Buddhism and Meditation

Working With Difficult Emotion


Last week the Milton Keynes Meditation Association were looking a difficult emotions.

We asked: “What Upsets Us?”

Do we feel threatened? Are we overly tender or is a genuine need not being fulfilled?
Are our expectations reasonable or achievable?

Some of the answers we came up with included:

inconsiderate people, lack of empathy in others, anger, lack of awareness, ignorance, lack of tolerance, people not listening to us, bad manners – just getting behind the wheel of a car!

We Remembered Ways We Work With Difficulty:

developing empathy, seeing our part in it, not dwelling on diffiuclt communication or “over thinking” things, trying to see the bigger picturing, smiling, being aware that peoples responses arise on many conditions (it’s not all about us), finding the grain of truth in criticsm and using it for the good.

We Looked at Some Buddhist Responses to Difficulty:

Using The 4 Right Efforts –

Cultivate un-arisen wholesome states
Maintain wholesome states once arisen
Prevent unwholesome states from arising
Once arisen – abandon unwholesome states

Skills from Meditation

Cultivate the opposite
Consider the result of going with it – “how will I become if I keep doing this?”
Do we enjoy feeling like this? Is it pleasant or painful? Do we have a perverse sense of enjoyment from this state – intoxication with the energy or anger (a peak experience) or the ego of self righteous indignation?
Reflect on the impermanence of how we feel now – It will change
Just let go – Sky Like Mind
Go deeper – “why do I feel like this – what is really behind this?”
Surrender to a higher power – Go for Refuge (mantra, prayer, ask for guidance)

Cultivating Patient Forbearance from Shantideva – The Bodhicharyavatra (Entry to the Path of the Bodhisattvas)

– be like a block of wood (forbearance/ suppression)
– merit from worship of the Buddhas, generosity and good conduct …hatred destroys it all
– there is no evil equal to hatred and no spiritual practice equal to forbearance
– the mind can find no peace or pleasure while the dart of hatred is in the heart
– even friends shrink from the angry one, he may give but he is not honoured
– whatever evil deeds there are arise from the power of conditions, nothing arises independently under it’s own power. A person does not get angry having decided “I will get angry”

Ill-will, anger and hatred considered more damaging spiritually than craving as it separated us from other beings – those we might be able to help.

Craving, desire, attachment are spiritual hindrances but considered less damaging to a Bodhisattva – although these states may be the basis for hatred and anger (not getting our own way).

Why not listen to Padmavajra’s talk on Shantideva & Cultivating Metta: Love Your Enemy



The Dhammapada


This week the Milton Keynes Meditation Association practiced the Metta Bhavana meditation and then studied and discussed some of the first chapter of the Dhammapada.

The Dhammapada is short and popular collection of teaching found in the Pali (an ancient North Indian language) Cannon. This is thought to be a very early Buddhist text.

The Dhammapada is a beautifully simple text which calls for a radical re-think to the way we live our lives. This section calls on us to witness the way our thoughts and actions shape our experience; and in the light of this, to go beyond bitterness and resentment. Very easyily said, but a strong and radical undertaking to put into practice in our daily lives.

From Chapter 1 – Twin Verses

1/ Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an unskilful thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.
2/ Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves/

3/ “He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me” – those who dwell on such thoughts will never be free from hatred.
4/ “He was angry with me, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me” – those who do not dwell on such thoughts will surely become free from hatred.

5/ For hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is an unalterable law.
6/ People forget that their lives will end soon. For those who remember, quarrels come to an end.

7/ As a strong wind blows down a weak tree, Mara, the Tempter overwhelms weak people who, eating too much and working too little, are caught in the frantic pursuit of pleasure.
8/ As the strongest wind cannot shake a mountain, Mara cannot shake those who are self-disciplined and full of faith.

From a translation by Eknath Easwaran (Published Penguin 1986).

For an excellent talk on the Dhammapada by Padmavajra check out this link to Free Buddhist Audio.



Rumi – The Path of Love


Rumi

This week at the Milton Keynes Meditation Association we were exploring Love! Or love as a spiritual practice or path.

After some mindfulness meditation we read a poem by the 13th Century Sufi mystic and poet – Rumi:

 

Our bodies, our minds, and even our souls are the abodes of love, not love itself.

Love exists everywhere around us and penetrates everything – it is the treasure of this world, and by its very essence it cannot be kept captive within our own coffers.

True Love exists beyond the people we love.

