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All experience is preceded by mind,

led by mind, made by mind.

Speak or act with a corrupted mind

And suffering follows

As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

 

All experience is preceded by mind,

led by mind, made by mind.

Speak or act with a peaceful mind

And happiness follows

Like a never departing shadow.

 

He abused me, attacked me, defeated me, robbed me.

For those carrying on like this hatred does not end.

She abused me, attacked me, defeated me robbed me.

For those not carrying on like this hatred ends.

 

Hatred never ends through hatred.

By nonhate alone does it end.

This is an ancient truth.

 

Many do not realize that we here must die.

For those who realize this

Quarrels end.

           –  The Dhammapada, Chpt I,  trans. Gil Fronsdal

 

May all beings be free from suffering and from the causes of suffering.

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Today, September 17, 2016, is the date chosen by the Alliance for Bhikkhunis to celebrate the establishing of the Bhikkhunī Order by the Buddha for female monastics. This year also marks the 2600th anniversary of the Bhikkhunī Saṅgha, according to Theravāda tradition, and events in observance are planned internationally throughout the year.

From the beginning of his teaching to the end of his life, the Buddha asserted the importance of establishing a Four-fold Assembly composed of female and male lay people and monastics. We are privileged to live in a time during which the Buddha’s original vision is being restored. Over the past twenty years, traditions in which the Bhikkhunī lineage had disappeared, been weakened, or was never established, are experiencing a resurgence of efforts to bring about full and equal participation of women in Buddhist monastic life.

You may like to celebrate International Bhikkhunī Day and the 2600th anniversary of the Bhikkhunī Saṅgha by learning a bit more about the women and men who have worked to bring about the renewal of the Bhikkhunī Sangha. The film “The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns” offers an inspirational telling of some aspects of this story. It is available for viewing at: http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/50345/The-Buddha-s-Forgotten-Nuns.

If you’d like to learn more about the monasteries where the contemporary renaissance of the Bhikkhunī Sangha is being nurtured, the Dhammadharini website is a good place to start exploring these pioneer communities. In addition to providing a window into the life of the Dhammadharini community of Buddhist nuns, the site offers many links to other Bhikkhunī communities and organizations.

In honor of the 6th International Bhikkhunī Day, you may take inspiration from reading some of the verses composed by Bhikkhunīs who lived during the time of the Buddha. A collection of 73 of these poems taken from the Therīgāthā, can be found online at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/thig/.

The following verses from The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha express the importance of the Four-fold Assembly in supporting the life of the Buddha’s teachings.

One who is competent and self-confident,
learned, an expert on the Dhamma,
practicing in accord with the Dhamma,
is called an adornment of the Saṅgha.

A bhikkhu accomplished in virtue,
a learned bhikkhunī,
a male lay follower endowed with faith,
a female lay follower endowed with faith:
these are the ones that adorn the Saṅgha;
these are the Saṅgha’s adornments.

© Bhikkhu BodhiThe Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, AN 4:7,  (Wisdom Publications, 2012).

On Monday, August 31st, the Eno River Buddhist Community’s Monday evening program will focus on the Buddha’s teachings on the five themes for frequent reflection. In addition to the regular sitting and walking meditation periods, there will be a Dhamma talk on the five themes as well as time for guided reflection and sharing around this practice. As always, newcomers and visitors are welcome.

In Chapter 5 of The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, the Buddha recommends that all his followers, whether a woman or a man, a householder or a monastic, often reflect on these five themes:

  • ‘I am subject to aging; I am not exempt from aging.’
  • ‘I am subject to illness; I am not exempt from illness.’
  • ‘I am subject to death; I am not exempt from death.’
  • ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’
  • ‘I am the owner of my kamma [actions], the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’

(AN 5:57; modified from Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012)

The five themes for frequent reflection represents one of the many teachings in the early discourses which supports of the development of samatha (tranquility) and vipassanā (insight). By regularly bringing attention to these five themes, we incline the mind towards seeing things clearly as they actually are and towards the stilling and letting go of clinging.

One way to structure a practice of reflecting on the five themes would be to set aside a specific time each day to read and consider them. You might consider questions such as the following: How do the statements offered by the Buddha match your own experience? What are your responses as you consider each statement? Do they bring up particular feelings, thoughts, images, associations? What is the relationship between the fifth theme and the other four statements?

