Meditation and Buddhism in the Summer

Hi there,

I hope that you are enjoying the hot weather and that it is not too much for you. Seems like it can’t make up its mind at the moment.

We have some great things coming up on Tuesday evenings:-

6/8 Keith and Leah

13/8 Alex Crowe is coming up from Central London to lead the class. It has been a couple of years since his last visit, so it is high time he came back.

20/8 Karunanatha is leading the class. He is someone that I met on retreat, and then last year he got ordained. He lives in Colchester, but is from Hertford originally, and he comes back to see his father sometimes. Hence the visit.

27/8 Undecided as yet

3/9 Khemananda

10/9 Mangala

17/9 Vajragupta is coming to talk about his new book. Free “Time!: from clock-watching to free-flowing, a Buddhist guide”. He is an extremely good author. I have got all 5 of his books, and can recommend all of them. Not to be missed.

Then on 24/9 we will probably start a new 6 week course.

I hope to see you on some or all of the above.

Till then

Happy meditating!


p.s. Here is a short excerpt from one of my favourite books: “Buddhism – Tools for Living your Life” by Vajragupta.

2 Mindfulness:

knowing yourself

Siddhartha Gautama, the young man who one day became the Buddha, discovered a vital clue about how to pursue his spiritual quest.

He had left the comfort of his home to pursue the spiritual life, and had spent many years making incredible efforts in meditation, striving for Enlightenment with all the willpower he could muster. In the society of that time, some people believed that the way to freedom of the spirit was through denial of the body, so he tried the ascetic path too. He starved himself and tortured his body by meditating for hours in the fierce heat of the sun, but after years of effort it got him nowhere. He realized he was no nearer his goal than the day he had left home. This was a moment of crisis, a low point in his life when a lesser person might have given up in despair. But at precisely this moment a childhood memory returned to him. He intuitively knew this incident contained a vital clue to his search.

He remembered a spring day in his childhood when he had been taken out to see the fields being ploughed for the new season. He was sitting under a rose-apple tree, which was full of delicate, pale blossom. The sun shone and sparkled through the leaves of the trees. It was a lovely scene, full of hope for the coming year, and all this beauty delighted the little boy and transported him, quite naturally and spontaneously, into a meditative state.

Up until that time in his search, he had been striving in meditation with all his mental might. He had been willing his mind into higher states of consciousness. These experiences were supremely blissful while they lasted, but once he ‘came down’ from his meditation, the young man found he was just the same as before.

But on that day, under the rose-apple tree, he’d tasted a different kind of meditative state, one that was unforced and natural.
Rather than wilfully narrowing his mind, he’d experienced a consciousness that was alive and open, as well as calm and concentrated. The result was a mind that was tranquil, steady, and serene.

The traditional legends of the Buddha’s life now go on to tell how, with this new understanding of how to meditate, he sat in a beautiful spot under the shade of a tree, and gained Enlightenment that very night. But maybe it was not quite like that.

Perhaps the young man did have a new understanding, but also had to develop and refine it. He made use of old techniques of meditation, but adapted them. He evolved his own way of delving into the depths of the mind and revealing its potential. Over the weeks and months he steadily meditated, gradually transforming the contents of his mind, until one night he did finally realize that he had found his goal and that his task was complete.5

The path of meditation that the Buddha discovered was the way of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of being in which we pay careful attention to all our experience. This includes our inner thoughts and feelings, as well as our outer experience – the sensations and impressions that come to us through the senses. Whatever we experience we try to imbue with this kind and receptive awareness, but without craving positive experiences or encouraging negative thoughts and emotions. When we do this we become more rooted, more connected with our inner life. Our habits and tendencies become more apparent, and this puts us in a position from which we can begin to change them.

This teaching and practice of mindfulness is central to Buddhism. In the traditional accounts of the Buddha’s life, we see him time and again teaching his followers how to develop mindfulness and exhorting them to maintain it at all times. His very last words were, ‘With mindfulness, strive on.’

For many people, their first encounter with Buddhism is this teaching about mindfulness, and some of the meditation techniques that can help us to develop it. This is a good and obvious place to begin. Without mindfulness, and an understanding of what is going on within our hearts and minds, we cannot really begin to change ourselves and our situation. Mindfulness is the starting point: the opening up of possibility.

The practice of mindfulness was a revelation to me. Although I had studied psychology at university for three years, no one had ever suggested that I could watch my heart and mind in this way, and that I could actually learn about my inner self and then be able to change. In this chapter we will first explore how we can cultivate mindfulness in meditation, and then look at the practice of mindfulness in daily life.

© Windhorse Publications