When we understand this the expectations we place upon others diminish:

We are loved by existence itself, and so we do not need to feel rejected or hurt when a partner or friend isn’t able to love us the way we wish.

When our feelings depend on no one we have attained a high state of realisation –

our love is our own,

our happiness is our own;

we are responsible for the way we feel and there is no longer any need to ask others to provide us with these states.

This is an important step on the path of love:

Link your spirit to love itself,

open your heart to existence,

choose love as your spiritual journey and you will never be disappointed in humans.

 

We split into groups and discussed the poem, which stimulated some very interesting responses.

Oki spoke about his appreciation of the love inherent in everyday things, such as the care and empathy that goes into repairing roads and putting up crash barriers or designing and building safe aircraft. Without our care for others, we would not have the political will or engineering systems in place to prevent uneccesary injury or death.



Saluting the Shrine


At this weeks MK Buddhism & Meditation class , we begun by “Saluting the Shrine”.

This is a traditional practice involving turning towards a Buddhist shrine, placing ones hands in anjali mudra (palms together like in prayer) and chanting:

 

Namo Buddhaya

Namo Dhammaya

Namo Sanghaya

Namo Nama

Om

Ah

Hum

 

This is followed by bowing to the shrine or Buddha image.

 

The salutation is to the 3 Jewles of Buddhism (Triratna) – The Buddha (the ideal of enlightenment), The Dharma (the Truth Teachings of the Buddha) and the Sangha (The enlightened followers of the Buddha). Namo can be translated as Homage.

 

In this practice we salute the highest ideals of Buddhism, the highest attainments possible for any being and at the same time recognise their potential in ourselves and each other.

 

Om Ah Hum. Represents 3 levels of reality – from the most sublime down to the everyday, as well as signifying Body, Speech and Mind. This short mantra puts a “seal” on the salutation, saying: “I mean this with my whole being”.

 

Here is a clip from Video Sangha of Triratna Order Members Saluting the Shrine at Padmaloka:

 

Saluting the Shrine at the 2011 Mens-Convention

 

Here is an audio recording from Free Buddhist Audio of a Puja (Buddhist Ritual). This short recording includes Saluting the Shrine; and the Worship Section and Avalokitesvara Mantra from a 7 Fold Puja:

 

Saluting the Shrine Worship Section of Puja & Avalokitesvara Mantra



Tranquility & The Divine Abodes


On Tuesday 12th October, the Milton Keynes Meditation Association met to practice and study the last of the Divine Abode (Brahma Vihara) Meditations – Tranquility (Upeksha).

A Tranquil Night at Gampo Abbey

 

Here are the notes for the evening:

 

The First 3 Brahma Viharas:

Metta – (friendliness, openness, goodwill, loving kindness) is the basis of all the Brahma Viharas.

Karuna – Compassion – Metta in contact with suffering. A genuine empathy and a desire for beings to be free from suffering.

Mudita – Sympathetic Joy – Metta in contact with Skilful qualities and happiness in beings. Rejoicing in their good fortune.

Karuna and Mudita exist as potentials within Metta.

 

3 Uages of the term Upeksha:

1.Equality of Mind a non-reactive state of being – not being pulled around by likes and dislikes or bored with neutrality. Even minded. Like an island.

2. The Enlightened State – a synonym for Bodhi – full and perfect Enlightenment. Freedom from greed, hatred and spiritual ignorance/delusion.

3. In the Barhma Viharas – a link between the first two usages. A gateway into experiencing Awakened Compassion. The word “Equinimity” does not do it justice.

 

Metta, Karuna and Mudita exist as implicit within Upeksha – they are fully present and developed, integrally & equally.

 

In Addition:

 

  • An Element of Reflection – on Conditioned Arising – looking into the nature of things – impermanent and insubstantial (like a dream, a rainbow, froth on water an magic show)

 

  • Profound Positivity – as with Metta, Karuna & Mudita

 

  • Non-Reactivity – things are constantly moving – a state of flow. The pain or pleasure we meditate on is impermanent, not the whole picture, not ultimate. Letting go of fixation with what is happening now we see a broader context and are less caught up in reactions.

 

The “Enemies” (blockages) to Equinimity:

 

Far Enemy: cold deliberate indifference or ignoring (subtle aversion or ill-will)

Near Enemy: dull indifference, abstraction, lack of involvement, alienated complacency – “there is nothing to worry about”, “it’s all OK as it is”.

 

 

The Upeksha Bhavana Meditation:

 

In all of the stages:

 

1. Develop Metta – start by looking for any signs of positivity, goodwill, openness, receptivity, contentment, concentration. Give attention to what you find and build on them.