Please bring photographs if you wish – Those who wish are encouraged to bring some photographs of yourself that were taken at different ages to the August 31st session. We will use the photos to create a table display in support of the evening’s reflections.

The August 31st program will be led by Callie Justice who is one of the Eno River Buddhist Community’s program and practice leaders. Please feel free to contact Callie if you have any questions about the plan for this Monday evening session at justice.callie@yahoo.com.

We’ve been studying and practicing the teachings on the four establishments of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna) on Monday evenings for the last several months. As we’ve done this, we’ve focused on the earliest form of this practice that can be gleaned by studying early Buddhist texts. Here are some resources if you would like to study this topic further or continue to develop your practice of it.

Callie and I have found Bhikkhu Anālayo’s work on satipaṭṭhāna to be especially helpful. He has compared the Pāli and Chinese versions of the “Discourse on Establishing Mindfulness” to clarify what is likely to have been the earliest form of this teaching. His article, Exploring the Four Satipaṭṭhānas in Study and Practice, is particularly helpful as a summary of how this approach can be applied as an integrated practice.

A guided meditation by Bhikkhu Analayo, leading one through all seven of the contemplations found in the earliest form of satipaṭṭhāna, is available on the Dharma Seed website.

For those wishing to explore this topic in depth, Ven. Anālayo’s book, Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna, is a detailed comparison of the Pāli and Chinese versions of this discourse. The book also discusses the implications of what emerges from this study and how to practice with it.

Callie and I have found these writings, as well as teachings on this topic given by Bhikkhu Analayo on his retreats, very valuable as we’ve looked into satipaṭṭhāna practice over the past year.

On Monday evenings at the Eno River Buddhist Community in June and July, we are investigating mindfulness of feelings (vedanā) – the second of the four Satipaṭṭhānas taught by the Buddha for cultivating Right Mindfulness.

Through guided meditations, Dhamma talks and discussion, we have the opportunity to become more attuned to the nature of our lived experiences related to feelings.  We learn to notice the pleasant, unpleasant (painful), or neither painful-nor-pleasant tone which the Buddha taught accompanies every experience.

Gradually, over time, we become more tuned-in to key understandings which support increasing tranquility and wisdom.  We see the ever changing nature of feelings.  We notice that pursuing happiness through grasping after ‘worldly’ pleasant feelings is always ultimately unsatisfactory.  We become increasingly able to cultivate pleasant feelings that are not based in greed, hatred or delusion (e.g., the feelings that accompany acts of generosity or practices such as loving-kindness meditation or the development of Right Concentration).  We loosen the tendency to identify with feelings as ‘self.’

Newcomers and visitors are always welcome at Monday evening practice sessions.  We value the opportunity to revisit previously discussed topics, and encourage participation for people at all levels of experience with the Buddha’s teachings.

For our summer program at ERBC, on the first and second Mondays of May through August we will draw on Dhamma talks by Bhikkhu Sujato on the theme of developing meditation practice. Supplementary readings from the suttas will be offered. There will be opportunities for discussion as well.

Bhante Sujato is an Australian monk and scholar, formerly abbot of Santi Forest Monastery, who was trained in the Thai Forest tradition. He is a primary teacher for the members of ERBC’s program committee.  We regularly draw from his online teachings as resources for planning programs.  We’re happy to offer samplings from these teachings to inform and inspire our Monday evening investigations in support of deepening the practice of meditation.

Many of Ven. Sujato’s Dhamma talks, in both audio and video form, can be found on the Dhammanet website. (Video versions of many of these talks are also posted on Dhammanet’s YouTube Channel.) The Santi Forest Monastery website has many talks by Bhante Sujato on their audio page, as well as his essays and books on their Santipada page.

Our beginning program in May drew from Bhante Sujato’s recent talk on the relationship between wholesome pleasure, or happiness (sukha), and the development of concentration or jhāna.

Last Monday evening Callie led a guided loving-kindness (mettā) meditation. The approach to developing mettā that she drew on comes largely from a method taught by Bhikkhu Sujato.

Those who would like to hear Bhante Sujato guide mettā meditation in this way will find an audio recording of it at: http://www.dhammanet.org/unconditional-love-part-2.

To listen to his series on this theme go to: http://www.dhammanet.org/dhammatalks/unconditionallove. Many more of his Dhamma talks can be found at: http://www.dhammanet.org/.