Report: Notes on A. Jayasaro talk

While it won’t make too much fluid sense if you were not there, below are notes on the Talk by Ajahn Jayasaro in Pak Chong last week when we went there.

It is always hard to remember exactly what A. Jayasaro talked about, as there is so much depth …. Thanks to Phra Frank for jotting down the following notes:

Ajahn Jayasaro Dhamma Talk – given on September 4, 2011

“Attachment, Non-Attachment, Detached and Semi-Detached”

A most important guiding principle of the Buddha’s teaching is to:

See something clearly = non-attachment.

This is a result of clear understanding [understanding things as they really are].

NOT from assuming a “Buddhist stance”.

This clear understanding arises as an automatic result of applying focus on one’s own experience.

NOT a “dogma to be believed” but a tool to enable us to see things more clearly.

It is not necessary to emphasize the dukkha aspect of the human experience,

But better to emphasize that a “Happy Mind” can look at the more difficult sides of life without being swept way.

#1 factor in one’s progress = Desire (zeal) to do so, the desire to investigate objectively

i.e. to put down our pre-conceived ideas and philosophies and instead look and see what appears no matter whether it may be uplifting or disheartening.

Develop equanimity = the ability to see.

When we first start to practice = “Going against the stream” of conventional society

[and the inclination to follow the dictates of our kilesas] and begin to

Understand our actual experience.

Modern society provides “easy escape” from our hum-drum lives.

When we practice on the other hand, we give up this easy escape route of immediate gratification and instead develop our minds and hearts.

Buddha’s teaching was the supreme education system…

It provides a universal forum / classroom = the present moment.

The only place that we can experience truth is in the present moment.

Any time that we are out of the present moment we are sleeping, dreaming, imagining.

One thing that can be easily observed is that we are addicted to pleasant feeling.

So we must re-train ourselves to cultivate the happiness and pleasure that is generated in meditation practice.

A simile was given of going solo to an art museum and having an “Eh!” indifferent reaction to renown works of art, but then if we viewed the same works while getting a commentary from an astute teacher (who could reveal the inherent beauty and symbolism hidden in the art) then we would view those works with  appreciation, not indifference

Most of our life is lived between bliss and pain = a heedless state of mind.

We must educate ourselves to “be alive” through the whole of our existence…

Thus we meditate on the bland – the breath.

We should “Put forth effort!” into meditation

And not view it as drudgery – but we should reflect on the freedom from the defilements,  Then we can enjoy meditation even when the mind is not calm.

We need to set for ourselves a clearly defined goal.

E.G. if we were swimming to a distant island in the middle of a lake, it does not help to get to the island quickly if we are always sticking our head out of the water and wondering “How far is it? How much longer will it take to get there?” but it’s better to simply put our head down and stroke away.

In meditation we are modeling an Ideal > towards the end of getting usable skills out of it.

So, when we “enter the classroom” free of philosophies, pre-conceived ideas or doctrines, etc. then we can easily learn.

“It dawned on me”

“It occurred to me” are phrases that are expressive of the kinds of experience we have in meditation.

What happens is = things occur in the mind – i.e. insight arises – BEFORE we apply discursive thought.

The moment that you become aware “I’m no longer following the breath” = that’s

the moment of wakening and you put down the errant thought and strengthen the meditation muscle.

Ajahn Chah said that meditation practice is like a dripping tap:

“DRIP…DRIP…DRIP…” the drips = the moments of mindfulness and the gaps are the moments of wandering.

When the mind lacks clarity, sharpness and mindfulness then we are BOUNCING from

CONTACT >to> CONTACT >to> CONTACT.

When we practice mindfulness then we become aware of how phenomena arise and pass away and we recognize “no ownership” in the way that phenomena arise and pass away = we are no longer infatuated with pleasant feeling and seek it – because we understand it is “not mine” – similarly we no longer shrink away from unpleasant feeling because it is “just that”.

“Detachment” then is seeing things as they are through the lens of mindfulness in the present moment…so we are not affected by them.

Subsequently other insights arise, such as the fact that “control” as a strategy to control things (in life) does not work. Things are not possible to control…it is a mark of “insecurity” IF you try to control things that cannot be controlled.

Understanding processes entails relaxing and recognizing what areas of experience may respond to the application of effort – so we apply effort wisely.

E.G. “The body”…If we tell our body “Don’t age, get sick, or die…” that is impossible.

WRONG Idea = “Strong feelings are more real than mild feelings!”  

Many people believe that passion = authentic feeling…

But WHY should that be more real than equanimity?

Examining the Relationship Between Excitement and Boredom:

We like to be excited. We have attachment to excitement. But we note that excitement alternates with boredom…

The extent to which we identify with excitement = the extent to which we are threatened by boredom.

We bounce from  the peak of excitement to the valley of boredom repeatedly.

It is Unwise to wonder: “HOW can I maximize excitement?”

It is Wise to identify that “As long as we are attached to excitement, then we are chained to boredom.”

ONLY escape = “Give up excitement.”

The cycle of seeking praise and avoiding blame is the same, and the solution is the same = “Give up attachment to praise”.

Since we do not fuss about praise = we should not fuss about criticism.

Wisdom and understanding arise when we look at things as they really are – not latch onto or attach to something that creates identity.

Develop strength and understanding to create optimum responses to situations, rather than making a response that is based on self-perception.

Self-perception distorts true perception of the way things are.

Allow things to occur, then…

Insights can bubble up and occur in mind.

Then we understand Buddha’s teaching not as a philosophy, but as a lived experience.

Q & A

Q: What is the problem with consuming alcohol?

A: The consumption of alcohol has a detrimental effect on consciousness…though it is probably not even noticed by those not striving for liberation.

Attachment = energy. So wise people transfer the object of attachment.

Monks can see / recognize the energy expended, so they abandon putting energy into detrimental pastimes.

Unwholesome desire is based on some future thing that one wants.

Q: How about super powers?

A: Buddha prohibited monks from revealing psychic powers / spiritual accomplishments to lay people.

The display of psychic power is “Vulgar – like a woman showing her underwear”.

It should be concealed.

Psychic powers may pose a danger to progress in the Dhamma > by creating such thoughts as: “I have special powers!”

The psychic powers can be more of a drawback than helpful.

Q: What about the behavioral faults of my child?

A: Parents tend to be too close to the child, thus the faults become magnified. So parents worry about their child’s faults too much and try to overly control the child… where in fact many behavioral variances are not so important as to the overall progress of the child.

            // Defilements restrict, oppress and confine life.   //

“Boredom”? …”Give it up!”

Conclusion:                   PUT FORTH EFFORT     into your practice!

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Report: Notes on Dance of Emptiness Talk 5

Notes on ‘Path of Purification’ – fifth dhamma talk in the 2011 Dhamma Talk Series: The Dance of Emptiness.

Talks kindly hosted by the Dance Centre, School of Performing Arts, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok.

Below are notes, quotes, links – in case anyone who listened to the talk would like to follow up on any of the topics. It is not a transcript of the whole talk. The video will become available one day, when we get the hang of video editing software….

Click here for background information on this Talks Series

Topic of this talk:

Path of Purification (or Everything’s Aspect)

The three higher practices of desirelessness, signlessness and emptiness – relating to three aspects of everything. Confused? Emptiness is a concept associated with Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, but it all began in the original sutta teachings in the Theravada tradition. There are certain characteristics that belong to everything, the observation of which lead to ‘breaking the spell’. Disenchantment is a beautiful thing.

Notes:

We start with the conceptual world in which each person lives. There is no end to the questions, speculations, proliferations of the ‘world’. Buddhism teaches what is ‘useful’ – models that can be used for the purpose of enlightenment. It does not not seek to provide answers to all the questions of the world. You are supposed to know and see directly from enlightenment, for yourself.

Vaccagotta was one character in the original suttas, who liked to ask a lot of questions about the origin of the universe, the end of the universe etc.. The Buddha did not answer these questions, but tried to point out instead what was useful, rather than fuel speculation that has no end.

The analogy is to a man shot with an arrow, who is attended by the surgeon. But before he allows the surgeon to remove the arrow head and poison, he wants to know who shot the arrow, what was the person’s name, was he tall or short, what village did he hail from, what kind of bow did he use …. (link to the original sutta).

So other religions like to accuse Buddhism of avoiding questions; they say it is a cop-0ut. Well they are right. How was the world created, when will it end … and the endless stream of speculation. Think about it. Even if these answers were provided, you still would not know. You would only have a new set of beliefs that you cling to.

More Conceptual World

If you walk in a room what do you see? Some notice the decorating, some notice the colours, some see the architecture, some note the acoustics .. it all depends on what you have done before. During these talks we have been in the Dance Centre. There is a big printed wall behind the speaker – if you have ever worked on stage, you will be used to printing/painting big scenes and erecting a wall to hold them up, and so that is what you see. Think of a Buddha image. Is it beautiful? Or is it a ‘Graven Idol’? Depends entirely on your past associations.  You don’t see the world around you, you see your concepts. Or more properly, your conceptual framework. In psychology, this was a theory proposed by the great psychologist George Kelly, in Personal Construct Theory. It is a rather refined theory.

In fact humans are drawn outside of themselves from the very start. from babyhood (is there such a word?) the world fascinates and we are inclined to enjoin it, even when things don’t really make much sense. Like the half heard lyrics to a song, we force the world to fit our limited viewpoint. Here’s a great video of two babies engaging in meaningful babble (then look at people on their mobile phones…!)

Personal Construct Theory used the term ‘constructs’ rather than ‘concepts’. But it described these constructs as ‘expectations’. Or put another way, should’s and shouldn’ts. With monks this is especially obvious – there are layers and layers of what monks should and should not do. Layers which, of course, depend on your own ideas! This was the topic of a Bangkok Podcast with Phra Pandit, in September 2011.

Fivefold Aggregate

In the two previous talks we looked at the fivefold aggregate as it arises and vanishes. That is to say, any moment of consciousness has a physical form that it is based upon (a sight, a sound, a bodily feeling, a smell or a taste, or a mental representation of any of these). With that will arise liking/disliking (attraction/repulsion), perception, background mind conditions, and cognition. These are called in Pali the 5 khandhas, or in Sanskrit the five skandhas :-

  • form
  • feeling
  • perception
  • background mind states
  • cognition

If you pay attention, this is all that you can see. Take for instance ‘democracy’. You have the form (the sound, either externally heard, or mentally pronounced), and each of the other factors arising with it. But to keep it in mind, you have to start picking at the details of it – thinking about what the word means to you, thinking up examples of democracy or its characteristics.

The thinking is called vitakka (aiming) and vicara (throwing of the attention), and results in papanca (diffuse thinking).

The Amata

Lets jump for a moment to the Buddha 2500 years ago. He had heard from the Brahmins about something called the Amata – the deathless, or immortal. It is clearly not the body – that is not immortal, and that is easy to see. But the mind? Is that immortal? Does that last forever? When you go look for it, all you can see are these fivefold aggregates arising and ceasing. There is nothing lasting there. It cannot be the mind either. If you disconnect then from these fivefold aggregates as they arise in turn, you get to see and feel a sense of your self that is still here. If the whole of what arises, also ceases, but you are still here, you cannot be that 5fold perception!

In meditation we do this by being mindful. Then you notice that your mind wanders and your attention is lost in some perception, based on sound, thought, feeling etc.. So you note gently that your presence was ‘lost’. When ‘lost’ we count that as being ‘outside’ of yourself. Even if it is a mental construction, which many people might think of as ‘internal’ (different models – not that any model is right or wrong), in Buddhism it is counted as ‘outside’. Your attention returns home and after a while you become aware of yourself while you are not engaging in the world outside. You are not engaging in sounds, thoughts, feelings, vision … (also tastes and smells, but these are rather secondary senses to humans).

You gain a sense of balance,and of ‘refuge’ – nissarana, which was the topic of the previous talk in this series. It is not so comfortable at first. Like anything new, it doesn’t feel quite right at first, but you soon get used to sitting there, without ‘being’ anything at all. Sometimes a 5fold aggregate will arise, but you can feel the attraction, can see the disturbance it creates, know that if you engage it you will be disturbed, and maintain your mindfulness while it ceases.

