Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/28/2015

The Self

331. Suppose a king or royal minister has never heard the music of a lute. But one day he does hear it and he says: “Good man, tell me what is that sound so enchanting, so delightful, so intoxicating, so ravishing, with such power to bind?” Then they say to him: “That, Sire, is the music of the lute.” So he says: “Go, bring me that lute.”
So they bring it to him but he says: “Enough of this lute. Bring me the music.” They say to him: “Sire, this lute consists of various and many parts: the belly, the skin, the handle, the frame, the string, the bridge and the effort of the player. And it speaks because of them. It speaks because of these various and many parts.” Then the king breaks the lute into a hundred parts, splinters it again, burns it, puts the ashes in a heap, and winnows them in a draft or washes them away in water in order to find the music. Having done this he says:” A poor thing indeed is a lute; whatever a lute may be, the world is led astray by such things.”
In the same way, one investigating the body as far as the body goes, investigating feeling, perception, mental constructs, investigating consciousness as far as consciousness goes, find no “I”, no “I am”, no “mine”.

Samyutta Nikaya IV.197

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/25/2015

Happy Uposatha – Anapanasati Day

Kind of funny that in the day dedicated to the remembrance of the anapanasati sutta I am writing a post about the disadvantages of adhering too much to technique. In my desire to get back to basics and practice what the Lord Buddha taught as well as I understand it. I think I have to fastidiously grabbed hold of the techniques and lost the spirit of enquiry needed to practice rightly.

So what am I on about? Simply that I need to apply my critical thinking and Dhamma viccaya skills despite our because I yet believe there is an easy to understand “right way. ” what that means is studying a little more, questioning a little more without the blinders of craving for the situation to be something which it is not. Practicing without a fixed idea of what to expect. 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/24/2015

The Reset Button

How to say this? I find myself one again at a familiar place where I once again feel the need to dissuade myself from doctrines and teachings that I cannot honestly believe we’re taught by the Lord Buddha. I am at once disturbed by what seems to be my own vacillation and pleased by the return to simplicity that I imagine to be enshrined in the Canon and the Theravada traditions as a whole. 

Surely, this is yet a matter of unenlightened perception but it seems to me that I have no choice. Truly, faulty as my perceptions may be, I have no other guide. And I recognize a certain sadness and a feeling of longing for complexity, for layers of proliferation and variety of emotions but I know that these things do not lead to calming or to release. 

May we all practice as honestly as we know how and make an end to ask forms of suffering.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/23/2015

Informal Practice

As a result of my contact with Bhante Saddhasara I have decided to return my efforts in formal, seated meditation to what seems to be practiced more strictly in line with the suttas. Both as a result of my own lack of development (and I say this in the most non-derogatory way pasible) and paucity of understanding, my metta send much more difficult than it did formerly although anapanasati sends me effective. I believe this has largely to do with the fact that I was getting caught up with the emotional states elicited and confusing or simply substituting that for concentration.

So, what’s the problem? Why am I even bringing it up? Well because an unenlightened and greedy householder I miss the emotional highs and feeling of connection I get from those meditations, even when they do result in papanca. So, as a compromise I have decided to use the idea of radiation and tonglen in daily life, spending what precious little time I have for formal meditation on metta and anapanasati bhavana.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/21/2015

True Veneration

325. And the Lord said: “Ananda, prepare a couch facing the mark between these two sal trees, for I am uneasy and wish to lie down.” So Ananda did as the Lord asked, and then the Lord lay down on his right side, resting one foot on another in the position of the lion, mindful and clearly conscious. Then suddenly, the two sal trees burst into full bloom out of season and the flowers rained down out of respect for the Tathagata. Celestial blossoms and heavenly sandalwood powder rained down, and heavenly music and voices could be heard, all out of respect for the Tathagata.
Then the Lord addressed Ananda and said: “Look at these sal blossoms and heavenly flowers, sandalwood powder, music and voices. Yet, it is not like this that the Tathagata is respected, venerated, esteemed, worshipped and honoured with the highest respect. But the monk and nun, the layman and the laywoman, who abide by the Dhamma, walk the way of Dhamma, practise the Dhamma – it is they who respect, venerate, esteem, worship and honour the Tathagata with the highest respect. Therefore, abide by the Dhamma, walk the way of the Dhamma and practise the Dhamma. This is how you should train yourself.”

Digha Nikaya II.137

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/20/2015

Faith to Carry On

There was a time when I would have considered the ideas of faith and hope add incompatible with the Dhamma. But it is precisely at a time of transition like the one I am going through now that requires an acceptance of our state of ignorance and a faith that by putting the teachings into practice things will eventually get better. And, really, what is that if not hope?

