September 2017  -  Meditation Newsletter from Vipassanā Fellowship

"Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky ... question all these realities. All respond: 'See, we are beautiful.' Their beauty is a profession. These beauties are subject to change."   - Augustine of Hippo

Meditation Newsletter
Glacier Scatter, Iceland.

Our September online course begins soon

Vipassanā Fellowship's meditation course has been offered online for 20 years. The course runs for 10 weeks and our next session begins on September 16th. Do join us.

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.

Meditation can be joyful! It is sometimes approached as a heartless, mechanical, activity - a daily chore to be endured at all costs through gritted teeth.This is simply the wrong approach. On this course we take the middle way and integrate what might be called both "heart" and "head" practices directly from the advice given in the Pāli Canon.

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 September 16th and ends on November 24th. Application details and further information is available here:

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

 

Parisā

Each month our Parisā 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. Parisā is a dispersed community of dedicated meditators around the world who have come together through engaging in one of Vipassanā Fellowship's 10 or 12 week meditation courses. If you recently finished one of our courses this is an excellent way to nurture your ongoing practice.

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

 

The Way to Peace and Harmony

By Hellmuth Hecker

 

 This is a Way, helpful and agreeable, which leads to Peace and Harmony. What is this Way? It is fourfold and consists of: Giving, Kind Words, Helpfulness, and Self-forgetfulness.

 

What is the Way of Giving?

 

Here a person is fond of sharing: he gives, makes presents, is generous, hospitable, magnanimous. Wherever he meets need and suffering he is ready to help. Wherever he can bring joy with a gift to someone, he gives it. His motive for giving is to alleviate want and to bring happiness. Giving makes him glad, makes him happy, fills his heart with joy. He is free from envy, ill-temper and avarice. People like him, enjoy his company. He is of good repute, his bearing invites confidence, his mind is serene and calm. He earns for himself merit and strength—even for a future life. He manages his affairs wisely, never becoming a burden unto others. He does not give blindly, he always considers time and circumstances when help is called for. The more his mind is filled with the spirit of giving, the more unselfish he becomes. Thus by caring for his fellow men he reaps the benefits of his own welfare. But soon he notices that this is not yet the perfect way to Peace and Harmony. And why is this? Because he discovers that, by giving alone, it is not always possible to make people happy. Strange to say, he finds himself at times with full hands -- empty-handed and with all his ardent endeavour to help—standing helpless. And what seems to be more disconcerting, he realizes that in a less generous mood, with a single harsh word he destroys the atmosphere of Peace and Harmony, which his gifts have helped to build up.

Thus the Way of Giving stimulates him to strive for deeper understanding of the plight of others, to be watchful over himself, to correct his own shortcomings.

 

What is the Way of Kind Words?

 

Here a person speaks kind words, is mild-mannered, gentle and sincere. What comes from the bottom of his heart touches other hearts. He will never hurt the feelings of anybody but rather try to remove misunderstandings and tensions among people. Kind words gladden him; harshness, cynicism and sarcasm he abhors. He knows that to relieve mental strain, kind words may prove more effective than gifts. An indifferent donor, even if not motivated by kindness, can be of great material help, but sweet words spoken without genuine feeling are nothing but empty sounds. And why is this? Because words spoken with true kindness reach beyond and go deeper than the ordinary range of words; they awaken response and understanding. To place oneself in the other’s position one must discard anger, irritation, and arrogance. The more the heart is filled with the spirit of kindness the more unselfish one becomes. Thus with a heart reaching out for the benefit of others he benefits his own welfare.

But soon he notices that this too is not the perfect way which leads to Peace and Harmony. And why is this? Because he finds that it is not always possible to make others happy by merely saying words of kindness and understanding. Or that any gain they bring is only of short duration. Furthermore he discovers that, in a less favourable mood, he destroys the Peace and Harmony of others by his impetuosity and thoughtlessness. Thus, the Way of Kind Words arouses an earnest longing in him to strive for deeper understanding of the plight of others and to correct his own shortcomings.

 

What is the Way of Helpfulness?

 

Here one helps others by giving good advice and counsel, well thought out, wise and useful, to the advantage and well-being of one’s fellow man. Whatever he speaks about is well considered. He warns others of paths leading to destruction and guides them to paths leading to happiness. He advises others how to avoid strife, idle gossip, vain arguments and noisy quarrels. He helps them to become self—reliant and less dependent on someone else’s assistance. The more he knows of things which lead to trouble and sorrow, the more he avoids them and the more convincingly he can talk to others. Thus he benefits his own welfare and the welfare of others. But soon he realizes that this is not yet the perfect way to Peace and Harmony. And why is this? Because he discovers that not even the best advice is followed and that one can only help in a limited way. Furthermore, he finds himself at times listless and cold, indifferent to the welfare of others. His manner becomes condescending and thus hurts the pride and self-esteem of others. As a result even his good counsel is not heeded, Peace and Harmony are shattered. Thus the Way of Helpfulness stimulates him to strive for deeper understanding of the afflictions of others and correct his own shortcomings.

 

What is the Way of Self-forgetfulness?

 

Here a person gives up all his thoughts about: “This is I, there are the others.” More and more he gives up pride, conceit and self-esteem. He does not think of himself as better than others but considers himself their equal. In thought, speech and action he serves in a kindly manner; open-minded, without reservation. He is ever ready to listen to the problems of others, is at their disposal, has time for them. He is not self-centred, he does not insist having his own way. In all his actions he manifests inner strength, modesty and humility. A better way, more helpful and agreeable, which leads to Peace and Harmony does not exist.

  

 

Source: BPS, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Excerpted from Wheel 74-5 (1964). For free distribution only.

Originally published in Wissen und Wandel, 8, No. 7

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Image: Glacier Scatter, Iceland. Photo by Cassie Boca on Unsplash

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