It is a subtle thing, and takes a bit of practise. But when you can do this, you will already be having a lot of insight into the nature of your being. You will also see that when the ‘self’ arises again and you get involved in the world, your character has not changed much to the eyes of the outside world, but inwardly you remember, there is a different way of being.

As you get comfortable with this, at certain points the mind turns back on itself. You become ‘aware of awareness’ or mind-seeing-mind’ or ‘Buddha-nature’ … or many other terms. Actually this is real mindfulness:

  • Sati – to recall into mind
  • Sampajannya – the feeling of awareness

This feeling of mindfulness can be maintained while walking, sitting, breathing, eating or any other activity. Again, it takes practise.

Note here that you are not mindful of an activity, but mindful during the activity, or perhaps even, mindful despite the activity.

At this point, you have a clear and firm idea where enlightenment is, and you will no longer have need of a teacher. A teacher is fine – inspiration, tips, advice … but you will be self sufficient in Dhamma.

Then What

This really bright mind, self aware, can be polished like a mirror – compare to polishing a brick that we looked at in an earlier talk. But what next? The world is hopelessly addicting, and you cannot stay in a state of no-mind! If you try to be without desire you cannot do it. It is an impossible task. (Next Dhamma Talk focusses on the Impossible Task as a universal story archetype)

So you need a weapon – a tool to use to complete what you yourself cannot. For us it is wisdom.

And we foster this by watching these 5fold aggregates arise and cease. It is very empowering to see that nothing stays in the mind. It undermines the whole conceptual world, and from time to time you see this whole universe that you have created come crashing down. The metaphor given is like a tree, building or boat covered with a tangle of vines. The original structure they grew over has long since vanished, but the tangle is still there.

Somehow it holds itself up, but if you cut at the root, the whole edifice comes down. The root in this case is the mindfulness that maintains self awareness, and does not engage.

“A tangle inside, a tangle outside
This generation is entangled in a tangle.
I ask you this, O Gotama
Who can disentangle the tangle?”

“A man established in virtue, wise,
Developing the mind and wisdom
A bhikkhu ardent and discreet
He can disentangle the tangle.”

The practise then, is to watch the process of the mind as it arises with one 5fold group, one moment of cognizing, and then jumps to another. You do this in meditation until it becomes familiar. This is paying attention to the effervescence of the mind. It undermines the whole conceptual world.

If something is changing like this, it cannot be sukha (happiness). It must be Dukkha. That is not to say to see a thought vanish, and write home to tell your parents. It is not harsh suffering. But Dukkha, as we saw in week one, means ‘off-centre’ like a wheel that is poorly balanced. If you engage in the perception, you are shaken. What shakes, in Buddhism, is Dukkha.

Further, if you look into this, and see the moments of cognizing in this way, and also see them cease, you get a really deep feeling that they are not ‘yourself’. If something arose, and then vanished, it cannot be you yourself. So you gain this sense of disconnect – you are something deeper and more fundamental than the frothing of the mind.

The classic Buddhist teaching then, on Impermanence, Dukkha and Non-Self :

Sabbe Sankhara Anicca’ti
All mind states are impermanent
yada panyaya passati
if you watch this with wisdom
atha nibbindati dukkhe
you will tire of wavering (dukkha)
esa maggo visudhiya
this is the Path of Purification

Sabbe sankhara dukkha’ti
all mind states are dukkha
yada panyaya passati
if you watch this with wisdom
atha nibbindati dukkhe
you will tire of wavering
esa maggo visudhiya
this is the Path of Purification

Sabbe dhamma anatta’ti
all things are non-self
yada panyaya passati
if you watch this with wisdom
atha nibbindati dukkhe
you will tire of wavering
esa maggo visudhiya
this is the Path of Purification

Following, for the very keen, are these concepts in further original sutta form.

And further, monks, an aspirant lives contemplating awareness of mental objects of the five cognitive aggregates of clinging.

How, monks, does an aspirant live contemplating awareness of mental objects of the five cognitive aggregates of clinging?

Herein, monks, an aspirant thinks, “Thus is material form; thus is the arising of material form; and thus is the disappearance of material form. Thus is sensation; thus is the arising of sensation; and thus is the disappearance of sensation. Thus is perception; thus is the arising of perception; and thus is the disappearance of perception. Thus are formations; thus is the arising of formations; and thus is the disappearance of formations. Thus is cognition; thus is the arising of cognition; and thus is the disappearance of cognition.”

Thus one lives contemplating awareness of mental objects internally, or one lives contemplating awareness of mental objects externally, or one lives contemplating awareness of mental objects internally and externally. One lives contemplating origination factors in mental objects, or one lives contemplating dissolution factors in mental objects, or one lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in mental objects [23]. Or one’s awareness is established with, “Mental objects exist,” to the extent necessary just for knowledge and awareness, and one lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, an aspirant lives contemplating awareness of mental objects of the five cognitive aggregates of clinging. Satipatthana Sutta M 10

Another typical example:

“What do you think, monks — Is form constant or inconstant?” “Inconstant, lord.” “And is that which is inconstant easeful or dukkha?” “dukkha, lord.” “And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am’?”

“No, lord.”

“…Is feeling constant or inconstant?” “Inconstant, lord.”…

“…Is perception constant or inconstant?” “Inconstant, lord.”…

“…Are mind states constant or inconstant?” “Inconstant, lord.”…

“What do you think, monks — Is cognition constant or inconstant?” “Inconstant, lord.” “And is that which is inconstant easeful or dukkha?” “dukkha, lord.” “And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am’?”

“No, lord.”

“Thus, monks, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: ‘This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.’

“Any feeling whatsoever…

“Any perception whatsoever…

“Any mind states whatsoever…

“Any cognition whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every cognition is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: ‘This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.’

“Seeing thus, the instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with mind states, disenchanted with cognition.

Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, ‘Fully released.’ He discerns that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

Relating to dukkha as ‘wavering’:

The attached mind wavers. The unattached mind does not waver. Where there is no wavering there is calm, there is non-bending, there is non-leaning, there is no coming/going, there is no here/there/inbetween. This indeed is the ending of Dukkha

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Report: notes on Dance of Emptiness Talk 4

Notes on ‘Taking a Moment’ – fourth dhamma talk in the 2011 Dhamma Talk Series: The Dance of Emptiness.

Talks kindly hosted by the Dance Centre, School of Performing Arts, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok.

Below are notes, quotes, links – in case anyone who listened to the talk would like to follow up on any of the topics. It is not a transcript of the whole talk. The video will become available one day, when we get the hang of video editing software….

Click here for background information on this Talks Series

Topic of this talk:

Taking a Moment (or the Stainless Deconstruction)

Nothing you can do will make the world ok. There are too many facets, too many problems. But there is a way to deconstruct the world, by staying in the present moment. This doesn’t mean you ignore responsibility, nor does it mean to pay attention to what you are doing. Everything gets reduced to a size you can handle, and the Exit Strategy becomes clear

Notes:

The eight talks in the series this year are all about Emptiness. There are lots of teachings in Theravada (original) Buddhism. They are to be taken as a number of models – that may or may not be mutually exclusive. But one common theme with all these model/teachings is that they are designed to take you towards emptiness. They are always pointing backward to the observing mind, rather than outwards to the relentless obsessions of ‘the world’. 

Emptiness is not a zombie state. You do not switch off, or get absorbed in a meditation object until you know nothing else. To the contrary, you feel brighter and more alert as you empty out. Like most Spiritual rules, it works in paradox. The more you empty out, the more fulfillment you feel. 

It also takes effort. The Buddha said you make an effort like a man who’s hair is on fire works hard to put that fire out – that’s how much effort you should be making. If you want to see this in action – youtube has plenty of clips. 

This is in stark contrast to many modern teachers who are always advising people to calm down, let go, make the mind peaceful…. Perhaps there is something to be said for this approach with Westerners who have busy minds. Though eventually, just calming the mind down is not the right way. It takes a vibrancy and wakefulness to be Empty. Summed up by one one word – Equipoise. 

This is something experienced in meditation – not a character statement. A great meditator may not be one who displays equipoise in daily life and v.v.

Concepts

The first thing that has to go is your conceptual world. Emptiness views things as they really are in the present. It does not work through the conceptual mind.

Concepts are really cherished by people. And they have a true value – you can’t get by without them.

Research shows that the feeling of tackling a conceptual problem and working it out gives you a chemical (hormonal) rush. It is a physical addiction, that runs deep. 

A fun example of the conceptual world raised in the Dhamma Talk was the discussion on whether it was humans who domesticated the dog, or if it was dogs that domesticated humans. The argument is about evolution, and how the dog’s behaviour (they are descended from silver wolves) came to evolve into something so human friendly. 

Another example was the ‘Monkey Gland craze. In the 1920’s a surgeon named Serge Voronoff was trying to reverse effects of ageing, such as senility, by grafting slices of monkey testicles onto humans. It was believed to improve sex drive, memory, energy and prolong life. Thousands had this procedure, and claimed benefits. It turns out the benefits were purely placebo. It was just the concept of adding virility by grafts from animals, that was effective. The concept stuck for many years despite much evidence that it did not work. 

But the story is curious. Back then it was thought that the glands (hormones being yet to be discovered) simply ‘did their job’, and they ‘knew what to do’. Later it was found that this is not the case, and that much of the activity of our glands is governed by a ‘master gland’ – the pituitary. When this gland  secretes it switches the body between the ‘normal’ mode and the ‘fight or flight’ mode. In the latter digestion is stopped, the lungs dilate, the blood flow focusses on the muscles rather than the brain, and a raft of other physiological responses. Actually in the modern day we talk of it in terms of ‘stress signatures’ as we know that there are many differences in this ‘fight or flight’ response depending on the stimulus.

But later it was found that the pituitary was controlled by the Hypothalamus – an area of the brain. This in turn, is not independent – but fires up dependent on certain neural firing profiles – i.e. thoughts, perceptions and both the conscious and unconscious conceptual framework.

Concepts are an integral part of our whole being.

The Thought and the Real

It has long been thought that it is only humans who have conceptual thought. This may still be true, but certainly animals have concepts too, even if it is not exactly thinking (which many psychologists take to be dependent on language).

The mind is working something like this. It thinks of something, and then reacts as if that thing is real. A zebra will engage the sympathetic nervous ‘fight or flight’ mode when it encounters a stimulus that warns it of a lion, but a human can merely imagine a lion and get that same reaction – just from the thought. The mind treats the idea of something, as the real thing itself.

With an animal this can be seen in their dreaming. They are living out the mental representations of events, which presumably they take to be real. Here’s an example.

By the way, most animals have ‘REM atonia‘, which is where the brain shuts off the connection between thought and physical movement. This is to stop the animal from acting out the dream, which would cause it (or the hapless wife) to waken suddenly. REM Behavioral Disorder is where this function does not work, causing much suffering. If you are mindful as you wake up, you might well get a few panicked moments where you cannot move – in fact you are paralyzed by the REM atonia, and it takes a few minutes to wear off before you can move again. Sometimes this experience blends in with your dream, making it a little unpleasant. In Thailand they say this experience is a ghost sitting on your chest (often a female ghost that is trying to mate).

Look him up - interesting character

The mind finds it hard to separate a thing, from the thought of a thing.

Arturo Tuscanini is another case study. He would have an increased heart rate, blood pressure and a whole raft of physical effects of exertion, while conducting. But it turns out that he would have the exact same physical response when listening to a piece of music, and imagining himself conducting.

Regarding Bizkit dreaming – might it be possible that our human thought is an evolved form of dreaming? A wakeful dream in which we can play through various  scenarios and choose between them for the best outcome? We do know that evolution does not invent new things, but only adapts pre-existing mechanism for new jobs.

5 Khandhas

In the previous talk we looked at the way that the physical form of something (a sight, sound, feeling, taste etc..) rises together with mental elements and ceases with them.

When you put your attention on something it comes into the conscious mind together with your background mental state, liking/disliking, perception and the feeling of consciousness of that object. Note that there is no subject/object here. And there is no Cartesian split of Body/mind (despite what many Buddhists teach).