 

2. Bring to mind the person’s difficulties and/or unskilful qualities – Metta will tend towards Compassion (Karuna)

 

3. Bring to mind the persons joys/happiness and/or skilful qualities – Metta will tend towards Sympathetic Joy (Mudita)

 

4. Work towards developing a fuller picture. Continue to cultivate Metta while aware of the ups and downs of the person – allowing it to respond to the whole person.

 

5. Reflect that the ups and downs have arisen out of conditions. They are transitory phenomena and will give way to new phenomena as conditions change.

 

The Stages:

 

1. Metta for Ourself. If already present then develop Upeksha for our ups and downs.

 

2. Neutral Person (out of the usual order). Their ups and downs will trigger less response in us than the Friend. A better chance to contact Equinimity.

 

3. A Good Friend.

 

4. A “Difficult” Person.

 

5. Equalise Upeksha for all of them then radiate out to all beings.

 

Post-Meditation

 

Take time to absorb the practice. Don’t get up and rush off. Notice how you are, how you feel. Take time to “Just Sit” in an open, receptive state, don’t “do” anything, simply rest in the experience of the senses/thoughts/emotions.

 

As an Insight/Reflection Practice (Vipassana)

 

Implicit in Metta, Mudita, Karuna – thinking about others we go beyond our own self-interest – we begin to realise we are not the centre of the universe.

 

Explicit in Upeksha – looking at the nature of experience (i.e. reality), disassociating from reactivity to the present, seeing through the momentary phenomena to a broader picture, a deeper, more fluid reality.

 



Mudita & The Divine Abodes


This week the Milton Keynes Meditation Association came together to continue our series exploring the Brahma Viharas or Divine Abodes.

These are a series of Buddhist Meditations which date right back to the time of the historical Buddha 2500 years ago. They consist of the cultivation of positve mental states.

The third of these meditations is Mudita – Sympathetic Joy or  rejoicing in the happinnes and good qulaities of people.

We practiced some Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation and the Mudita Bhavana Meditation as well as studying and discussing Mudita. We also took the time to get into pairs and rejoice in the good qualities of a friend.

Here is the handout for the evening:

 

Mudita Bhavana – Cultivating Sympathetic Joy

Metta – (friendliness, openness, goodwill, loving kindness) is the basis of all the Divine Abodes. Not a passive experience, done consciously. Active.

Mudita – Sympathetic Joy. The experience of Metta coming into contact with the happiness, good qualities and good fortune of others.

Happiness – cultivating sympathetic joy in any everyday joy or pleasure that does not have an unskilful (un-ethical) cause. A nice holiday, a new job, good friends or a happy family. Can un-ethical behaviour lead to real happiness?

Positive Qualities – pleasure is transitory & fickle. Skilful Mental States (positivity) is a more durable and deeper form of happiness. Positive qualities (like Metta) are cultivated through our own efforts – can be increased and are more reliable.

 

Positive Qualities in others may not be immediately obvious (patience, integrity, faithfulness). Do not confuse with extroversion e.g. a way with people.

 

Balance in the Brahma Vihara Meditations

 

Karuna (Compassion) focuses on the darker side of life. Mudita focuses on the brighter more positive side. These two balance each other out. Mudita counteracts the Near Enemy of Karuna – Horrified Anxiety/Gloom.

 

Rejoicing in Merits – a Buddhist practice of appreciating the good qualities in others –and expressing it! Encourages receptivity, gratitude and connection with those around us. Counteracts overly critical mind, competitiveness and insensitivity. A heroic activity – putting others before self.

The “Enemies” (blockages) to Sympathetic Joy

Far Enemy:

Resentment or Envy – Comparing ourselves with others and seeing ourselves as inferior or less fortunate. Counteracted by cultivating Metta (self & others).

Near Enemies:

Vicarious Satisfaction – getting a kick out of our emotional connection with another person & their good qualities – hero worship, hangers on and groupies. Feeling their qualities reflect well on us e.g. through children’s achievements & teachers/gurus (on a pedestal)

Flattery – insincere praise (do we want some back?)

 

 

Mudita Bhavana Meditation

 

The Working Principle – cultivating skilful, positive, friendly mental states (Metta), then on this basis, looking directly at a person’s positivity or happiness.

 

Need to be constantly aware of your mental state and maintain friendly positivity in the face of pain.

 

Important to work from where you really are, acknowledging your actual experience, not trying jump ahead or conjure up something that isn’t there.

