Meditation rescued me from misanthropy

The atheist is an embattled soul. If we think of those proud to proselytise their atheism today – Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins – we find that they are above all polemicists, wearily prolonging a juvenile rebellion. Popes and fundamentalists are their sustenance. And vice versa.Without the quarrel, both parties might be obliged to move on.

My own atheist period lasted the time it took to escape an evangelical family. My father, an Anglican clergyman, had become involved in the charismatic movement. There were exorcisms and a delirium of tongues and prophesies. In the event, it was such a relief to escape into the world of cold reason that the loss of eternal life seemed a … Read more »

Interview with SN Goenka

SN Goenka is the leading teacher of vipassana, a popular Buddhist meditation technique. He was born in Burma to Indian parents and raised as a Hindu. He spoke to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk the Talk on how Buddhism changed him and how he brought vipassana back to the country of its origin.

I am at the Dharma Stupa (not far away from Mumbai), an architectural marvel as intriguing as the spiritual practice which it is supposed to be attributed to, vipassana. To talk to me about this popular form of meditation, is its guru, although he doesn’t like to be called that, Guru S N Goenkaji. Every spiritual or religious … Read more »

Take a journey of noble silence

June 20, 2010

Buddha taught Vipassana for free to all who cared to practise it 2,500 years ago. Today, the Alberta Vipassana Foundation is teaching this technique for free to all who are determined to give it a try, to see for themselves how it works and to weigh the benefits.

Vipassana in Pali means “insight” to see things as they really are and it has been described by S.N. Goenka as “an art of living.” It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and self-reflection. Its unique quality is non-sectarian, non-religious and it must be taught entirely for free.

The first 10-day course scheduled in 2010 was held at Camp Kasota in Sylvan Lake, from April 26 … Read more »

Teacher who helped shape American Buddhism is still on a quest

Jack Kornfield says ‘we’re teaching meditation not as a religious activity but as a support for living a wise and healthy and compassionate inner life.’

In 1972, Jack Kornfield stepped off a plane in Washington, D.C., his head shaved and his body swathed in golden robes. He had come home to see if he could make it as a monk in America.

Kornfield had spent several contemplative years at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, where he lived with few possessions, followed a strict monastic code and retreated each day to the lush forest for hours of meditation.

But in the U.S., he found no monasteries that practiced the Vipassana meditation he had studied. And the … Read more »

Free your mind

Unable to cope with the mounting pressures of work, relationships and society, the urban youth is embracing the idea of spirituality. Narendra Kaushik explores new-age meditation systems that hold the promise of harmony and joy.

Om Parkash Prabhu (28), a social worker who also runs a travel agency in Mumbai, was stuck in a dark tunnel with no light in sight. His stress level had shot up enormously. He would often get headaches and chest pain, and had not slept for several months. But tests in three reputed hospitals of Mumbai and Pune found nothing wrong in his system. Prabhu, the only son of an agrarian couple from Sindhudurg, felt he would die a slow … Read more »

Self-centred Buddhism

January 17, 2010

Mark Vernon: Guardian

Western Buddhism can be a serious business. If you travel to Newton Abbot in Devon, and then make your way a few miles further west – through the village of East Ogwell, and then the hamlet of West Ogwell – you arrive at Gaia House, one of the places in the UK where western Buddhism is being forged with impressive commitment. It’s a meditation centre. Run by volunteers, who offer a year at a time to manage the place, it hosts retreats – periods of time, running from a single day to many weeks, during which retreatants meditate.

Silence is the watchword of the house. It’s a mark of the seriousness of … Read more »

“Self, meditating,” by Robert Wright

August 20, 2009

New York Times: This Friday I’m heading up to rural Massachusetts in hopes of getting born again — again.

Six years ago, in the same locale, I attended my first and only silent meditation retreat. It was just about the most amazing experience of my life. Certainly it seemed more dramatic than my very first born-again experience — my response to a southern Baptist altar call as a child, which I wrote about in this space last month.

I came away from that week feeling I had found a new kind of happiness, deeper than the kind I’d always pursued. I also came away a better person — just ask my wife. (And neither … Read more »

The Centrality of Impermanence

March 30, 2009

flowing waterIf there is just one thing you should learn about this world, anicca is it. It may be an exaggeration to say that anicca, or impermanence, is the core of the Buddha’s teaching, but when we look closely at this single idea, the whole of the Buddha’s teaching begins to open up.

In Buddhism, impermanence is one of the three “marks” of existence, along with dukkha and anattā, or unsatisfactoriness and no-self. Together, these three marks form the core of a Buddhist conception of reality. Understanding this reality is often described as tantamount to awakening.

Indeed, in Vipassanā meditation we are taught to note, or to simply direct the mind to “see” these … Read more »

Opening to insight

March 19, 2009

Beech leafFundamentally, we don’t know anything about anything. How then can we even begin to cultivate insight into how things really are? Author, practitioner, and Dharma teacher Kamalashila suggests how we can learn to open up to reality.

It is late summer and 10:22 in the morning.

I am in my room in Birmingham. Just a few yards away, framed in the open window, are the upper branches of a luxuriant copper beech, its leaves displaying to the eye subtle, dark greens (olive, patinated bronze) as they reflect the morning sunshine.

The fine outer branches shift almost imperceptibly, shedding complex darker shadows within.

The tree is full of beech nuts, and the leaves on a few … Read more »

Research: Naming negative emotions makes them weaker

February 16, 2009

naming emotionsWired Magazine reports on research that’s of relevance to meditators — especially those that use the vipassana technique of “noting,” where we name the most prominent aspect of our experience, saying inwardly, for example, “anger, anger” when we recognize that that emotion is present.

Meditation generally, and the technique of noting in particular, helps us to stand back from our emotions and to recognize that they are transitory events passing though our consciousness. Without this ability to stand back from our emotions we can easily become engulfed by them and we identify totally with them. Instead of experiencing anger we simply are angry.

It’s akin to flying in an airplane. When the plane is … Read more »