Now when something comes in to the conscious mind like this, there is an attraction towards it. Say the idea of a new computer comes into your mind. You have the image or thought (i.e. mentally reproduced sound of the word) come into the mind’s range. It comes with the other factors mentioned above. But to keep this cognition in mind you have to move around its details. What can you do with the computer. What features does it have etc.. You can’t keep it in mind otherwise. It will fade, unless you feed it with thinking.

In Buddhism thinking has the job of finding a target (vitakka) and then repeatedly ‘throwing’ the mind onto that target (vicara).

But what if you do not dive into that original image? What if you hold the mind in check?

Gatekeeper

So here is how Buddhism was actually taught by the Buddha, before the ‘Buddhists’ got hold hold of it.

A moment of cognizing something arises, and you have the choice to follow it or not. Many of these moments arise, and the natural tendency is to dive into them, whether you like or dislike, you pick up the idea and follow it with thinking, which picks about the objects characteristics. If you look at a camera (the exercise we did last week) then you will have to look at its qualities in order to stay with the object. You will have to start noting the colour, the memory of other cameras, the size, the cost …. this is called papanca, ‘diffused’ or ‘scattered’ thinking.

If you hold yourself in check however, you have more choice to follow or not. This is mindfulness – you are remembering yourself, or put another way, are aware of your awareness, and then have more chance to examine and choose what is a good perception to follow, and which is not.

This the Buddha called the ‘Gatekeeper’, because mindfulness is like the gatekeeper of a city. He simply chooses who to let in and who to not.

from previous notes on the Gatekeeper:

A 7.63

Just as the royal frontier fortress has a gate-keeper — wise, experienced, intelligent — to keep out those he doesn’t know and to let in those he does, for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago. With mindfulness as his gate-keeper, the disciple abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity….

Just as the royal frontier fortress has ramparts — high & thick & completely covered with plaster — for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones is discerning, endowed with discernment leading to the arising of the goal — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of suffering. With discernment as his covering of plaster, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. With this seventh true quality is he endowed.

The gatekeeper metaphor is very sharp. The gatekeeper (or you might prefer the idea of the bouncer at a club!) does not have to worry about how things are going in the city. The tax policy, the criminal justice system, the transport system … all he does is keep watch on the gate. In the same way, you do not have to sort out your ‘ego’, or fix up your personality/character. You don’t need psychology. Afterall, deciding you are not perfect, and thinking up schemes to change into a new ‘you’ is more ego at the end of the day. All you need to is pay attention in the present moment. Let your neurosis, childhood, fears, and other character flaws look after themselves.

This means then, that you do not have to solve deep psychological problems. Something like ‘my childhood’, or ‘my relationship’, or ‘my health’ … these are the kinds of problems that you can never fully resolve.

Relationships with people are another – most thinking that a human does is in the form of conversations. Usually you are running over past issues, which is called scripting in psychology, in the form of conversations in your head. Have you noticed though, that the person you are talking to never answers back in your head?

Here you only need worry about what is arising right now. And as a perception arises, you have the choice to engage or not. If you let go, it is only one small thing you are letting go of – just one small moment. But you are training yourself. Usually people get interested in letting go only when there is something big.

Satisfaction, Misery and Escape

So here is one of the very common teachings the Buddha gave, but which is rarely talked about by modern teachers.

In anything you can look at, any moment of cognition, you will find you can view it in different ways. There is the attractive, and the unattractive.

Look at chocolate. The first piece is nice, but each following piece is less nice, until it starts to make you sick to look at it. Look at the hair of a beautiful girl, then imagine a piece in your soup. Look at a nice car, and then think of how much gas it uses, how much work you would have to do to earn the money to buy it. Etc.

Pretty much everything in the world can be seen either way, if you choose. Buddhist monks are given 5 meditation objects to reflect on – hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth and skin. These are to be seen as unattractive – they need to be continually cleaned. Some practises even have you not washing or cleaning yourself for 3 days to see these 5 in that way. It is a method of breaking the lust and desire for the human body, both yourself and of other people.

But there is a third aspect, according to Buddhism – the Nissarana, or escape/refuge.

Looking at any cognition (5 khandhas) there is also the option of non-engagement. Now you stay aware of yourself, without being drawn in. Naturally something else crops up to grab your attention – after all this is how you have trained yourself since being a child. One thing after another you dive into. Your mind is trained to be leaping outside of itself (and thought counts as ‘outside’ in Buddhism, as it is another cognition that you are getting absorbed in).  This is the ‘worldly’ habit. The restraint of this habit is the Holy Life, and is why it necessitates some renunciation.

The thing is, what you gain is far purer and sweeter than being absorbed in your various concepts. Bit by bit you get flashes of freedom in the mind, when there is no cognition trying to grab your attention, and the mind turns back in on itself. This is the true beginning of the path. You know what direction Enlightenment lies, without relying on scripture or teachers. It is Nissarana – independence, freedom, escape, refuge.

Satisfaction, Misery, Escape

Satisfaction: – That condition in the world owing to which pleasure arises, is satisfaction.
If there were no satisfaction in the world, beings would not be attached to the world.

Misery: – That impermanence, that suffering, that changeability in the world – that is the misery of the world. If there were not misery in the world, beings would not be wearied by the world.

Refuge: – That restraint, that riddance of desire and passion in the world – that is the escape. If it were not for this then beings would not be able to escape from Dukkha.

In so far as beings do not understand this, just so far have they not dwelt free, detached, and released from the world…… in my opinion they should not be regarded as recluses among recluses….

AI 237

When one surveys the enjoyments of the 6 senses it is like adding fuel to the fire, adding to the grasping. When one surveys the misery of the six senses, so the process is brought to a halt.

SnII.84


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Jeff Oliver at Ariyasom Thursday 15th Sept

Our regular meditation teacher and friend Jeff Oliver will be in Bangkok for a few days this September.

All our speakers give their time free of charge, but please remember to contribute something via donation boxes, that we will forward to the speaker to help cover hotel, travel and other expenses while they are in Bangkok.

Note – this talk was originally scheduled for Friday 16th, but has now been moved to Thursday 15th 

He will give a public talk on

Thursday 15th September 2011

at Ariyasom Villa

‘Understanding Wisdom’

6:00-6:45 gather by the pool – Library is in use by a private group, so please go directly to the pool area.

6:45-8:15 Dhamma talk, questions

Free of charge. No need for advance booking, just turn up.

Topic:

Understanding Wisdom – As one of the five mental faculties, wisdom is a natural part of our daily life but do we really know it and how do we use it?

We get trained in sati (awareness) and samathi (concentration) meditations but what about pannya (wisdom) meditation? It is one of the best ways to use your mind in daily life ~ let’s explore and experiment with insight and wisdom!

Jeff:

Jeff Oliver is a full time meditation teacher, running retreats, workshops and talks in many countries, especially Turkey, where monks find it difficult to travel. He was a student of Sayadaw U Janaka, one of the world’s biggest figures in the Mahasi Sayadaw (Burmese) meditation lineage, including being a monk for some 8 years.

Jeff has done plenty of talks for our group, and should be well known to regulars. He is guaranteed to be a lively and interesting speaker.

Location:

Could not be easier to get to – go down Sukhumvit Soi One, right to the end, and Ariyasom is on the left.

Click the map for an even larger view (note that this map is proportional to actual distance, and has North at the top. It is less than a 10 minute walk from Ploen Chit BTS Station on Sukhumvit One

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The Monk and the Fly

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Buddhist Psychos, September 3rd

Buddhist Psychos – Saturday 3rd September

Be there, or be analysed

Continuing the tradition for artful cappuccino discussions relating to Buddhism and Psychology (or any other topic) all ‘Buddhist Psychos’ are invited to meet, caffeinate and trade ideas on Saturday 3rd September at our new, and most excellent venue – India Chaat.

It doesn’t really matter if you have a background in psychology, Buddhist, both/neither – it’s always good fun swapping ideas on these or other subjects with fellow Bangkokians… so anyone is most welcome to join. Don’t be intimidated!

September meeting we will look at the whole book of ‘The Little Prince’

Date : Saturday September 3rd

Time : 1:30 – 3:30 pm [if you are eating please do so before or after the meeting time!!]

After a failed previous attempt at detailing Jungian archetypes in this story, and after the impressive dedication of participants in reading the whole text – this time round we will look at the whole book.

Why is it so popular and ubiquitous? Why does Georges dislike it so much? What possible lessons or relevance to Buddhism does it have? These, and any other questions are waiting for our penetrating discussion!

The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

According to Wikipedia it is the 8th best selling book the world has ever known (with some interesting other top 10 titles), translated into 190 different languages.

A number of versions are available online for free by googling about, or else you can get several types of file of the book by clicking here.

Here is one version  I have uploaded for you, that is a little hard to find, that is very spacious, and so excellent for ipad/tablet/kindle readers .. (not good for printing out though) Antoine de Saint Exupery – The Little Prince

Location:

The all new, but thoroughly road-tested venue of India Chaat Restaurant is the destination. Fabulous Indian Vegetarian food made fresh to order. But be warned – orders take a while to arrive. Please eat before or after the meeting – we don’t want the waiters interrupting the whole way through! (Pandit will be there 11am for his lunch). There’s Indian Chai, Lassi and other drinks – all at extremely reasonable prices.

click the image below for a larger (and clearer) version.

No time yet to do a really fancy, awesome graphic such as Little Bang is famous for, but in the meantime you might find it easier to figure out by the following map. In short you can go from Phrom Phong station via Suk 31, or you can go from Asoke via Suk 23 (the latter option is best for taking a 40 baht taxi). It is a 16 minute walk from Asoke or Phrom Phong. Of course, there is the motorcycle option too, if  you dare.

This place is well worth the effort – cheap, good food, and a nice private room for us. We will be going here often!

Just to make it as easy as possible for you to find, here is the outside of the restaurant:

The Buddhist Psychos

This monthly meeting was started by the late Dr Holly – a Little Bangkok Sangha founder who practised and taught counselling for many years. An indomitable lady who charmed the pants off everyone she met, and who sported a mischievous sense of humour – she coined the phrase ‘Buddhist Psychos’. We continue her tradition for meeting up for open discussion – which is a great way to get to know each other, and is a welcome change from the formal dhamma talk format. Here, everyone gets a say!


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Dhamma Talk with Steven Smith at Ariyasom

Freshly back in Bangkok after teaching a 10 day retreat in Hawaii, Vipassana teacher Steven Smith will give a dharma talk for us:

Thursday 8th September, 2011

Dhamma Talk with Steven Smith

Emptiness, Fullness, and What’s Inbetween

Please gather by the Pool area – the usual meeting place of the Library is occupied with a private party

At Ariyasom Villa Boutique Hotel, Bangkok

Meet, refreshments 6-6:45

Dhamma Talk, 6:45-7:30

Meditation 7:30-8:00

Questions 8-8:20pm

 Steven has done a number of Dhamma Talks for us in Bangkok before; always very well received. Ariyasom Villa is a quiet and charming boutique Hotel in the heart of Bangkok, with its own Meditation hall. Make the effort!

There is no charge for this event, and no need to book in advance. But please remember that our speakers have travelling expenses, and hotel bills to pay. They live on dana (donations) but never charge for anything, so please do be generous with donations…

Steven Smith

Steven co-founded Vipassana Hawai’i in 1984 and in 1995 founded the MettaDana Project for educational and medical projects in Burma. Also in 1995 Steven helped establish the Kyaswa Valley Retreat Center in Burma, headed by Sayadaw U Lakkhana, Abbot of Kyaswa Monastery. This partnership helped usher in the beginnings of Vipassana Hawai’i’s Fusion Dhamma approach combining traditional and contemporary teaching styles in the same retreat. Anchored in the Theravadan Buddhist Burmese lineage of Mahasi Sayadaw since 1974, he was trained and sanctioned as a teacher by revered monk and meditation master Sayadaw U Pandita. Steven divides his time teaching Vipassana and the Divine Abodes (loving-kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity) meditation retreats around the world, and assisting Burmese refugee communities along the Thai-Burma border. His long term vision for preserving the Dhamma is culminating in the beginnings of the Hawai’i Insight Meditation Center (HIMC) on the Big Island of Hawai’i’s remote North Kohala coast.

