February Newsbyte

 

February  NEWSBYTE

 

Dear Friends

 

 

I hope this Newsbyte  finds you all well and happy!

A full description of courses on the website.

Click: Calendar 2016

 

All Past Tips

Tip o’ the Day

Friends on the Path

Noirin

 

Diary

I’m on retreat till mid-March. I have pasted below an essay by Noirin around Good Friendship.

Announcement: See calendar below of Assistant places.

Scroll down to Resident Assistant.

Karuna Book: Every morning at puja we call the names of those who a sick /dying or having a hard time. 

Mudita Book: Every evening at puja we call the names of those who have something to rejoice about.

The Complete Calendar for 2016

Assistants Needed

N.B. All the courses are serviced by assistants.

As an assistant, we do not expect payment of the deposit because you have kindly offered your time.

And as usual any dana by you is entirely in your gift.

However, your commitment is essential, for the course would be very difficult to run without an assistant and may indeed have to be cancelled.

 

If you are interested, follow this link: Course Assistant

 

For info. about Retreats and teachers see website www.satipanya.org.uk

See drop down menus: especially About Us, Teachings and Retreats

 

Would you like to come and assist on a course?

Scroll down to see where we need you.

 

All Retreats run by Bhante Bodhidhamma

unless otherwise stated

Click on names for bio.

New Year Retreat

09 -17 January

Assistant: Jim Tibby

The usual schedule and format – see website.

  

Day Retreat

Assistant : Needed

Kick Start/Top up

Sat. 12 March

Arrive 09.30. Finish 17.00

Please bring food to share.

 

Easter Mahasi Retreat

Assistant : Jim Tibby

Sat. 19 March – Sun 03 April

The usual schedule and format – see website.

 

Mahasi Retreat

 Guus Went

Assistant : Needed

Sat.09 – Sat. 16 April

‘Sayadaw U Pandita's definition of Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the observing power of the mind, which clearly and simply experiences an object, without reacting to it. We start actively to develop this power with the body as primary object. That makes it possible not to get fully entangled in the hindrances and to come to know something about them. Sitting meditation, walking meditation and daily activities are fully equal in importance. Gradually we come to know other objects of meditation, both internally and externally.’

 

 Contemplative Vesakha Retreat

Celebrating the Life of the Buddha

Assistant : Needed

Sat. 23 -April – Sun. 01  May

Usual Mahasi schedule

with option to reflect and read.

 Taking Refuges and Precepts Ceremony

On Saturday 30 April

Please bring veggie food to join us for communal lunch at noon.

Ceremony starts 13.30

Talk: Where there’s suffering, there’s the end of it.

 

Mahasi Weeklong Retreat

Noirin Sheahan

Assistant : Needed

Sat. 07 – Sun. 15 May

The usual schedule and format – see website.

 

Mahasi Weeklong Retreat

Sat. 21 – Sun.29 May

Noirin Sheahan

Assistant : Needed

The usual schedule and format – see website.

 

Mahasi Weeklong Retreat

Noirin Sheahan

Assistant : Needed

Sat. 18 – Sun. 26 June

The usual schedule and format – see website.

 

Summer Mahasi Retreat

Assistant : Needed

Eleven week roll-on, roll-off Retreat.

Minimum stay eight nights.

Start dates: Saturdays:-

02 & 16 & 30 July; 13 & 27 Aug. 10 Sept.

Finishing Sun. 18  Sept

N.B. Start restricted to listed Saturdays.

Alternate Sun. possible for Mahasi devotees.

A challenging Retreat easily modified for beginners.

See Beginner’s Testimonials on website.

You are encouraged to stay for more than one week.

Assistants : Needed

Starting and ending on following Saturday.

02 – 16 July : Matthias Wicki

16 July – 30 July : Assistant : Needed

30 July – 13 August : Assistant : Needed

13 – 27 August: Assistant : Needed

27 August – 10 September: Assistant : Needed

10 – 18 (Sunday) September: Assistant : Needed

 

Sangha Day : Ninth Anniversary

Saturday 17 September

Please bring veggie food to join us for communal lunch at noon.

Ceremony starts 13.30

Talk: To be announced.

 

Mahasi Two Week Retreat

Sat. 24 Oct.  – Sun. 09 October

Noirin Sheahan

Preference given to those who want to stay two weeks.

Assistant : Needed

The usual schedule and format – see website.

