Join Me In NYC For A Weekend Of Metta

Metta Meditation Retreat: NYC February 3-5th

I will be leading a weekend retreat going over a variety of aspects of metta from the early Buddhist texts and showing how this practice is beneficial both on the cushion, and in every aspect of our daily lives.

The Retreat begins Friday, February 3rd  in the evening and goes to Sunday  afternoon and is totally free at the new meditation center by the NYC organization “Buddhist Insights”

You can “sign up” for the event by going to this link:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/weekend-retreat-wild-at-heart-metta-meditation-tickets-30707077696

 

What is Metta Really about?

 
Metta is a wish for happiness — true happiness — and the Buddha says to develop this wish for ourselves and everyone else: “With metta for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart.” (Snp 1.8)
 
But what’s the emotional quality that goes along with that wish? Many people define it as “lovingkindness,” implying a desire to be there for other people: to cherish them, to provide them with intimacy, nurture, and protection. The idea of feeling love for everyone sounds very noble and emotionally satisfying.
 
But when you really stop to think about all the beings in the cosmos, there are a lot of them who — like the snake — would react to your lovingkindness with suspicion and fear. Rather than wanting your love, they would rather be left alone.
 
Others might try to take unfair advantage of your lovingkindness, reading it as a sign either of your weakness or of your endorsement of whatever they want to do. In none of these cases would your lovingkindness lead to anyone’s true happiness. When this is the case, you’re left wondering if the Buddha’s instructions on universal metta are really realistic or wise.

The Tree of Saṃsara

here is the FULL file for zooming and better quality : http://i.imgur.com/1L1KGiV.pngtree-of-samsara-v-1
I haven’t done any dhamma graphics in some time, but I had the idea for this a few weeks back and just finished it up now that I had more time.
This is essentially showing most of the main classifications of conditions that keep us in samsara. I know that the Taints and the Floods are not on here, but I felt them less well known and not as important(based on how often spoken about in suttas) to the overall scheme of the graphic.there is also only so much you can fit in without it getting to large and cluttered.
As we destroy the fetters we progress through the four stages of awakening from Stream-Enterer to Once-Returner, Non-Returner, Arahant.
The Buddha repeatedly gives the definition for Nibbana as the ending of greed, hatred, and delusion, often called the three roots of craving. And of course past craving we have the ultimate cause.. the root, of our bondage, ignorance, which upon it’s uprooting brings freedom.
For those who know Dhamma, feedback is always appreciated, especially if i’m blatantly wrong, I often go through multiple versions of these graphics and the point of them is to be as accurate and authentic as possible and not to mislead anyone.
Feel free to copy and share anywhere as much as you want. I put my info on the graphics for people to be able to contact me with feedback or concerns.

The Practice IS Life

The practice is not something you do to save you from life.. it IS life. Important words :

 

“One of the subtle problems that has crept into our meditation culture, is that we have the idea that our meditation is there in order to solve our problems.

 

We think : Meditation is there because we are stressed, so then we will do some meditation so we don’t get stressed. Meditation is there because we are feeling depressed, so we are going to do some meditation so we are not depressed, etc.

 

So its like everything else you do in your life is the thing that is dragging your meditation down, thats what is messing your mind up, and your meditation is there to fix your mind up. That is exactly the opposite of what the Buddha was teaching.

 

What the Buddha was teaching was to manage your life, so that all of those things you do in your life are creating positive, helpful, mindful states of mind, which will then be a support for your meditation.

 

So if you are seeing your life as being opposed to your meditation, if you feel your life is dragging your meditation down, you’re doing life wrong. Make your life into a life that is going to support your meditation.

 

All of those things the Buddha was talking about, the practice of generosity, the practice of kindness, of helping others and serving, the practice of keeping your precept, the practice of restraint. All of these things are things that are empowering your meditation.
Use your life to support your meditation, don’t use your meditation, to try to cure your life.”
– Ajahn Sujato

Investigation of Experience

Having Trouble Giving Metta to Yourself?

“You Better Recognize”

“The first step on our way to transcending dukkha is to recognize the fact that we’ve got it. Not everybody is willing to do that, not everybody is willing to admit that there is Dukkha in their lives.

One of our most popular pass times is to blame somebody else for it. It’s due to the partner, the children, the weather, the government, the Americans, the job, the boss, you name it, anything will do, and the mind justifies that.