Location

Could not be easier – go down Sukhumvit Soi One, right to the end, and Ariyasom is on the left.

Click the map for an even larger view (note that this map is proportional to actual distance, and has North at the top. It is less than a 10 minute walk from Ploen Chit BTS Station on Sukhumvit One

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Dhamma Talk at Baan Aree with Thai teacher

Saturday 3rd September 2011

Dhamma Talk in Thai with English translation, with Thai monk and teacher

Phra Ajahn Kosil Paripunno

of Wat Plaina  in Pathum Thani Province

Schedule:

Event runs for the whole day, however the English teaching will be in the morning from 9:30am for about two hours, and then a break for lunch. If anyone would like to stay in the afternoon for the meditation sessions (Luang Phor Tien ‘dynamic meditation’ style) you are most welcome and the translator will try to accommodate. Otherwise the afternoon session will be for Thai audience.

Event is free of charge, and there is no need to book in advance. The Dhamma Hall has plenty of space.

Venue

Baan Aree is a delightful Dhamma oasis close to the Ari BTS Station. There is a library, Dhamma Hall, ponds, veggie food stalls, coffee shop and more. If you are in Bangkok you should definitely acquaint yourself with this niche.

The Library itself is open daily from 9 am – 7 pm and has a few books in English, including much of the Tripitaka (Scriptures). The new Dhamma Hall is airconditioned and set in the attractive grounds, with many very reasonably priced vegetarian food stalls open in the daytime.

Baan Aree has regular Dhamma meetings in Thai which are listed at their Thai website: http://baanaree.net/ .

Baan Aree is directly on the Skytrain line. Go to Ari BTS station and walk back towards the victory monument about 20 meters and you should see the passage way to Baan Aree Library on the right hand side.

Baan Aree car park is accessible from the rear (Soi Ari 1) where you see the sign for ‘ BANANA FAMILY PARK ‘. Bus routes 8, 28, 29, 38, 54, 63, 74, 77, 108, 157, 177, 502, 503, 509, and 510 all pass by. Get out at Ari BTS Station.

click map to enlarge:

map to Baan Aree

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Dhamma Talk with Steven Smith at Baan Aree

Saturday 10th September

Dhamma Talk with Meditation Teacher

Steven Smith

‘What We Learn on a Meditation Retreat’

…followed by lunch…

At Baan Aree

Fresh from teaching a Vipassana retreat in Hawaii, we’re glad to welcome Steven Smith back to Bangkok and host a Dhamma session with him at the excellent Baan Aree complex. Steven should be known to most of you – he has done a number of talks for us before, all well received.

The great thing about being back at Baan Aree, where our Little Bangkok Sangha began, is the vegetarian food court. There are 10+ different shops, with a spectacular range of food. And it is all extremely reasonable in price. Everyone is invited to mingle and  lunch afterwards (buy your own).

Schedule:

Meet at Baan Aree 9:30am Saturday 10th September.

Dhamma Talk and meditation 10-12 noon

Lunch in the great vegetarian food area of Baan Aree.

Event is free of charge, and there is no need to book in advance. The Dhamma Hall has plenty of space.

Steven SmithSteven-Smith

Steven co-founded Vipassana Hawai’i in 1984 and in 1995 founded the MettaDana Project for educational and medical projects in Burma. Also in 1995 Steven helped establish the Kyaswa Valley Retreat Center in Burma, headed by Sayadaw U Lakkhana, Abbot of Kyaswa Monastery. This partnership helped usher in the beginnings of Vipassana Hawai’i’s Fusion Dhamma approach combining traditional and contemporary teaching styles in the same retreat. Anchored in the Theravadan Buddhist Burmese lineage of Mahasi Sayadaw since 1974, he was trained and sanctioned as a teacher by revered monk and meditation master Sayadaw U Pandita. Steven divides his time teaching Vipassana and the Divine Abodes (loving-kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity) meditation retreats around the world, and assisting Burmese refugee communities along the Thai-Burma border. His long term vision for preserving the Dhamma is culminating in the beginnings of the Hawai’i Insight Meditation Center (HIMC) on the Big Island of Hawai’i’s remote North Kohala coast.

Venue

Baan Aree is a delightful Dhamma oasis close to the Ari BTS Station. There is a library, Dhamma Hall, ponds, veggie food stalls, coffee shop and more. If you are in Bangkok you should definitely acquaint yourself with this niche.

The Library itself is open daily from 9 am – 7 pm and has a few books in English, including much of the Tripitaka (Scriptures). The new Dhamma Hall is airconditioned and set in the attractive grounds, with many very reasonably priced vegetarian food stalls open in the daytime.

Baan Aree has regular Dhamma meetings in Thai which are listed at their Thai website: http://baanaree.net/ .

Baan Aree is directly on the Skytrain line. Go to Ari BTS station and walk back towards the victory monument about 20 meters and you should see the passage way to Baan Aree Library on the right hand side.

Baan Aree car park is accessible from the rear (Soi Ari 1) where you see the sign for ‘ BANANA FAMILY PARK ‘. Bus routes 8, 28, 29, 38, 54, 63, 74, 77, 108, 157, 177, 502, 503, 509, and 510 all pass by. Get out at Ari BTS Station.

click map to enlarge:

map to Baan Aree

 

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Report: notes on Dance of Emptiness Talk 3

Notes on ‘All You Can Know’ – third dhamma talk in the 2011 Dhamma Talk Series: The Dance of Emptiness.

Talks kindly hosted by the Dance Centre, School of Performing Arts, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok.

Below are notes, quotes, links – in case anyone who listened to the talk would like to follow up on any of the topics. It is not a transcript of the whole talk. The video will become available one day, when we get the hang of video editing software….

Click here for background information on this Talks Series

Topic of this talk:

All You Can Know (or How Not to Polish a Brick)

We understand things through our constructs; internal models that guide our decisions. Adopting new and different models then, you can change your behavior, change your experience of being yourself in the world. Buddhism has a series of useful models. They are not ‘Truth’, but a way to interpret, to channel the energy of the mind. One teaching covers ‘Everything You Can Know’, and the emptiness of it. Stark and simple, it is a process of perception that leads to stabilization of the mind.

Notes:

This year’s topic is Emptiness – 8 dhamma talks about nothing!

‘Emptiness’ is usually thought of as being a topic in Mahayana Buddhism only. Often Mahayana incorrectly teaches that there is no Emptiness in the Theravada (original Buddhism), or that at the very least, the Theravadins don’t understand the issue. The quintessential teaching “Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form” comes from Mahayana, though as with nearly all the Mahayana teachings, the origins are there in the Pali (Theravada) suttas.

Emptiness, aka Sunyata, is in fact taught in various places in the Theravada, in a couple of different formats. But this series of talks is trying to show that all genuine Buddhist teachings, and many other spiritual traditions also, are designed as tools to help you ’empty out’, rather than philosophical teachings about an abstruse concept of emptiness.

In short, you should ’empty out, not figure out’.

Concepts

Through this series we are repeating the theme that the first thing that has to go is your concepts. Your intelligence and wisdom, your discernment, you have to keep. But to find a new way of being you have to throw out the old first. Like changing your tea for coffee – you have to throw the tea out first. If you just pour the coffee on top all you get is a mess. This is a famous Zen metaphor of the ’empty cup’.

In our case it means that if you add more concepts you just end up with more stuff to think about and more ideas to defend. Adding concepts to your already full cup of concepts. Meditation is going in the opposite direction – to something immediate, irrefutable, direct experience.

Put another way, like the eye can only sees forms and cannot see itself, so the mind only sees the world; it does not apprehend itself.

“The true Dhamma is the mind. The mind of each and everyone of us is the highest Dhamma, which is already there in our minds. Apart from this there is no other Dhamma principal. Abandon your thoughts and explanations all together. Then the mind in the mind will be pure, which is the primordial nature already there in all of us.”

Though sounding very Mahayana, this is in fact a quote from the late Thai Master Luang Phor Dun.

For info and teachings of L.P. Dun click here. 

Polishing a Brick

The great master Mat-su, as a youth, was a fanatic about sitting in meditation for many hours at a time. One day, his patriarch’s disciple Huai-jang asked him what on earth he hoped to attain by this compulsive cross-legged sitting.

“Buddhahood” said Mat-su.

Thereupon Huai-jang said down, took a brick, and started to polish it assiduously. Mat-su looked at him, perplexed, and asked what he was doing.

“Oh,” said Huai-jang, “I am making a mirror out of my brick.”

“You can polish it till doomsday,” scoffed Mat-su, “you’ll never make a mirror out of a brick!”

“Aha,” smiled Huai-jang. “Maybe you are beginning to understand that you can sit until doomsday, it won’t make you into a Buddha.”

Models

A theoretical model is not something real – it is a handle to understand something – to explain and predict.

If you sit by the sea shore with a notebook for long enough and jot the times of the tides, after a while you can make a prediction of where the tide level will be on a given date. You have a prediction, but not an explanation. If you factor in the knowledge of gravitation and the moon, you have a fill working model.

Think of the population of Thailand. You can talk about it in various ways.

School/working/retired – what percentage of the population falls into each of these groups? That would be one way to describe the population of Thailand, and from that you can make certain predictions. Older populations need different kinds of health care and insurance. They have different activities – fewer fun fairs and more museums. These percentages affect government taxation plans.

Male/female – the figures for this are also useful in predicting spending patterns (eg for advertisers) or planning how many bathrooms to build at a stadium.

Ethnic Thai/Chinese/Western/Indian – the ethnic make up is also useful for certain people. Disease geneticists design treatment or research for particular genetic makeups, for example.

Each of these is a different way to describe the population of Thailand, and various predictions can be made depending on the figures. Each is a model of Thailand. No model is more correct than another.

Similarly all the teachings in Buddhism are only models. They are not TRUTH (whatever that is). Even the Four Noble Truths – the central teaching of Buddhism, are not Ultimate Truths (paramatta sacca), they are just ‘Noble’ – because they can be used in the pursuit of enlightenment.

There are thousands of models – Freud’s model of consciousness – the conscious, the pre-conscious and the unconscious for instance. This model does not mean that these three are actually existing as separate and definite things. It is a way to describe and predict. Another model mentioned in this talk was Noam Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device.

In Buddhism, all the teachings are models to describe YOURSELF. What is is like to be alive? These are models to get a handle on that question.

In week one we looked at the Greed/Hate/Delusion model – that is behaviour based on liking, disliking or neutral feeling. That is everything. It sums up pretty much everything that you can do.

Then we looked at the three kinds of Dukkha suffering of pain, of impermanence, and of mind states. That also takes you to emptiness – as there is nowhere left you can place the attention that is not perpetuating these three. Emptiness is the only remaining option.

Khandhas

The model most commonly used in Buddhism is the 5 Khandhas, or Aggregates. This model, and the six sense model comprise most of the meditation instructions the Buddha ever gave.

If you look at an object in your room, examine how the mind apprehends it. What is present in a moment of apprehending something? Notice how the mind quickly loses the distinction of the object and starts to look for other perceptions.

Or think of an idea. ‘Democracy’. How does that sit in the mind? How does the mind feel when you try to maintain that perception? Can you maintain any perception for long?

By way of example, look at this picture. 

The five are:

Rupa

Form – hot, cold, hard, soft, salty, red, loud, etc. Anything that you can see, taste, feel, hear, smell has some kind of form to it – the properties that it has independently. What you think about those properties, is another matter.

Mentally, you also need form. Even for something totally abstract like ‘democracy’ or ‘growing’ you need the word to set the perception in motion. Even then, it will fade rapidly. The word is the ‘form’ in this case. There is no mental action without some kind of form. Interestingly the mind has 5 possible foundations of form – seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling (of the body). These are mental representations of the external senses.

In the above case, you will see a ‘camera’ first, but then the wayward perception has to start picking other aspects, like the make, the colour, the metal, the lighting etc.. in each of these cases you have switched the rupa to a new form.

Sanya

Perception. Historicity. This is the association you have with an object – what it is used for, what it means, what it is connected with. Pavlov’s dogs were the best example. He found that ringing a bell just before meals, after a while, made the dogs dribble. The bell had become associated with the food.

“Perceptions,” said the Buddha, “are a result of habit”

In the case of the camera – you know what it is, what it is used for, and probably how it compares to your own camera. This is the perception. Note that it is connected to the actual form you are experiencing, but it not totally dependent on it. The perception of the dogs changed after conditioning, even though the form (bell sound) remained the same.

Vedana

Feeling or feeling-tone. That is you like, dislike or feel neutral towards something. The liking aspect can change, and is not totally dependent on the form – such as the first bar of chocolate is great, but the 10th bar makes you feel sick to look at it.

Sometimes in Buddhism there are 3 kinds of feeling – liking/disliking/neutral. Other times there are 5 kinds – liking/disliking/neutral of the body, and pleasure/suffering of the mind (somanassa and domanassa). At other times there are six kinds of feeling – one for each sense. One time the Buddha’s disciples came to an argument whether there are 5 kinds or 3 kinds – to which he answered sometimes he talks of 3 and sometimes he talks of 5. They are only models!

Curiously, evolutionary theory says that liking/disliking is a shortcut to decision making. You don’t have time to figure everything out, so you rely on this instead. Do you do that with people? Do you not rely on rationality, but on whether you like or dislike someone.

With the camera – did you feel attraction?

“the untrained yogi knows no relief from pain other than sense pleasure”

Sankhara

These are the mind states, or moods. If you have won the lottery and someone calls you an idiot you don’t care. Your mind state is positive. The state of your mind is not dependent on the object. You can be bright, dull, sleepy, moral, shameful, excited, concentrated, scattered. You can have elasticity of mind, weildiness, rectitude, proficiency, uprightness, pliancy …. and any other state that conditions the mind. In Theravada Buddhism there are 50 of these conditions listed. In Sarvastivada Buddhism there are over 80.

Interestingly, the Buddha often described Enlightenment as the ‘stilling of all mind states’.

The word ‘Sankhara’ has the idea of bringing together, of building up of parts. It is something that is conditioned, and impermanent. Some of you might note the direct parallel with Christianity, where you have the created and the creator (uncreated). In Buddhism we have the conditioned, and the unconditioned. Sem sem.

‘Hard it is to see this goal, namely, the stilling of all mind states’

Vinyana

This is usually translated as consciousness. But it is not consciousness in the Western sense. Perhaps a better word is cognizance. It arises with the object, and ceases with the object. So right now you can think of your feet. You can feel them. Now look at the taste in your mouth. Now listen to a sound in the room. Then you had sensation consciousness, taste consciousness, and hearing consciousness in turn. In the Buddhist model (and it is only a model remember) the consciousness arises and ceases with the object. William James, the Grandfather of psychology noted the same thing – You cannot be conscious without being conscious OF SOMETHING.

Perhaps in Buddhism you can be conscious without an object – is this ‘mind-knowing-mind’?

When you looked at the camera, you had eye consciousness.

‘Like heat arises from the rubbing of two sticks, so when the sense organ and sense object meet, there consciousness arises’

Band

Note that these 5 arise together. Looking at the camera you see the form (the basis of that moment of experience), and you knew what it was (perception). You liked or disliked it to some extent, and you had an underlying mind mood/state. There was consciousness involved, which gives the feeling of a ‘self’.

In that one moment of ‘camera picture seeing’ all five of the above were present. That is reality. Your mind jumps from one moment like this, to another. There is no self/non-self, there is no internal/external. There is only one moment of these five, followed by another moment based on something else.

If you are a meditator you can see this process. Look at the camera, and note how your mind keeps picking up a new object. A thought, and idea, an association etc… It can’t stop still. And there is nothing at all in each moment of experience that is outside of these five.

They are like the Beatles. 4 instruments and the voice. All play together in a flow we call ‘song’. But there actually is no ‘song’ that we can find when you look directly at what is happening. The five khandhas are that complicated, beautiful, beguiling song you call ME.

Elephant’s Footprint

Putting all this together. Here is an example of how it works, as taught by Sariputta (the Buddha’s main disciple):

EYE + FORM + ATTENTION -> EYE CONSCIOUSNESS

In that moment there is Form, Feeling, Perception, Mind-state (aka fabrications), Consciousness – all arising and present together.

Now, “whoever sees dependent-arising sees the Dhamma”, and these five have arisen dependent on each other as a moment of ‘experience’.

If there is grasping after anything in that moment, there will be Dukkha (suffering). Abandoning desire and passion for these 5 is the cessation of Dukkha.

Seeing this much – much has been done by him.

The full sutta is here.

Conclusion

Note that ‘dependent co-arising’ is what people often call ‘interdependence’ or ‘interconnectedness’. The latter term is not a Buddhist teaching – it is a Gaia (Earth) principle teaching – that every system depends on the system as a whole. It’s a great idea, but nothing to do with Buddhism.

Also note that in one moment of experiencing, there are only the 5 khandhas, there is no mind/body Cartesian split. There is no internal/external. If the mind has grasped anything in these 5 it is considered to be external (internal might be mind-knowing-mind, but this is not stated in Buddhism).

Also note that in any moment of experiencing – everything in that experience will subside (and very rapidly). Watching this process directly, gives you a distance from it and a feeling for what is permanent – what does not arise and cease, or the Amata (deathless).

Once again, as the 5 khandhas sums up the whole of this experience of being alive, there is nowhere else left for the mind to go expect emptiness, and back to itself.

Whatever ‘experience’ you can have, is not the Amata (aka Enlightenment). Thus Huai Jang told Mat Su – you can never polish a brick into a mirror.

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Report: notes on Dance of Emptiness Talk 2

Notes on ‘The Spirituality of Imperfection’ – second dhamma talk in the 2011 Dhamma Talk Series: The Dance of Emptiness.

Talks kindly hosted by the Dance Centre, School of Performing Arts, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok.

Below are notes, quotes, links – in case anyone who listened to the talk would like to follow up on any of the topics. It is not a transcript of the whole talk. The video will become available one day, when we get the hang of video editing software….

Click here for background information on this Talks Series

Topic of this talk:

The Spirituality of Imperfection (or Dropping Hot Coals)

Despite your best intentions, and harshest criticisms of others, you are no Saint. Where religion demands you be perfect, spirituality knows you are not. Where your highest aspiration makes you sit on the cushion, your raging mind will give you no peace. This is the spirituality of imperfection, and the long patient battle to tame the mind.

‘Attachment causes suffering’ makes no sense in worldly terms, but like most spiritual laws, makes perfect sense when it is viewed inwardly. The Suffering of imperfection is the compass to change, and the foundation teaching of Buddhism.


The audiences for these dhamma talks come from all walks. Some know a lot about Buddhism, and want specifics, and deeper teachings. Some are totally new to Buddhism. Some have an interest in yoga or martial arts. Others just want to find out a little about the Buddhism that is the basis of so much Thai culture. Some want something easy and entertaining, where others want hard core Buddhism. So the talks aim to be light, easy to follow, but much more specific and methodical than other speakers provide on occasional visits to Bangkok.

Recap: All these teachings of Buddhism (and other meditation lineages) are there to help you to empty out.

The first thing that has to go is your concepts – you have to learn how to put aside your presumptions and take a new look, from the angle of meditation rather than through your preconceptions. Emptiness is there when the conscious mind is not moving – even if the body is moving via the unconscious and you are performing an action [a point still open to debate if anyone would like to chime in]. This is being in the ‘zone’ that many athletes and other performing artists speak of. Since most of the time the conscious mind is engaged with its concepts, this is the first set of things that has to be put on hold.

Naturally, you must maintain your wisdom. Putting concepts on hold does not mean you give up your discernment, intelligence or common sense. Just the opposite. The Buddha often said ‘Don’t take my word for it, only if you have carefully examined, tested and worked through these teachings, should you accept them’.

Concepts are very stubborn – so much so it is hard to imagine any way of being without them. Luckily for meditation, you don’t have to be without them so much, as change your object of focus onto mindfulness, which is your tool for understanding that is ‘other’ than concepts. Your conceptual thinking will come under the gaze of mindfulness.

Walter Freeman is one example of how ideas and concepts can be persistent, even when damaging. He performed 3500 lobotomies, despite many instances, including Rosemary Kennedy, wife of the former president, of creating zombie-like brain damage.

One thing you will note about the thinking mind if you do meditation, is that it is out of control. You sit and tell your ‘self’ to watch the breath and relax. But your mind has other ideas, and will follow your instruction for about 15 seconds. Then it is off on its own venture. So who is in control of the mind? If you are not in control, does it control you? Is it a good master?

Mindfulness

On the Hero’s Journey, which is a universal account of the journey inward of self discovery – not of the ‘taking a year in Asia to find yourself’ kind of discovery, but of directly travelling inward to see what the mind itself is like, there are certain motifs. These are story elements that are common to good faerie tales. They are rearranged in various ways, but follow patterns easily discernible. These familiar story elements are practically universal elements that Jung called ‘archetypes’. Below is an amusing graphic showing some of the more common ones used in Hollywood:

See the comparison of Harry Potter and Star Wars – you’d almost think there should be a court case! But actually, these archetypes were around since the dawn of story telling.

One part of the story is the Impossible Task. Snow White had one, Rapunzel, Skywalker, Hercules … and so do we – conquering your own superficial nature (as opposed to root nature) is an impossible task for any normal soul. Therefore, we need a weapon.

In story the weapon is often something that normal people would overlook. Jack got 5 magic beans for his family cow. Rapunzel had her hair, Samson beat 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.

The meaning is this: there is a simple, seemingly innocent part of your experience that is overlooked. Using this is the weapon that will allow you complete the impossible task. In our case, it is mindfulness.

As you sit and try to be mindful you will notice that at some times you know what you are doing/feeling. Most of the time you are ‘lost’ or ‘caught up in’ the activity, be it thinking, hearing, feeling etc… The knowing and the ‘lostness’ become distinct after a period of practise – usually slowly after a number of years. The knowing, the mindfulness, becomes an object in itself, independent of what is known. The mind is turning back on itself. Eventually, we are assured, mind-knowing-mind is the state of enlightenment which makes itself known at the appropriate time.

Religion vs Spirituality

If you get accustomed to turning mindfulness back in upon the mind, the first thing you become aware of is Dukkha – suffering. It is not so pleasant in there. The mind is jumping about and there is no stability, no refuge. If you start to see this you are in the realm of spirituality.

This is the Religion of Idealogy vs the Spirituality of Imperfection.

The religion of idealogoy takes dogmatic view points, clings to unjustified beliefs, and tries to put these on other people. Buddhists are just as much prone to this as other religions. People read texts or listen to certain teachers and become convinced they are right – which immediately raises the opposite pole of any construct (if you looked at the ‘constructs’ link from the 1st talk in this series you will know that a conceptual construct always carries its opposite pole with it). The opposite pole to ‘I am right’ is ‘others are wrong’.

The spirituality of imperfection however, starts from a different standpoint. You know you are wrong. You know you have not got it figured out because you are suffering – the mind is out of control. What use are dogmatic views when you can see the basic instability of the mind, when you can see it as something that controls you.

One saying in the AA is

Religion is for those who are afraid of going to Hell, where spirituality is for those who have already been.

So mindfulness is a practise. You start by learning, trying, failing, starting again. Like any sport or art that can transport people in the ‘zone’, you have to put in the hours of practise. No dancer, martial artist, sportsman … will hit the spot of spontaneous action in silence, without putting in the hours of conscious practise.

You are starting at one point, and have some inkling of the goal. What lies inbetween is called ‘STORY

Side Note

Some Buddhist schools, and other lineages of Enlightenment such as the Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadata, Krishnamurti kinds of teaching say there is nothing to get, no where to go, you are already enlightened. From the standpoint of someone enlightened, this is true. Nothing you can change, is Enlightenment. Yet these great teachers are not quite correct. The Buddha specifically stated that there are things you can do. There is a destination. There is a WAY (magga) of PRACTISE (bhavana). This is the difference between an enlightened person, and a Buddha :- the latter is able to point out the way. 

It is something of a technical point amongst certain styles of teaching however, for those experienced with different teachings.

Dukkha

You won’t get far into your study of Buddhism without coming across this term. Dukkha. Suffering.

