10 years

10 years ago today I had weight loss surgery. It has been quite a journey. Food issues are still a demon I work with, as a lay person by becoming an exercise nut, the practice, and then constraints of monasticism have been a help in that. However if I’m in a bad enough environment or mental state, even those constraints can break.

Food, especially in my first 26 years, was(is?) a friend, a coping mechanism, a quick jolt of pleasure to drown out suffering. You don’t get to 373lbs because you didn’t eat less and move more. If someone is 100+lbs overweight there is a mental health component there, I guarantee it.

I never really did drugs or drank much outside of college, never felt the need as I already had my coping mechanisms, food and video games, and movies to a lesser extent.

The Buddha tells in Salla sutta(simile of the arrow) that regular people know of no escape from unpleasant/painful experiences, other then to seek sensual pleasures. The first time I read that sutta I saw myself reflected back, the Buddha was calling out the root of the problem, that because of my ignorance and delusion, the only escape I know is one that simply just compounds my suffering, it does not end it.

Both the practice, and my therapist, Dr. Mack, share a part in helping me in a major breakthrough that lead to my weight loss surgery.

I’ve always been an independent self help type, always striving to be the strong one others rely on, with no need to ask for help from others. I had tried for years to exercise and work the weight off, with the typical yo-yo weight journey most of us know, even at 300+lbs I had a trainer(Karen Meakem) and tried(you can see gym me in one of the pics).

I viewed the surgery as a cheat, an easy way out, and never wanted to consider it, but deep down there was a part of me that knew I could not do this without help, and that is what Dr. Mack told me one day, what if I saw the surgery not as a cheat, or an easy way out, but as help.

And indeed it was. The surgery is not magic, it is not permanent(what is?!:P), and a full 1/3 of people who have the surgery return to their former weight.

Because I lost so much weight so fast, and became an exercise/endurance event nut(GRT!), people were inspired to also have the surgery, and I always told them, the surgery just changes your body, not your mind. If you don’t work on the root of the issues that got you to 300lbs, you will go back there.

To return to the concept of accepting help. This was a changing point for me and over the 10 years since I’ve learned to accept help when offered and needed. Becoming a monastic has been an even greater training in this.

I went from an independent wilderness survivalist type mindset, to putting on robes and becoming totally and utterly dependent on others, like being a baby all over again. If it were not for the help and generosity of others, how could I be a monastic? how could I eat? wear clothes? have shelter? medicine?

So these days I have a more balanced view. I still do not feel its good for a person to be totally useless and helpless, but that balances with the wisdom to understand when I really need help and can’t do it on my own. Hard won wisdom I’m still developing.

I’ve come far in the practice, developed a lot of wisdom(and still barely have any!), a lot of self metta and karuna. I’ve dropped a lot of my more coarse unskillful qualities, but I still make the joke today that I feel like by the time I totally conquer my food issues, I’ll be awakened lol… although I hope it doesn’t take that long.

Dhammapalooza Incoming

Forget Monday Night Football, come to Monday Night Dhamma, with myself and guest Bhante Pamutto.

In one hour join the MaggaSekha Community on Youtube tonight for Dhammapalooza! A night of Dhamma, including : Chanting, Sutta Readings, Dhamma Talks, Guided Meditation, Q&As, and Community Discussion. Come join the MaggaSekha community for an evening of Dhamma starting 8pm.

https://www.youtube.com/studentofthepath/live

The Confusing world of Monastic Titles

Ever been confused on the various monastic titles, especially because the different countries have different titles? This little gem of an article can help-

https://buddhistbugs.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-confusing-world-of-monastic-titles.html

Dhammapalooza – 1 hour

Forget Monday Night Football, come to Monday Night Dhamma, with myself and guest Bhante Pamutto.


