A quick note

Dear friends,

Happy year of the snake for all of you!

Just to let you know I’m still around. I’ve been visiting other realms; you know, outside of blogspace. Actually I’ve been spending a lot of time on suttacentral.net and the Authenticity Project. I’ll get to your comments soon and hopefully to some more articles before long.

Currently I’m in Sydney, where I’ve been teaching quite regularly. In addition to the regular groups in North Sydney, Baulkham Hills, and Parramatta, I’ve started teaching meditation with our long term supporter Gia Hieu for the Vietnamese community in Panania. The Vietnamese community has for a long time been major supporters of Santi and other monasteries in Sydney, yet there is not much in the way of meditation teachings for them, especially in English for the young ones. So hopefully I can give something back. The session was in Gia Hieu’s house, but from next time we are moving to a community center in the same area. If you live nearby I hope to see you there next month!

Last night I taught at the Sydney Gay Meditation Group. They’re a great group, who really practice kindness and care in how they present the whole evening. I suggested that they could get a career consulting for Buddhist event organization!

This morning, I’m off down to Santi for a visit, the first time since I left last year. Looking forward to seeing the community and catching up with everyone.

And of course on Sunday the Early Buddhism course kicks off. The session in Sydney has had an overwhelming response; we had to cut off registrations at 50, but I suspect a few might try to sneak in through the side door. Which is doubly impressive when you consider the Buddhist Library doesn’t even have a side door. I’m getting nervous: I’d better do the reading otherwise I could be in trouble…

21 thoughts on “A quick note

  1. Hi venerable one,

    Your talks on dhammanet have really been helpful, in fact they are awesome. I hope you will make some more.

    I still think the authenticity project would be better served as a book.

    My faith in the buddha and the suttas has grown extremely strong lately.

    with metta,

    Gotamist

    • I see you posted some new videos already!

      on a side note:

      I have a problem with visualization in meditation. For example contemplation on the body; how much imagination is involved and how is it applied correctly.

    • Interesting question. The description in the canon clearly shows an imaginative element. At the same time, it is a practice of mindfulness of what is, and we don’t want to get into a fantasy world.

      My teacher, Ajahn Mahachatchai, emphasized that in doing body contemplation one should “both know and see”: by which he meant to “know” the body by feeling it in experience, and to “see” it in the mind’s eye. Actually, these two aspects are just two sides of how we normally experience our own bodies. While they are separate in ordinary experience, as meditation deepens they unify and become simply awareness.

    • Hello venerable bhikkhu Sujato,

      Sorry to bother you again but i’m affraid that despite of your previous answer i’m still in the dark here concerning these topics. If you could find the time to reply to these questions below i would be very grateful.

      In the suttas it is adviced to contemplate the inner structure and organs of the body. I don’t think this is possible without a firm dose of imagination. This kind of contemplation is not even possible without some rudimentary knowledge of human anathomy. So i wonder how some of these ancient monks did this without having seen or experienced such a thing, unlike modern folks who are used to biology classes at school or have seen fragments of medical documentaries involving surgery etc… The same goes ofcourse for contemplating rotting corpses or corpses being eaten by crows and vultures. Could you please shed some more light on the role of imagination and how it is applied in these kind of practices because i still find it rather confusing.

      The same goes for metta meditation. Ajahn Brahm seems to recommend allot of visualization and imagination in this practice. He mentions he used to imagine a kitten because he found them rather cute and could easily develop metta for such a creature and after that move further down the way to something more challenging. Is this kind of visualization technique the standard (for metta meditation) or are there other methods? It seems that anapanasati is the only form of meditation that does not rely on this kind of visualization?

      Also should one start with samatha (while ofcourse being mindful of the intrusion of the 5 hindrances) and then move to a meditation subject or start right away with that subject? Ajahn Brahm’s book doesn’t go into detail that much about meditation subjects/objects (other than the breath). It deals primarily with the jhanas which are ofcourse extremely important but i’m not completely sure how a meditation subject would fit into that and when such a subject should be picked up by the mind.