Actually ‘suffering’ is not the best translation. There are other words that might be better – such as one common translation ‘stress’. Not in the ‘stressed out’ sense, but in the load bearing sense of a big bridge – it is under load the whole time, a kind of pressure to break. The bridge may stand for a thousand years, but it is still under a load – just like Dukkha might not be of the kind to break you, but if you look at the mind, there is an undoubted pressure, a motivation to action, a seeking for something more.

Dis-ease, conflict, unsatisfactoriness – are other terms. The uneasy, unsteady, wavering are good terms as they juxtapose the description of Enlightenment as Unwavering, Unshakable, Immutable.

Perhaps the best English term is Disquiet

Dukkha Dukkhata

One description of Dukkha in Buddhism is the suffering of pain, of change and of mindstates. Here we’ll skip through them quickly due to time constraints on the talk.

The first is Dukkha Dukkhata – the suffering of suffering. It has 2 kinds: bodily and mental.

Bodily pain is a given – even the Buddha had an aching back. Many teachings show how to use physical pain for spiritual development.

Mental pain is given as ‘pain, sorrow, lamentation, grief and despair’ of the mind. You can add/subtract terms – the meaning is pretty clear. (Salla Sutta speaks of each of these terms)

One famous metaphor in Buddhism is being hit by two arrows. If after the being hit by one arrow you take another – you are being foolish. So too if the first arrow of bodily suffering arises, you do not compound it with a second arrow which is mental suffering. Easy to say huh? The full Sutta is here if you are keen on the original text. 

Cheers Lee for this apt cartoon!

Viparinama Dukkhata

This is the suffering that comes from change.

While ‘all things change’ is a Buddhist teaching well known, it is rarely understood. You can ask So What? It does not seem like a teaching to base a religion on.

We have the story of Anuruddha as an example – he wanted to stay at home while his relatives went to ordain and look after their cousin – now the Buddha. When it was pointed out that there will never be any rest for a householder, Anuruddha decided to ordain and leave his relatives to look after the land.

If you have ever given your house a spring clean-to-end-all-cleans you will know that it just needs doing again. The changing nature of all things is a burden, though of a more subtle kind than the Dukkha Dukkhata.

The change of the world and the body is easy to see, but the change of the mind is very difficult to see.

Just as a monkey faring through the woods, through the great forest catches hold of a bough, letting it go seizes another, even so that which we call thought, mind, consciousness, that arises as one thing, ceases as another both by day and by night. S II95

In meditation you pay specific attention to the changing nature of the mind, which produces insight. (topic for another talk!). This is really something to base a religion on – it is quite a revelation when you see directly the instability of the mind.

Sankhara Dukkhata

This is translated as ‘all pervasive suffering’ in the Tibetan tradition. But the original is much more specific than that. Sankhara means ‘mind-states’. Your mind is constrained or liberated, in greed, hate or delusion, is bright or dull, concentrated or scattered … and many more ‘states’. The insight is that even if you really settle in meditation, there is an underground wavering, shaking. This is what St Teresa D’Avila called the ‘pain of just being’. Simply that you are, is a kind of Dukkha.

It is easy to ignore – just think about something else. But to some people, very few in fact, this is not good enough. The Buddha said there are two kinds of fool – one who shoulders a burden he should not, and one who does not shoulder a burden he should. This particular insight, only seen by those who really hit quiet still states in meditation, is the motivator – Samvega in the Pali, meaning to shake, to stir to action.

Conclusion

The talk is one hour long already, and so cut short here. The above 3 kinds of suffering deserve to be treated in more detail – they are interesting in their own right.

In the mean time you can see that this teaching is also designed to lead one to emptying out. Here’s a catch phrase – ‘Empty out – don’t figure out!’

A moth flies into a candle flame for good reason. They navigate by the light of the moon. As they fly so they check their position by the moon. If the position changes, they adjust. When they take a candle flame for the moon it seems to move in relation to them – so they adjust, and end up in the flame. The Buddha used this as an analogy for beings who have the wrong thing as their guiding light. They rush headlong into Dukkha.

Rushing headlong, missing what is essential,
bringing on one new bond after another,
some are intent only on what’s seen & heard–
like moths flying into the flame.

Adhipataka Sutta

If even the subtle movement of the mind only seen by a meditator is also a kind of suffering – there is no where left to go. We are back with the Zen koan – if a man sits atop a 100 foot pole, how does he proceed?

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Report: notes on Dance of Emptiness Talk 1

Notes on ‘The Hero’s Journey’ – first dhamma talk in the 2011 Dhamma Talk Series: The Dance of Emptiness.

Talks kindly hosted by the Dance Centre, School of Performing Arts, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok.

Below are notes, quotes, links – in case anyone who listened to the talk would like to follow up on any of the topics. It is not a transcript of the whole talk. The video will become available one day, when we get the hang of video editing software….

Click here for background information on this Talks Series

Topic of this talk:

The Hero’s Journey (or the Noble Search)

It all starts with a feeling of ‘not-quite-rightness’. That despite enough food, shelter, medicine … there is something more to search for. Every religion has had its mystics, those who took to forests, caves and deserts to seek for something ‘other’, something more than the mundane. Did they find something real? Buddhism is essentially a mystic tradition – the meditator engages a training of the mind and steps foot on the Hero’s Journey. How does it start; how does it end? By emptying out the mundane

The audiences for these dhamma talks come from all walks. Some know a lot about Buddhism, and want specifics, and deeper teachings. Some are totally new to Buddhism. Some have an interest in yoga or martial arts. Others just want to find out a little about the Buddhism that is the basis of so much Thai culture. Some want something easy and entertaining, where others want hard core Buddhism. So the talks aim to be light, easy to follow, but much more specific and methodical than other speakers provide on occasional visits to Bangkok.

The theme of this year’s Dhamma Talk Series is ‘Emptiness‘, or Sunyata.

Every year we have a theme that runs through the talks with the aim at examining this theme in the light of the various teachings in Buddhism. This particular theme seemed relevant as we are in the Dance Centre, which is a school of performing arts. The owners here teach Qi Kong, Aikedo, as well as Dance. There are many kinds of ‘performing art’, such as dance, acting, high level sports and martial arts. In many of them we hear about a ‘zone’ in which the art form becomes purified. Mentation ceases and the performer experiences a suspension of self and a oneness with the activity.

There is a meditation method called ‘Emptiness’. Is this the same ‘zone’? How does meditation bring about wisdom and enlightenment where the performing arts do not?

Interesting questions …. and the door is open for opinions.

In all of the above activities, to be truly great you have to ba able to ’empty out’. The conscious mind has to cease its mentation, while the unconscious takes over the action. This requires however, a long learning process. You have to practise long and hard to be able to really let go and be in the moment while undertaking an action.

Perhaps it is like the Acting a Better Way with Actors Globally (ABWAG) say :  the way to act is to learn all of the principles of acting, then forget that you know them

The ‘zone’ is there when the conscious mind is not involved. You are conscious, but the conscious part of the mind is still.

One example is a tennis player who cannot see the ball served to them until it has almost arrived – the player will move to receive before the conscious mind has had chance to see the ball. This is the point of immediacy, or emptiness. A runner will also start running before they hear the starting gun consciously (so the psychology books say).

Boxing is similar. There are few ways to swing at your opponent, and a few more ways to dodge/defend. The boxer will do ‘reps’, or repetitions of each of the basic movements over and over until the body has learned them. In a fight the boxer has no time to think about what is happening each time the opponent moves. The body remembers and reacts before the conscious mind gets in the way.

Buddhism is not dissimilar. We learn thousands of teachings. But at the end of the day it is only so much mentation. You have to know it, practise it, and then give it up if you want to reach the point of immediacy. This is the difference between scholars (exoteric teachings) who learn all there is to know, and usually argue about it with others. And the mystic side of religion where the yogi seeks to experience something directly (esoteric).

The Ariya Path

The Buddha taught us to become aware of the background feeling of ‘not-quite-rightness’, of disquiet, or ‘suffering’ as it is translated. He said that most people won’t care about this, and that few people would be interested in the path of enlightenment to discover the Enlightenment that he had found.

The quote we have, which is as close to the original words of the Buddha as is possible to get, are:

This Dhamma I have attained to is profound, hard to see, and hard to understand, peaceful and sublime, unattainable by mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise.

But this generation delights in worldliness, takes delight and rejoices in worldly things.

And it is hard to see this truth – namely the stilling of all mind states (sankhara), relinquishing of attachments, destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, nibbāna.

If I were to teach Dhamma, others would not understand me, and that would be wearying and troublesome.

Enough with teaching the Dhamma

That even I found hard to reach

For it will never be perceived

By those who live in lust and hate

…. This abstruse Dhamma, which goes against the worldly stream, is subtle, deep, and difficult to see.

The pursuit of this, in the Ariyapariyasana Sutta, is called the Ariyan (Noble) Path, and the opposite is the Anariya (worldly) path. Click here if you are up for seeing the whole original sutta.

The Anariya Path: the search for wife, children, goats, sheep, fowl, pigs, elephants, cattle, horses, mares, gold and silver.

The Ariya Path: “the unborn, unaging, supreme security from bondage” or “the State of sublime bliss” or my own favourite: “the shore that has no shore beyond it”.

The God Complex

Most people are not interested in this kind of search. You have a nice comfortable set of constructs, or filters of expectation through which you see the world and act. Basically, you think you know all you need.

‘Constructs’ is the term which the fabulous psychologist George Kelly used when he outlined Personal Construct Theory. Excellent Summary of Kelly and his theory here.

Giving up these constructs, your world view, is necessary if you want to get back to the raw immediacy of emptiness. And it is a challenge!

Incidentally, religion is usually an elaborate set of constructs that make people feel safe. It gives them a way to interpret the world. And usually people are happy with that, without wanting to develop the empty immediacy. They think they know it all now.

Archie Cochrane used the term ‘God Complex’ for this state of thinking you know the answers. In fact you just have a working set of ideas, not knowledge. He was a medical doctor who challenged doctors to put aside their presumptions and use randomized clinical trials properly.

There is an interesting TED talk which introduces Cochrane and the God Complex :

One note on gaining knowledge – it gives you a kind of rush. Just like sex, food, exercise – you generate a kind of stress, and then relieve it. Here is one report on research into this – looking at the pleasure principle of knowledge.

The Prison Key

All the Buddhsit teachings are there to aid in emptying out. They are not supposed to be worshipped as truth. Like being in a prison. If you are given the key, but hang it on the wall and worship it – it is not of any use. Similarly, any spiritual teaching is only effective if you actually use it to change.

Greed/Hate/Delusion

This is a common Buddhist teaching – these three are the ‘Roots of Unwholesome Behaviour’: Lobha (greed) Dosa (hate) Moha (delusion).

There are three items for a good reason. Lobha is putting your attention on things that you like. Dosa is putting your mind on things that you dislike. Moha is putting your mind on things that you feel neutral about. All three are a kind of stimulation, a focus for attention.

Lobha – greed. Not all desire is bad. You desire all kinds of good things. But ‘wanting’ is the feeling of ‘not having’. If you examine it carefully, you see that desire is a kind of shaking, stirring and motivation in the mind.

Dosa – hate. Not all disliking is bad. You put your attention on things you dislike to solve problems. But again, it is a disturbance of the mind, and directs attention outward.

Moha – delusion. Also a kind of stimulation, but not based on strong liking or disliking. You should note that all three are considered pleasant when you are engaged in them. Examples of moha are chit chat, internet, newspapers, or the best of all –
TV. These are fairly inane, harmless activities.

All three of these will direct your mind away from itself, to get caught up in, and lost in the ‘world’ – the Anariya path.  Mindfulness will take you in the opposite direction altogether. With mindfulness you take your mind back to its own nature.

There is a whole set of teachings about these three, which is for another day, and another talk.

Here though, you will notice that putting your attention on what you like, dislike or are neutral towards covers everything. There is nothing left. The teaching takes you towards emptiness. If you don’t engage in any of these three absorptions, you stop still. Empty.

Koan

So, if a man sits on the top of a 100 foot pole how does he proceed.

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Micro Retreat @ YBAT 26/27/28 August 2011

Micro Retreat at the YBAT facility, Bangkok

Meditation on Emptiness

Friday eve. 26th August – Sunday morning 28th August

at YBAT 1 (Thonburi)

for 13 serious yogis ….

This weekend is fully booked. You can go on the waiting list for a room in case one opens up by putting your details in the form below.

Overview

There is space for only 13 yogis. You should be competent to practise on your own and make use of the time and space. Each yogi has an air-con private room and bathroom.

Booking fee is 300 baht. Only those paid in advance are assured of a space, since there are only 13 rooms we cannot accommodate cancellations. Cost of the retreat is by donation only. please provide the details below at the end of this page.

Pandit Bhikkhu

Forty-two year old Pandit Bhikkhu, who was born in the UK, has been living in Thailand since 1996, and has practiced in several ‘Insight’ meditation lineages. He finished a degree in Psychology from Thailand – and is known for comparisons and the using of tools from both the psychological and meditation sides of the practice. Currently he is finishing a further degree in Buddhist Studies and teaching meditation and psychology in the same university. Since 2007 he has been leading Bangkok’s only active meditation group for English speakers, arranging events large and small on a regular basis under the banner of the Little Bangkok Sangha. Pandit Bhikkhu will walk us through both the concepts and science of mindfulness meditation as well as engage with us in a practice of mindfulness sitting and walking meditation.  He will also share tips on how to enhance our practice and mechanisms for accelerating the learning of mindfulness.

Schedule:

Meet at YBAT 1 at 7:30 pm Friday evening (or earlier if you like)

Friday Evening: light evening food served. Dhamma Talk. Meditation.

Saturday: 5:30am rise, sitting/walking through the day. Breakfast, main lunch and light evening meal (usual monastic meals don’t include evening food, but we’ll provide something if you need it) Meditation instructions on Saturday Morning.

Saturday afternoon 2-5 pm, Dhamma Talk by International Thai meditation teacher Ajahn Wimoak, Abbot of Wat Pipphalivanaram  Temple in Rayong Province.

(if you are not joining the retreat, you are still welcome to come just for this talk)

Sunday: Early rise, sitting/walking to lunch time. Home after lunch at 12 noon.

Facility:

The YBAT facility in Thonburi should be well known to Thais – known as ‘Yuwaphut’ in Thai this group arrange continual insight meditation retreats throughout the year for tens of thousands of people.

We will be in the brand new Boonyong Wongwanij Building which is spacious, air-conditioned for both sitting and walking meditation rooms, and very quiet. There is a great sound system too, so it is easy to hear. There are plenty of sitting mats, and chairs for those who need them.

The place is very easy to get to – don’t be afraid of crossing the river !!  Easiest is to take the skytrain to Wong Wien Yai, and there take a taxi to Petch Kasem 54. The roads are wide and empty on this side of the river,  so it should only take 10 – 15 minutes. Perhaps 80 baht taxi fare from Sathorn. On the way back we will arrange car/taxi pooling.

If you take a taxi all the way, it should be very quick on a Saturday morning. You can come via any of the main bridges, from Pinklao, Saphan Phut, Sarthorn, or the extra speedy Rama III. From Central Sukhumvit area should take about 35 minutes, and cost about 140 baht.

All taxis will know Petch Kasem Road. Entering soi 54 go to the end of the soi, and turn right. You will see the big new YBAT facility right in front of you!

YBAT do run occasional retreats in English also, so it is worthwhile getting to know this venue (their main hall can hold 2000 people!) If you are coming from outside Bangkok you can hire a bedroom at YBAT and stay overnight – please let us know via the form below (room rate is about 600 baht/night – we’ll confirm this if anyone wants to book)

Click the map below for an even larger version:

Click to enlarge

Please make your deposit at any of our events, or contact :  

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WBU forum

World Buddhist Forum this month :

Programme :       WBU SUNDAY FORUM

Topic :                  THE MOTHER OF THAILAND

Date & Time :    Sunday August 14, 2554 (2011), 12:00 – 13.30 : P.M.

Speaker :             Assist. Prof. Boon Ketutarsa 

About the Speaker :

          Assist. Prof. Boon Ketutarsa had graduated BA. in Buddhism from Mahachulalongkorn Rachvityalaya University Thailand and MA. in  Comparative Religion from University of Lancaster England. He had experiences in Tourist Business more than 25 years and he has also thought Meditation in England and Thailand more than 30 years.

After   Buddhist forum , Time 14.00 – 16.30  Dynamic Meditation will be started by Achan Anchalee Thaiyanond

Location :

rd floor, WFB Headquarters Bldg., in Benjasiri Park, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok. All are welcome to join the programme free of charge. For more information, please [try] call 02-258-0369 to -0373, fax 02-258-0372, or see http://www.worldbuddhistuniversity.com

click map for larger view

 

 

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Dhamma Talk with A. Jayasaro in Pak Chong. Sun 4th Sept.

Trip to Pak Chong

for

Dhamma Talk with Ajahn Jayasaro

Your last chance to book and make a deposit is Monday 29th August. After that we will fix the number of minivans and seats available.

We will be taking some minivans up to Pak Chong to see Ajahn Jayasaro on Sunday 4th September for a dhamma talk in English:

The site in Pak Chong is very pleasant and cooler than Bangkok. There is plenty of room.

Ajahn Jayasaro does a public talk there every 1st and 3rd Sunday morning of the month in Thai. We will be there in the afternoon for a special talk in English only.

  • Meet at Baan Aree before 8:30am
  • Leave Baan Aree 9:00 am
  • Lunch in Pak Chong (each person pays individually for lunch)
  • Dhamma Talk Q&A 1-2:30
  • Leave for Bangkok 3 pm

Mini-van space is 300 baht per person. Please pay in advance to reserve your spot, at any of our public gatherings.

Costing : the vans are about 2500 each. We’ll give free spaces to any monks who would like to join. If we fill all the seats there will be excess funds, but if we get 2 vans for 16 people it’s only 7 or 8 paying people per van …. so please understand, it is hard to judge numbers. Any excess from this trip will go into group funds and used for inviting other teachers, and any shortfall will be made up from group funds.

Anyone who would like to drive themselves is welcome to join. No need to book in advance, though if you let us know via the comments box below it is useful. You can go by yourself, or follow the van(s). Actually it is helpful if you have space in your car to meet the main group at Baan Aree and maybe take some passenger overflow. It is about 1hr 15 mins drive.

Ajahn Jayasaro

.. should not need any introduction. He was born on the Isle of Wight in 1958. He joined Ajahn Sumedho’s community for the Rains Retreat as an anagarika in 1978. In November of that year he left for Wat Pa Pong in Northeast Thailand where he ordained as a novice in the following year, and as a bhikkhu in 1980 with Venerable Ajahn Cha as his preceptor. From 1997 until 2002 Ajahn Jayasaro was the Abbot of Wat Pa Nanachat.

He is hugely popular and sought after speaker, whose dhamma is always refreshing and to the point. It is well worth the trip out to this great location on the cool Kao Yai mountainside, to join this event.

We had a Dhamma talk with Ajahn Jayasaro last year : Photos here

and also last November 2009 :  photos

Please note you are asked not to go to the place at Pak Chong at other times. It is a private family compound, not a public temple, and no one will be permitted past the compound guard box onto the private property except on specified open days.

Meeting point location:

Baan Aree Library is a thriving dhamma site with library, meeting hall, and lots of excellent events organised in Thai. The Library itself is open daily from 9 am – 7 pm and has a few books in English, including much of the Tripitaka (Scriptures).

Baan Aree has regular Dhamma meetings in Thai which are listed at their Thai website: http://baanaree.net/ .

The Library is directly on the Skytrain line. Go to Ari BTS station and walk back towards the victory monument about 20 meters and you should see the passage way to Baan Aree Library on the right hand side.

Baan Aree car park is accessible from the rear (Soi Ari 1) where you see the sign for ‘ BANANA FAMILY PARK ‘. Bus routes 8, 28, 29, 38, 54, 63, 74, 77, 108, 157, 177, 502, 503, 509, and 510 all pass by. Get out at Ari BTS Station.

click map to enlarge:

map to Baan Aree

click map below for a wide area view of Baan Aree location:

Wide area Skytrain map

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Monk Note: Stand and Deliver…

Here is one response that answers a lot of questions: Is it Good?

This is one of my Abbot’s usual replies when people ask him if they should do something. To be sure, usually they are trying to access some divine portent when asking him if they should open this business, or move to that place. It is not an easy job being an Abbot – subject to all those projections, dashed hopes and fervent prayers for intervention.

Within the temples, the job of the abbot is not highly sought after.

Most monks I know in fact, dread the limelight. Even the Thai monks, many of whom have taken a ‘public speaker’ course in Thai that trains them to deliver dhamma talks. But still they won’t do it. No course can get you over that hurdle, that choice to stand up and deliver, or go back to your room, your practise, your books … Many of the great meditators live and die unheralded. The public never get to know them.

This is not always the case. Sometimes the opposite is true, and you can’t get the guy off the mic, even long (loooong) after they should have stopped. But mostly monks are like regular people and avoid the stage fright, and that gnawing feeling that you don’t have anything to say, that you are unworthy to pass on the teachings of a teacher so great as the Buddha.

…you learn courage in different situations: the first time onstage, when you wish you had never agreed to do it, you curse your pretensions and lament your ego, and want only to go back into the corner. But somehow you don’t; you step out…. Each step is fearful, yet each refusal means not only remorse at an opportunity missed, but worse, despising yourself for not even summoning up the courage to try… –

While he doesn’t enter into too many Dhamma discussions, this telling paragraph is written by Tony Blair in his memoir ‘A Journey’.

Putting yourself in the spotlight, knowing the criticisms that will follow is not easy. Some Western monks I know even avoid contacting me when in town because they are afraid I will put them in front of an audience. Many more will only talk or advise in the comfort-zone of their own temple. Even the Buddha seemed reluctant to teach in the beginning. The story goes he had to be persuaded by the God Sahampati, who convinced him saying “there are beings with but little dust in their eyes“.

In the forest and urban traditions of Thailand, generally monks and nuns will prefer the safety zone  of the monastery. If you want to invite them, sure, you can send a car, feed them and set everything up. It is your business, not theirs.

When it comes to Bangkok, forget it! This is the place beyond the borders, out in the hinterland where things are rough and uncompromising. All these great Mahayana meditators who have sworn to forsake enlightenment for the sake of saving all world beings .. But not in Bangkok. Everything is noisy, moving, stimulating to the senses. Why go there? It is a place to pass through … This is the Wild West of Buddhism where civilised monks and nuns fear to tread.

But there is always some cowboy (in every sense of the word?) willing to boldly go…

Now, ‘The Grass is Always Greener‘ kind of thinking never profits. Of course there are probably lots of places you would be better off, but in none of them can you be sure you are in the very best of places. Sooner or later you must look at one place, and try to be happy there, and do what you can. For myself, that happens to be Bangkok. No one forced me to be here, but it is not exactly by choice either. I could get out on the trail, retreating in beautiful retreats in central Europe, where the weather is crisp, and I get toast for breakfast. Or finding cabins in the thousands of US temples and centres without caring if I mistake a peaceful surrounding for a peaceful mind.

But I am here in Bangkok, at least for the present. This week I go back on the stage again for this year’s Dhamma Talk series. After countless dozens of emails trying to get the PR out there, hours on photoshop knocking up graphics of varying dimensions for different uses, and getting together all the paraphernalia that is needed – including 90 chairs, posters, leaflets ‘n leaflet holders, sign-in sheets, clipboards, mats, cushions, speakers and wires, mic, mic cables, wireless mics, batteries, amp, extension cable, plug strip, donation boxes, 2xcamera tripods, pens, laminated signs, sticky tape to put the signs up …. and a bunch of other stuff – the talks are the simple part.

But it is easy to say why do it? Because it is good.

Thanks to everyone who has supported or encouraged – especially Khun Vararom and Kim who have provided the space for us at the Dance Centre, on top of a myriad of other kinds of help. Everything is in place now, but if anyone would like to help, we’ll need a few hands setting up the room at about 5pm every Monday.

For other (fairly rare) personal comments of mine click here for the Monk Notes.