 

Day Retreat

Saturday 15 October

Local Assistant : Needed

Carl Fooks

 Kick Start/Top

Arrive 09.30. Finish 17.00

Please bring food to share.

 

Weekend Retreat 

Fri. 21 – Sun. 23 p.m. October

Carl Fooks

Assistants : Needed

See usual  Schedules

 

Autumn Mahasi Retreat

29 Oct. – 20 Nov.

Bhante Bodhidhamma

Assistant(s) : Needed

Preference is given to those who wish to stay for the full three weeks.

The usual schedule and format – see website.

 

Day Retreat

Kick Start/Top up

Saturday 03 December

Local Assistant : Needed

Arrive 09.30. Finish 17.00

Please bring food to share.

 

Xmas Retreat

Fri. 23 – Tues. 27 December

Assistant : Needed

N.B. This retreat is reserved for those who have completed a Retreat as Satipanya.

The first day will be a normal retreat schedule though we shall rise at 5.30.

An opportunity to make it a day of fasting

in solidarity with the one in nine people undernourished and starving.

The second day, Xmas Day, is a contemplative day

looking at the qualities of gratitude, renunciation and generosity.

During a group event, you will be asked to speak 

about an event which manifests the goodness of mankind.

The third day is communal. There is a walk – weather permitting.

Xmas menu will be close to the traditional veggie fare - a set menu!

 

New Year Retreat

Thurs. 29 December to Mon. 02 January

Assistant : Needed

 N.B. This retreat is reserved for those who have completed a Retreat as Satipanya.

The first day will be a normal retreat schedule though we shall rise at 5.30.

An opportunity to make it a day of fasting

in solidarity with the one in nine people undernourished and starving.

On the second day, the Eve, we will see in the New Year.

During a group event, you will be asked to tell us about an event which has had a effect upon you - international, national or local or personal.

We hope to have a bonfire.

A day to reflect on the past year, plenty of time to oneself.

Retreatants will be asked to say a little about an virtuous event chosen by them.

The third day, New Years Day, is communal with a walk – weather permitting.

 

Friends on the Path

Several times, the Buddha spoke of the importance of having good friends to encourage us along our spiritual journey. He places it as the main condition for spiritual development: "With regard to external factors, I don't envision any other single factor like friendship with admirable people as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the heart's goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from bondage. A monk who is a friend with admirable people abandons what is unskilful and develops what is skilful."

So cherish the friends you see about you today! It’s only in hindsight that we see the importance of various influences in our lives. I found a meditation group when I was about thirty. Although there were long periods when I put other things first and let go of the practice, the fact that the group itself stuck together made it possible for me to come back. I’m very grateful to the others for holding it together during my absence. So every bit of energy you put into maintaining this group is worthwhile – for others as well as yourself. At times you might sense the meetings as a refuge from the troubles of the bigger world. Other times, it may seem a chore – maybe someone in the group irritates you; or you don’t feel you’re getting much from the meetings and could practice just as well at home. But these times are just as important. Any relationship has its ups and downs and will only survive if you see it through both extremes.

And if you have a long journey getting here and back, don’t forget to give yourself an extra pat on the back for that. I remember Bhante Bodhidhamma saying that in his early meditation days he had to put a full evening aside for the weekly group meeting as it meant traveling across Birmingham city. But as he looked back, he saw that making this large space in his life fuelled his commitment to the practice. So it’s all included – the journey here, the time and effort you took to make food for the meal today, clearing up afterwards, saying ‘no’ to other requests for your time this morning, budgeting for dana – all of those are clocking up to strengthen your spiritual resolve.

When we think of spiritual friendship it’s important to distinguish this from attachment. Attachment makes things sticky. We want our friends to be just the way we like them – in good humour, happy to see us, interested in what we’re saying, agreeing with our opinions. When one of these isn’t happening, we feel insecure, wondering did we do something wrong.

 

But how are we to prevent the natural urge to want friendship to run smoothly? How can we not become attached to those we value and love?  According to Buddhist psychology, attachment is a consequence of desire, which itself is based on feeling. Because we feel good when our friends are in good humour and agree with our opinions, we want them always to be in good humour and to agree with our opinions. The desire to keep things fixed in this way extends little sticky tendrils to our thoughts.  “She’s my friend … I can always rely on her support”. We don’t usually register these thoughts consciously and so we don’t challenge them. Instead we let them build up rosy pictures of our friendships, and a cosy sense of security in our shared beliefs. Our identity becomes dependent on our relationship with our friends and the assumption of shared beliefs This is attachment. And it leads to dukkha: even a minor disagreement can leave us feeling devastated.