 

Start by looking for any signs of positivity, goodwill, openness, receptivity, contentment, concentration. Give attention to what you find and build on them.

 

Stage 1 – Get in Touch With Metta. For yourself particularly and also for others, use body awareness, visualisation, phrases. Bring to mind a good friend if this helps to get things going. Include an element of universal Metta if this seems appropriate.

 

Stage 2 – A Boon Companion – someone you know personally, preferably a friend, who is emotionally positive and has obvious good qualities. Someone it is easy to rejoice in. They don’t have to be perfect, just have good qualities that we can appreciate.

 

Stage 3 – A Good Friend – Focus on the happiness and good qualities of your friend.

 

Stage 4 – Neutral Person – All beings have some good qualities. Tip: it may be helpful to choose someone who is on a spiritual path – offers a lead in.

 

Stage 5 – Difficult Person – Looking for a more balanced view of this person. Put some energy into being aware of whatever good you can see or know about.

 

Stage 6 – Equalise/Spread – “the upside” of the human race. Empathise and emphasise all the simple good in the world – friendliness, generosity, courage, care for children and pets. Even animals enjoy simple pleasure.

 

Post-Meditation

Take time to absorb the practice. Don’t get up and rush off. Notice how you are, how you feel. If possible take a few minutes to “Just Sit” in an open, receptive state, don’t “do” anything, just “be”. Simply rest in the experience of the senses (sound, taste, touch etc.) including the mind sense (thoughts/emotions).

 



Compassion and the Divine Abodes


Last week the Milton Keynes Meditation Association were exploring the second of the Divine Abodes (Sanskrit: Brahma Viharas) – Compassion (Skt: Karuna).

We practiced some Mindfulmess of Breathing Meditation and then explored the topic of Compassion – how Metta (firendliness/positivity) is the basis, we talked about our experiences of Compassion (giving and receiving) and talked about what gets in the way of connecting with and feeling for the suffering of beings.

We finished the evening by practicing the Karuna Bhavana Meditation.

Here are our notes from the evening:

 

Karuna Bhavana – The Cultivation of Compassion

 

Metta is not something that happens to us, like an emotion or a pleasant sensation, it is something we do. It is active; it is a Karmic action (something done consciously, with intention, leading to a result). Feelings and emotions are not Karmic action – they are results of previous (Karmic) action.

Cultivation of Metta (Metta Bhavana) is a conscious (subtle) effort to develop friendliness. We may or may not experience emotions or sensations as a result – but these should not be confused with Metta, which is active.

 

Buddhism – The 4 Noble Truths:

  • 1/ Suffering (physical, emotional/psychological, spiritual/existential
  • 2/ The Cause of Suffering – grasping
  • 3/ The Possibility of Ending Suffering
  • 4/ The Path to Cease Suffering – The 8 Fold Noble Path

 

 

What Does Compassion Mean to Us? – Discuss in groups

The “Enemies” (blockages) to Compassion

 

Far Enemy: Cruelty – wishing harm upon another

 

Near Enemies:

 

  • Sentimentality (an inappropriately emotion response) – can involve elements of clinging/attachment or projection onto a suffering person.

 

  • Horrified Anxiety – feeling overwhelmed by the suffering of others and unable to respond with positivity.

 

  • Pity – feeling superior (“I am not suffering” or “they brought it upon themselves”) true Compassion feels genuine connection with others and the universal nature of suffering. It does not “look down on” but “is with” the other person.

 

The Karuna Bhavana Meditation

 

The Working Principle – cultivating skilful, positive, friendly mental states (Metta), then on this basis, looking directly at a person’s experience of suffering.

  • Need to be constantly aware of your mental state and maintain friendly positivity in the face of pain.

 

  • Important to work from where you really are, acknowledging your actual experience, not trying jump ahead or conjure up something that isn’t there.

 

  • Start by looking for any signs of positivity, goodwill, openness, receptivity, contentment, concentration. Give attention to what you find and build on them.

 

Stage 1 – Get in Touch With Metta -  For yourself particularly and also for others, use body awareness, visualisation, phrases. Bring to mind a good friend if this helps to get things going. Include an element of universal Metta if this seems appropriate.

Stage 2 – A Suffering Person – try not to choose a too extreme situation – start gently with something you can handle. Don’t judge their situation – it is enough that they are suffering – in whatever form, for whatever reason. Cultivate through Metta the wish that they be free from suffering.

Stage 3 – A Good Friend – reflect, your friend can also suffer, they do suffer at times. Cultivate the wish that they be free from suffering.

