What is presented here and how should I relate to it?
“Collection One” was designed to assist beginners to become familiar with the practice of Body Awareness and Mindfulness of Breathing meditations. These meditations form the necessary foundation for deepening concentration and developing insight. They also help us to sustain mindfulness in all postures throughout the day. The Loving-Kindness meditations contained in Collection One offer an important complementary support to these foundation practices. Indeed, over time, Loving-Kindness meditation becomes an excellent support to our lives and practice on every level. It is very valuable to give time and attention to these practices – learning how to do them properly – before moving onto the next themes.
“Collection Two” expands upon the practices developed in Collection One. It is also a complete unit of Readings, Teachings and Meditations, revolving around the Contemplations of Impermanence, Death and Dying. The Buddha explains in many discourses that developing the “awareness of impermanence,” is profoundly beneficial to our progress along the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to liberation (enlightenment). The extent to which we can be successful in truly deepening this awareness will depend on how much mindfulness and concentration we have previously developed. At the same time, the awareness of impermanence is a valuable support to help us sharpen and sustain our mindfulness (i.e. - Truth Discerning Awareness).
As noted, the practices in the first two Collections are mutually supportive, but it is good to have practised quite a lot of breath meditation before moving onto visualisation practices around the theme of death. Doing so gives the mind some stability and integrity in order to be able to accept and “process” the ensuing insights properly.
“Collection Three” and “Collection Four” are actually a single unit of Teachings and Meditations, but because of the amount of material presented it seemed practical to split the talks and meditations into separate Collections. Collection Three presents the teachings; Collection Four, the meditations. In these Collections we are the deepening practices of Compassion and Forgiveness as well as investigating 'Not-Self" more methodically.
Here we explore a broader array of Buddhist themes, confronting some of the limitations of our ordinary views and challenging some deep habits that can obstruct growth. Some of the talks and meditations are intended to deepen our latent but often under-utilised Faith Faculty. The talks and practices around Forgiveness can help clear the way for the deepening of Loving-Kindness and Compassion in oneself, as a means to be able to offer these benevolent attitudes to others. Directly contemplating Not-Self is a wonderful way to weaken unskilful habits based upon the assumption or belief in the solidity of a self. We come to understand that although conventionally there does appear to be “our self” and the “selves” of others, closer inspection reveals that this is merely an habitual view that should not be grasped too tightly. Developing a clear and spacious awareness around this habit helps us both to develop important insights and to not take ourselves so seriously! (What a relief!) It is generally understood that by developing a truly 'good and loving heart' we are able to deepen concentration and insight further.
Unlike the first two Collections, it is less important to engage with these sequentially.
"Collection Five" A heart based quality of 'Faith' can be a tremendous support to Buddhist meditation practices. It appears that many modern people need to develop confidence in the logic of the teachings and efficacy of the practices for some time before truly 'Opening the Heart of Faith' in a dynamic and joyful way. It is also true however that when the quality of faith is genuinely powerful - there arises much more energy and motivation to practice. Collection Five is intended specifically to help deepen and nourish the 'Power of Faith.'
"Collection 6" The teachings and meditations presented in Collection six were given to experienced meditators during 9 day intensive meditation retreats. The readings, teachings and meditations are aimed at supporting practitioners to truly practice for the sake of profound liberating insight. Some inspiring examples from the practice of our lineage elders is also shared.
Other resources presented here
There is also a selection of photos and some chanting available on this site. Sometimes it is helpful to see images of other practitioners, especially if you find yourself far away from Buddhist communities. Listening to chanting can be a skilful way to relax and then find the inspiration to do a little more practice as well. In addition, it is hoped that further teachings may be added in the future.
Behind the Scenes . . .
The sincere efforts of Phil Harding and Neil Anthony have been crucial to this material being available for download. Phil initiated the idea of the website and offered invaluable guidance and suggestions during the setup. Neil's experience in website design, and the extraordinary offer of his time, have literally made this site a reality. Thanks guys!
A few personal reflections
As a Buddhist monk for nearly two decades (in the Thai Forest meditation tradition, in the lineage of Venerable Ajahn Chah) I am very aware that my life is blessed with many supports for cultivating meditation and insight. Naturally I feel tremendous gratitude for this – in particular, towards the Buddha for having worked so hard to realise what he did, and to His Teachings, that is, to the deep Truth (Dhamma) of nature itself. I am also grateful to have been able to live, study and practise with the superb monks who are now my teachers. The guidance they selflessly offered (and continue to offer) has encouraged me to continue deepening these practices in the monasteries where I have stayed over the years, including the small one in which I now act as abbot.
Why should I feel so grateful? It is because the teachings and practices handed down to us by Lord Buddha and his disciples really do work.
At certain points in my life as a monk I have wondered what would have become of me if at a young age I had not met with sound Wisdom Teachings and reliable meditation instructions. I was a somewhat reckless, artistically-minded young man, both sensitive and confused. If I had not found disciplines and teachings to help me to polish (at least to some degree) this rough diamond, it's quite likely that I would have wound up somewhere sad and sorry. Recognising this has motivated me to produce teaching aids and resources that might help others to “find their way” – away from confusion and fear and towards clarity and inner confidence.
Discovering from our own experience that it is possible to suffer much less, reveals, like nothing else can, the tremendous value of what we have received and put into practice. The aspiration to share such precious teachings with others is a natural step to take, one that accounts for the Dhamma being handed down through each generation since the Buddha's time. The material that I have produced and that has been presented here, therefore, is another modest yet earnest instance of this ongoing expression of gratitude. May we all benefit from, and share the benefits of the study and practice of the transformative and ultimately liberating Buddha-Dhamma.
I sincerely hope that you may find some of the contents here at Peace Beyond Suffering beneficial.