, move smoothly and mindfully



Remember to maintain your journal & to contact your mindfulness buddy. Doing this encourages us and helps the other person too.


Life With Full Attention – Week 1




Last week we embarked on our Life with Full Attention Course. Here are the notes from the meeting:


Life With Full AttentionWeek 1Day to Day Mindfulness

Mindfulness of Small Things

  • How often are we forgetful or loose things?
  • What affect does this have on us?
  • Modern life can often feel like a succession of small bitty things.
  • When we are suffering we often put a lot of blame on the big things (the economy, our childhood etc.)
  • How we are with these small things is important – it sets the tone for our lives
  • There are practical changes that can be made at this level


Taking Day to Day Mindfulness Seriously


  • The small inconveniences of forgetfulness are often trivial. Once the panic is over, they are easily forgotten
  • We may even consider this to be our temperament or type
  • We aren’t serious about our awareness of small things because we don’t understand that actions have consequences – on us and those around us
  • We fail to see that a smoother running life would be less stressful for us, that our lack of awareness (lateness, gossiping) causes problems for others
  • Small things are cumulative


Fail Better – “Try again, fail again, fail better” (Samuel Becket)


  • Failure is a part of life – it is normal
  • If we can’t learn to fail then we will fail to learn
  • We need to be honest and admit our failures – take responsibility
  • But don’t loose heart, perfection is not the point – just try again


It has Already Happened


  • When we notice something has gone wrong it has already happened
  • We can’t go back and change it
  • Mindfulness is about what happens next
  • Keep going over it in our minds, building up shame and blame will make not help
  • We need to take responsibility and do what we can to put things right
  • We will require kindness and patience



Practice Week 1

Attending to Small Things so that we can Concentrate on the Big Ones

Actions have consequences – conditionality.

This practice week is aimed at setting up conditions so that mindfulness can arise.

We will be looking at how we structure and organise our life. Choose two or three of these exercises to try during the week:



Setting up Positive Routines.


Important activities (exercise, meditation, play) can easily get lost in busy lives

Ring-Fence what is important with routine

Achieving what we want to do is morale boosting

Too much routine can get stifling


Check Your Diary


What are the things you want to do but can’t get around to?

What gets in the way?

What is the shape of your week – too loose or too tight?

Try to plan a routine to sustain what you want to achiever. Be creative!


Make 2 Resolutions

e.g. Go swimming – . Then find practical things to make this happen (find a friend to go with – buy a new swimming suit)

Write down your resolution and accompanying actions in your week review

Be patient & realistic – positive habits can take a while to build up


We don’t always feel like doing the things we know are good for us. We need to be honest about this. Recalling how we feel after the activity may help future motivation.


Cultivate a sense of Mastery

Enjoying and remembering the sense of satisfaction when we complete a task – a sense of being in control

Routines for starting and finishing can cultivate mastery

Do we always go for the easy thing first?

Leave sufficient time to finish properly, calm and unhurried

Small gaps help


Do 3 Things Now

If you feel overwhelmed make a quick “to do” list of simple tasks

Do 3 straight away (e.g. put the washing on)

Helps to regain a sense of mastery


Complete Your Cycles/Finish What you Started

Do we follow through or do we forget to finish things off?

Do we wash up after eating or leave it for later?

Perhaps we can ask for feedback – what are we like to live/work with?



Consider the Consequences


Use our imagination to extend beyond the immediate

What are the wider (local/national/global) consequences of our actions?


Reduce Input


Do we constantly multi-task?

Are we still capable of concentrating on and enjoying one thing at a time?

We can wean ourselves off of over-stimulation and over-consumption


We could try a resolution to:


- Eat or cook without radio or TV

- Don’t channel hop – decide what to watch and complete the cycle.

- Spend a week without a gadget or turn it of at specific time e.g. 10pm curfew




Use notes or electronic reminders to take a break or a mindful moment.

Use your diary to block out quiet times.

