“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” George Orwell

January 3, 2012

Metaphors can be traps. We can end up taking them too literally. The point of a metaphor is to help us see things more clearly (“time slips through our hands like sand” helps us connect something intangible and abstract, like time, to a physical experience, like sand trickling through our fingers). But sometimes metaphors mislead, and make it harder to see things clearly. The image of the path is one of those metaphors that can potentially trap and mislead us.

The Buddha himself used the image of his teaching being a path. One of his key teachings is the Eightfold Path (aṭṭhaṅgika magga), and in a famous teaching he explained that he was like an … Read more »

“The End of Your World,” by Adyashanti

May 12, 2011

Enlightenment used to be something of a dirty word in the west, or at least it used to be considered improper to make any claims to be enlightened. People would say this reticence was an “eastern thing” — a sign of how spiritually mature Asia was, because of course you would “just know” that someone was Enlightened. This was always nonsense. Looking at the Buddhist scriptures it’s hard to ignore the Buddha’s “Lion’s Roar” where he declares that he is awakened. There are two entire books of the Buddhist scriptures — the Therigatha and Theragatha — which are entirely composed of verses composed by people declaring that they, too, were Enlightened.

Title: The End

Read more »

The paradox of having goals in the moment

March 28, 2011

There’s a lot of confusion about whether goals have a place in Buddhist practice. Buddhism’s about “being in the moment.” right? And if you’re in the moment you shouldn’t be thinking about the future. And goals are a form of clinging, and we’re not supposed to cling, and so therefore goals have no place in spiritual practice. Right? Well, not so fast.

Sure, there can be problems with goals.

Goals can be something we cling to inappropriately, and so we end up giving ourselves a hard time when we don’t meet them.

Here’s something I’ve experienced, and that I’ve seen happen with many other people:

Early on, when I’d not long learned to meditate, I … Read more »

With no effort or practice whatsoever, Enlightenment is here

March 12, 2011

In all sects of Buddhism, meditation is a prevalent practice,  but Buddhist teachers from different sects use different language to teach meditation.

There are meditations that focus on awareness and insight; meditations that focus on our breath, our body, our feelings, our minds and our mental qualities; and meditations for developing loving kindness within our minds and hearts.

It is easy, when learning a form of meditation, to just focus on the form and then judge whether or not we are doing it “right”.

There is freedom from this judging and striving in Dzogchen practice. Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), one of the great luminaries of Tibetan Buddhism in the twentieth century,  was a … Read more »

Enlightenment in a myriad of beautiful ways

December 13, 2010

I found a beautiful article by Jack Kornfield recently, which begins with the question, “Is enlightenment just a myth?” There are so many different descriptions of what enlightenment is like, we might begin to wonder whether it’s all made up.

I’m certainly not enlightened, and so I don’t know the answer. But here’s what I do know. Over the years, I’ve watched as my friends and I have changed. And I mean radically. Some of us bear little resemblance to the people we were ten or fifteen years ago. And this is the interesting part. Though I can see that we’ve all become kinder and more confident people, we’ve all changed in very different directions. … Read more »

“The Three Commitments: Walking the Path of Liberation,” by Pema Chödrön

October 21, 2010

3 commitmentsIt has taken me an age to write this, and I have only just realized why.

Pema delivers such ‘big’ ideas and concepts – and often all in the same breath! It has taken quite a few listens. Also, the opportunity to review The Three Commitments arrived when I was creating an event called ‘White Night – What is Enlightenment?’ for Brighton Buddhist Centre, tending to an allotment (community garden), and producing a BBC documentary series, as well as a short stint at Buddhafield. Listening to Pema became a multitasking affair – either while driving or whilst making decorations with my friends for White Night, while it really should have been a … Read more »

The mindful enlightenment

June 26, 2010

Buddhist practices can help bring about a new kind of social enlightenment

A fresh kind of enlightenment is in the air. Madeleine Bunting recently reported on the bold vision for progress being set out by Matthew Taylor at the Royal Society Of Arts. Calling for a new “revolution of the mind”, the RSA is grounding its arguments in empirical studies from neuroscience and psychology.

Evidence from these disciplines is making it increasingly clear that we are social creatures with plastic minds, wired for empathy and able to access a consciousness that, if developed, could help release us from the shackles of emotion that so often bind us. Building on its 18th-century precursor, the defining feature … Read more »

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

August 31, 2009

Climbing a cliffSome years ago, two friends took me rock-climbing in Colorado. I’d only ever climbed with ropes once before, and that had been many years earlier, so really I was a complete beginner. And nervous.

I found myself suspended half-way up a cliff, in a state of anxiety, with my friends shouting encouragement from below. My breathing was tight, my heart was pounding, and my limbs felt weak and shaky, but I didn’t have time to think much about that. I was holding on to a narrow ledge that ran horizontally across the rock face — really it was more like a crease. The toes of my climbing shoes were precariously holding on to a couple … Read more »

Monks work to construct mandala (The Penn Online, Pennsylvania)

October 29, 2003

Meditation, as practiced by the 10 Tibetan Buddhist monks visiting IUP this week, provides “stability and calmness” and opens the potential of one’s mind, said Eleanor Mannikka, Monday’s Six O’Clock Series speaker.

“What powers your behavior is your mind,” said Mannikka, an IUP art professor and 25-year practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. “All the minds that human beings have are the most powerful tools in the universe. Without meditation you’re using a small fraction of your mind.”

Buddhists practice the teachings of Siddhartha Gotama — the Buddha — who after six years of meditation about 2,500 years ago, found the “middle path,” or enlightenment, in his search for the ways to avoid suffering and be happy.… Read more »