July 2018  -  Meditation Newsletter

from Vipassanā Fellowship

"A man who is always remaining in the light will not have any idea of light. Our knowledge is by way of contrast. We know light in its relation to darkness, and darkness in its contrast with light.” - Sadhu Ittyavirah


Meditation Newsletter

Heron by Joseph Greve (via Unsplash)


Through Calm to Insight


Vipassanā Fellowship's meditation course has been offered online for over 20 years.


The course runs for 10 weeks and our next session begins on September 29th 2018. It is a great way to explore the joy of a steadily developing meditation practice. 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 or refresh a dedicated meditation 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 29th and ends on December 7th. Application details and further information is available here:




2018 Courses Announced



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.




The Buddha's Two Voices

by Bhikkhu Sīlācāra


As a profound thinker, as the most profound thinker the world has ever known, the Buddha had two ways of speaking to people. At one time he would address them in words that expressed the utmost depth of his knowledge. At other times he would tell them simple things within the compass of their ready understanding, in words that were taken from the ordinary speech used among themselves. In both modes of speech, he spoke what was true. But in the former mode he spoke what was final, ultimate truth and fact; in the latter mode, what was true for the people and the time to and in which he spoke.


The anattā-doctrine is a specimen of the former mode of speech. Here, speaking what is finally and ultimately true, the Buddha said that there are in the universe no entities anywhere, neither in mind nor in matter. He said that all seeming entities, whether material or mental, are only momentary expressions of energy, varying from moment to moment, never constant, ever changing, somewhat as an electric bulb light is not a fixed entity but an ever-renewed, from-moment-to-moment maintained display of electric energy. This is a scientific fact, or is well on the way to be demonstrated so. It has long been a philosopher’s belief when philosophers have turned their minds to the consideration of what so-called “matter” really is. When they have done so, when they have analysed the data on which is founded the common belief in any solid entity made of what is called “matter,” they have found that the only evidence for its existence is that of our senses, and of the deductions drawn therefrom. Principally the latter; and upon close consideration indeed, have found that it is wholly the latter.


We receive various sense-impressions through all our various senses, and from these deduce the existence of something which originates these impressions, which sends them to our senses. But on close analysis, we find that this is a pure deduction, a simple inference, and nothing else. All we are quite sure about is the impression on our senses, but of nothing more. But what makes an impression on our senses is an energy, a force. Hence all we can be sure about is that we have around us all the time a variety of forces or energies playing upon us, and that these, in sum, make up what we call the universe. Hence, when people came to the Buddha, as they did, and asked him: “Is the world limited or is it limitless? Is the world eternal or is it not eternal?,“ the Buddha had nothing to say to them in reply. Why not? Was it, as some prejudiced critics who ought to know better have suggested, and in fact have plainly said, because “he did not know”? Indeed it was not. The Buddha here simply followed the age-old method of the polite East in abstaining from calling attention to the ignorance of his interlocutor which made him ask such a question, by simply saying nothing. For, in asking such a question, the questioner assumed, implied, took for granted, something which the Buddha, as a profound thinker, as the profoundest thinker in the world at that time or any time before or since, did not admit, namely, that there was then in existence a “world,“ in the sense in which his questioner used the word, as a definite concrete entity. The questioner was asking a question about ultimate truth and fact: and since in ultimate truth and fact, the Buddha did not recognise the existence of such a “world” as his questioner was assuming to exist when he put the question, the Buddha could do nothing but keep silence. And the questioner of those days knew quite well what that silence meant, even if some of our modern critics do not know, or pretend not to know. He knew that what the Buddha was saying by that silence was this: “You ask a foolish question which you have no right to ask, for you ask me about the history of something which now, at this moment does not exist, for me, in truth and fact. How then can I say anything about whether it is limitless or eternal or anything else, any more than I can tell you if the third horn of a buffalo is limitless or eternal. There is no third horn of a buffalo. But I forbear from putting you to shame before all these listeners around by pointing out to you that simple fact which, as a pretended enquirer after ultimate truth and fact, you ought to know; and so I preserve a silence that is only meant to be kind.“


When, however, the Buddha is asked a question about the world which is not concerned with ultimate truth and fact, but with practical every-day life, as lived at the moment by the person asking him the question, then he says: “There is a world, and you have a good deal to do in order to find your proper place therein, and make proper use of your stay there. There is a world; and there is a beyond-the-world; and I have to show you how you may make your way from the one to the other.”


But this world the Buddha believes in and deals with—and with no other kind of world does he deal—is the world of men’s feelings and perceptions and mentations and consciousnesses, the world that is immediately present to every mother’s son of us, the world that none of us, even the most sceptical, can ever possibly doubt, the world that is contained within this “fathom-long mortal frame,” our body. Here is the world the Buddha knows of and tells about; and it is the real world, in contradistinction to that other world supposed to lie outside us, as sole proof of whose existence we have nothing but deduction and inference. With this real world within us the Buddha deals in the most comprehensive and minute fashion in a psychology which makes most of what passes for that science in the West seem mere childish groping and fumbling. He shows how to deal with every one of its phases and permutations with a detail that might take the most diligent student of its intricacies all his life to master, and even then have still something to learn. But the main purpose of all that minute tabulation is quite easily grasped. As said, it is simply a method of bringing that world to an end, and allowing to supervene that other state which takes its place when place is made for it, Nibbāna. This Nibbāna is not caused, not originated, does not have any beginning. It simply makes its presence known when all that is opposed to it is removed. And what is opposed to its manifestation is the whole complex congeries of feelings and emotions and thinkings which make up that world, a human being. These removed, without anything further, Nibbāna is present. And that is the end of all evolution, the topmost height to which man can reach. With the ceasing of all self-referred feelings and thinkings and imaginings and consciousnesses, there goes on a life that is lived as a result only of past causes set in motion, like a top to which no further spinning motion is imparted, but still keeps on spinning only from the motion already given it in the past. And when that motion is all exhausted, then comes the real “death,“ the ceasing of all these externally perceptible feelings, and so on, in a sense-perceptible physical body; and the secret of what lies beyond remains a secret, and must always remain one, to those who still remain on this hither side of that mystery. By the very fact of our position in this world, doing all our thinking with brains belonging to this world— since, what other brains have we got to think with?—it is quite impossible to state what that ultimate state, Nibbāna is, in words of this world.