Noticing the Consequences of Un-Mindfulness


Try some of the exercises above and see if you can notice a difference

If you are feeling anxious or bad tempered see if you can spot the small things that contribute to it – was there a lack of mindfulness?



For Next Week:


Make notes of how working with various aspects of mindfulness affect us

What helps & what doesn’t?

Keep a log in our Journal of the things we have tried out and try to evaluate how each of them worked

Report in with your mindfulness buddy


A large part of the exercise is simply getting to know ourselves better and finding what works for us.


Background to Life with Full Attention

Maitreyabandhu talks about why he wrote the course.


Life With Full Attention from Clear Vision Trust on Vimeo.

Meditation & Mindfulness

The MK Meditation Association met up this week (13/3/12) to practice some Metta Bhavana Buddhist meditation and to explore bringing mindfulness into our daily lives. We had an Introduction to Maitreyabandhu’s  book based course:

Life with Full Attention

Here are the notes from the class:


Life With Full Attention – Introduction Week




An eight week course in cultivating full attention – mindfulness – present moment awareness – doing our present activity whole heartedly.


Being present to the moment does not mean we are not allowed to plan for the future – planning is an important skill for life, if we want to achieve our objectives. However, we want to be able to experience that future when we get there.


What is Mindfulness?


  • Awareness (here and now) of our body, feelings, senses thoughts and surroundings.
  • Recollection (such as coming back to what we are doing or remembering our purpose).


The actual experience of mindfulness tells us much more than this.


Cultivating the Right Spirit


  • Don’t try too hard – not too goal orientated
  • Avoid letting yourself off too easily
  • A spirit of exploration – it’s OK to get lost at times.
  • We will need humour and a lightness of touch.


Find Your Own Way


  • This course has lots of suggestions and exercises
  • You may not always have time to experiment with them all, but don’t get disheartened
  • Whatever you do manage to try out will be of benefit




  • We will be practicing meditation weekly during the class
  • In week 3 we will introduce some meditation into our home life
  • We will build up very gradually and will keep personal records of how often we have managed to meditate – but this is not a competition – sorry, no prizes!


A Mindfulness Buddy


  • A buddy system
  • This will help us engage with the material by sharing our experiences, talking about our difficulties and giving each other some mutual encouragement.


The Journal


Buy a small, portable journal to keep throughout the course. We will be using these to make notes as we go. Get yourself something nice – something you will enjoy using.

Aims, Obstacles & Supports




  • Identify 3 things that you would like to achieve through the course.
  • Keep them practical and down to earth.
  • Record them at the front of you Journal so you can evaluate them at the end of the course.




  • What things might get in the way of you achieving your aims.
  • Try to identify them and how they affect you e.g. “I often stay up late so, I’m unlikely to meditate in the morning”.




Try to think of supports and strategies that will help you overcome your obstacles. Just thinking what the possible obstacles might be will give us ideas and make us more aware.  If you have trouble meditating in the morning, what other times might be available? What places might we use to meditate in – the train, our parked car, a local church in our lunch hour?


Mindfulness makes life more vivid, we think more clearly, feel more deeply and act more fully. But we need to start at the foundations, with the basics.


Full awareness will help us to relish our lives, but this is difficult if we have problems with simple things like missing the bus or forgetting appointments. The basics do not seem very spiritual, but they will make a big contribution to our lives. Next week we will explore: Day to Day Mindfulness – The Mindfulness of Small Things.


During This Week:


1/ Buy a nice Journal and start keeping it with you

2/ Reflect on:

  • 3 Practical Aims for the course
  • Potential obstacles
  • Supports & Strategies
  • Write these up in your new journal before the next meeting.


3/ Get in Contact with your Mindfulness Buddy – check in how you are doing with the Journal and reflections.

Tibetan Wheel of Life (Week 7)

The Milton Keynes Meditation  Association recently concluded it’s study of the Tibetan Wheel of Life.