      Ajahn Chah thaught a simple form of letting go meditation as does Brahm ofcourse (although with a little bit more meat on the bones). Ajahn Chah also mention that samadhi is like a tool to gain insight which is logical but again i have to ask when and how? Ajahn Brahm seems to imply that the SUPER mindfulness caused by the removal of the 5 hindrances trough absorption is in it’s application not part of the actual time while one is sitting but comes after that (while walking etc..) Or am i wrong here? Ajahn Chah seems to instruct us to make it a part of the actual sitting time?

      Also is there a element of visualization/imagination involved when practicing sati since it can also mean to recollect?

      So the main source of my confusion concerning practice has to due with imagination/visualization and the sequence of meditation.

      with metta,

      Gotamist

    • Hi Gotamist,

      Okay, some important questions here, let me see if I can answer them all.

      So i wonder how some of these ancient monks did this without having seen or experienced such a thing, unlike modern folks who are used to biology classes at school or have seen fragments of medical documentaries involving surgery etc…

      In ancient, or indeed modern, India these are all common sights. The practice described in the Suttas is one of imagination (“Just as if, monks, a monk were to see…”). Presumably sometimes an actual corpse was meditated on, but this is much less commonly mentioned, at least in early texts. So the practice would start with imagination, based on recollection of what one has seen many times. This is the “external” contemplation. But when this is applied inwards, it becomes fused with one’s own direct perception of one’s own body. This is the “internal” contemplation. Gradually the difference between these two fades away. This is the internal/external contemplation. As the hindrances disappear the idea that one’s own body is no different in nature from those of others becomes an intuitive vision.

      Is this kind of visualization technique the standard (for metta meditation) or are there other methods?

      Visualization is not necessary in metta. It is more of a skillful means to get the meditation started. Once the feeling of meta is flowing, visualizations are a distraction. The Suttas include both visual and non-visual meditations, which appeal to people of different characters.

      Also should one start with samatha (while ofcourse being mindful of the intrusion of the 5 hindrances) and then move to a meditation subject or start right away with that subject?

      I’m not sure what you mean by samatha here. Samatha is just peace of mind. The meditation object is a means to train the mind towards that peace.

      Ajahn Brahm seems to imply that the SUPER mindfulness caused by the removal of the 5 hindrances trough absorption is in it’s application not part of the actual time while one is sitting but comes after that (while walking etc..) Or am i wrong here? Ajahn Chah seems to instruct us to make it a part of the actual sitting time?

      No, you’re not wrong. Insight naturally follows samadhi: the Suttas constantly say that samadhi leads to seeing the truth. I’m not aware of Ajahn Chah saying anything different. Is there any specific passage you are thinking of?

      Also is there a element of visualization/imagination involved when practicing sati since it can also mean to recollect?

      There can be, but this is not essential. It depends on the context. For example, sati is commonly defined as the ability to call to mind what was said and done long ago. In meditation, mindfulness of the breath means “keeping the breath in mind”. Mindfulness in a visualization means “keeping the image or visualization in mind”.

      Hopefully that’s some help!

    • This is an extension of my previous post.

      As i understand ordinary daily mindfulness does not actually lead to insight, atleast not liberative insight. Ordinary mindfulness is basically a self imposed moral leash (what am i doing, how am i doing it, what is my intention/cetana). Being aware of my actions. Of course it may have other functions but that’s basically it in practice. Am i right here?

      That would lead to concentration since the perfection of virtue leads to joy and concentration (samadhi). Mindfulness keeps one focused on the breath. Samadhi/jhana cleans the mind of the 5 hindrances which leads to some sort of heightened mindfulness that does lead to liberative insight.

      So again is that heightened mindfulness part of the actual sitting time or does one come out of the jhanas with that purified mind and apply that heightened form of mindfulness (that leads to liberation) on daily activities, the body etc..?

      When thinking about ordinary mindfulness i came to the conclusion that it did indeed lead to some insight (not a form of crucial insight though). For example when one is eating mindfully and thinking about food, what a crude kind of substance it is and that basically the body is formed by this crude matter, a more realistic view of the body arises. However then i realised that i was confusing contemplation with mindfulness. It is not really mindfulness but the act of contemplation attached to mindfulness that leads to some insight.

      However the difference between the two becomes very abstract. The difference between the two is probably the infusion of imagination/visualization. Contemplation uses imagination in order to review an object or issue from different angles, while mindfulness is very direct. What do you think?

      Is there even a difference between contemplation and mindfulness in the suttas? It seems they are both just labelled as sati and thus to me it now becomes increasingly confusing.

      And what is the difference between sati and sampajanna? If sati is awareness and sampajanna is also awareness then how do they differ? Is sampajanna more direct in that it does not have the possibility to mean recollection/memory?

      Does perhaps sati-sampajanna (the combination) signify the difference between direct mindfulness and contemplation? What i mean is that the combination of the two constitute contemplation?

      One last question on contemplation. Is contemplation always a purely meditative aspect? In the samyutta nikaya for example it is adviced to contemplate upon skeletons. Say for example you are just casually sitting in a chair or even walking outside; while in these activities one imagines ones own skeleton. It is to sporadic for it to be meditation but it is still contemplative. Are we to use contemplation in this way sometimes or should it (for example the subject skeletons) be a subject for a more formal sitting practice?

      with metta,

      Gotamist

    • A self imposed moral leash sounds rather negative which was definitely not my intention. Everything the historical buddha thaught is in my opinion of the highest order possible.

  2. _/\_ Happy Lunar New Year to you too Bhante S

    sharing an interesting video fr Msia known as a Muslim country which hopefully demonstrate good times to come for a clean government and continuous genuine interfaith understanding;

    And it prompted wht constitute ?
    Supatipano Bhagavato Saavaka Sangho
    Uju patipano Bhagavato Saavaka Sangho
    Nyayapatipano Bhagavato Saavaka Sangho
    Saamiici patipano Bhagavato Saavaka Sangho

    and a previous question arise again on how does countries called themselves Buddhist countries treats its citizens at all levels ?

    n i ask myself, am i a buddhist? the answer is yes
    am i a christian? can i say no?

    with wishful mental proliferation, most of all disciple of Enlightened Ones and their moments of Enlightenments _/\_

  3. Hi Bhante,

    Are you aware of the ALP’s plan to create an Independent Office of Animal Welfare (IOAW) in order to take animal welfare issues away from the Minister for Agriculture (who obviously has conflicting interests)? Anyone who is interested in supporting this initiative can do so here:

    http://www.animalsaustralia.org/take_action/independent-office-of-animal-welfare/

    Maybe the year of the snake can be the year when Australian snakes get their own parliamentary representative🙂

  4. Dear Bhante,

    I caught a little of the course yesterday thanks to a reminder from a cyberfriend!
    Wonderful course.
    Seems a simple gesture but good you had all of the volumes from the Canon on hand. It really is amazing how much was generated during the Buddha’s lifetime and beyond. (bearing in mind of course the use of so much repetition! without which the volumes might shrink by two thirds.:-)

    Would like to know if these courses will be archived. If so, then no need to respond! I suspect I will see them posted next days. If not, it would be so good if they were!

    Heartfelt thanks to you and to Ven. Brahmali, and the Australian community for making this available to your friends around the world.

    _/\_

    Lisa

    • Lisa, could you tell me where these are posted to listen to or watch (maybe I missed something saying that)?

  5. Hi Linda,

    Here is the course schedule and outline http://www.courses.bswa.org.au

    The course is livestreamed from the Dhammaloka website, here http://www.dhammaloka.org.au

    The first one was a few days ago and is already archived in three parts on the dhammaloka site, here is part 1 http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/component/k2/item/1430-early-buddhism-course_workshop1-session-1.html

    Here is the link to the course materials http://www.courses.bswa.org.au/info/

    Wowsies, eh?

    _/\_

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, yes, wow, thanks so much! I really appreciate the info & am so glad these teachings are being made available.

      Your reply only showed up today (unless it was some problem with my computer).
      btw, I think we might have been in the same on-line course with Ven Anālayo (though I was not a ‘live’ participant)?

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