In one hour join the MaggaSekha Community on Youtube tonight for Dhammapalooza! A night of Dhamma, including : Chanting, Sutta Readings, Dhamma Talks, Guided Meditation, Q&As, and Community Discussion. Come join the MaggaSekha community for an evening of Dhamma starting 8pm.


https://www.youtube.com/studentofthepath/live

Dhammapalooza Up

Dhammapalooza Tonight

In one hour join the MaggaSekha Community on Youtube tonight for Dhammapalooza! A night of Dhamma, including : Chanting, Sutta Readings, Dhamma Talks, Guided Meditation, Q&As, and Community Discussion. Come join the MaggaSekha community for an evening of Dhamma starting 8pm.

https://www.youtube.com/studentofthepath/live

Dhammapalooza

In one hour join the MaggaSekha Community on Youtube tonight for Dhammapalooza! A night of Dhamma, including : Chanting, Sutta Readings, Dhamma Talks, Guided Meditation, Q&As, and Community Discussion. Come join the MaggaSekha community for an evening of Dhamma starting 8pm.

https://www.youtube.com/studentofthepath/live

Dhammapalooza in 2 parts

We had a youtube stream crash, so two parts this week :

Dhammapalooza

In one hour join the MaggaSekha Community on Youtube tonight for Dhammapalooza! A night of Dhamma, including : Chanting, Sutta Readings, Dhamma Talks, Guided Meditation, Q&As, and Community Discussion. Come join the MaggaSekha community for an evening of Dhamma starting 8pm.


https://www.youtube.com/studentofthepath/live

The Buddha Center on Second Life(how to join)

Some of you may know that among my weekly sessions of sharing Dhamma, one is on the discord Sangha(students of the path/maggasekha), one is on my youtube channel live stream, and on Saturdays I do an hour session on a virtual world program called Second life.

There is an online virtual sangha, called The Buddha Center, that has existed on Second Life for over a decade now. on Second Life, virtual real estate costs real world money, so the Buddha Center exists not unlike any other brick and mortar organization, on the donations of others. I’ve been on staff for almost ten years now, first as a facilitator, then lay teacher, and now monastic.

Here is an example of me doing my regular session in the Deer Park on Second life :

The first monastic I ever heard speak live was on the Buddha Center. I did not have a local Buddhist community near me, so BC became my Buddhist home. Multiple times a week I logged in to learn from various teachers and become part of a community. It has been so impactful to my path, and I am so grateful for it’s continued existence, that I’ve made a vow that however long BC still exists, and in whatever form, I’ll continue to offer teachings when I can. These days it’s every Saturday at 5pm Eastern.

Here is a short 5 minute video explaining the BC from lay life days :

Now, You say you want to join me on second life, but how do I do it? Maybe you feel intimidated by what the process might be? fear not, the process is actually easier then you might expect, it’s also fast, and free.

First things first is go to download and install the program(about 30mb) at this link :

https://secondlife.com/support/downloads/

create your free subscription(there will be nothing you need to pay for to join and listen to my sessions) here https://join.secondlife.com/?lang=en-US

you can check out this video for help if needed :

Once you’ve installed it you will most likely see this screen:

Put in your name and password and click log in

once you log in, don’t get overwhelmed, look at the options at the top, click on world, then search, like in this picture :

Now, you can search for two things, the Buddha Center Itself, or me:

search “Buddha center” and the first one that comes up should be the right place, then click on teleport and you’ll go to the Buddha Center, in the location you see me in this pic :

you will be in sight of the deer park, only a short walk(use keys W S A D, press enter to type). You can search and contact me and I can teleport you to my position if need be.

And then you can right click on a cushion, select sit, and be ready to spend an hour with me sharing Dhamma. If you have any other troubles that this tutorial doesn’t fix, then feel free to email me : bhikkhujayasara@gmail.com.

This concludes the tutorial, I hope you see you at the Buddha Center.

FULL MOON NIGHT FEAR AND DREAD!

I have rekindled an old practice of mine when I use to visit Bhavana before living here. On nights where my bravery and/or peace held, I would go up the mountain, deeper into the woods, to meditate at night. I’ve decided to make this a regular occurrence on full moon nights, as those are special nights in the Buddhist calendar called Uposatha:

The Uposatha (Sanskrit: Upavasatha) is Buddhist day of observance, in existence from the Buddha’s time (500 BCE), and still being kept today in Buddhist countries.[1][2] The Buddha taught that the Uposatha day is for “the cleansing of the defiled mind,” resulting in inner calm and joy.[3] On this day, lay disciples and monks intensify their practice, deepen their knowledge and express communal commitment through millennia-old acts of lay-monastic reciprocity.