Having studied all the realms of the Wheel, we appropriately ended in the Human Realm.

Here are the notes from the class:

The Human Realm - Key Features

The Experience

  • A balanced world
  • Includes commerce, social activity, the arts and spiritual activity
  • A realm free from constant domination by mental dispositions such as neurotic craving, envy, hatred, intoxication or numbing ignorance
  • Joy and pain experienced in equal measure
  • A realm of action

The Upside


  • Humans do not have to passively wait for karmic conditions to change
  • Self-awareness and a balanced experience provide the opportunity for humans to act rather than react
  • Ethical and spiritual practice is within reach – right now

The Downside

  • All things are impermanent, our conditions can change and this rare and precious opportunity can be easily lost
  • Life is short and there are many possible distractions

Expressions in the Human Realm

  • A happy healthy human existence, free from the extreme mental states of the other five realms
  • That rare state in which our basic needs are met and we have the opportunity and motivation for spiritual exploration and practice

The Buddha of this Realm & His Symbol

The yellow Buddha called “Lion of the Sakyas” This is our historical Buddha


His symbols are the saffron robe, three ring staff and begging bowl of an Indian religious mendicant

What Needs to be done to make progress in this Realm

Overcome the cause – Ego Pride


The downside of freedom, creativity and personal growth is that we can attribute it to our own ego. We can become inflated and proud of “our” achievements.


How do we Overcome Ego Pride?


Spiritual practice (symbolised by the mendicant) – the development of ethics, meditation and Wisdom.


  • Undermines ego clinging by undermining the notion of a fixed, separate self.
  • Promotes an understanding of a contingent self, conditioned, interconnected and with potential for unlimited growth due to not having any fixed essence whatsoever.

Positive Seeds, Negative Seeds & Buddha Seeds

Positive Seeds (Red) – Good Karma – one third

Negative Seeds (Black) – Bad Karma – one third

Buddha Seeds (Gold) – one third




  • True Humans are characterised by activity based in freedom of choice
  • This is rooted in a healthy pride – a joy in/ or intuition of , our true and unlimited potential. Sometimes called “Buddha Pride”




Tibetan Wheel of Life (Week 6)


This week the Milton Keynes Meditation Association met up to practice some meditation together and to continue our study and discussions around the Wheel of Life – a rich symbol reflecting the working of our minds and how we can work with them.

This time we were exploring the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts (Pretas) . Here are the notes from the meeting:

Some Key Features


The Experience


  • An arid realm
  • A place of rock and sand, a bleak, despairing dessert
  • The water is brackish and what trees there are produce only a small number of stunted fruit.
  • A world of hunger and thirst – unsatisfied desires


The Upside


  • All things are impermanent and change is always possible
  • All energy can be serviceable on the spiritual path if directed in a skillful way


The Downside


  • Pretas are ghoul like and pitiable creatures
  • With long spindly arms and legs and large distended empty stomachs
  • Their mouths are tiny holes and their necks long and narrow
  • Anything they eat or drink turns to fire, excrement or ashes in their mouths
  • Digestion causes them great pain, like swallowing a dagger
  • They look out onto their ghostly, mirage like world with large sorrowful, saucer-like eyes


Expressions in the Human Realm


  • Neurotic behavior and addiction
  • Could manifest towards almost anything
  • Commonly includes food, sweets, alcohol, drugs, other people and sex


The Buddha of this Realm & His Symbol


  • A red coloured Buddha called “Flaming Mouth”
  • He carries a bowl of real, consumable food and drink


What Needs to be done to make progress in this Realm


Overcome the cause – Neurotic Desire


  • We cannot satisfy neurotic desire
  • You cannot cure loneliness with chocolate or despair with alcohol
  • This is the symbol of the Buddha offering consumable food – the cure for real hunger is real food.


The cure for our deeper needs (meaning to life, safety, stability, freedom from pain) have to be fulfilled by the right kind of nourishment – spiritual food – this is what the Buddha really has to offer us.