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Dhamma Talk One: Hero’s Journey

Monday 8th August

Start of this year’s Dhamma Talks …

To open this year’s big event series, we’ll be looking at the ‘God Complex’  – or why people think they know things. What do you really know?

Adding to your knowledge about different things, or concentrating on different objects of thought or meditation ….. all is only shuffling the content of the mind. There is a different direction of investigation. Give up what you know, and empty out. Buddhism teaches this is the beginning and end of the path.

But not only Buddhism – most spiritual lineages teach this in one way or another. Joseph Campbell recognised this when he examined myths and talks from around the world.

There is a hidden journey being described in a myriad of different ways … and it takes an innocent Hero to follow it. The Hero’s Journey.

Speaker

Speaker is Phra Pandit Cittasamvaro, one of Thailand’s few British born monks.

Place

Dance Centre, Sukhumvit 24

Parking at the President’s Park Tower is free of charge, according to our information (nothing is for sure here, but do try it)

Time

6:30-8:15 pm

For full details, biography, directions and map click here

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Buddhist Psychos – Friday 12th August

Continuing the tradition for artful cappuccino discussions relating to Buddhism and Psychology (or any other topic) all ‘Buddhist Psychos’ are invited to meet, caffeinate and trade ideas on Friday 12th August, at Ariyasom Villa, Sukhumvit Soi 1. (map below)

Friday 12th is a national holiday for Mother’s Day, in honour of Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand.

Meet 1:00 – 3:00 pm

It doesn’t really matter if you have a background in psychology, Buddhist, both/neither – it’s always a good chance to swap ideas on these or other subjects with fellow Bangkokians, – anyone is most welcome to join.

Putting aside our look at archetypes in the book ‘The Little Prince’ we are diverting the topic this month on to the question of family (since it is Mother’s Day).

Questions:

  • Why did the Buddha leave his wife and new born baby? Was it wrong or immoral?
  • How to balance family/home life, and the Holy Life
  • The role of renunciate monks/nuns who have ‘left home and family’ in the present day
  • Any other question, on or off topic 🙂

In case you need to refresh yourself on the story of thee Buddha leaving his home, wife and baby, here is a rather, ummm, interesting youtube of the ‘Great Renunciation’ as it is called:

Location

Ariyasom Villa, in the Library or by the pool as convenient.

Could not be easier – go down Sukhumvit Soi One, right to the end, and Ariyasom is on the left.

Click the map for an even larger view (note that this map is proportional to actual distance, and has North at the top. It is less than a 10 minute walk from Ploen Chit BTS Station on Sukhumvit One

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WBU forum, Sunday September 11th

This month’s forum at the World Buddhist University will be led by Australian monk Dhammadarsa Bhikkhu.

WBU Forum

At the WFB hq, Suk 24

12:00 – 1:30 pm

Sunday September 11th

Topic:

Noble Ethics. Theravada Buddhists, believe a Stream Enterer has perfect morality and basic morality is defined by the Five Precepts. These ideas do not match the sutta that says there was a Stream Enterer with a drinking problem. I present a solution.

About the Speaker :

He was born in England in 1965, but migrated to Australia when he was only one and a half years old. He did most of his primary and secondary schooling in Sydney, New South Wales. In 1975, at the the age of 10, his family did the Transcendental Meditation [TM] course and this was his first introduction to meditation. This is classed as a Samatha, or Calm practice in Buddhism. He took up Yoga during his high school studies in Sydney. In 1980 his family moved to Brisbane, Queensland where he completed the last year of his secondary education. During this time, he took up Judo and came into contact with Zen meditation.

Ven. Dhammadarsa became interested in Buddhism in 1985, when he moved to Melbourne, Victoria. There He studied Tai Chi, which would also be classed as a Samatha, or Calm practice in Buddhism. In 1986 he took ordination as a Thai Theravada Buddhist monk in Australia. This was probably the first Bhikkhu ordination in Australia. Shortly after ordination He started Buddhist Samatha meditation as taught in Wat Paknam, Bhasicharoen, Bangkok. In 1988 He first started Buddhist Vipassana meditation, at which time He spent three years in retreat in Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In 1993 he met Buddhadaasa Bhikkhu, who encouraged him to focus on the words of the Buddha, which he did and which clarified greatly the Buddha’s teaching for him. In 1994 he returned to Australia and left the monkhood until 2008 when he reordained, to dedicate the rest of his days to the study and practise of Dhamma.

Location :

3rd floor, WFB Headquarters Bldg., in Benjasiri Park, Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok. All are welcome to join the programme free of charge. For more information, please [try] call 02-258-0369 to -0373, fax 02-258-0372, or see http://www.worldbuddhistuniversity.com

click map for larger view

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August at WFB: Dhammadarsa Bhikkhu

Ven Dhammadasa (who many of you will be familiar with) will be leading this month’s talk at the WFB

Sunday August 7th

Topic: Vipassanaa in the Early Pali Suttas – a different view

WFB hq, Suk.24 (behind Benchasiri Park)

2:00 – 5:00 pm

free of charge, no booking required

About the Speaker :

He was born in England in 1965, but migrated to Australia when he was only one and a half years old. He did most of his primary and secondary schooling in Sydney, New South Wales. In 1975, at the the age of 10, his family did the Transcendental Meditation [TM] course and this was his first introduction to meditation. This is classed as a Samatha, or Calm practice in Buddhism. He took up Yoga during his high school studies in Sydney. In 1980 his family moved to Brisbane, Queensland where he completed the last year of his secondary education. During this time, he took up Judo and came into contact with Zen meditation.

Ven. Dhammadarsa became interested in Buddhism in 1985, when he moved to Melbourne, Victoria. There He studied Tai Chi, which would also be classed as a Samatha, or Calm practice in Buddhism. In 1986 he took ordination as a Thai Theravada Buddhist monk in Australia. This was probably the first Bhikkhu ordination in Australia. Shortly after ordination He started Buddhist Samatha meditation as taught in Wat Paknam, Bhasicharoen, Bangkok. In 1988 He first started Buddhist Vipassana meditation, at which time He spent three years in retreat in Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In 1993 he met Buddhadaasa Bhikkhu, who encouraged him to focus on the words of the Buddha, which he did and which clarified greatly the Buddha’s teaching for him. In 1994 he returned to Australia and left the monkhood until 2008 when he reordained, to dedicate the rest of his days to the study and practise of Dhamma.

WFB is a few minutes walk from Phrom Pong BTS Station

click map for a larger view

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Thandie Newton, on losing the Self in Art

On the theme of ‘Dance of Emptiness’ here is a nice talk on TED by Hollywood actress Thandie Newton. She talks about losing the sense of self when dancing or acting. This emptiness is what Art is all about. You need it in Martial Arts, you need it in dance, in top levels of sport, in yoga, in meditation …..

“if you get under that ‘Heavy’ self, like the torch of awareness, and find our essence, connection to the infinite … lets not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness”

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

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Bhikkhuni Ani Zamba: August 2011

Dhamma talks with Bhikkhuni Ani Zamba

A Talk by Ani Zamba last November received elated reviews from 60+ people who attended – so we were swift to invite her back again. Don’t miss the chance to meet this remarkable Bhikkhuni and great speaker.

From 12th August to 22nd August:

Thursday 11th Dhamma Talk 6:30-8:30 pm ‘Confusion is the Path to Awakening‘ at Ariyasom Villa
See map/directions below
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Friday 12th National Holiday for Mother’s day @Ariyasom
   2:00-4:00 Afternoon Session with the ‘Buddhist Psycho’ group – open discussion on the role of family and parenthood, and why the Buddha left his home and family
   5:30 – 7:30 pm Dhamma Talk on ‘Starting at Home’ – Dhamma practise begins at home, dealing with family issues, your own issues, and learning to grow
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     Saturday 13th Ani Zamba should be open to private invitations…
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Sunday 14th Dhamma Talk at Ariyasom Villa (with refreshments) ‘All in the senses – all in the Mind’ The Buddhist take on the Materialist/Idealist philosophies – is the world ‘out there’ or ‘in your head’. 1:30 – 3:30 pm
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     Monday 15th Our Sangha will be at the Dance Centre for this year’s Dhamma Talk Series
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Tuesday 16th 7:30 pm Dharma Talk at the Siam Society ‘How to realize ones Human Potential’ See http://littlebang.org/2011/07/28/bhikkhuni-ani-zamba-at-the-siam-society/
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Wednesday 17th : Last chance to catch Ani Zamba – Dhamma Talk at Ariyasom Villa 6:30-8:15pmThe Cost of Illusion’ – the basic misunderstanding arising from perception based on the 5 skhandhas
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The venerable Ani Zamba is a UK born nun with more than 40 years of study and practice in Buddhism.  Her main root guru was Dungsey Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.  Her other main teachers include HH the Dalai Lama, HH Dujom Rinpoche and HH Dilgo Khyenste Rinpoche.  She has also received many teachings from Chadud Rinpoche, Khamtul Rinpoche, Dzongsar Rinpoche and Lama Wangdor.

Having established a firm foundation in Tibetan Buddism she also went on to study within the Thai Buddhist tradition with Achaan Chah, Achaan Buddhadasa and Luang Ph0r Cheleun for 4 years.

Later Ani Zamba traveled to Korea to study the Son tradition with the great Zen master Kusan Sunim where she spent 7 years.

More recently she studied the Sik Sai Chun Chinese Buddhist tradition in China for 9 years.

Latterly she has founded a charitable trust in north-east Brazil to create a project for human well being called “Dipankara”.  This project, which is based on realising one’s own potential, engages both the important psychological and physical aspects of human development.
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Location:

Could not be easier to get to – go down Sukhumvit Soi One, right to the end, and Ariyasom is on the left.

Click the map for an even larger view (note that this map is proportional to actual distance, and has North at the top. It is an 8 minute walk from Ploen Chit BTS Station on Sukhumvit One





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Bhikkhuni Ani Zamba at the Siam Society

Dhamma Talk with Bhikkhuni Ani Zamba at the Siam Society, Tuesday 16th August:

For Directions see: http://www.siam-society.org/about/contact.html

Click the image for the PDF announcement

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In the Bkk Post

All PR is good PR – please help spreading the word any way you can 🙂

Below was posted in the Bkk Post today. Web link: http://www.bangkokpost.com/arts-and-culture/music/249161/thai-buddhist-culture-explained-in-english

click for full size

 

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Baan Aree Dhamma Talk

Baan Aree have forwarded some scant information for this month’s Dhamma Talk with a Thai monk in English as follows:

English Dharmma Talk at Baan Aree
The first Saturday of every month
Saturday 6th August , 2011, 09.30  – 11.30 am

By Pha Ajahn Kosil Paripunno
Watplaina Pathum Thani Province

General information on the Baan Aree events:

Baan Aree is a delightful Dhamma oasis close to the Ari BTS Station. There is a library, Dhamma Hall, ponds, veggie food stalls, coffee shop and more. If you are in Bangkok you should definitely acquaint yourself with this niche.

And you will find some of the best value and most varied Vegetarian food in Bangkok in the 20 or so food stalls there.

We really want to encourage and support the foreign monks to come to Bangkok to give talks and lead meditation, so do support this new program. And lunch afterwards of course, is a good chance to meet or catch up with the wider Sangha.

Location

Baan Aree Library is a thriving dhamma site with library, meeting hall, and lots of excellent events organised in Thai. The Library itself is open daily from 9 am – 7 pm and has a few books in English, including much of the Tripitaka (Scriptures). The new Dhamma Hall is airconditioned and set in the attractive grounds, with many very reasonably priced vegetarian food stalls open in the daytime.

Baan Aree has regular Dhamma meetings in Thai which are listed at their Thai website: http://baanaree.net/ .

The Library is directly on the Skytrain line. Go to Ari BTS station and walk back towards the victory monument about 20 meters and you should see the passage way to Baan Aree Library on the right hand side.

Baan Aree car park is accessible from the rear (Soi Ari 1) where you see the sign for ‘ BANANA FAMILY PARK ‘. Bus routes 8, 28, 29, 38, 54, 63, 74, 77, 108, 157, 177, 502, 503, 509, and 510 all pass by. Get out at Ari BTS Station.

click map to enlarge:

map to Baan Aree

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