A Talk… A Meditation… and a Chant!
Dear fellow practitioners, greetings
I was absent from your inboxes some months earlier this year, due to projects in the monastery as well as the Pilgrimage practices elsewhere. The Peace Beyond Suffering website was a little neglected too. It seems I am making up for lost time now though. I am currently on intensive solo meditation retreat actually… doing 8 sessions of meditation per day… and enjoying it tremendously. Yet it is precisely because I have a break from my usual duties as abbot, (/ Building project manager!) and much more time to meditate, that I also have some time and energy to give to something else which I love. That is to say, sharing the gift of Dhamma that has been so generously shared with me.
Neil the webmaster and I have been updating and re-organising a little… and on this occasion I am sharing three new items with you! Largely because the themes contained herein have quite a lot of overlap. Last months' update was I would say 'very Theravadan' in its content, being a commentary upon two suttas on the theme of contemplating Not Self. Those listening to the teachings in those suttas all became Arahants by the end of the teaching!
On this occasion there is both a Theravadan and Mahayana theme. Because you see I now have many students from many different countries, coming to my teachings with equally different backgrounds. It seems that it is part of my kamma to try and help different types of Buddhists, to understand their aspiration and Buddhist practice more clearly, and to commit to it deeply with confidence and understanding. It is an honour and I am trying my best.
I have curious kamma it seems… for although I have a large Caucasian body and was born in Australia, I've now spent most of my adult life living in Thailand. I eat much more Asian food than western food and speak Thai at least as much as I do English on any normal day. On top of this, whenever I find myself traveling specifically to teach in English, when I look at the faces of the sincere people gathered before me, there are usually around 90% Asians attending! To make matters even more interesting… there is always a combination of Theravada / Mahayana practitioners in any group that I teach or go on pilgrimage with. I have come to understand that I have rather deep kamma with Buddhism and with Asia, and that I have lived and practiced in both Theravada and Mahayana countries. (Gifted masters have also told me as much) So the current melting pot of mixed kammas is not so surprising I guess.
I love being a Theravadan Bhikkhu. The emphasis upon the Four Noble Truths, cultivation of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and the 'squeaky clean' immaculate adherence to the Buddha's Monastic Code are cornerstones that I am honoured to live in reference and deference to. At the same time I cannot deny that I love the Bodhisattvas, and the practice of Devanussati, which is so uplifting and brightening for the mind in these somewhat depressing times. You know something else that is interesting is that whenever I attend the Dalai Lama's teachings, he always greets me by saying "My old friend… my long-time friend."! If that is true I wish I had more to show for it! But in any case…
So here we have a Talk - that is aimed at helping people understand the difference between the Arahants and a Buddha, something that seems to be terribly misunderstood in the Mahayana, unfortunately. And to help people to get clearer about their particular aspiration if they can, and then practice accordingly with great sincerity.
There is also a Guided Meditation – Perhaps for those with more of a Bodhisatta inclination, which I led for a group of Chinese Malaysian students when we were on Pilgrimage in China. A practice of 'Devanussati' – recollecting celestial beings as a samatha (calming) practice that brightens the mind and helps it to resonate with divine qualities such as Loving-Kindness and Compassion.
And then we have the last of my Chants with Soundscape, a remix that has a curious fusion of Western elements such as piano, accompanying a traditional Tibetan chant. This is actually one of my all-time favourite chants, which is why I have liaised with Chris Conway to co-produce several versions. The meaning of the first few lines are something like…
"Homage to the Three Jewels… Homage to Noble Wisdom… Homage to Vairochana… Homage to the Tathagathas… the Arahants and the Samma-Sambuddhas! Then Homage to Avalokiteshvara with Truly Vast Compassion"
It covers everything Noble really! And this version is East meets West and Past meets Now. Just like this western monk teaching Asians and Westerners via the internet!
May we all make the most of our current opportunities and Grow in Dhamma!
As always - I sincerely hope that something I have shared here is useful to you.
Ajahn Achalo Bhikkhu
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