Stage 4 – Neutral Person – all beings suffer, then so must this person. Work with the fetter of indifference. Their suffering is no less real than your friends.

Stage 5 – Difficult Person – beware enjoying their difficulty (cruelty). Reflect that both you and they experience similar difficulty. Perhaps suffering contributes to their behaviour.

Stage 6 – Equalise – bring to mind all the previous people, all beings suffer equally and all equally wish to be happy. Work to overcome personal bias.

Make it Limitless – reflect on the universal truth of suffering for all sentient beings, both in experience and potential. All grow old, get sick and die. Cultivate a sense of universal Compassion going out to all.

 

Post-Meditation

Take time to absorb the practice. Don’t get up and rush off. Notice how you are, how you feel. If possible take a few minutes to “Just Sit” in an open, receptive state, don’t “do” anything, simply rest in the experience of the senses including the mind sense (thoughts/emotions).

 

Links:

A fuller description of the Karuna Bhavana Meditation can be founbd on Kamalashilas website: www.kamalashila.co.uk

or

you can listen to a talk on the Brahma Viharas from Kulaprabha by downloading an MP3 audio file from Free Buddhist Audio: www.freebuddhistaudio.com

 

 



Introducing the Triratna Buddhist Community


This wonderfully quirky little video gives a high speed intro to the wide world of Triratna Buddhism

 

 

From Sheffield to Cambridge, from London to Pune, India. Such a diverse group of people,with little in common but the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

 


 

 



Metta & The Divine Abodes


Last week The Milton Keynes Meditation Association had an evening exploring and studying Loving Kindness Meditation. We began the evening by practising the Metta Bhavana (Cultivation of Loving Kindness Meditation).

 

This is meditation practise is designed to generate positive emotion and is done in 5 stages:

 

1/ Metta for Onseself

2/ Metta for a Good Friend

3/ Metta for a Neutral Person

4/ Metta for a Difficult Person

5/ Metta for All Beings

 

More details of this meditation can be found on Dharmachari Kamalshilas website.

You can try this meditation at home by following a led audio instruction. This can be downloaded on MP3 from the Free Buddhist Audio website.

 

We went on to read and study the Karaniya Metta Sutta:

 

This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness and who knows the path of peace:

Let them be able and upright,

Straightforward and gentle in speech,

Humble and not conceited,

Contented and easily satisfied,

Unburdened with duties and simple in their ways.

Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,

Not proud or demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing that the wise would later reprove.

Wishing:

In gladness and in safety,

May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be;

Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,

The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,

The seen and the unseen,

Those living near and far away,

Those born and to-be-born — May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,

Or despise any being in any state.

Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child,

So with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings;

Radiating kindness over the entire world:

Spreading upwards to the skies,

And downwards to the depths;

Outwards and unbounded,

Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down

Free from drowsiness,

One should sustain this recollection.

This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,

The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,

Being freed from all sense desires, Is not born again into this world.

 

Adapted from a Translation byThe Amaravati Sangha

Source: www.accesstoinsight.org

Pali Scripture: Sutta Nipata 1.8

 

We explored this Sutta from the point of view of the traditional 3 Fold Path often used to describe the Buddhist Path:

 

1/ Ethics

2/ Meditation

3/ Wisdom

 

In the following weeks we will be exploring theother “Divine Abode” meditations: Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equinimity.



Levels of Consciousness


In August the Milton Keynes Meditation Assoication started a seriesof evening looking at some of the theory behind meditation – as well as practising some!

We have explored the to broad themes in approach to meditation:

  • Samatha – calming and concentrating the minds/ developing positive emotion
  • Vipassana -using Samatha as a basis for reflection on and insight into the nature of our experience (reality?)

We have used the PIPER model as a basic tool for developing a solid base for meditation practise:

  • Posture
  • Introspection
  • Purpose
  • Energy
  • Resolve

We have also looked at two modes of consciosness and their relation to meditation:

Worldly Mind – a consciousness mainly concerned with sesnory experience – dominated by The Hindrances

Meditative Mind – a mind that has overcome obsessive concern with thoughts and sense impressions and becomes spacious and flexible. This mind has attained what is called “Access Concentration” and is on it’s way to developing “Dhyana” – a mind fully absorbed in the object of meditation.

If you would like more information please contact me and I will be happy to email you the handout from the evening. Alternatively, you can check the source material for this evening on Dharmachari Kamalashilas website which contains the whole of his book “Meditation” for free download.