'The Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma'
Dear fellow practitioners,
today I am sharing with you one more item for our recently added 'Formal Chanting without Music' section.
The Dhammacakkapavattana sutta was the first formal Teaching taught by Lord Buddha. It was taught in the Deer Park at Isipattana a few miles outside of the ancient city of Varanasi to a group of five ascetics. These ascetics had practiced with the Bodhisatta previously while he was practicing extreme austerities before he discovered The Middle Way. The sutta covers the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, and by the time Lord Buddha had given the discourse one of these ascetics had an unshakeable penetrative insight… and attained the first level of Liberation. This occasion was when the Dhamma became first manifest in the world and the Sangha was also born. Due to all of this, it is a much loved and revered sutta.
It can be wonderful to chant these verses in Pali. I certainly enjoy it.
I also hope that it may be interesting and nourishing to you.
With every best wish.
A Visual Journey
Dear Fellow practitioners,
On this occasion I am sharing with you the second slideshow illustrating the growth and development of the Sacred Chedi which we are building here at Anandagiri. The construction of this Holy Monument has been the catalyst for visits from several wonderful senior monks. Tahn Ajahn Pasanno, Tahn Ajahn Piak, and Tahn Ajahn Anan just in this past year alone. It has also been a project that has brought many people together repeatedly, to celebrate our Faith and join in creating something beautiful in honour of our love for Lord Buddha and his Liberating Teachings. It may sound presumptuous my saying this? But I'll say it anyway! This slideshow is no ordinary slideshow! Sifting through the thousands of pictures that many people shared with me, I have been able to select The 300 Images, (which take 20 minutes to scroll through at four seconds each) that capture many remarkable things. With many people taking pictures from many angles - on many occasions, I had A LOT of material to sift through and choose from. The Slideshow gives thorough glimpses into the following…
- The very process of building such a monument.
- All of the people involved - monks, laypeople, sculptors, labourers, villagers etc.
- Then the witnessing of solid lumps of stone becoming beautiful pieces of Buddhist art under the guiding eye of myself and our chief artists, as well as the experienced hands of many sculptors. Then seeing plain bricks neatly laid becoming an inspiring sacred object.
The places of devotion that I've been to, along with other monks and students which inspired much of this project's design are another important component not so easily seen. A lot of factors go into building such a monument! (There have been many visits to museums in many countries as well)
The Chedi was inspired initially by the desire to help 'brighten up and clean up' the 'psychic atmosphere' around the vicinity of the monastery, for just 40 years ago it was a war zone, where communist guerrilla forces fought the army of the Thai government. This project has already taken a lot of time, faith, love, energy and devotion. And to be honest I would never have given myself to such a taxing task were it not for the sense that it was definitely needed. So the tiring and taxing side is the negative, although such endeavours bear great fruit in future we are told. The positive has been the extraordinary support we have received from so many people to bring it into being. It is quickly becoming more beautiful than I ever dared imagine. Other good news is that according to some of my gifted Teachers, many 'wandering souls' have, through the power of the merits produced and dedications made, been able to move onto happier situations. Saaaaadhuuuu !!!
There is much to be seen in the making of this Chedi. And perhaps even more going on in realms that we cannot yet perceive? In any event, the slideshow gives a very good look at many of the most significant events of the past year here at Anandagiri. The community, the Chedi and the trees are all growing. And of course in the future we hope that the Chedi will be a site that inspires much inner reflection, quiet meditation, and perhaps even liberating insight, when people recollect and then practice in accordance with the Buddha's Teachings. May it be so!
We rejoice in the offerings of the many big and small donors who have helped to make this project go forward. At the current pace the entire project should be finished by the end of next year. I hope that this visual journey will prove to be interesting and uplifting for you as well - wherever you are.
Ajahn Achalo Bhikkhu
(If anyone would like to make a contribution to the Chedi construction there is an opportunity. Feel free to contact one of the monastery stewards and request details. Approximately 85% of the estimated costs for the complete project have been either donated or pledged thus far)
Greetings Fellow practitioners,
I am happy to share with you on this occasion another upgrade and expansion of our Chanting Section – Introducing - 'Three jewels and A Lotus #3'! Once again Christopher Conway has added some lovely, enigmatic soundscapes to some of my chants recorded in 'secret late night pujas' here at Anandagiri. We do have daily formal Pali chanting here at the monstery, but I also occasionally do some more devotional styles of chanting by myself – usually late at night. ☺
As well as the new Chants with soundcapes I am also introducing a new 'Formal Chanting' section as a support to people's chanting practice. Chants Without Music.
