Every Thursday Evening from August 6th, 2009, we will be holding a dhamma talk and meditation at Planet Yoga (Asoke) – details, maps and schedules can be accessed by clicking on the ‘Way Of Wisdom’ icon present on every page.
The talks aim to be friendly to newcomers, light and easy to follow. Hopefully there will always be new things for the experienced Buddhists too ….
Topics will be as follows:
The Way Of Wisdom
Thursday 6th August
Do you want to change, do you want to grow ? That ‘you’ who is wanting is just another side of your ego. The beauty of the Buddha’s teachings is he did not tell us so much ‘what to do’ as ‘what to look at’. The process of observation is as far as your duty extends, beyond basic morality. Seeing the process of body and mind with detachment changes the understanding of ‘self’. A learning takes place that is beyond the ego and the clinging mind, and this new understanding is what can take you to enlightenment. It is called ‘Panya’; usually translated as ‘wisdom’. But it is a wisdom that arises spontaneously from careful detached observation of the ‘self’ process, and which can change your being in a way the ego could not even try.
Thursday 13th August
So if the accomplishments of the ego are counter-productive, how is the elusive, life-changing wisdom generated? First, there are qualities that you can and should develop. Second there is the training in alert attention, that is bright and conjoined with the right kind of striving. This observation is targeted at certain phenomena – Buddhism does not tell us what ‘wisdom’ is, but it tells us what to observe. Finally there is the emptying out and surrender (Vosagga) that is the goal of Insight. Various practices are involved at each level.
The Guaranteed Method
Thursday 20th August
If your meditation practice never got going, or it has been flagging of late, there is one guaranteed method to have a beautiful meditation, that cannot fail….
However we can still take a look at the foggy states of mind that hinder meditation. It takes a special balance of mind to work through the challenges and apply effort in a productive way. As Mohammad Ali put it after the famous Rumble in the Jungle ‘When a Fighter goes to the ropes it is a beautiful thing’. Talking about and reflecting on the qualities that need balancing, puts them under observation; and once the right aspects of mind are brought to attention, the active component of Panya (Wisdom) will do the work for you.
What’s Wrong with Desire
Thursday 27th August
This is a statement, not a question. You can’t always get what you want, but can you get free of wanting? Sense desire gets a bad rap in Buddhism; one vivid text from the ancient Pali scriptures we’ll look at lays particular blame at the realm of the senses. Most people are attracted to peace, wisdom, freedom, compassion and happiness, but not so attracted to giving up their desires. It’s not much use just talking about it – direct observation on the mechanism of the senses, and on the beautiful lightness of being that can be felt directly in meditation, is the only way to shift life’s emphasis on to what has real value.
Continuing through September:
The Refrigerator Light
Thursday 3rd September
‘Consciousness’ is a vague term in the English language, both in the general population and in modern psychology. In Buddhism it is very clearly defined, and split into components. If we go back to the original Buddhism that was taught 2500 years ago, we find that this process, of forming consciousness and ‘contacting’ via the senses, is what was taught over and above all the more usual teachings that modern interpretations of Buddhism focus on. It is not a complex matter, and it is eminently observable. Thanks to psychologist, skeptic and long term meditator Susan Blackmore for the great analogy of the refrigerator light.
Welcome Back to Your Self
Thursday 10th September
‘You have no self’ is a common, and beguiling, teaching in Buddhism. Is this correct ? In fact the original statement refers to a permanent ‘Atman’ (something like a Soul) and not to your ‘self’ – this character who has health, family or money problems, who has aged, faced loss and found happiness – is perfectly real. The self is to be developed. The Insight into Non-Atman is something different, and quite unique to Buddhism. Perhaps a little foray into Freudian philosophy can clear up the misunderstanding, while direct observation on the body/mind will enable Wisdom to do the work that needs to be done.
The Clockwork Universe
Thursday 17th September
Each year incorporates a talk on that most sticky of topics, Karma. This year, rather than try and figure out what Karma is, or how exactly it works, we can look at the ‘Five Orders of Nature’ (Niyama), only one of which is Karma. This means that contrary to the common (mis)understanding of the term, not everything that happens is related to your Karma. And delving even further into the realms of metaphysical speculation, we can look at the teachings on how karma affects rebirth.
This somewhat cosmological side to Buddhism is not directly related to meditation practice, and so is generally pushed aside in favor of more practical teachings. Still, it can be fun, and it is always interesting. The lessons we should take home are pretty clear and simple. ‘Be careful of your behavior’
The Hitchhikers Guide to Buddhism
Thursday 24th September
Final talk in this year’s series, on the topic of integrating all the different practices both in Buddhism and from other schools. For instance, our presence in a Bangkok gym relates directly to the connection between exercising the body, minding the diet, and resting the mind. In the modern age we have a wealth of information and practices – it is up to you to pick wisely which ones are appropriate and when. The trick to doing this is to keep away from fixed views and opinions. This is the ‘dynamic’ approach to the spirit, rather than a dogmatic one; an approach where you can jump ship and switch cars at any point, so long as you are travelling in the right direction. The responsibility however, will then lie purely with yourself. Good Luck, and keep up with Littlebang for other Dhamma related events in Bangkok.
Details, maps and schedules can be accessed by clicking on the ‘Way Of Wisdom’ icon present on every page to the right of the screen….