If we get stuck in that, blaming someone or something else outside of ourselves for our dukkha, we haven’t got a spiritual path. In fact, we can just as well forget about meditation. Meditation has to be embedded in spiritual living.This means one gives up one’s thinking about external matters and finds the truth within oneself.

If we are still concerned with blaming something else outside of ourselves for our Dukkha, that needs to be a contemplation.That contemplation can be extremely enlightening, because the question is, why am I blaming this or that for my Dukkha? because the answer will be, “because I don’t like it the way it is, and that’s exactly what Dukkha is, I don’t like things the way they are, I want them different, that is how our dukkha arises. This is the first and second Noble Truths.

Now accepting things the way they are, doesn’t mean that we can’t discriminate. It doesn’t mean that we are bereft of discrimination between good and evil, it would be dreadful, we wouldn’t be able to keep our precepts, but we refrain from blaming anything that happens for our own unhappiness. We see that our unhappiness is caused by ourselves, because of dissatisfaction with the way things are.”

Learning To Be Skillful In All That You Do

Exerpt by Thanissaro Bhikkhu :

Once, during my very first year with Ajaan Fuang, the time came for the kathina, which was the big event of the year. Lots of people were going to come from Bangkok. Some of them would have to be housed for a night or two before the kathina, and everybody would have to be fed. I had a dream a few nights before they came that Ajaan Fuang had a huge closet with lots of different hats. He would go into the closet and come out with one hat on, then go back in and come out with a different hat on. And sure enough, in the preparation for the kathina, they had to put up bamboo sheds and they had to arrange for the extra kitchen areas — lots of different tasks — and he was good at supervising them all. As later he told me, “Practicing the Dhamma is not just being good at sitting with your eyes closed. It involves learning how to be skillful in everything you do.” This attitude that wants to be skillful: That’s what’s going to see you through lots of different problems. If you don’t give a damn about things outside, your mind is going to be a “don’t-give-a-damn” kind of mind inside as well. It gets apathetic, careless.

But if you make up your mind that whatever chore falls to you, you’re going to try to do it skillfully, then you develop what are called the four bases for success: the desire to do it skillfully; the persistence that sticks with it till you’ve mastered it; intentness, paying a lot of attention to what you’re doing; and analysis, using your powers of discernment to see what’s not yet right, trying to figure out how to get around problems, how to solve them. This fourth factor also involves ingenuity — all the active qualities of the mind. The texts talk about these four bases of success specifically in conjunction with concentration, but a common teaching all over Thailand is that if you want to succeed at anything, you’ve got to develop these qualities of mind and apply them to whatever you have to do to succeed. And regardless of what areas of your life you develop them in, you can take them and apply them to other areas of your life as well.

So see every aspect of your life as an opportunity to train the mind. If you want to develop good strong powers of concentration, it’s not just what you do while you’re sitting with your eyes closed. It’s how you tackle any activity: learning how to be focused on that activity, learning to be strict with the mind when it starts wandering off. That way the mind is right there; you learn how to keep it right there no matter what you’re doing. And when the time comes to sit down with your eyes closed, well, you’re right there. You don’t have to go chasing the mind down. So try to see the practice as a seamless whole. The word bhavana, as I said, is “to develop.” You can develop your mind in any situation.Don’t think that the important insights are going to come only when you’re sitting with your eyes closed.

Source : http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/meditations4.html#walking

“The Joy of Meditation and Not-Self”

“When I started to see, that my thoughts aren’t me, when I started to realize that I didn’t have to accept them, that is a freedom that is unmatched.”

“Identity View is a burden” – Buddha

Addressing Views and Clinging at the Source : Continued

“It’s a real feedback on our mindfulness practice also. We can tell if somebody’s mindfulness practice is working correctly when we see that he or she is getting less attached to views. This doesn’t mean not having any opinions or being utterly indecisive or unsure. It means that you can very clearly formulate your ideas and views, but you don’t hold on to them tightly. The open awareness that you have is then able to understand the other side. Somebody who is diametrically opposed to your views – you understand why he or she is saying that. You may even be able to appreciate the logic and coherence of their thinking. So beautiful. So powerful. And this is all because the hedonic investment in your views and opinions is something that you are consciously monitoring through awareness.”

We’re trying to be very inclusive – receptive and open. To allow for others to be different. To allow for racial differences, gender differences, differences in interest – allow people to be the way they are. That doesn’t mean that I have to be like them, but it does mean that there can be space for others to be the way they are. That’s the way out of discrimination, out of fundamentalism, out of dogmatism, and out of so many other evils. Very spacious and allowing, but at the same time also very clear and discerning. The two come together in that quality of being aware.