May we strive diligently and place or trust in the Dhamma to carry is through difficulties.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/19/2015

Praise and Blame

323. Both now and in the past
It has always been thus, O Atula!
They blame those who are silent,
They blame those who speak much,
And they blame those who speak in moderation.
There is no one who is not blamed.

There never was,
There never will be,
Nor is there now
A person who is wholly blamed or praised.

Dhammapada 227-229

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/19/2015

The Compassionate One

322. One day as the Lord was seated in the Gandha Kuti at the Jeta Grove, he surveyed the world at dawn, and he saw a certain poor man at Alavi. Perceiving that he possessed the faculties for the fruit of Stream-Winning, he took a company of five hundred monks and went to Alavi, where the inhabitants invited the Lord to stay.
The poor man heard that the Lord had arrived, and he resolved to hear him teach the Dhamma. But that very day his ox strayed off, and he thought: “Shall I go and find my ox or shall I go to hear the Dhamma?’ – and he decided to find his ox first, setting out early to do so. The people of Alavi gave seats to the Sangha of monks, with the Buddha at their head, served them food, and when finished took the Lord’s bowl while he gave thanks.
Then the Lord said: “He for whose sake I came thirty miles has gone to the forest to seek his ox. When he returns, then I will teach the Dhamma.” So, he was silent.
Before the day was out, the man found his ox and straight away led it back to the herd. Then he thought: “If nothing else, I can go and pay my respects to the Lord,” and thought oppressed by hunger he did not go home, but rather he went quickly to the Lord, and having paid homage, sat respectfully at one side. When the man came close, the Lord said to the steward in charge of food: “Is there any food left over?”
“Reverend Sir, some food remains untouched.”
“Then serve this man.”
After the steward had provided the man with a seat in a place indicated by the Lord, he served him rice gruel and other food both hard and soft, and after the man had eaten, he rinsed his mouth. As soon as the man’s suffering had been relieved, his mind became calm, and then the Lord taught the Dhamma in gradual order, expounding one after the other the Four Noble Truths. When he had finished, that man attained the fruit of Stream-Winning.

Dhammapada Atthakata 262

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Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/17/2015

A New Perspective

On Saturday afternoon before he gave his Dhamma talk and meditation,  Bhante Saddhasara and I had a discussion that covered, among other things, how to do meta meditation. The phrases used in the Mahamevnawa lineage are basically variations of those with which most Buddhists in the Theravada tradition would be familiar but it is the application and understanding of what is happening that is unique. 

In all of the other approaches I have ever learned (with the possible exception of the technique described by Sharon Salzberg), one is asked at some point to switch ones focus from the words to the feeling of metta. Bhante explained that this was more of less breaking the development of concentration and opening the door to mental proliferation-a fact which squared with my own experience. 

In essence, Bhante explained that the purpose of metta is to train the mind to So, for as long as it takes to develop the mediation to habituate the mind to thinking in this way as well as leading to jhana. I have been practicing with this technique for the lay few days and am having some difficulty with memorizing the words exactly as they are (my mind keeps offering reasonable alternatives) but I intend to stick with it until I reach what seems to be first jhana. At that point I can see if it makes sense to continue our switch. 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 11/16/2015


This weekend I was fortunate enough to have helped bring Bhante Saddhasara to Manhattan for the second time and to be involved in making plans for him to return on a more regular basis. In doing so I have met wonderful people from different backgrounds and with their own personal, spiritual narratives that both she’d light on my own and brought me to reexamine just what it is I am doing. 

My recent rejection from training under a Seon master who I will not name was difficult at first for me but, with time and reflection, I am beginning to wit as a blessing. I always knew that the training, if I were accepted, would have to be taken with a grain of salt and I would necessity leave to the side those things that didn’t accord work my own (Theravadin) understandings. But after talking at length to a new Dhamma friend about her heart-rending experience with a lay teacher and hope it almost destroyed her faith completely,  I see now just how dangerous it can be to associate oneself with a tradition that does not clearly define and emphasize morality at every point. 

This is not to say that one cannot progress in another school or that there aren’t problems with monks and mums in the various Theravadin nikayas, just that the chances seen to be stack more in your favor with a solid adherence to the Vinaya.

Delusion is, almost by definition, something we cannot see in our daily life and it can sneak in to pull the rug out from under us at almost any time. By attempting to follow the Doctrine and Discipline of the Lord Buddha as best as I can understand it I hope to give delusion as few footholds as possible. May the sasana last for another 2500 years and may we all work hard for our liberation!

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