 

If we think too much about the perils of attachment, we become afraid of friendship – even spiritual friendship. We might shoot off home straight after the meditation.  We want to forget about the human element of the Dhamma. But it’s through gatherings like these that the Dhamma forged its way into human history. It all started with the Buddha seeking out his former spiritual companions and finding ways to describe to them what he had come to know and trust as the path to the end of suffering. Other seekers gathered around this first Sangha and when sixty had become fully enlightened, the Buddha told them to disperse so as to spread the Dhamma far and wide: “Go now and wander for the benefit, welfare and happiness of gods and men. Do not any two go together …”. Thus, in little gatherings like our own one here, the Buddha’s vision was handed down through the generations, and spread across the globe to reach us about 2,500 years later in AppleTree, Dublin 4, on a Saturday morning!

 

So the human, interactive element of the Dhamma is vital. And yet, this provides the arena for all our attachments to manifest – liking one person, disliking another, getting hurt, falling in love, blowing our top, feeling ashamed and all the other ways our nearest and dearest show us that we aren’t fully enlightened!  How can we disentangle the knot?  If desire is at the root, is it possible to let go of desire? But how can we make friends unless we want to make friends? Come to that, how can we do anything unless we want to do it?

 

There is a sutta which explores this conundrum. A Brahmin goes to the park where Ananda is staying, to ask how we can abandon desire. Ananda answers: “ … a bhikkhu develops the basis for spiritual power … due to desire and volitional formations of striving … “ (‘Volitional formations of striving’ means the various ways we get ourselves to achieve something – encouraging ourselves, resolving, thinking about the goal etc.).

 

Note that Ananda uses the words desire and striving when describing the way to abandon desire!    This doesn’t escape the Brahmin who points out this contradiction.  He argues that one cannot abandon desire by means of desire itself. That’s going round in circles. But Ananda gets him to reflect on his own experience in to see that the method does indeed work:  “Did you earlier have the desire, ‘I will go to the park’, and after you went to the park, did that desire subside?”     “Yes sir.”   He goes on to ask the same about all the other ‘volitional formations of striving’ – arousing energy, resolving, thinking about why he wanted to go to the park etc. The Brahmin agrees that he aroused all these in order to get himself to the park, but they subsided quite naturally when he got there.  

 

“It is exactly the same, Brahmin, with a bhikkhu who is an arahant, whose taints are destroyed, who has lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached his own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, and is completely liberated through final knowledge. He earlier had the desire for the attainment of arahantship, and when he attained arahantship, the corresponding desire subsided. Ananda then goes on to say the same of all the efforts that are made to achieve the goal of our spiritual life – they all subside once we reach the goal. With that the Brahmin is completely won over. 

 

So long as our intention to follow the path, the desires that drive us and the various ways we strive to fulfil these are not a problem. They will fall away of their own accord when we reach our goal.  Becoming attached to our Dhamma group and the friends we make within it, are all a consequence of our spiritual desire. But no need to worry - mindfulness will sort out the sticky, sore, distressing aspects of attachment from the genuine goodwill at its core.   Mindfulness will show us when our desire has strayed into worldly pursuits like wanting to be popular, wanting to dominate, wanting things our way. These desires can never be satisfied, they grow into addictions that end up making us miserable. The only remedy is not to enact them. But the desire to contribute to the discussion, to help organise the meeting, chat and be friendly to whoever comes – these are all related to the underlying desire to follow the path, We need to nurture all of these.

 

It’s a gradual path, and an important part of this is replacing less skilful attachments with more skilful ones. For example when I first started practicing I used to smoke and drink, and party but gradually over the years these lost their appeal. I remember one year, thinking about what I would do for my holiday, and realising the only thing I really wanted was a two-week retreat. But it took courage not to go on a conventional holiday – what would my friends think of me? How could I say ‘no’ to the people I usually went on holiday with? Somehow that transition happened and now people around me expect me to go on retreat and I’d be embarrassed to tell them I’d gone on a conventional holiday instead!

 

So things change – and that’s one of the fundamental truths of our life that the Buddha asks us to consider deeply – the truth of anicca or transience. They can change for the better – as in my getting slowly more and more embedded in this spiritual path and my new friendship group. But there were losses along the way – the friends I used to go partying and holidaying with for example. I don’t see so much of them now.