So I’ve decided to give this practice a name “ Full Moon Fear and Dread”, catchy isn’t it? This night is the perfect time for such activity, as we see here from one of my favorite Suttas:

Majjhima Nikāya 4 : Fear and Dread
http://suttacentral.net/en/mn4

“That is so, brahmin, that is so. Remote jungle-thicket resting places in the forest are hard to endure, seclusion is hard to practice, and it is hard to enjoy solitude. One would think the jungles must rob a bhikkhu of his mind, if he has no concentration.“

I considered thus: ‘There are the specially auspicious nights of the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the eighth of the fortnight. Now what if, on such nights as these, I were to dwell in such awe-inspiring, horrifying abodes as orchard shrines, woodland shrines, and tree shrines? Perhaps I might encounter that fear and dread.’ And later, on such specially auspicious nights as the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the eighth of the fortnight, I dwelt in such awe-inspiring, horrifying abodes as orchard shrines, woodland shrines, and tree shrines. And while I dwelt there, a wild animal would come up to me, or a peacock would knock off a branch, or the wind would rustle the leaves. I thought: ‘What now if this is the fear and dread coming?’ I thought: ‘Why do I dwell always expecting fear and dread? What if I subdue that fear and dread while keeping the same posture that I am in when it comes upon me?’

The other night when I took that video I was able to stay there and meditate for an hour. I had fear with me almost the whole time, but It did not cause me to run this night. About 10 minutes into meditating I saw a bright light arise thought my closed eye lids. This light frightened me at first but when I opened my eyes I saw that the full moon had burst from the clouds and shone bright all around me, making the forest almost as bright as day and reminding me of the Dhammapada quote used by the Buddha “one who abandons the evil for the good illuminates this world like the moon freed from clouds”. The rest of the hour was more of awe of beauty rather then fear. I watched some of the stars come out, the clouds moved rapidly across the sky illuminated by the moon.I was able to see the ridges of mountains in the far distance to my front and right, and distant lights signaling humanity dotted the mountains.

At one point I heard something moving about 40 feet behind me and it gave me a startle to the point where I jerked around to see what it was. Turns out what it was was a small deer that I scared half to death and it went running through the woods making a loud ruckus. Looks like I was the one doing the scaring that time! It reminds me of Ajahn Brahm’s story about being in the jungle at night and loud scary noises ended up being a small mouse. Fear distorts our senses so that every leaf falling sounds like the footsteps of something in the dark coming to devour you!

This post is on fear, terror, and dread, one of the most interesting and important aspects of meditation practice. The practice in and of itself is one of going against the grain, standing firm to be with mental and physical states that most people avoid like the plague. Aversion is the root issue here. Fear stems from aversion. We as beings have a strong aversion to any kind of loss, and fear only exists in relation to said loss.

The last eight years has seen me embracing my fears, observing them, staying with them as much as I can, allowing them to be. This is how I’ve gained insight into how this whole fear thing works. Even before I “became a Buddhist” I was doing things like camping out in areas away from other people, first in a tent but then working my way to no tent at all.

A tent is an interesting thing. We have this feeling of safety and security while in a tent because the dark woods outside are “out of sight, out of mind”. But in all reality all that keeps you from anything lurking outside is a think piece of cloth. A tent is more like a coffin then a house, but when we go in the tent we feel safe, but when we stay outside we feel exposed. The tent is an analogy for many things in life we run to for shelter when we feel exposed, and yet those things just cannot give us the shelter and security we seek.

If you want to conquer your fear, you have to bask in it, to stay with it, to observe how it arises, how it abides, how it ceases. This may only be for 10 seconds at first before you run away, but as I’ve said before in the past, you start out small and continue the practice until you can stay out in the woods for an hour and not run away, even though the hair on the back of your neck is raised and you feel the fear within you.

So who’s willing to join me up the mountain for some Full Moon Night Fear And Dread!!!? 🙂

I will close this thread on fear with some of my favorite quotes from the movie Batman Begins, who’s whole theme is on fear and fits this well, and two of my favorite fear memes:

“You traveled the world… Now you must journey inwards… to what you really fear… it’s inside you… there is no turning back.”

“To conquer fear, you must become fear. You must bask in the fear of other men. And men fear most what they cannot see. You have to become a terrible thought. A wraith. You have to become an idea! Feel terror cloud your senses. Feel its power to distort.. to control. And know that this power can be yours. Embrace your worst fears. Become one with the darkness.”

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The Foolish and the Wise

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