Some, indeed, attempted to find out from the Buddha himself. They enquired, in their artless innocence—artless and innocent of the tremendous difference between the Conditioned and the Unconditioned—“Does the Arahant exist after death? Or does he not exist?” And just as to the artless and innocent question regarding the existence of the world implied in the questions as to its limitlessness and eternity, so here also the Buddha replied with kindly silence. He forbore to expose to shame the ignorance of his interlocutor by pointing out that even now there is no actual Arahant in the sense in which the questioner assumed there was one, but only a series of manifestations of kamma-energy, displaying themselves from moment to moment to our physical senses and that to ask after what happens after death to something that does not exist now is simply a display of miscomprehension which a kindly person can only treat with kindly silence, such as any decent person practises when some blunderer commits a bad faux pas in conversation, in a company.


For, to come to a thinker like the Buddha and ask such a question after he had been going about for years trying to let men see that in ultimate truth and fact—in which alone he was interested, and which he sought to impart to as many as were ripe to learn it of him—there are no entities called men, but only manifestations of kamma-energy, was something so stupid that in any one lesser than a Buddha, it would have been excusable if he burst out into annoyed protest at it, and at its propounder.


But this truth that there are no entities called men, it is well to note, is an ultimate, final truth, spoken to thinkers and analysts and philosophers. When speaking to common men, the Buddha said: “There is such an entity as a man. You all know it and feel it. And I know it and feel it with you. You are not the same man that you were ten years ago: and yet you are not another man. You are not me. I am not you. What that man of ten years ago was, makes the man you are today just what he is, and not otherwise. And going still further back than ten years of this present lifetime of yours, what you are ten hundred years ago you are not today, and yet you are not another person altogether. What you were ten hundred years ago makes you what you are today, just as you are, so, not otherwise, distant from me and from others around you. And further—and take good heed of this!—what you are today will go to make you what you will be ten years after this, and ten hundred years after this. There is no break in the stream of kammacausation anywhere. There is no break between the man of this moment and the man of ten minutes, or ten months, or ten years, or of ten lifetimes ago. It is all one unbroken chain of happening. And all my teaching is to show you how to bring to an end all happening, to produce the one sole real break there ever is in this chain of kammacausation, the break which is its final break, its final ceasing, Nibbāna. This last is the only real death there is. What is ordinarily called death is only a passing on to another state in this or some other world. It is not a ceasing, but only a change. But what I would teach you, is how to arrive at the ceasing of all this change, and the final, ultimate attainment of the Changeless.”


Thus the Buddha has two voices. When speaking to philosophers and thinkers, he says there is no world, in the vulgar acceptation of the world. But when speaking to the common man of every-day life, he says: “There is a world, and you have to find deliverance from it; and I will show you how.” When speaking to philosophers and thinkers he says there is no such entity as a man. But when speaking to the ordinary every-day person, he says: “There is a man; and you, that man, have to gain freedom from that world.”


How resolve these antimonies? In the only way in which all antimonies of thought have to be resolved—by action. The end of man is not a thought but a deed, as was said years ago by the Western philosopher, Goethe, and after him by Carlyle. And so was said the Buddha, in effect, twenty-five hundred of years before them, in another era and on another continent, Asia, the old mother-continent of all wisdom and knowledge of higher and deeper things. His teaching is the teaching of a Way, of a deed, of a doing. In the following of that Way or Method or Path lies the solution of all the seeming contradictions of the thought, or expression of thought, by which he accompanied his teaching of his Way. Thus the final lesson of Buddhism, its only lesson ultimately, is: Follow the Way, Tread the Path. Everything else is subsidiary to that, leads to that, or, leads to nothing, but a wild waste of warring words, in which men may flounder for ever as in the morass. But out of that jungle, that thicket, that snare, that jungle of words and opinions and views they may, if they will, find a way on to firm ground, the firm ground of the Noble Eightfold Path shown by him, a Path that leads to that other firm solid ground, the ultimate, highest end open to him, complete deliverance from the very possibility of views and opinions, in the attainment of the one final, ultimate certainty, Nibbāna.




Source: BPS Bodhi Leaves 80 (excerpt), Kandy, Sri Lanka.  For free distribution only. Originally published in the Buddhist Annual of Ceylon, 1928.


Contemplative Living


The solitary is the one who has  learned by painful paths to live without props, the props supplied by other people, whether the props of self-affirmation, emotional support or the reassurance that one is going the right way. Even reliance upon the religious practices which at one time have provided such comfort must go. One leaves the broad green paths for those which are steep and rough. Only the emptiness, the no-thingness, is real.



Source: 'Paths in Solitude' by Eve Baker

This e-mail has been sent to , click here to unsubscribe.

Image: Heron photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash (edited for this newsletter)

Vipassanā Fellowship Ltd. Registered in England No. 4730782.

Newsletter copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved.