November 2016  -  Meditation Newsletter from Vipassanā Fellowship

"To transform the world, we must begin with ourselves: and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention. The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves or to bring about a modified change through revolution, either of the left or of the right. It is important to understand that this is our responsibility, yours and mine; because, however small may be the world we live in, if we can transform ourselves, bring about a radically different point of view in our daily existence, then perhaps we shall affect the world at large, the extended relationship with others."   - J. Krishnamurthi

Meditation Newsletter
São Francisco de Assis meditante (Brazil)

 

Register for our January Meditation Course

"I have learned so much over the past months and also realized that there is so much more to learn. This was a wonderful course." - S. from India (April 2016 session).

 

Vipassanā Fellowship's next meditation course begins in January and it will mark our 20th year of offering these online courses. Our New Year course runs for 10 weeks and begins on 14th January 2017  and registration for standard places is available.

The course is an opportunity to learn to meditate or to refresh and deepen an existing practice. We focus on developing a fruitful and sustainable meditation practice inspired by over 2,500 years of tradition but appropriate for today's lives in many cultural contexts. Many people have found it to be an inspiring and supportive way to begin a new year of practice.

The session serves as a practical introduction to samatha (tranquillity or serenity) and vipassanā (insight) techniques. Intended primarily for beginners - of any faith or none - the course is also suitable for experienced meditators who wish to explore different aspects of the tradition. The emphasis is on building a balanced meditation practice that is compatible with home life.

The course offers daily material for each of the 10 weeks, interaction between participants and support from the tutor. Participants also have access to audio guided meditations and chants to support the text. The course will be led by UK based meditation teacher Andrew Quernmore, a meditator with more than 35 years' experience.

The course begins on January 14th and ends on March 24th. Application details and further information is available here:

http://www.vipassana.com/course/

We will offer two similar 10 week courses later in 2017, beginning in April and September.

 

Parisā

Each month our Parisa members focus on a particular topic from the tradition. Over the year we cover practical meditation, cultural background and philosophical topics to help nourish our ongoing daily meditation practice. Parisa is a dispersed community of dedicated meditators around the world who have come together through engaging in one of Vipassana Fellowship's 10 or 12 week meditation courses.

http://www.vipassana.com/parisa/

 

Your Best Friend

By M.B. Werapitiya

 

When the Buddha announced that his demise would take place three months hence, Ananda, his chief attendant, implored him to appoint a successor to lead and protect the community of monks. The Buddha replied that he never entertained such an idea for, having relied upon himself alone to make an end to suffering, it became one’s own responsibility to steadfastly lead oneself with a mind well guarded. He continued, “Therefore, Ananda, be an island unto yourselves, a refuge unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge: with the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.” The Dhamma is the mind and not something hidden, secret, abstruse or as remote as the highest heaven where happiness for man is purported to abide at a future date. The whole range of perceptions, feelings and sensations such as desires, thirsts, triumphs, defeats, faiths and beliefs are founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. The mind, being the programmer and initiator of all human action, is supreme, though the choice rests with each individual to be a master or a slave, sinless or sinful, saved or condemned, wise man or fool. Positive thinking is the unfailing recipe for mental health and well-being, and a mind roused by alertness, earnestness, restraint and control over the sense faculties and the mind, is characterised by its wholeness, brilliance and clarity to comprehend forms and phenomena in their correct perspective. On the contrary, negative thinking brought about by sensual lust, sloth and torpor, restlessness, worry and doubt is afflicted and leads to paralysis, confusion and disarray.

Your intrinsic mind is your best friend who like your shadow never deserts you. It is a sturdy defender of morality, justice and righteousness. Should you have to plead your case for freedom, happiness and peace, the only competent court is your mind. Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another. Few there are with a little dust in their eyes to realise this fact, while the majority not willing to be examined or censured by their own minds lie buried under the debris of ignorance and groan and moan that all things are vexation of spirit and life a torment. Every bulletin of world news unfolds a shocking state of affairs in human society, of global conflicts, man’s inhumanity to man, infringement of basic human rights, all of which relegate man to sub-human levels. If every new day brings forth a new way of annihilating the human race, we have certainly got our thinking wrong and we have ourselves to blame that we have not lived in our minds but in all forms of mania.

To understand ourselves, we must live with ourselves and know all about ourselves. The mind for that matter is flickering, fickle, difficult to guard and control and flutters like a fish taken out of its watery abode and thrown upon the land. Somebody causes you hurt and although the aggressor has disappeared from sight, the hurt grows within you and every so often keeps surfacing with an overpowering intensity to give you a warp. Then again, you see something that has captured your attention and your mind has instantly photographed it from every conceivable angle with a see-through lens, developed it in your mental dark-room, brought out the prints and enlargements with the skill of an expert cameraman and processor rolled into one. Similarly, all the sense faculties and the mind are of high sensitivity and respond to anything and everything exciting. If the degree of excitement is not sufficiently satisfying, you step it up with the use of drugs, intoxicants and poisons. This activity goes on unabated and makes of you a human derelict. A wise person living in his mind protects himself holding himself dear. Such a person whose senses are subdued, whose pride is destroyed and is free from corruptions, is calm of mind, speech and action and rightly knows, and is perfectly peaceful and equipoised.

“Therefore by watchfulness discard desires; expel them, sail your ship; and cross the flood to safety’s haven on the further shore.

Source: BPS, Sri Lanka, Bodhi Leaves 90 (excerpt). For free distribution only.

 

Three Kinds of People

by Dr. Karl Seidenstücker

 

There are three kinds of people. Who are these three? Those who enjoy the world, those who abhor the world, and those who overcome the world.

Those who enjoy the world’s pleasures are the ones who with imperturbable optimism gorge themselves. They may be compared with the ox before the filled manger, disregarding the approaching butcher and persisting in full enjoyment of the food, until suddenly the butcher’s hand descends on his neck.

Those who abhor the world are the inveterate pessimists. They can be likened unto a man who sits down to the table hungry, filled with eagerness and appetite for the dainty food he expects. But when he uncovers the dish he sees carrion in it, ordure and loathsome vermin. His appetite changes into aversion, repugnance and disgust. Those who overcome the world are the ones who dwell in serene equanimity, those who have recognized that:

“The profane exists and the exalted exists. And there is a refuge beyond the world of the senses.”

They are like the soaring eagle, leaving behind the dreary plains, flying up into the endless sky, toward the stillness of its fathomless immensity.

Relatively speaking, aversion to the world ranges higher than worldly pleasure, but far higher stands the overcoming of the world in Holy Wisdom, Holy Conduct, Holy Equanimity.

Aversion to the world running counter against worldly pleasure can be good and wholesome if exercised in a period of transition and of short duration. As a permanent state of mind it is undesirable, leading nowhere.

The one who indulges in worldly pleasures sees reality through rose-coloured glasses. He who overcomes the world sees reality for what it is.

Pleasure and desire are Rati and Raga, the enchanting daughters of Mara, the king of death. He has a third, whose name is Arati, i. e. aversion or disgust. Beware against all three of them!

The so-called pessimists imagine that they have overcome the world. But the very loathing of the world, which fills them, proves that this is not true. For aversion, which is desire turned into its opposite, indicates that the one ridden with it expected to find something else, something better than he did find. Therefore the craving is still there, only hidden and suppressed. The former positive attraction has now become negative repulsion, but as passion it is by no means extinguished. The renunciation of such a person is not an overcoming; it does not lead to liberation, it is only the painfully and frustratingly felt necessity to abstain.

Now we come to those who say: “The world is a garden of delight. It must be fully enjoyed, there is nothing wrong in sensual pleasures.” They fall into one extreme, while those who declare the world to be loathsome fall into the other extreme. Here the Buddha proclaims the Middle Way, avoiding both these extremes and from which, in keeping with reality, the disciple visualizes:

“All the factors of existence, be they our own, or those of others, near or far away, of coarse or fine nature, are transitory, and what is transitory is a womb of pain. What is painful is anatta, what is anatta is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self.”

“Penetrating to the depth of this realization, the high-minded disciple will become weary of the six senses and their objects, which is the World. In becoming weary of them, he detaches himself from passion and in doing so, he becomes free. Having thus become free, he is fully awakened and exclaims: “the painful round of birth and death is exhausted, the Holy Life is lived, this world is no longer for me.”

This is the Middle Way, which avoids both the extremes of worldly pleasure and world-disgust. This is the overcoming of the world as taught by the Buddha. This is Holy Equanimity, a state of mind that keeps itself free from blinding passion, be it attractive or repulsive, positive or negative. Again, the disciple who is calm, collected and mindful can proclaim: “I neither desire World and Life nor do I abhor World and Life. However, I do know one thing with certainty: this whole world together with my organism, and this many-fold panorama called Life,—I am not this; this does not belong to me; this is not my self. Just as little as the dry leaves swept away by the scavenger belong to me and might be called myself.”

This is the state of the Enlightened Man; the world does not touch him any more; its weight does not crush him any more, because he has seen through it and found it empty.

Three kinds of people there are, it has been told: those who enjoy the world, those who abhor the world, and those who overcome the world. Would that every earnest seeker put this question to himself: “To which of these three classes of people do I belong?”

Source: BPS, Kandy, Wheel 74-5 (excerpt). For free distribution only.

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Vipassanā Fellowship Ltd. Registered in England No. 4730782. Newsletter copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Image: São Francisco de Assis meditante (Brazil)

Photo by Eugenio Hansen, OFS (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons (Edited/Remixed for this Newsletter)