Oct 10, 2012
Last night at a Dharma study group that I meet with on Skype, we looked at the Meghiya Sutta. Meghiya was an attendant of the Buddha, and one time when the two of them were together, Meghiya asked if he could go off and meditate in a lovely looking mango grove that he’d spotted when he was off on his alms-round. Meghiya had thought that the mango grove would be the perfect place to meditate.
The Buddha asked him to wait, though, since he would be left alone. Presumably he wanted …
Jun 11, 2010
How would you feel if your teacher burned your book collection? A new book by Sangharakshita highlights a challenging friendship between a Tibetan guru and his disciple.
A good dharma book is humbling. It is like a spiritual friend who isn’t afraid of cutting through our defenses in the service of positive change. Sangharakshita’s new book, exploring three songs of Milarepa, challenged me in this way. The material is compiled from edited transcripts of seminars Sangharakshita gave to members of the Triratna Buddhist Order (formerly the Western Buddhist Order) in the late 70’s, about Milarepa, his songs and the spiritual life. The songs chosen …
May 17, 2010
What do you do when you find you’ve changed — but your friends haven’t? Bodhipaksa recounts how he found himself growing apart from one set of friends, and closer to a new set who were more supportive of his spiritual quest.
I was at university when I started practicing Buddhism. I was surrounded by fellow students who were like me. We thought the height of happiness was to party, to drink, to trade insults, and to find someone to have sex with. I was at vet school, and most of us thought that meat-eating was natural and right, and that animals existed in order to be devoured. When I took up …
May 13, 2009
A new book by Gaylon Ferguson argues that the biggest obstacle to natural wakefulness is the materialism that has us all in its grip, and that meditation and spiritual community are the antidotes. Pam Dodd is our guest reviewer.
Gaylon Ferguson, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, has studied and taught meditation for over 30 years. During that time, he has probably met all kinds of people from all walks of life who have actively pursued, or fallen onto, the spiritual path. Ferguson believes that the normal human condition is natural or basic wakefulness. Wakefulness is the fundamental goodness of who we really are, independent of our circumstances, that lies dormant in …
Jul 24, 2008
Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
I sometimes think that my life has proceeded by way of a series of breakdowns and reconstructions. Such episodes haven’t exactly been frequent in my life, but they have represented important turning points. There have been three times I can recall where I’ve hit emotional bottom, learned something important about myself, and found a release that led to significant growth taking place.
In each case there had been a long period of holding on to some pattern that had been causing me pain (usually unacknowledged). I’d been a tightly-closed bud. This was followed by a catalyzing event (in each case it involved being on retreat) in which I became fully aware of …
Jun 23, 2008
Anne Morrow Lindbergh: “If one is estranged from oneself, then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others…”
Lindbergh’s comment reminds me that being fully aware of others involves awareness of oneself. There’s nothing particularly mystical about this — it’s just a question of psychology and neurophysiology. And without this awareness of oneself, friendship is simply impossible.
On a psychological level, next time you’re interacting with someone, pay attention to what’s happening on a gut level. You’ll notice that there are sensations in the body, mostly focused on the abdomen, that arise in response to the other person. In Buddhist terminology these are vedanas, which are often translated as “feelings.” Vedanas are not emotions, but are a basic response to perceptions. These responses are traditionally categorized as pleasurable, …
Jun 22, 2008
Spiritual friendship comes highly praised in Buddhist practice. But why are spiritual friends considered to be so crucial? What are the qualities of a spiritual friend? And do we have to leave our existing friends behind? Guest blogger Justin Whitaker investigates.
But due to the fragility and perishability of human things, we should always be on the search for someone to love and by whom to be loved; indeed if affection and kindliness are lost from our life, we lose all that gives it charm… Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia
Friendship, and our human relationships in general, can at times be one of the most difficult aspects of our lives while at …
Jun 20, 2008
Sara Jenkins was handed a dilemma in the form of two seemingly contradictory teachings: while on retreat, maintain silence and abstain from communication, and at the same time deepen your connections with others. Samayadevi reviews the book in which Jenkins explores the creative tension between those teachings and the vision of friendship that it gave birth to.
Sara Jenkins is a woman one would want to know, to have as a friend. In this little tome, Hello At Last, Embracing the Koan of Friendship and Meditation, she shares with us her experiences with the profound and perhaps surprising practice of spiritual friendship. We seem to grasp the importance of …
Jun 17, 2008
Avant-garde musician John Cage; Catholic mystic Thomas Merton; Beat writers Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac; psychotherapists Carl Jung and Erich Fromm; Zen teachers Robert Aitken and Philip Kapleau, philosophers Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger: 20th century giants all, and all have one thing in common — they were deeply influenced by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, a gentle scholar-practitioner from Japan.
This litany of names is merely suggestive of the massive impact that D. T. Suzuki had on western culture — an influence that is documented in a new film, A Zen Life — because so far we haven’t mentioned the 100 or so books that have found their way (by now) into …
Jun 05, 2008
Guided meditation CDs are undoubtedly useful, but can they become a reliance that actually interferes with our practice? On the other hand, what happens when you find that your meditations are so much better with a CD than without: should you give up meditating on your own? Bodhipaksa shares some advice that he’s offered to students over the years.
I often get asked by students how they much reliance they should place on guided meditations compared to meditating on their own. For example one person asked:
I used to meditate without any guided CD and the difference when I used your guided CD is quite amazing. The metta is so much more