Registration closes 10 October Cultivating resilience in challenging times: Learning from the “heavenly messengers” This eight-week online course offers an opportunity to develop and strengthen our inner resources of kindness, compassion, calm and clarity, through an exploration of what are traditionally known as “the four heavenly messengers.” In Buddhist teaching, these are four archetypes that symbolise the existential challenges we face, and the way … Continue reading Eight-week online Dharma Study class series October-November 2020
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddha’s prescription for completely curing ourselves of unhappiness. And like any good medicine, it doesn’t only work in one way. It’s a very holistic treatment that works on several different aspects of our lives at once – in fact, every aspect of our lives is included here, if we’re practising fully.
The way the path is laid out invites us to pay attention to three particular areas of development, traditionally known as sīla, samādhi and pañña, or ethics, meditation and wisdom. These three aspects support each other like the three legs of a tripod, and all of three of them need to be equally well developed, if our practice is to keep deepening. Continue reading “December 2016 full moon – Wise Action, Wise Non-Action”
Seven Factors of Awakening
I’ve recently enjoyed leading a couple of longer residential retreats in New Zealand and Australia, exploring the teachings from the Satipatthana Sutta on the Seven Factors of Awakening: mindfulness, investigation, energy, joy or rapture, tranquillity, concentration or stability of mind, and equanimity.
When cultivated together and brought into balance with each other, these seven factors provide the optimum conditions for the deepest insights to arise, so they play a very important role in the development of wisdom. In fact Bhikkhu Anaalayo, in a recent study retreat exploring the Satipatthana Sutta, said that all the various techniques and methods found in that sutta are designed to develop these Seven Factors of Awakening. Continue reading “August 2016 full moon – Seven Factors of Awakening and Equanimity (again)”
The rewards and challenges of technology
Earlier this evening, I gave my first dharma talk via video-link, from the YHA in Sydney to Auckland Insight in New Zealand. Nothing too remarkable about that these days; but still, it was a delight to be able to connect with the group in this way, and I felt a new sense of appreciation for the benefits of computer technology. We now have access to a wide range of dharma teachings from many different traditions, in many different forms. And with almost no effort, we can instantly download or stream talks and videos, or sign up for online study courses.
In my own experience though – as both a teacher and a student – there can also be a downside to this instant abundance. Without awareness, it can unconsciously reinforce a passive, materialistic, and at times even disrespectful relationship to the teachings.
So as technology helps meditation becomes more and more mainstream, it’s becoming increasingly normal to approach it with a consumerist mind-set. In some ways, this makes sense. When everything else around us is presented in that way, why wouldn’t we think about the practice in terms of what we can get from it? And why wouldn’t we assume that it should be available on my terms: in the way I want it, when I want it, for the price I want it? We can even mistake this kind of freedom (to consume) for the deeper freedom that the Buddha’s teachings point to. Continue reading “February 2016 full moon – Motivation, Respect, Resolve”
Sea anemone by Virginia Draper
Opening, closing, opening, closing …
Everything has its natural rhythm, including the human heart. I’m not sure why it took me so long to understand this, but a childhood memory – of exploring rock-pools with my father while on holiday in Scotland – helped. On family visits to chilly windswept beaches, he and I would wander at low tide among the exposed rock basins in search of marine life: crabs and starfish and sea anemones and jellyfish and small see-through shrimpy things. Continue reading “February 2016 new moon – sea anemone heart”
A few slightly random reflections on Gratitude
“These two people are hard to find in the world. Which two? The one who is first to do a kindness, and the one who is grateful and thankful for a kindness done.” AN 2.118
The five hindrances
I’ve been back in New Zealand for the month of September, and with the Auckland Insight group, we’ve been exploring the Five Hindrances, five particularly unhelpful states of mind that get in the way of clear seeing, of insight. They appear in the Satipatthana Sutta under the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness, as qualities of mental energy that we need to learn how to relate to wisely, and eventually, to overcome completely.
These are the five:
sloth and torpor
restlessness and remorse
sceptical doubt 1 Continue reading “September 2015 full moon – Maintaining Motivation (or finding antidotes to “sloth and torpor”)”
‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ ‘There is nothing in the experience of the cosmos that fits the bill of being eternal, unchanging, or that deserves to be clung to as “me” or “mine.’ In last month’s post, I wrote about dukkha, the second of the three “universal characteristics” recognised by the Buddha as being inherent in all … Continue reading July 2015 full moon 2 (blue moon) – anatta or not-self
While in San Francisco recently, I had an opportunity to visit Alcatraz island, the former federal penitentiary, 19th-century military fortress, site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks. As we walked through the decaying cell blocks, I was struck by the layers and layers of defence that had been constructed to keep what was deemed “unsafe” from … Continue reading February 2015 full moon – freedom from the fetter of views
“The days and nights are relentlessly passing; how well am I spending my time?” (A question that the Buddha advised practitioners to contemplate frequently) 2015. Each year this changing-of-the-calendar-numbers seems to arrive a little more quickly. Each year, it seems that somehow there is less TIME … and so at first reading, the above reflection can seem to reinforce a sense of time-poverty: having too much to do, and not enough … Continue reading January 2015 full moon – resolution and determination