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Entries in Theravada Buddism (11)

Tuesday
Feb182014

Just Do It

Photo by Layla Burford

Whether you’re learning to meditate or ride a bike, says Ajahn Jayasaro, it’s not about how good you are or how far you get. The point is simply to practice with a sincere and consistent effort. The results will take care of themselves.

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Tuesday
Feb182014

Forum: Your Teacher and You

Thank you to our readers for contributing the photos included in this forum.

Thank you to our readers for contributing the photos included in this forum.

Your relationship with your teacher can have a profound and lasting effect on your practice. But it can also be difficult and confusing to navigate. Our panel looks at what it means to have a teacher today, how you can make the most of the relationship, and what you can do when it’s not working out.

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Tuesday
Feb182014

As Human As You Are

We want our teachers to practice what they preach, but when we look closely, they can seem just as flawed as the rest of us. Sumi Loundon Kim discovers for herself what’s so special—and so ordinary—about being the teacher.

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Tuesday
Feb182014

It All Depends

Milky Way (installation, detail) by Mihoko Ogaki, 2008

Reality may seem solid, says Bhikkhu Bodhi, but it is merely a reflection of unstable, conditioned processes, or sankharas, coming together with no one in charge. The Buddha's teachings on sankhara reveal how this works.

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Thursday
Sep012005

In Translation: The Inexhaustable Dhammapada

The Buddha taught a path of liberation. To understand his teachings is to understand how to walk that path. Though he described it as an ancient pathway, hidden and forgotten until he rediscovered it, it remains as relevant today as it was in his time, 2,500 years ago.

By far the most popular text teaching how to walk this path is the Dhammapada, a collection of verses from the earliest period of Buddhism in India. I was introduced to this sacred text when my first Zen teacher gave me my first copy. In the twenty-five years since receiving that gift, I have read and reread the Dhammapada many times. I have found its teachings to be direct, wise, and inspirational. The verses point to a possibility of peace and freedom that I find breathtakingly simple in its profundity.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

The Problem of Personality

Most of us are very committed to ourselves as personalities. The habit of viewing ourselves as a person is deeply ingrained in us. In Pali, that is called sakkaya-ditthi, which can be translated as “personality-view” or “the ego.” It means that we regard the five khandhas (groups)—body, feelings, perceptions, conceptions, and consciousness—as belonging to this person, as making up our identity. In investigating the personality-view, we do not grasp on to the perception of “no person” either. It is possible to take the concept of anatta (no self) and grasp that, and say, “There’s no self because the Buddha said there’s anatta!” But in that case we’re still grasping a perception. Grasping a perception of yourself as a nonself gets to be a bit ridiculous.

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Tuesday
Mar012005

Theravada Practice Off the Cushion

For anyone dedicated to a spiritual path, the concern that recurs most often is how to keep one’s daily activities in line with one’s highest aspirations. Special religious activities may punctuate the calendar to give energy to this daily quest, but the basic issues of any spiritual life are shaped by the need to ensure that the particulars of one’s day-to-day decisions don’t run counter to one’s larger vision of a life well-lived.

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Tuesday
Mar012005

See Things Clear Through

It’s important that we discuss the steps of the practice in training the mind, for the mind has all sorts of deceptions by which it fools itself. If you aren’t skillful in investigating and seeing through them, they are very difficult to overcome, even if you’re continually mindful to keep watch over the mind.

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Tuesday
Mar012005

Peace Is More Than Not Fighting

When I walk into Vishva Niketan, the “Universal Abode of Peace,” I encounter camera and lighting gear all around its pavilion. They are trained on the man I’ve come to meet—the founder, ideologue and illustrious spokesman of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka. Dr. Ariyaratne, I am told, is being interviewed by national TV; please wait.

Back outside the pavilion, I slowly make my way through the lush surroundings, up and down paths with names like Karuna Path (“Path of Compassion”). Vishva Niketan was built to serve as a space for dialogue and peacemaking, but it has the air and function of a meditation center. This dual role is typical of the Sarvodaya movement’s belief that nothing substantial can be achieved without the compassionate outlook and mindfulness cultivated by meditation.

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Wednesday
Dec012004

The Benefits of Walking Meditation

At our meditation retreats, yogis practice mindfulness in four different postures. They practice mindfulness when walking, when standing, when sitting and when lying down. They must sustain mindfulness at all times in whatever position they are in.

The primary posture for mindfulness meditation is sitting with legs crossed. But because the human body cannot tolerate this position for many hours without changing, we alternate periods of sitting meditation with periods of walking meditation. Since walking meditation is very important, I would like to discuss its nature, its significance, and the benefits derived from its practice.

The practice of mindfulness meditation can be compared to boiling water. If one wants to boil water, one puts the water in a kettle, puts the kettle on a stove, and then turns the heat on. But if the heat is turned off, even for an instant, the water will not boil, and if one continues to turn the heat on and off, the water will never boil. In the same way, if there are gaps between the moments of mindfulness, one cannot gain momentum, and so one cannot attain concentration. That is why yogis at our retreats are instructed to practice mindfulness all the time that they are awake—from the moment they wake up in the morning until they fall asleep at night. Consequently, walking meditation is integral to the continuous development of mindfulness.

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