Yesterday we commemorated the Parinirvana, or final passing of the Buddha. We listened to readings describing some of the last events in the Buddha’s life from the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. We also remembered our own loved ones who have died, and contemplated the last words of the Buddha:
“All conditioned things are of a nature to decay – strive on untiringly.”
Myke gave a short talk leading us in reflection on this theme:
In the last four evenings at Sangha Night we’ve been using Vajragupta’s book of this name to consider the “winds” that constantly assail us: Loss & gain; infamy & fame; blame & praise; pain & pleasure. Every day they come and go – resulting in us being blown first in one direction, and then the other, completely at their mercy.
But it doesn’t have to be like this – we can learn to navigate our way through these winds, seeing them as opportunities for developing, for practising generosity, individuality, truthfulness and mindfulness. I like metaphors and a couple came to mind when reflecting on these worldly winds.
The first is “lean in” – as in you have to lean into the wind when walking otherwise you’ll get blown over. I think this has something to teach us about how we deal with the winds in our life. If we just try to escape in the opposite direction, we’ll then find ourselves buffeted by the opposite wind, and back where we started. So instead we need to “lean in” and see what we can learn from the situation.
The second metaphor is that of the technique of tacking when sailing. In order to sail upwind you have to tack back and forth across the headwind. It’s a very deliberate and conscious way of working with the wind, not allowing it to prevent you from getting to where you want to be. The sails have to be in the right place, and you have to have sufficient momentum. I think that’s telling us that in order to work with the winds we have to first create the right conditions, and that starts with everyday ethics and regular meditation practice.
Kamalashila’s book, Buddhist Meditation is the featured book on Windhorse at the moment, so reduced to £14.99 from the cover price of £17.99 – and further discounts available too!
It’s described as the essential guide for those wanting to develop their meditation practice, and as the theme of our practice in the Highland Sangha in 2015 is meditation, you may find it helpful.
In this stimulating discussion with Candradasa , Kamalashila talks about his experience of writing the new edition of Buddhist Meditation and shares some insights into his own history of practice, along with that of the Triratna Community:
It is completely natural that thoughts keep on arising. The point is not to try to stop them, but to liberate them. This is done by remaining in a state of simplicity, which lets thoughts arise and vanish again without stringing onto them any further thoughts. When you no longer perpetuate the movement of thoughts, they dissolve by themselves without leaving any trace. When you no longer spoil the state of stillness with mental fabrications, you can maintain the natural serenity of mind without any effort. Sometimes, let your thoughts flow and watch the unchanging nature behind them.
Come and see the film about Dilgo Khyentse, Saturday 23 August.
Belladrum Festival 2014 just finished, and we were there, providing some quiet space and meditation in our yurt in the corner of the Walled Garden. “Quiet” in a relative sense, because we were right opposite one of the stages!
But it was a good time and a joyful fixture in our yearly calendar. Here’s a few pics:
Padmolka has been leading us through the Brahma Vihara meditation practices on Sangha nights, and we had some interesting discussion this Thursday. I think it’s fair to say that most people found the karuna bhavana (development of compassion) easier than the mudita bhavana (development of sympathetic joy, or gladness for someone else).
I wondered why. It seems that we all are very aware of our own experiences of suffering, from one extreme to the other, stubbing your pinkie to the loss of a loved one. At some level we know it, and readily empathise. But when it comes to joy, it seems we are looking for the big things, scoring the winning goal in the World Cup, and perhaps we usually do this in everyday life as well as when practising the mudita bhavana. If so we risk losing out on an awful lot of joy.
When I got into my car to go home and turned the key, immediately there was the sound of some fabulous Argentinian tango music; my heart lifted instantaneously, and I thought yes, joy! Then going through Inverness, six green lights in a row – “oh joy oh rapture”, as my head of 6th form used to say. Well I think he used the phrase ironically, but there are lots of moments each day which we could celebrate with it. Sitting outside this morning to meditate, birdsong, warmth of sun, the coolness of a passing breeze…
If we make a habit of recognising and rejoicing in each and every one of these moments of joy then my theory is that our practice of the mudita bhavana will just flow.