Positive Seeds, Negative Seeds & Buddha Seeds


Positive Seeds (Red) – Good Karma – None at all

Negative Seeds (Black) – Bad Karma – Predominates – quite a painful existence

Buddha Seeds (Gold) – Quite a lot



The 4 Noble Truths


The first Noble Truth is suffering

The second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering – grasping/attachment

The third Noble Truth is the possibility for the end of suffering

The fourth Noble Truth is the Eightfold Path leading to that cessation




The 3 Realms


We occupy the Wheel of Life (Samsara). This can be divided into 3 Realms (Lokas):


  • Karma Loka – Desire Realm (craving is predominant – humans, asuras, animals, hells, hungry ghosts)
  • Rupa Loka – Form Realm (refined experience – lower god realms – less craving)
  • Arupa Loka – Formless Realm (very refined – beings without physical form, little craving)




Transforming Energy


  • We do not wish to repress energy – unhealthy
  • Pretending we do not experience craving/desire will not make it go away
  • We can practice stillness & contentment – refining our sense of enjoyment
  • We can transform Karma Chanda (sensual desire) into Dharma Chanda (desire for Truth/Growth)


Tibetan Wheel of Life (week 5)

At our last meeting the Milton Keynes Meditation Association continued our exploration and discussion around the Wheel of Life – a rich tapestry of images and symbolism decsribing the working of the mind in raltion to the Buddhist Path.

This time we were exploring the Animal Realm. Here are the notes from the meeting:

Some Key Features


The Experience

  • The surrender to a blind destiny of basic necessities and uncontrollable instincts.
  • The need for food, shelter & reproduction predominate here.
  • A realm of fear (Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw – Tennyson)
  • A realm of persecution – animals of burden or harvested for meat.

The Upside

When the basic needs are met the animals are satisfied, tame, gentle and docile.

The Downside

When the basic needs are not met they can become wild and vicious.

Lack of higher consciousness – self awareness. That special consciousness that separates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Expressions in the Human Realm

  • Easily satisfied, content once our basic human comforts have been met.
  • Obsession with the affairs of the body (food, sex, comfort) & shelter – home building
  • A quiet life of home comforts with little interest in personal growth.

The Buddha of this Realm & His Symbol

The blue Buddha called “Steadfast Lion” – his symbol is a book.

What Needs to be done to make progress in this Realm

Overcome the cause – Ignorance (a lack of self awareness and sloth)


  • The book represents speech, knowledge, higher culture and reflective thought; things that can liberate them from their subconscious drives and sluggish undeveloped minds.


  • The path out of the animal realm is a path of education and culture, a process of gradual refinement raising the level of consciousness, making interest in spiritual matters possible.


  • As we refine our awareness we become more self conscious – more aware of ourselves as individuals, rather than just being part of the pack.


  • With self consciousness comes a sense that more is possible – a desire for meaning, personal growth & development.

Positive Seeds, Negative Seeds & Buddha Seeds

Positive Seeds (Red) – Good Karma – very little – they are not having such a good time

Negative Seeds (Black) – Bad Karma – lots – predominant

Buddha Seeds (Gold) – just a few – about twice as many as the red seeds



The mentally sluggish animals need gently awakening and raising in consciousness.


Opposite the Titans on the wheel. Compare to the Titans who are High Energy – little chance of awakening – a path of direct insight or none at all. Quite opposite in nature.


The animals are more receptive (the Titans think they know best), they have potential for development, they just need to become aware of it and raise their sights above the level of mundane comforts.


The Path of Renunciation


The giving up some worldly possessions or activities.


  • Can be wrongly interpreted as “acting holy” or the shunning of pleasure for the sake of a pure austerity.


  • One of the main purposes of renunciation is simply to clear away some of the mundane and unnecessary distractions of life that we can so easily get caught up in.


  • Makes space for meditation and reflection – giving priority to what is the most important.