 

I no longer miss the activities – the drinking and smoking and partying, but the fact that I’m no longer part of the group. They used to be central to my life. They were part of me you could say.  One part of my identity has disappeared.  This points to another aspect of life that the Buddha asks us to reflect on – the whole business of identity. There is nothing in this world that we can properly identify with, and if we try to identify with anything, we suffer because it will eventually change. In Pali the word is anatta – often translated as not-self.  If we identify with our youth and beauty, we suffer in middle age and beyond as it fades. If we identify with being a great cook, what happens if a better cook comes to stay with us? We might put a brave face on it, smile at their delicious dishes, but to the extent that we saw cooking as ‘my role’ in the household, we have been displaced, and might feel quite threatened. We might be quietly hoping the dinner will burn and the soufflé flop and the cream curdle!

 

These are the three interrelated truths that the Buddha asks us to consider: anicca (meaning transience), dukkha (meaning stress, distress, unsatisfactoriness, suffering etc) , and anatta (meaning the world offers nothing we can truly rely upon and call our own – it offers us no true identity). Because everything changes, we cannot identify with anything without suffering when that change occurs. The challenge is to find an escape from the futility of worldly attachments. And the Buddha assures us again and again that we can escape from our limited sense of identity to find a state of perfect contentment and peace.

 

Let’s go back again to my attachment to my old friends. How can the Dhamma help me with that? I can investigate my experience – live in the body as I think of these friends and what they mean to me. There might be pleasant feelings as I think of old times. Physical knots of tension may develop as I admit that this is all in the past, that I’ve lost the level of intimacy with them I once enjoyed. Sometimes, acknowledgment brings acceptance. Then I feel a more genuine metta for my friends, wishing them well in their lives, so separate now from mine.

 

It’s important to stress again that attachment doesn’t mean love. Attachment is the sticky aspect of relationships – where we have all kinds of hidden and barely conscious expectations of ourselves and others which inevitably lead to distress and misunderstandings. Undermining attachment frees up the pure love at the core of friendship.

 

Let’s end by bringing this back to the here and now. Here we are, on a Saturday morning with our friends on the path. Let’s take full advantage of our natural desire to belong to a group of likeminded people, all of us engaged in a path that develops our deepest human potential. If the desire to belong to this group and this noble endeavour leads to attachment and its consequent dukkha, we can embrace this as the First Noble Truth: that life involves suffering and therefore  we need to understand the nature of suffering.

 

There may be some people here you naturally warm to, others you feel more wary of, some you barely know. See can you feel the various pushes and pulls in your body and emotions as you think about people and interact with them.  It’s all fine – we don’t have to be the perfectly loving person we all wish we were. Our job is to know ourselves just as we are – now happy and friendly, now withdrawn and sullen, now eager to please, now too confused to know how we feel about anyone or anything. All states are perfectly OK – we are witnessing the natural business of being human. Each momentary appearance needs your willing acknowledgement before it fades into silence.

 

Let’s spend a few minutes in silence now, opening ourselves to both the pleasure and the pain of spiritual friendship as we appreciate the group support and commit ourselves to these friends who share our path to the end of suffering.

Noirin Sheahan / Ayya Punnyanandi noirinsheahan@gmail.com

 

This talk was given in response to an invitation from the Irish Sangha Trust in January of this year, developed from an earlier one given at Sunyata Buddhist Centre a few years ago.

 

 

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Books:

Encouragements to Awakening : Books are now available from Wisdom Books.

This booklet is being kept at Wisdom Books who very generously will only charge you postage.

Towards the End of Forgiveness (Angulimala Monologue) ‘Sold out’, but can be downloaded from the website: Towards the End of Forgiveness

If you haven't been on Wisdom Book's website, it's worth exploring it. They are THE distributors of Buddhist books in UK. Type in Bodhidhamma in search box to find the books: Wisdom Books

Both are also available as PDF files for eReaders etc. Books

Finally, please forward this email if you know someone who may be interested. Thanks.

 

Metta

Onward 

Bodhidhamma

Away Calendar below

 

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SATIPANYA  BUDDHIST TRUST

www.satipanya.org.uk   

Directors - Rob Poleykett, Mike Regan, Dea Paradisos, Jim Tibby

Limited Company Number 05924965 Registered Charity Number 1116668

Satipanya, White Grit, Minsterley, Shropshire  SY5 0JN
T: 0044 (0)1588 650752  email: bodhidhamma@satipanya.org.uk  info: info@satipanya.org.uk

 

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