Chanting is an important practice in most Buddhist Traditions, as it is a wonderful way to both recollect teachings and/or events from the Buddha's life, as well as gladden and energise the mind and begin to collect it before sitting meditation. A formal practice in and of itself which also primes the mind for sitting quietly.
The main reason that I have produced and shared recordings of chanting with a musical backdrop is that I recognise that it can be difficult to feel in the right kind of mood to meditate after a long day at work, or after a stressful occasion, and so finding relaxing ways to gently incline the mind towards formal practice can be very valid and useful.
Some people sometimes ask me why I have recorded some Tibetan chants and mantras as well as the traditional Pali? Basically it is because the chants and mantras in the Mahayana traditions are often chanted to a pleasant sounding melody which lends itself easily to a musical accompaniment, more so than with the more rhythmic Pali verses. They also tend to be Devotional in mood, which can be a lovely way to recollect and 'lift up' our faith. I believe that many modern people need to cultivate the Faith Faculty further, as it gives rise to important Energy that can be applied to other areas of practice.
Recognising the value of traditional Pali chanting as a formal practice however, indeed a practice that I myself and all of the other monks and nuns at Anandagiri do on a daily basis. And recognising also that not everyone has joined in doing such chanting before. On this occasion we are introducing a section of traditional Pali chants along with a PDF print out as a resource for those who wish to add a chanting session to their daily practice. With no musical accompaniment. Here you will have to be equanimous with what our voices sound like without any modern digital voice production assistance!
I hope that these new chants may act as a support to you and your practice.
With Loving Kindness
Increasing commitment - with love and patience for growing pains
Greetings fellow practitioners,
On this occasion however I am able to share with you a long meandering and multi-faceted reflection which I gave to the community at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California in the first week of July. The community at Abhayagiri were having two momentous occasions occurring simultaneously, which is why many monks and nuns made the special journey to attend. First was the official inauguration of the extremely well built Dhamma Hall, which has been many years in the making. The second was the official handing over of the abbotship from the resident senior teacher, Luang Por Pasanno, to two of his senior students, Ajahn Karunadhammo and Ajahn Nyaniko, who are both good friends of mine.
Although this reflection was offered specifically to that community, there are some pertinent stories included and the talk does cover themes which are relevant to all sincere spiritual practitioners. Particularly the themes of deepening commitment and determination, developing healthy love and appreciation, as well as being patient and understanding with each other and with change. Listening back to the talk once again I recognise that this may be a different glimpse into 'Ajahn Achalo's' life for many listeners, where I am talking among my seniors, contemporaries and peers in quite a warm and collegial tone, rather than to a group of students. As usual I am not stingy with strength of feeling - so be prepared to laugh and maybe bring a tissue as well!
I hope that something in the talk is useful to you.
Things to Come!
In the coming weeks there will be a significant upgrade to our chanting section, adding four more Chants with Soundscape, as well as traditional chanting without music accompanied by a chanting book in PDF format for interested people to print out and follow along! There will also be a new slideshow of the Chedi building project as a way of sharing this very interesting and auspicious project with you all. It is now approximately 65% completed
With loving kindness
Bodhgaya Intensive Meditation Retreat Journals #4
Greetings fellow practitioners,
I am happy to share with you on this occasion the final of my Bodhgaya Intensive Meditation Retreat Journals.
Here we explore some very interesting themes such as…
- Finding or generating good energy when there simply doesn't seem to be any available.
- Acknowledging fault and asking forgiveness as a way to train ourselves and also lessen negative kamma and obstructions.
- Setting clear goals for future practice.
- Ending important occasions graciously and beautifully.
- Including others in your own achievements as a source of heart opening joy
- Practicing with the pain of saying goodbye to that which is loved.
I hope that some of the content of these journal entries and Dhamma reflections has been interesting and useful to you wherever you are now.
With kind regards
Ajahn Achalo Bhikkhu
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