Lovingkindness as a path to awakening (Day 25)

May 6, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessThe Buddha’s recorded as having said:

For one who mindfully develops
Boundless loving-kindness
Seeing the destruction of clinging,
The fetters are worn away.

If with an uncorrupted mind
He pervades just one being
With loving kindly thoughts,
He makes some merit thereby.

But a noble one produces
An abundance of merit
By having a compassionate mind
Towards all living beings.

The “fetters” are mental habits that hold us back from attaining enlightenment. Lovingkindness practice, the Buddha is saying, wears away these fetters. So lovingkindness practice helps us become enlightened.

The way I think of the Buddhist path of practice these days is that it’s all about “un-selfing.” Normally we are “selfing” all the time … Read more »

Transcendental Science Fiction and the magic of contrast

January 9, 2013


‘..that quest for new and relevant cultural expressions of the Dharma is of the foremost importance if Buddhism is to have a major impact on the world.’
Subhuti, A Buddhist Manifesto.

I came to Buddhism through the catalyst of Speculative Fiction (SF), which includes, amongst others, the science fiction and fantasy genres.

At the root of Speculative Fiction I saw a spiritual urge; the desire for transcendence. In it I recognised what could almost be seen as a new spiritual movement.

I place the origins of Science Fiction in the nineteenth century with the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, as does Brian Aldiss in his book Billion Year Spree. I don’t think it’s a … Read more »

Awakening to our true nature

May 29, 2012

Spiritual practice is about coming back, over and over again, to love and mindfulness, making those our home.

I subscribe to the newsletters of Rick Hanson, who contributes articles to Wildmind and who is a well-known author and neuropsychologist. He’s a very stimulating man! Today’s newsletter was an interesting one, and it prompted some thinking on my part.

He opens by asking a much-pondered question about human nature: “Deep down, are we basically good or bad?” From a neurological point of view, he comes down firmly on the side of good.

His reasoning is this:

When the body is not disturbed by hunger, thirst, pain, or illness, and when the mind is not disturbed

Read more »

Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

December 30, 2011

Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is a prolific writer, with over seventy books to his name. ‘Your True Home’ is his latest: a compilation of 365 short teachings, one on each page.

The format means we can take the book’s subtitle ‘everyday wisdom’ literally, and visit the book daily for a nugget of this much-loved Buddhist teacher’s lore.

And nuggets they are, never taking up more than half a page in a book which has a short, chubby format to begin with (though too heavy to be pocket size – unless you have very big pockets).

Title: Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh
Author: Melvin McLeod (editor)

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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 »

“The Brightened Mind,” by Ajahn Sumano Bhikkhu

March 11, 2011

The Brightened MindAjahn Sumano is a Chicagoan who worked in the corporate world before becoming a Buddhist monk and living in a cave in Thailand for 15 years, intensively practicing meditation. You’d therefore expect him to have a deep understanding of meditation, and The Brightened Mind suggests he has.

Unfortunately, just as Sumano had to go through his corporate phase before he hit his meditative years, so do we. Almost the whole first half of the book has a “marketing” feel to, it where you’re constantly told about the benefits meditation will bring, without any meditation actually being taught.

Title: The Brightened Mind
Author: Ajahn Sumano Bhikkhu
Publisher: Quest Books
ISBN: 978-0-8356-0899-2

Read more »

Paul Klee: “Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void”

November 11, 2010

paul kleePaul Klee, the famous Swiss/German expressionist painter, may seem to be making an almost mystical claim here — that creativity comes from beyond the conscious mind. I think you’d be right in assuming that creative impulses come from unconscious parts of the mind, but not that this is an exclusively mystical state. In fact, all action ultimately has this quality of coming from “beyond,” but we simply fail to notice this most of the time, because we’re in the grip of the illusion that the conscious mind is “us,” that it owns our actions, and that it’s in control.

When I speak, I’m often aware that my words come from what Klee calls “the void.” … Read more »

The ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ phenomenon

November 9, 2010

When the film Four Weddings and a Funeral came out in 1994, I was irritated by the film’s ‘token’ inclusion of a deaf character and two gay men. A lesbian friend was less judgemental. She was just thrilled that a mainstream film featured a gay relationship.

Reading Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-seller, and seeing the film adaptation starring Julia Roberts, I think I know how my friend felt. The ideas are flawed, but to see Buddhism portrayed positively in popular culture is a delight.

The story – if you don’t know it – is of a thirty-something woman, unsatisfied with her affluent New York life, who goes travelling for a year in search … Read more »

Born to be free

October 28, 2010

rebel buddhaDzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, author of Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom, explains that our innate drive for freedom can be expressed either destructively or creatively.

Rebel Buddha is an exploration of what it means to be free and how it is that we can become free. Although we may vote for the head of our government, marry for love, and worship the divine or mundane powers of our choice, most of us don’t really feel free in our day-to-day lives. When we talk about freedom, we’re also talking about its opposite — bondage, lack of independence, being subject to the control of something or someone outside ourselves. No one likes it, and when … Read more »

Want to get enlightened? Here are some tips.

April 8, 2010

candleLast night I taught the first night of a class on achieving Insight through meditation.

This being the first night there was a bit more talking than there will be in the rest of the four-week course, so I thought I’d record the talk, in which I discuss why we should think more about getting Enlightened, what holds us back, and what we need to do to set up conditions for Insight arising.

I also recorded the guided meditation that I led.

By the way, I had a cold, so there’s some coughing, hacking, and nose-blowing!

Both the talk and the meditation are unedited, and the sound quality isn’t great.

Here’s the talk, which is … Read more »