I can allow myself to step out of my position, put myself into your position, and look at the situation from your viewpoint. So fascinating. And that doesn’t mean that afterwards I can’t go back to my viewpoint – that I have somehow lost it for good just because for a moment I let go of it to explore the other position. I can still have my opinion, but I will also have a greater understanding of the whole situation. I now understand the situation from the opposite viewpoint. If I’m just holding on to my viewpoint, I’ll get a sort of tunnel view, like I’m wearing those blinders they put on horses, and everything that is different from my view has to be out – cut off. Not allowed.

– Bhante Analayo

Addressing Views and Clinging at the Source

“When we really work with feelings, we learn to hold views without clinging to them. And that is a huge issue. There is a part in the Suttanipāta – the Atthakavagga – which is very famous for a lot of beautiful, poetic expressions of not holding on to any views. Some scholars think that this is different from the rest of the teachings, but other scholars have pointed out that this is not the case, and I agree with the latter.

The Atthakavagga highlights in a very powerful and poetic fashion what we also find in the discourses in the four Nikāyas, namely the need to be detached with respect to one’s own views. Which does not mean having just no view. The point at stake is not to rest in silence with whatever happens and pretend to be a transcendental vegetable. The point at issue is to be able to express one’s opinion and view without holding on to it, to be able to allow space for the views of others, and even more so to allow for the possibility that MY view might not be correct.

So what the Atthakavagga and other such passages show is that you can have your opinions and views without investing your identity and happiness into them. If you don’t “invest” in your views, you don’t have to hold on to them so tightly. You can be more objective about them – less dogmatic – less influenced by this Myside Bias. Then it might be actually possible for you to emotionally handle the fact that your opinion might not be correct. You can allow for that possibility. That is such a huge difference. And this is so important. And it’s something that I find is not often enough emphasized.”

– Bhante Analayo

Mental Health and Dhamma Teachers

I wanted to broach what I consider to be an important topic with regards to those who teach the dhamma(monks and lay persons).
For many reasons, most of them unfounded, people tend to put a lot of stock in someone who is considered a dhamma teacher, whether in robes or not. They put them on a pedestal, often as someone “higher” and “wiser”. They will ask them about the most important life questions and, due to human nature, wish to have someone “more wise then them” who can tell them what is best to do in their own lives.
This is best represented in a funny Ajahn Brahm line where he says ” people always ask monks about all kinds of life problems, even marriage, why are you asking me about marriage.. I’m a monk!”
For those of us who are put up on the pedestal to answer these questions, it can be quite the dangerous position, because a person who is willing to give over agency to “someone wiser”, also gives over responsibility to them, so if advice goes wrong, who will be blamed?
Many vulnerable people come looking for wisdom to the dhamma, including those who have the whole range of mental health issues, from PTSD to Schizophrenia. Those who teach the dhamma need to make sure that they answer questions related to these issues with great care.
I’m not a mental health professional, and don’t have the qualifications to be one, but for almost a decade I worked with said professionals and people with every kind of mental health issue. I think this gives me a sensitivity towards this issue that most would not have. When I hear a dhamma teacher be dismissive and flippant with questions regarding mental health, it bothers me, because I understand the power said teachers have on vulnerable people.
A prime example of my point for this post was a year ago after being a Samanera barely a month, I did my first dhamma talk. At the end of that retreat I had a woman come up to me and talk to me. Throughout the course of the discussion I found out her mental health diagnosis, as well as her medications, and then was not all that surprised when the gist of the conversation was moving towards her looking for some kind of validation, from some guy in robes, to stop taking her medications and replace them with meditation….
From my experience I am well aware that often times medications for mental health issues can do more harm then help, they have unpleasant side effects, and most people dislike taking them, but even still a dhamma teacher needs to be very careful with this. I would say never ever go against the advice/care of professionals. You can add some dhamma in there, some advice and tips, but do it as something to be done IN CONJUNCTION with their clinical treatment.
One of the things I’ve learned is that it is OK, and actually PREFERABLE, to say ” i don’t know”. when it comes down to it, don’t feel like you have to give them some kind of answer, if you feel that what you say might be detrimental.
At the very least, those who teach dhamma need to be very vigilant to make sure that if we cannot help, we at least do no harm, and leave what is professional to the professionals.
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